Earl Hopper

The study of the social unconscious and the applications of our understanding of it, especially in clinical work, is one of the characteristics of Group Analysis, which distinguishes it from other schools of psychoanalytical or psychodynamic group psychotherapy (Hopper & Weinberg, 2011). The concept of the social unconscious is embedded in a field theory of considerable scope. However, the utility of this theory depends on an observer's use of binocular vision, the gestalt of his perceptions, and/or the specification of his particular frame of reference, which leads to the focused selection of particular facts from the totality of the magna, the oneness of the universe. The main elements of the social unconscious are the sociality, relationally, and collectivity of human nature, as well as their manifestations in the transgenerational foundational matrices of their socio-cultural groupings. Of course, the restraints and constraints of the human body on the personalities of human beings, and of the human species on society and culture and their component institutions, are also of vital importance. Power structures and power differentials are central in the socialisation processes of all matrices, including those that develop in clinical work. It is, therefore, inevitable that, to a degree, psychotherapeutic work will be political work and perhaps vice versa. The individual person is indeed social through and through: persons engage in interpersonal relations but such relations are in essence transpersonal.

By now, it has become axiomatic that the one and the many are completely intertwined (Tubert-Oklander, 2014). Nonetheless, very few of us seem to appreciate the complexity of the issues involved and the depth of the problems and insights that have been brought to bear in our attempts to solve them. Martin Weegmann is not a member of the cult of group analysts who espouse theories of the social unconscious as a cri de coeur of his professional identity. He is entirely committed to the struggle of engaging with his clients and patients in an attempt to understand how their lives and relationships have been co-constructed by social facts, and, in turn, how they have co-constructed their more intimate environment. Weegmann is especially concerned with explaining how these processes become crystallised in more immediate situations, and, thus, how they are available for repetition in clinical work. Although he is prepared to go where it is hottest, he also understands how equivalence is the product not only of projective and introjective identification, but also of unconscious narratives of helplessness and powerlessness, as well as of the search for a clinical guide, who is prepared to listen and to hear, to look and to see, and perhaps empathically to share.

Martin Weegmann has acquired an unusual set of professional qualifications and skills. A sociologist and social theorist, a philosopher, a psychodynamic psychotherapist and group analyst, he clearly prefers Foucault to Freud, Lacan to Klein, Kohut to Kernberg, and Foulkes to Bion. He was introduced to Group Analysis by Stephen Coghill and Harold Behr through a block training in Manchester under the auspices of the Institute of Group Analysis in London. Martin is indebted to Malcolm Pines for intellectual stimulations in their active exchange of ideas. His clinical experience is deeply coloured by his work with substance misusers and those with personality disorders in a range of NHS settings, including the Henderson Therapeutic Community.

To me, it is important to recognise that Martin is an artist, photographer, and musician, with an interest in gardens and the natural world. He understands that, like a garden, a group requires the exercise of benign authority. I suspect that he understands that whilst a garden is structured out of nature, it also remains a part of it. In fact, he appreciates that the person and his groupings are transitional figurations who live between the dominion of the dead (Harrison, 2003) and a world that can be defined in terms of the ability and willingness to exercise the transcendent imagination (Hopper, 2003). Weegmann is alert to the dilemma and paradox that characterise the appreciation of the power of socio-genesis and the possibilities for creativity. However, when I learned of his title for this book, The World within the Group: Essays on Group Analysis, I also heard the echoes of a few lines from "Auguries of Innocence" by William Blake (1757-1827):

To see a World in a grain of sand, And a Heaven in a wild flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, And Eternity in an hour which I (Hopper, 2003) used as an epigram for my own book of papers in the study of the social unconscious.

Martin Weegmann's book deserves to be read, and read slowly, tracing its ideas from one discipline to another and from one intellectual culture to another. The reader will not be able to avoid having to think and re-think his basic group analytical perspectives and ethical values, and to consider and reconsider the location of his clinical orientation within his general world view. I am not surprised that Edward Said is one of his intellectual mentors—if not heroes.

This carefully integrated set of papers is eclectic in the best sense of the term. The glossary is very interesting; as is the range of theorists whose work informs this illumination of society and culture in clinical work.

Earl Hopper, Ph.D. Series Editor

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