Group Theory

I think, or rather wonder about groups sometimes and the stratagems people adopt to either belong to them or the steps they take to avoid belonging. Having said that, I wonder if my thinking is accurate, or just a projection of the fact that I am less involved in a group that I have been for some time. With apologies to those whose training and experience exceeds my own:
Anxiety – a perception of a shared foe –  is often a cohesive force which can hold a group together and people join it as a defence against such anxiety. I think however that groups themselves can also be the source of anxiety.
Being in a group leads to blurring between the self and others that, whilst giving the comfort of the ‘Body’,  – effectively similar to neonatal comfort – also causes inner conflict. As the attachment of the self to the group increases, the sense of individual selfhood decreases, which leads to anxieties about integrity and hence a ‘true’ and ‘false’ self. This I think is prevalent in groups having a strong sense of corporate identity, like churches with a sharp, almost unyielding doctrinal position. The true self is masked behind a facade of self acceptable to the group – a false self, in other words. Someone posted elsewhere  that when one’s foundation is neither stable nor reliable it separates seemingly similar individuals into two groups – those who can tolerate the physical, emotional, and psychological ambiguity, perhaps more at home with a false self, and those who can’t. ‘Tolerate’ in this sense would seem to mean discovering a mechanism – being resourceful emotionally – to help them deal with a potential but ever-present feeling of impending loss.
The image is from the Saatchi Gallery.

2 thoughts on “Group Theory

  1. Very astute, MathMan, however I would point out that in healthy group dynamics, rather than a “…blurring between the self and others…” an individual feels supported, validated, and the shared experience of the group normalizes the emotional cost of being human. If the group does encourage or facilitate the blurring of the I/Thou boundary, as one of my more cynical friends points out, “There's a buck in it.” (Money for all you non-Americans)


  2. other words…groups allow people to be themselves?
    H'm. I wonder. If being 'oneself' is at odds with the group's operational dynamic, one has only two choices, conform or leave. Cynical old moi…


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