Reflections

We are said to live in more open, but increasingly complex and risk-dominated societies (Beck, 1992). In a world of multiple expertise and divergent sources of authority, Rose (1990) acknowledges the proliferation of psychotherapies in modern society and the "therapeutic culture of the self". He argues that this is manifested by the invention of a whole new apparatus of living, self-enhancement, and lifestyle, each with differing notions of what is "right" and what helps, a proliferation of ways of crafting the self. Of course, clients primarily wish to overcome their problems and suffering, but are often, implicitly, also seeking a way to live a good life, what the Greek philosophers termed eudaimonia. What nowadays counts as eudaimonia is thoroughly saturated with psychological discourses of personhood and subjectivity; "the problems of defining and living a good life have been transposed from an ethical to a psychological register" (Rose, 1990, p. xiii). Whilst group analysis is a rich theatre within which value concerns can be located and opened out, like any other psychotherapy, it is not a neutral stage but is premised on values or background notions of what good, fulfilled, and duly co-operative lives might look like. Extending Gadamer's notion of horizons, as discussed in Chapter Two, the ethical can be seen as the horizon which pulls us forward and which tells us how we are doing, "being transformed into a communion in which we do not remain what we were" (Gadmader, 1975, p. 379). Hence, group analysts talk a particular vocabulary, comport themselves in particular ways, arrange furniture, and work, implicitly or explicitly, with particular conceptions of what is healthy, problematic, and desirable. They are installed, as any expert, within what can be called specific therapeutic "enclosures": "relatively bounded locales or types of judgment within which their power and authority is concentrated, intensified and defended" (Rose & Miller, 1992, p. 188). Of course, true to liberal rationale, no one would seek to "impose" these, but all the same there can be no group without the operation of therapeutic desire; this appears the reverse of Bion's (1967) alternative regulative ideal of the analyst working "without memory or desire" (even though this, paradoxically, rests on a different kind of desire). In many ways, and much like the rhetoric of VBP, group-analytic values appear as benign—who could possibly disagree with them? An example is the congruence between group-analytic values and those wider, often celebrated, values of diversity and pluralism. Surely, few would object to Foulkes' (1973) observation that, "it is not the case that one viewpoint is right and the other wrong. It is rather as if we took photographs from various positions ... all of them show what is true from the position from which they are taken" (p. 230). Earlier, I suggested that the democratic ethos of group analysis can foster the development of autonomy, a kind of internal democracy. At one level, there seems to be a perfect fit between group-analytic values and those of the wider, liberal social imaginary in which we live, and surely, using the political analogy of VBP, most of us would prefer to live in freedom than the equivalent of an authoritarian regime.

At the point at which such assumptions rest, it would seem important to subject the group-analytic ethic to critical scrutiny, not in order to undermine it but to make fuller and honest use of its potential and limitations. As has been argued with respect to the tendency to idealise positive "therapeutic group factors", there are also non-therapeutic, "anti-group" processes whose operation can be just as powerful (Nitsun, 1996). Yet even the term "anti-" implies something to be overcome, a standard around which judgments can be made about what is considered "therapeutic" and what "non-therapeutic". The following list, therefore, is not so much labeled in terms of anti-group process, but in terms of the inevitable points of contradiction within group analysis, as it sits within the range of modern psychotherapies.

 
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