The Social Unconscious in Persons, Groups, and Societies: Volume 3: The Foundation Matrix Extended and Re-configured

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In this book the authors develop the theory of the tripartite matrix, consider music as a form of non-verbal communication as a sub-dimension of the matrix, and to present empirical studies of the matrices of peoples in three societies in the Middle-East. The first volume of this series addressed the group analytic theory of the social unconscious, attempting to clarify the definition of the concept itself, indicating some of its main elements, and comparing it to the Jungian collective unconscious, the Morenoian co-unconscious, and to the study of the link and the bond by Pichon-Riviere (Hopper & Weinberg, 2011). The second volume considered the socio-cultural transmission of myths, and presented several empirical studies of the foundation matrices of contemporary societies, emphasising the importance of social trauma and the continuing consequences of them (Hopper & Weinberg, 2016). The study of these three volumes will provide an appreciation of the depth and breadth of this field of enquiry, which is at the very heart of the project of Group Analysis.

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Chapter One - The Concepts of the Social Unconscious and of the Matrix in the Work of S. H. Foulkes

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Dieter Nitzgen and Earl Hopper

The concept of the social unconscious has not been studied with respect to the work of S. H. Foulkes taken as a whole. Apart from the abstract survey of his ideas implicit in the Introduction to The Social Unconscious in Persons, Groups and Societies: Volume 1: Mainly Theory (Hopper & Weinberg, 2011), the development of the concept of the social unconscious from its Jungian and Freudian origins to Foulkes's mature group analytic theory has been neglected. No serious attempts have been made to link the concept of the social unconscious to the “matrix”, which Foulkes called the “corner-stone of our working theory” (Foulkes & Anthony, 1957, p. 217). Accordingly, the purpose of this chapter is to support with citations from the work of Foulkes the argument outlined by Hopper and Weinberg (2016) in their Introduction to Volume 2: Mainly Foundation Matrices, that the main elements of his more mature theory of the social unconscious include sociality and socialisation, relationality, transpersonality, transgenerationality, and collectivity, ultimately subsumed by the matrix. This field theory of the social unconscious and the matrix was a product of Foulkes's continuous and persistent thinking about these elements and their interconnections over a period of four decades.

 

Chapter Two - The Fluid and the Solid—Or the Dynamic and the Static: Some Further Thoughts about the Conceptualisation of Foundation Matrices, Processes of the Social Unconscious, and/or Large Group Identities

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Regine Scholz

It is a great pleasure for me to contribute to a volume, whose purpose it is to “work out” conceptualisations of the foundation matrix, the social unconscious, and large group identities. It is also an unexpected one, because I have sometimes felt a bit lonely, insisting on the value of these concepts, at the very least as useful fictions (Scholz, 2003).

In this chapter you will find an elaboration on the concept of foundation matrix, which originally was not much more than a layout: “Instead, I have accepted from the beginning that even a group of total strangers, being of the same species and more narrowly of the same culture, share a fundamental mental matrix (foundation matrix). To this their closer acquaintance and their intimate exchanges add consistently so that they also form a current, ever moving, ever developing dynamic matrix” (Foulkes, 1973 in E. Foulkes, 1990, p. 228; emphasis original). This outline is followed by a discussion of some arguments by group analytic colleagues against the notion of foundation matrix.

 

Chapter Three - The National Habitus: Steps towards Reintegrating Sociology and Group Analysis

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Gad Yair

In addition to the constitutional and institutional foundations of the state and its political economy, the nation state has a psychosocial foundation—a “national habitus”. The concepts of homo nationis and national habitus underscore that modern individuals are historical individuals, in that they have personality structures that are unlike those of individuals in other historical epochs, and that they should be explicitly conceptualised as such, rather than as a trans-historical homo economicus or homo sociologicus.

(Pickel, 2004)

Just about a century ago, sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists profitably shared worldviews, read each other's work, and cited across disciplinary divides (Fromm, 1963). Durkheim and Freud, indeed, shared common understandings of unconscious elements and sought analytic ways to tie them to social practices and cultural values (Durkheim, 1951; Freud, 1930a). In the heyday of Parsonian sociology, Freudian psychological elements proved crucial in the functionalist hierarchical model of society (Parsons, 1964)—integrating the success of the schools of “culture and personality” and studies of “national character” (Benedict, 1947; DeVos, 1968; Martindale, 1967; Mead, 1965). However, a short while into the 1960s, the theoretical connections between psychology, anthropology, and sociology were severed. E. Adamson Hoebel, president of the American Anthropological Association declared in 1967 that “In the brief span of less than two decades, anthropological involvement in the systematic study of national character has waxed to a high pitch of enthusiasm and waned to a tiny ripple of continuing interest”. Spiro had a similar portrayal regarding the scientific path of the idea of “national character”, saying that “[H]aving succeeded in legitimizing the use of personality concepts by anthropology, it might be argued that [national character study's] original mission has come to an end” (quoted by Inkeles & Levinson, 1997). Fifty years after Parsonian grand integrations, sociology, anthropology, and psychology parted ways.

 

Chapter Four - The Inner Organisation of the Matrix

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Juan Tubert-Oklander

The metapsychology of the matrix

Freud introduced the concept of metapsychology as a deeper level of reality that underlay the psychological level of experience, behaviour, and relationship. This he conceived to be the “material” basis of psychology, and hence necessarily biological. His speculative theory-building in this area has been the object of much criticism, on account of its high level of abstraction, which seems far apart from the actual human experience of an analytic treatment, and also its mechanistic and pseudo-positivistic language. The first objection is to every imaginable metapsychology, while the second is only to that particular type of metapsychology that Freud developed ever since his “Project” (1950a). It seems to me that the latter is truly inimical to the understanding and development of the sort of knowledge derived from the analytic experience, but that analysis—and by this I mean psycho-analysis, group analysis, and socio-analysis alike—needs something like a metapsychology.1 This is so because any psychological analysis is founded on a whole set of assumptions on the general nature of mind and its functioning. These are, more often than not, kept tacit, and even unconscious, so they require a thorough work of interpretation and reconstruction to come to the fore. Freud's great accomplishment was that he spelt out his assumptions, thus laying them open to criticism. Other authors have not done it, thus leaving the task to their critics.

 

Chapter Five - The Unbearable Appeal of Totalitarianism and the Collective Self: An Inquiry into the Social Nature of Non-Verbal Communication

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Helena Klímová

How has it come about that so many people can identify with totalitarianism? Here are some images from the last century:

Some of these social catastrophes were born in the context of enthusiastic social movements. Only later was the fanaticism recognised. What made the masses succumb to totalitarian patterns and leaders?

How did democratic values, institutions, and practices re-emerge?

Some hypothetical answers to these questions can be formulated in terms of conceptualisations of the social unconscious, sociocultural regression, communitas, the fourth basic assumption, the role of non-verbal communication within the foundation matrix, rituals, and true and false collective selves.

The true collective self as the driving energy of history

The individual self of an infant (Winnicott, 1960) may develop in two ways: the true self emerges when the natural needs of the child are recognised by the “good-enough mother”; but a false self is likely to develop when the primary caregiver is not a “good-enough mother”.

 

Chapter Six - The Musical Foundation Matrix: Communicative Musicality as a Mechanism for the Transmission and Elaboration of Co-Created Unconscious Social Processes

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Linde Wotton

In this chapter I would like to bring insights from the field of communicative musicality to contribute to our understanding of the co-created unconscious social processes of the foundation matrix. I provide a brief outline of the theory of communicative musicality developed by Malloch and Trevarthen (2009), which holds that our innate musicality is the foundation of all human communication, and I refer to the work of Gratier and Apter-Danon (2009), which demonstrates the crucial importance of improvisation to the process of belonging. They describe the co-creation of the early protohabitus within infant-carer interactions in terms of expressive timing and implicit knowing, and the way in which these are shaped by the wider community. The notion of protohabitus is clearly related to the concept of habitus used by Nobert Elias (1939), whose ideas about interconnectedness were, of course, an important influence on the development of Foulkes's thinking about the social unconscious and the foundation matrix. As I have discussed elsewhere (Wotton, 2012), I view the matrix as a musical process—a complex reflexive process that rests on our innate communicative musicality. The matrix is the “music” of the group, emerging from the creative space of interactions between members.1

 

Chapter Seven - The Social Unconscious of Israeli Jews: Described and Analysed by an Israeli Living in North America

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Haim Weinberg

Moving from Israel to California in 2006, I was surprised to experience the respect with which people in the USA relate to authority. Patients in my private practice, participants in my groups, and students in my classes call me Dr Weinberg, while in Israel they call me Haim, which is my first name. In the USA they seemed to accept my authority, respect my knowledge and opinions, and comply immediately with my instructions, while in Israel I am used to immediate arguments, complaints, and resistances. I am not sure how aware of this I was while living in Israel. Although I had written about the social unconscious before moving to the USA (e.g., Weinberg, 2006, 2007) and actually focused on this topic in my PhD dissertation during 2000–2006, becoming an immigrant in a new society and going through acculturation processes led to my becoming keenly aware of the fine nuances and tacit assumptions that distinguish North American from Israeli cultures. To be more precise, I am concerned here with Californian culture, which might certainly be compared with, for example, New York culture, and the subcultures of these two states or regions of the United States may be as different from each other as they are from Israeli culture.

 

Chapter Eight - “Black Holes” as a Collective Defence against Shared Fears of Annihilation in a Small Therapy Group and in its Contextual Society

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Yael Doron

In this chapter I will discuss the “black hole” as a collective or social defence against extremely painful shared anxieties. “Black holes” can exist in the small therapeutic group as well as in the wider society. I will illustrate the dynamics of the collective black hole with clinical data and with sociological reports.

For various reasons, social trauma is of particular importance in the formation of the social unconscious of societies and other social systems such as organisations (Hopper, 2012). It is, therefore, especially important to consider collective defences against shared anxieties that have been caused by social trauma, such as secrecy and normative taciturnity (Hopper, 2003). Black holes are another collective defence.

“Black holes” as a collective defence

In astronomy, a black hole is a region of space-time which exhibits such a strong gravitational pull that no particle or electromagnetic radiation can escape from it, not even light. Since they do not emit light, black holes cannot be observed, and their existence can only be deduced from phenomena that are caused by them. This resembles Freud's view of the unconscious as “…an unconscious conception…of which we are not aware, but the existence of which we are nevertheless ready to admit on account of other proofs or signs” (Freud, 1915e, p. 89). As the product of a denial, the “material” of a psychological black hole is neither available for narrative nor readily visible. This material can be apprehended only through indirect indications of it, such as slips of the tongue and other parapraxes, the repetition of mal-patterns of relationship, etc. which can be regarded as symptoms of anxiety associated with matters that have been repressed and/or denied. Nevertheless, just like other phenomena that have been made unconscious, psychic black holes control our actions as well as our feelings and thoughts related to what has been made unconscious.

 

Chapter Nine - The Social Unconscious of the Palestinian People

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Sa'ed Tali

In this chapter I will try to trace the social unconscious of the Palestinian people in order to clarify and define it. What is in the “black box” of the collective Palestinian psyche? How has a history filled with turmoil, rulers, and regimes that have characterised our region, including the present Israeli reign, affected its formation? Attempting to answer such questions is a very challenging endeavour for me as a Palestinian. To the best of my knowledge, there has been little written about the Palestinian social unconscious.

From the moment I sat down to write I felt a great difficulty and heavy responsibility. At the beginning I did not understand what was happening to me, and I thought perhaps these were my familiar, personal difficulties in forming and writing my thoughts. However, as time went by I began to understand that something else was involved. I realised I was afraid of the public responses to the results of my investigation. I also understood I was afraid to write something that might jeopardise the Palestinian struggle for world recognition and the establishment of our state. I was afraid of the reaction of Palestinian readers in particular. Would they accept and identify with what I write? Or would they feel that I was contributing to their sense of humiliation? They might disagree with what I wrote, and I would have to face their anger. The thought that I might have to do so reflects a central issue—personal honour—in the society from which I come.

 

Chapter Ten - “After the Last Sky”: Palestine, Palestinians, Social Memory

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Martin Weegmann

Why write?

A negated history, a shrunken geography, and a barred, precarious existence. With no exaggeration, this is the condition of Palestine, not a state, a properly constituted society, but a small portion, a broken and separated fragment of a lost country, hemmed in and occupied. Israel's Other. A “placeless place”, in the words of Darwish (2003).

This chapter was prompted by a degree of concern in relation to this book. Would there be, I worried, a place in this book, covering constituted countries, for those with no such security and boundaries, in this case Palestine and Palestinians, a place for a people marked by continuing exclusion and rightlessness? A place for a chapter that grants “permission to narrate” to such people? I take the phrase from an essay by Edward Said (1984), writing of systematic efforts to reduce Palestinian existence, a people moreover even invited to participate in the dismantling of their own history; history, as ever, is written by the victors, not the vanquished. This invites us to consider wider questions of who speaks and how, under what conditions, and with what implications? The vanquished do answer back, creating counter-narratives, however fragile and adverse their conditions of emergence. I knew that there would be a place for Israel in the book—there are many talented Israeli colleagues in our profession, eager to write—and was concerned that a confident Israeli narrative would either confine Palestinians to invisibility, conjured away, or reduce their appearance to cameo figures within a grander play, only ever and intractability associated with margins, with nuisance and violence. The equivalent figures of the “wretched of the Earth” (Fanon, 1983), those people on the receiving side of colonialism, state conquest, who, in all contexts, live the double disadvantage of primary subjection and secondary disparagement or discounting (Blackwell, 2003).

 

Chapter Eleven - The Social Unconscious of the Egyptian People: An Application of Some of the Ideas of Bion and Klein

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Mohamed Taha

This chapter explores the constituents, components, and manifestations of the social unconscious of the Egyptian people from two different perspectives. Noting that Bion's concept of basic assumptions is actually derived from Klein's concept of individual psychic positions (paranoid-schizoid and depressive, or PS–D), I assume that to some extent the same assumptions may apply to communities, societies, and cultures. Moreover, just as groups can move between basic assumptions and work dynamics, so can societies. In some of the discussion that follows, I will apply some psychoanalytic ideas that were developed with respect to individuals to consider aspects of social systems. This is very debatable and has its pros and cons, but I have to use what concepts are available to me.

Hopper (2003b) consistently argues that under certain circumstances a societal system is likely to regress into a very large group, and evince basic assumption processes, in particular the basic assumption of incohesion which is typical of the deep regressions that occur in large groups. Most of the time it is trauma that leads to regression, not only in persons but also in social systems (Weinberg, 2014). Thus, we can expect signs of regression in any traumatised society, and such a society will function as though it were a large group (Hopper, 2003a, 2003b). Volkan (2002) describes societal regression occurring after a society has faced a massive trauma. It occurs when a majority of people belonging to that society share anxieties, behaviours, and thoughts typical of regression, and its purpose is to maintain or repair the shared social identity.

 

Chapter Twelve - Fundamental Terror of ISIS: The Story of a Reversed Family

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Eran Shadach, Shulamit Geller, Yoram Schweitzer, and Einav Yogev

Analysing contemporary Islam through the lens of psychoanalytic theory is a valid method of analysis (Benslama, 2009; Saïd, 2003). Hopper's conceptualisations of the aetiological significance of sociocultural-political factors, and the importance of a transgenerational perspective, enable us to harness the forces of group analytic theory as well (Hopper, 2003a, 2003b, 2009). In this chapter, we will draw upon recent developments in group analytic theory (Hopper & Weinberg, 2011, 2016), and certain psychoanalytical conceptualisations (Meltzer & Harris, 1976) in order to describe the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS) as a Salafi1 jihadi entity.

In order to become a supranational empire, ISIS advocates the imposition of Salafi Islam through violent jihad that rationalises and justifies all of its actions. Through violations of every norm with regard to human rights, laws of war, and the protection of women and children's rights, ISIS defies the Western world and its values, various Arab and Islamic regimes, and non-Muslim minorities that do not recognise its supremacy (Schweitzer & Omer, 2105; Thornton, 2015). It is important to state, however, that the current analysis does not presume to make any claims and generalisations about Islam itself, but rather to describe and explain some aspects of the formation of large groupings of people with a particular mental constellation.

 

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