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Friday, March 16, 2012

Wash Brain

Wash Your Brain? Clean your mind - out.

The original Chinese Caligraphy for Brain Washing is literally wash brain: 洗腦 - xǐ năo.

That was included in all of the waterboarding and other Chinese Communist tortures (sic - exactly what the unlawful use by the Bushites was adopted from) from the Korean war (encouraged and oversaw by the Russian Communists) that were outlawed by international convention and treaty, with the United States signatory to and leading the way in that then.

Hence the Manchurian Candidate.

Below is the Anglo-Pan World NWO version.

Wash your brain for you?

The fifth basic assumption

Free Associations (1996) Volume 6, Part 1 (No. 37): 2855

W. Gordon Lawrence, Alastair Bain, and Laurence Gould

It has been a remarkable text, Wilfred Bion's Experiences in Groups (1961); a landmark in
thought and conceptualization of the unconscious functioning of human beings in groups.
The working hypotheses he formulated on the mental activity of members of groups have
robustly stood the test of time. In part, this has been because of the Working Conferences
on Group Relations which started from his ideas and whose staffs have elaborated them
over time. But even if there had been no such conferences his related writings, lectures,
and memoirs assure him a place in the history of the development of psychoanalytic
thinking about social groups, institutions, and society.

The most recent history of the development of group relations education in the Bion-
Tavistock tradition has been presented by E. J. Miller (Miller, 1990). There is little point
in repeating that history save to say that working conferences were developed at first by
Leicester University and the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in 1957. Subsequent
conferences owe their paternity to the late A. K. Rice. His clarity of conceptualization
gave working conferences their stamp which lasts to this day (Rice, 1965). In the final
analysis, however, whatever group relations education has become is based on Bion's
thought, which provides the heuristic perspective for unravelling the unconscious
functioning of groups.

We write from our experiences in our roles as consultants to and directors of such working
conferences in addition to our practices as social scientists, organizational consultants,
psychoanalyst, and university teachers. We have been associated with group relations
education for most of our adult lives and each has tried to contribute to thinking on groups
through participation and writing. In recent years our roles in conferences have been both
those of directors and consultants. Though we thoroughly enjoy the

challenge of directorship, we find we are quite content to take up consultant roles to small
groups, large groups, etc., because there is so much which is unknown about group
behaviour. It also allows us to keep in touch as directly as we can with what is going on in
groups of people who belong to later generations than ourselves. For us there is a
symbiont relationship between our practices and group relations education. What social
phenomena of an unconscious nature we find in one context we test in the other and vice

It is out of these experiences that we are now able to propose a fifth Basic Assumption
Group in addition to the Work Group and three basic assumption groups which Bion
adumbrated and the one which Pierre Turquet discovered. This fifth basic assumption
group we have named Basic Assumption MeNess (baM).

The purpose of this paper is to work out and explicate baM in groups, institutions, and
societies following the Bion tradition. BaM is linked to all other ba groups and the W
group. We can but reflect the particularised contexts in which we live and work. We are


aware that within the field of psychoanalysis there is a burgeoning interest in the treatment
of narcissistic disorders. However, we do not want to explain away baM in terms of
individual narcissism, as can be found in analysands and patients, because we are focusing
on baM as a cultural phenomena. More pertinent for us is the kind of social critique of
post-industrial society made by Christopher Lasch in his Culture of Narcissism (1978), by
Robert N. Bellah and his colleagues in their Habits of the Heart (1985) and by John Carey
in The Intellectuals and the Masses (1992).



There are many renditions of Bion's formulation about groups but none can replicate the
richness of the original. Like his Brazilian and New York lectures, for example,

Experiences in Groups requires close and repeated attention. Nevertheless for the purposes
of this exposition there is a need to give yet another account of his working hypotheses.

Bion's major hypothesis was that when any group of people meet to do something, i.e., a
task, there are in actuality two groups, or two configurations of mental activity, present, at
one and the same time. There is the sophisticated work group (referred to as the W group)
but this group is 'constantly perturbed by influences that come from other group mental
phenomena' (Bion, 1961, p. 129) which are primarily what Bion called the basic
assumption groups (referred to as the ba groups).

What is the experience of being in a W group? It is to be in a group in which all the
participants are engaged with the primary task because they have taken full cognizance of
its purpose. They cooperate because it is their will. They search for knowledge through
using their experiences. They probe out realities in a scientific way by hypothesis testing
and are aware of the processes that will further learning and development. Essentially, the
W group mobilises sophisticated mental activity on the part of its members which they
demonstrate through their maturity. They manage the psychic boundary between their
inner and outer worlds. They strive to manage themselves in their roles as members of the
W group. Furthermore, the participants can hold in the mind an idea of wholeness and
interconnectedness with other systems. The participants use their skills to understand the
inner world of the group, as a system, in relation to the external reality of the environment.
In a W group the participants can comprehend the psychic, political, and spiritual
relatedness in which they are participating and are co-creating. The W group can be seen
as an open-system. The major inputs are people with minds who can transform
experiences into insight and understanding.

Groups which act in this consistently rational manner are rare, however, and, perhaps, are
merely an idealised construct. In actuality the behaviour of the people in the group is often
on another dimension. This is ba behaviour. The genius of Bion was to recognise that
people in groups behave at times collectively in a psychotic fashion or, rather, the group
mentality drives the process in a manner akin to temporary psychosis. Isabel Menzies Lyth
makes the point with clarity:

The subtlety of Bion's intuition was in pinpointing the less obvious but immensely
powerful psychotic phenomena that appear in groups that are apparently behaving sanely,


if a little strangely, groups that are working more or less effectively and whose members
are clinically normal or neurotic. (Menzies Lyth, 1981, p. 663)

The term 'psychotic' is being used in this context to mean a 'diminution of effective contact
with reality', to borrow Menzies Lyth's phrase. This is a group mentality that has such a
culture that the individual, despite his or her sophisticated and mature skills, can be caused
to regress to and be temporarily caught up in primitive splitting and projective
identification, depersonalization, and infantile regression.

Bion adumbrated three ba groups. The members of the group behave 'as if' they were
sharing the same tacit, unconscious assumption. Life in a ba group is oriented towards
inner phantasy, not external reality. To identify a ba is to give meaning to the behaviour of
the group and elucidate on what basis it is not operating as a W group. The three ba groups
of Bion are: ba dependency (baD); ba fight/flight (baF/F); and ba pairing (baP).

In the life of a group the participants will oscillate between the culture of the W group and
among those of the ba groups. Each individual has a 'valency' for a particular ba; 'a
capacity for instantaneous involuntary combination of one individual with another for
sharing and acting on a basic assumption' (Bion, 1961, p. 153), be it dependency,
fight/flight, or pairing.

What is the emotional experience of being in baD, in a culture of dependency? The aim of
the members of the group, and the assumption on which they work, is that they are met to
have a feeling of security and protection from one of their members. This leader is
invested with qualities of omnipotence and omniscience. He or she is idealised and made
into a kind of god. The feeling is that only the leader knows anything and only the leader
can solve the reality problems of the group. Such a leader is a magical person who does
not need information-he or she can divine it. In such a group the mentality and culture are
such that the individual members become more and more deskilled as information on
realities becomes less and less available. There is an air of timelessness about the group
which results in the feeling that it will never end.

One phenomenon associated with this kind of group culture is that one person is made into
the really stupid one, the 'dummy', who has to be taught everything by the others, the
collective 'mummy'. A similar process is to set up one member as being the object of care
which other members proceed to deliver. A variation on this is to create a 'casually', i.e.,
someone who is made inadequate, even to the point of temporary breakdown.

The experience of being in a basic assumption pairing (baP) culture is to be in a group
enthused by the idea of supporting two members who will produce a new leader-figure
who will assume full responsibility for the group's security. The wish, in unconscious
phantasy, is that the pair will produce a Messiah, a Saviour, either in the form of a person
or an organising idea round which they can cohere. The gender of the two people
constituting the pair is immaterial. The ethos of the group is one of hopefulness and
expectation. The crux, however, is not a future event but the feeling of hope in the
immediate present. The group lives in the hope of a new creation-a Utopia; a utopian
thought that will solve all their problems of existence. There will be no feelings of
destructiveness, despair, or hatred. But nothing must be created in actuality; otherwise the
hopefulness will vanish.


The third basic assumption group of Bion is that of fight/flight (baF/F) which he sees as
two sides of the same coin. What is the experience of being in such a culture? The
unconscious assumption of the group is that they are met for action which is to preserve
itself by fighting someone or something or by taking night from these. The individual is
less important than the preservation of the group. Understandably this ba culture is
profoundly anti-intellectual and will decry as introspective any behaviour which attempts
to reach self-knowledge through self-study.

The leader in such a culture is of central importance because he or she is a leader for
action: either into fight by attack or into flight. The ideal characteristic is that the leader be
paranoid, without any hint of depressive qualities, and be able to name sources of
persecution, even if they do not exist in reality. The leader is expected to identify danger
and enemies unerringly and to feel hatred towards them. The group gives the leader the
ability to turn it from fight to flight and back again, like the Grand Old Duke of York
marching his men. The leader has the power because he or she can play on the
overwhelming panic that the members of the group feel.


To these ba groups of Bion, Turquet added a fourth which was basic assumption oneness
(baO). BaO is a mental activity in which 'members seek to join in a powerful union with
an omnipotent force, unobtainably high, to surrender self for passive participation, and
thereby feel existence, well-being, and wholeness' (Turquet, 1974, p. 357). In the same
paper he adds that in baO: 'the group member is there to be lost in oceanic feelings of
unity or, if the oneness is person)fied, to be a part of a salvationist inclusion' (Ibid., p.

This wish for 'salvationist inclusion' can be seen to operate institutionally when, for
example, religious people give themselves over to charismatic movements. They wish to
be at-one with God; to have no boundary between the human and what may be the divine;
and, for example, to speak in tongues. As the opposite of Oneness we are proposing
another basic assumption group that emphasises separateness; that hates the idea of 'we'.
To state this over-neatly: baM equals ba not-O.


BaM, we hypothesise, is becoming more salient in our industrialised cultures. Here, we are
underlining that we understand baM to be a cultural phenomenon engendered by
conscious and unconscious social anxieties and fears. In particular we are putting forward
the idea that as living in contemporary, turbulent societies becomes more risky so the
individual is pressed more and more into his or her own inner reality in order to exclude
and deny the perceived disturbing realities that are of the outer environment. The inner
world becomes thus a comforting one offering succour. It is, perhaps, in this inner world
that well-worn clichés can be held on to and rehearsed without fear of them being tested.
'England is a green and pleasant land!'; 'man's home is his castle!' can be believed in
because the changing reality of the real environment and real experience of external reality
are denied.


While there are always differences in national cultures there are striking similarities,
particularly in those which share industrial histories and aspirations. What they all share is
an ambience of persecutory, loosely called stressful, feeling. In Britain, America, and
Australia there have been economic recessions which have hit the middle and lower
classes. Unemployment has eroded the confidence of the managerial class who led
themselves to believe that their job would always be secure. In Britain, the record of
bankruptcies is unprecedented. So for people who tried to take responsibility for their lives
by taking a risk in setting up a small business the result has been that they have lost their
livelihoods and, in many cases, their homes.

In the United States of America, during recent years, the harsh impact of economic
recession fuelled the politics of hate. Interest rates plunged, bank failures soared, and the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was dangerously underfunded. Homelessness
increased dramatically. In the face of all this, there was manic buying of shares which
drove the stock market upwards as individuals tried to secure a financially sound future for

In Europe we can only regard with misgivings what is happening in the former Eastern
Bloc countries which now share aspirations for the capitalist way of life. Russia itself is
economically bankrupt and teeters on political collapse. Slovaks are now separated in what
the newspapers call a 'velvet divorce' from Czechoslovakia. Within Slovakia there are
600,000 Hungarians who will want to assert their rights. In Transylvania there will likely
be rivalry between Romanians and Hungarians.

Balkan politics, which so preoccupied statesmen and politicians before the Second World
War, are being fought out again. One scenario of possible escalation might be that
Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey get involved in a war as effects of the Bosnian
conflict flows into Kosova, which is a Serbian ruled province with an Albanian majority.
War could start in Macedonia where there are multiple rivalries; or in Sandzak which is
Serbian but inhabited by Muslims; or in Croatia.

The major social phenomenon which is appearing in these former Eastern Bloc countries,
we hypothesise, is that there is a process of 'tribalisation' which is causing people to
reaffirm their primary national identity. The process is complex because there is no neat
coincidence between national identity and national territory. In Estonia, Latvia, and
Lithuania, there are large populations of Russians left over from the days of the Soviet
empire. In countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic there are Germans marooned
as the result of historical processes and near-forgotten peace treaties. Predictably, Jews are
beginning, once again, to suffer persecution as they are accused of undermining whatever
country they are resident in. This is particularly so in Hungary where one politician is
using the same language and metaphors which the Nazis used.

As the monolithic political structures crumble in all these countries we see individuals
being pressed into forms of Me-ness which are becoming frenzied, as in the former
Yugoslavia. The more general point we wish to make is that given the kinds of turbulence
being experienced in all industrialised societies-and we have just given headlines-so the
individual loses faith and trust in any structure, whether good or bad, that is greater than
the individual. In short, as the environment becomes more persecuting in reality one
response is for individuals to make themselves more cut-off from the effects and to


withdraw into the inner world of the self. Another way of expressing this is to say that we
are witnessing socially induced schizoid withdrawal. This is not to say that the individuals
are schizoid in themselves but that they are being made to behave so because of social and
political conditions.

At the same time we want to hold on to what may be positive and we can regard baM as a
temporary cultural phenomenon, salient at this time in history. We can see the future as
holding many challenges for the nature of the advanced industrial societies in which we
live. These challenges are economic, political, social, ecological, and spiritual. They arise
from cumulative changes in our environments which interact together systemically. We
are witnessing the creation of large unified economic markets, increasing international
competitiveness, changing political, social, and cultural ideologies, shifting religious
affiliations and beliefs, and continued revolutions in technology. As we have indicated
there is a reframing of relations between East and West and the Northern and Southern
hemispheres. Consequently we, in the West, cannot afford to harbour any ambitions, or
even phantasies. of colonization, i.e., mobilizing baD, but have to try to find ways of
creating symbiont relations that foster interdependence and collaboration, i.e., eschewing
all the ba configurations.

The repercussions of these changes can be interpreted as the beginnings of the ending.of
advanced industrial societies as they have been known in the past and the beginnings of
societies that will have to be discovered. The turbulence of the eco-environment, in which
peoples of the world conduct their affairs, paradoxically presents an opportunity to initiate
transformations which use the best that has been learned from history and the best of
thinking about desired futures.

At its most benign, we postulate that the experience of the culture of baM may be one that
has to be gone through in order to achieve the kinds of societies which would be
associated with a W culture. Just as the French Revolution mobilised baF/F to reach
forward towards republicanism and democracy, just as Cromwell broke the baD
assumption of the British on the divine right of kings, so may baM be a transitional,
cultural experience.


Our working hypothesis is that baM occurs when people-located in a space and time with
a primary task, i.e., meet to do something in a group-work on the tacit, unconscious
assumption that the group is to be a non-group. Only the people present are there to be
related to because their shared construct in the mind of 'group' is of an undifferentiated
mass. They, therefore, act as if the group had no existence because if it did exist it would
be the source of persecuting experiences. The idea of 'group' is contaminating, taboo,
impure, and, in sum, all that is negative. The people behave as if the group has no reality,
and cannot ever have reality, because the only reality to be considered and taken account
of is that of the individual. It is a culture of selfishness in which individuals appear to be
only conscious of their own personal boundaries, which they believe have to be protected
from any incursion by others. The nature of the transactions is instrumental, for there is no
room for affect which could be dangerous because one would not know to where feelings
might lead.


A major difference between baM and other ba groups is that in the former it is the group
which is invisible and unknowable whereas in the latter cultures it is the individual who is
invisible and unknowable. In the cultures of baD, baF/F, baP, and baO the individual
becomes lost in them. In baM culture the overriding anxiety is that the individual will be
lost in the group if it ever emerges. While ba groups in general are unconscious systems of
defence against the anxiety of experiencing and testing realities in a W configuration, a
baM culture is an unconscious system of defence against both the experiences of W and
other ba groups. In a sense, baM may have come into existence because the others were
previously in existence. To state this as an exaggeration: it may be that baM is a result of
the historical process of working conferences which have now been running for nearly
forty years. People attend these conferences because they want to know about group
functioning. They also believe that to experience ba behaviour is to be caught up in
process that they believe they cannot control. They wish to attain W behaviour as quickly
and as effortlessly as possible. That is why they are present in the conference. There are
powerful aspirations to know but also as potent reasons for not-knowing. Hence, the
emergence of baM which is a resistance to both ba and W behaviour. The paradox is that
while the architectonic belief is that only the individual can come to know anything, this
belief causes the individuals to co-create and co-act in a ba group. So they enter a ba group
in spite of their efforts to avoid this experience.

In baM it is as if each individual was a selfcontained group acting in its own right. A baM
culture can never tolerate the collective activities of a W group because a baM culture has
only individualistic preoccupations. A baM culture is more likely to pay attention to
private troubles than ever it would to public issues, to use C. Wright Mills's classic
distinction, because they have no relevance for the individuals.

Our elaboration of baM starts from Turquet's idea of the singleton. Turquet (1974) was
writing in the early '70s and what he had to say was valid and for particular members it is
still a way of understanding the transformation process they can go through as a result of
membership experiences in a large group.

Turquet in his analysis of the phenomenology of the individual's experiences of changing
membership status in the large group describes how the conference member comes into
the large group as an'I'; more particularly the 'I' enters as a singleton wishing to make
relations with others even though not yet part of the group. While we fully accept
Turquet's formulation we are beginning to think that, nowadays, it is the 'me' part of the 'I'
which is increasingly being mobilised. There is, we postulate, a stage preceding Turquet's
analysis of the progression of the individual through the life of the group because the
individual does not want to have relations.

Our working hypothesis, now, is that there is a new phenomenon in that particular
individuals can get caught up in a mental activity that does not allow them to enter the
'I'/singleton state and holds them in what, we are to call, the 'me'/singleton state because
they never want to experience membership of a group.

The pronoun 'me' is the accusative and dative form of the pronoun of the first person. This
fits the meaning we want to give to baM because the 'I' becomes an object to itself-a 'me',
governed by the prepositions 'to' or 'for'. Furthermore if it was the 'I' which was being
mobilised the 'I' could empathise with the individual 'I' of other members in the group;


could acknowledge that they too have feelings, perceptions, and understanding; could
conceptualise that if a 'we' was possible the group could exist and achieve its primary task.

In using the idea of'Me-ness' we are harking back to the time when an infant becomes a
unit able to distinguish between the inside and the outside. Winnicott with his usual
perceptiveness writes:

The idea of a limiting membrane appears, and from this follows the idea of an inside and
an outside. Then there develops the theme of a ME and a notME. There are now ME
contents that develop partly on instinctual experience. (Winnicott, 1988, p. 68)

Our view is that this stage of development is echoed when baM is mobilised in the group.

The evidence for this basic assumption group started to become firmly apparent about
eight years ago. We give evidence from two sources: from the behaviour of members and
staffs of working conferences; and from what we have observed in societies. We offer
'because clauses' (to use Pierre Turquet's phrase) to link the inner psychic states of
individuals to the kinds of societies, institutions, and groups which people are co-creating
in Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom which are the countries we know


It is a large group. For most of the sessions one woman participant always sits outside the
arranged configuration of chairs. She looks attentive as she sits. for the most part, bolt
upright, often on the edge of her chair. When asked by other members of the large group
why she has this seat she replies that she wants to be separate. One assumes that she feels
that she is not being trapped by any structures. She states that in her view the consultants
are imposing this structure. She attends the large group, and all the other events of the
conference but she never becomes a member. As the days go by one has a picture of a
woman who will not join any institution as she wants to keep her version of freedom and
her individuality. She gives the impression of being the observer watching everything
from behind a glass screen-detached, objective, unmoved, apparently content to be
alienated. Withdrawal and dissociation seem to be her way of life. It is difficult to guess
what her experiences may be because she never offers them, but one assumes she is
processing them in some way.

In the same conference another woman says that she had never really existed as a child for
her parents. She had been a non-person for them. It was not a matter of rejection; she had
never been accepted. One could understand why there was a necessity to hold on to a
version of 'me' in order just to have survived as a person. This pressure to hold on to the
'me' part of oneself, in the sense that we are trying to give meaning to the distinction
between "I" and "Me", can be seen in other contexts as we have tried to demonstrate above
and will continue to show in what follows.

In one session of a large group one member said that she dreamt of the film Broken
Mirrors. She told the participants in the group what the film was about. The story of the
film is about a sadistic murderer who captures women, ties them up, and takes
photographs of them while starving them to death. One of the features of the film is that


there is no interaction between the photographer/murderer and the victim. The room in
which the film takes place is covered with photographs of previous victims starving to

At one level, the volunteering of this film story of the relationship between murderer and
victim represented the transference relationship which was felt to exist between the
consultants and the members of the group. In phantasy, members experienced no
interaction between consultants and the members of the group and so the consultants were
busy engaged in an activity that was akin to making a film of the mental life of the group
as an object of study.

At another level we would suggest that the relationship between the murderer and the
victim is a paradigm for the individual caught in baM. By this we mean that there is a
sadistic photographing part of oneself which is busy taking snapshots of a suffering,
starving part of oneself and there is no interaction between the two. So the consultants
come to be seen as sadistic by victimising the members who are starving for insight.

In this conference it was noticeable that participants had great difficulty in talking about
their feelings about themselves in any roles, the context in which they were working and
about others Feelings seemed to be being held in abeyance during the working sessions.
This led on a number of occasions to people saying things like, 'If I was to feel angry I
would say "X".' In baM people do everything in their power to distance themselves from
their feelings, take a 'photograph' and present that to the rest of the group and the
consultants as the 'evidence' for what is going on within themselves. This is a logical
consequence of baM which can begin to be unlocked only when the members give their
feelings of their experience. This would lead to an exploration of their relationships in the
group and elicit their images of the group in the mind.

The activity of note-taking is unusual in working conferences. One member did so
constantly during all the sessions. This same member had a dream which he reported to
the large group. His dream was that the director of the conference had a pimple on his
forehead directly above his nose and that when the pimple was pressed more and more pus
came out of the pimple. It is perhaps sign)ficant that the site of this pimple is the presumed
position of the ithird eye' end, on reflection, we wonder whether it represented an attack on
participants' own capacity for insight which was then projected onto the consultant who
also had the role of director. The notes, in this case, and the photographs in the other,
replace insight. We can speculate that the model for this behaviour is that of the classical
scientist regarding everything objectively, striving never to contaminate the findings with
feelings, observations, and any activity that might skew the results.

Another member reported a dream in which she was having a baby which was the child of
a homosexual pair. In a baM culture 'like links with like' (a phrase to which we shall
return) and the only kind of birth that seems possible is a phantasised 'birth' through
homosexual pairing. It is also not true homosexual pairing. We would hypothesise that the
real relationship is 'me with me' and that this is projected into a homosexual pairing. In a
session towards the ending of this particular large group males were linking with males,
and females with females, to the extent that one woman sat on another woman's lap.
Mental heterosexuality, so to speak, and appropriate interaction and relating such that a
'true baby' of insight could be born was taboo.


In an institutional event which has the primary task of studying the relationships between
members in groups of their own choice and the management of the event who are the staff,
we found that the membership formed three groups. In each of these groups we found that
there was no internal differentiation of roles for task except that each had appointed a firm
doorkeeper who kept all visitors to the group waiting outside the door of the group room.
The groups were homogeneous in character. The three groups seemed to be turned
inwards as though their task was to explore the interior life of the group and not explore
inter-group relations. The three groups in their concentration on their interior life
represented an acting-out of baM at an organizational level. Another way in which baM
was acted out was when one member formed a group of his own of himself.

The management of the institutional event found that the three groups had formed
themselves consciously as sociometric chains. While it is an interesting way of forming
groups it avoids the pain of personal selection and rejection. It is apparently scientific and
objective. The sole criterion is liking. Individuals ask others whom they like to join them.
and so on. The nature of the group so formed was that they were 'linked by liking'.

The management, at one stage, had the working hypothesis that the model of learning
being acted-out was one of cohesion through adhesion, with like attracting like. This was
seen as being akin to the pseudopodial process. This metaphor we take from zoology. A
pseudopod refers to, for example, certain protozoa which form protrusions of any part of
the protoplasm and so develop temporary processes for locomotion, for the purposes of
grasping and attaching, or for the ingestion of food. This pseudopodial process is physical
as, for instance, in certain mosses which develop a pedicel or footstalk in order to
elongate. In baM culture it is a psychological way of relating.

Learning as a baM activity also seems to be a secretive process. What is learned by one
person cannot be shared. The learning is for oneself alone. If any learning was to be shared
the phantasy appears to be that it will be stolen, taken away from one and possibly be
added to by another with the result that the uniqueness of the individual learning is
destroyed. Even worse, if one accepts thought or learning from another one might have to
express one's gratitude. Learning thus has to be acquired anonymously, preferably in as
comfortable a fashion as possible with the minimum of psychological disturbance. This
means that differences have to be avoided because these might lead to conflict. It seems
better to be in a state of anomie, just not understanding, than having to engage in either
cooperative or connictual relations.

This illustrates a major problem when the activities of baM are predominant in a group
There cannot be a joining with others to create something new, which is not simply an
extension of or owned by oneself. This is why we suggest that the model of learning in
such a culture is pseudopodial because learning is not true reaching out and internalising,
but a temporary and opportunistic 'attaching to something that is supposedly like oneself.

BaM represents an attack on the possibility of learning from relating to others. There is a
difficulty just in 'takingin' and all interpretations are experienced as persecutory due to the
consultant's failure to acknowledge the 'plumage' of the members, that is to say their
'marvellous Meness'. This is because participants are behaving as if the group is not
relevant and can never be used for their mutual advantage. In one sense baM can be
regarded as an unconscious attack on any idea or person which could give dependability


and be a resource for learning. This is because of the fear of basic assumption dependency.
A baM group becomes a world of selfcontained, autodidacts selecting what they want to
know from whom they choose.

The group, of course, loses vitality, as it has an air of futility, because the taking up of role
for the purposes of the work of the group is seen as depriving others and, of course
oneself. Hence, the development of 'creative apperception' (Winnicott, 1971, p. 65) within
the individual, the group and the enterprise are precluded for the preoccupation is with the
'me' in its selfish state. The 'me' is starving and deprived, to be sure, but the unconscious
assumption is that it will likely be fed only by its own self-reliant efforts.

When baM is the dominant basic assumption there can be no exploration of authority. We
have noticed (in our various roles as directors of conferences and as consultants to events)
an increasing resistance within member groups to differentiate roles, and thereby
authority, in order to work at primary task. Notions that authority may be exercised
differentially within a group and that this may help to press the task forward are often
submerged in a rhetoric of pseudodemocratic egalitarianism which can be viewed as one
collective manifestation of baM.

The resistance to testing out boundaries and the limits of authority in a baM culture takes
the form of withdrawal and passive aggression. Speaking one's thoughts takes place
outside the stated events during breaks for coffee and meals. Within the events the
consultants may be induced into the illusion that the membership is present simply
because their bodies are physically present. It would be more true to say that there is a
'mental absence' within the group and that the members have taken up a spectator role, i.e.,
the photographer. When members of a group are united in unconscious baM they are
acting to deprive the consultants of material to work on. There is no sense of a mutually
interdependent, symbiont relationship. Consultants may be trapped into feeling that they
have to fill the gap with more and more working hypotheses about flight (baF) which
serve only to unite further the group in baM and passive aggression. The group 'starves'
the consultant while the consultant tries to 'feed' the group which is not there to be fed (cf.

Broken Mirrors). It all smacks of the parasitic relationship which Bion identified (Bion,
1970, p. 95). One feels one is in a pseudogroup.

Consequently, in a baM culture members may believe that they are communicating when
in fact they are not. One member reported to one consultant after her small group had
ended that she had felt 'quite emotional' during the small group and that this must have
been obvious to the consultant. He was astonished as she had appeared within the group to
be the very opposite. This led him to think that in baM there is an unconscious belief that
if something is going on in 'me' others will know that it is happening without it having to
be communicated.

Not surprisingly when baM is dominant there is little capacity for gratitude. There is no
true interaction so there can be no 'baby' to symbolize learning, which if felt to have been
gained has been so thorough a process similar to leeching, i.e., similar to percolating. In a
Meness culture there is no learning from history, from authority figures or role models in
the past, from one's own experience or that of others. Psychic pain is minimised; one
quotes from others but has forgotten the source; learning is instantaneous. Metaphorically


it passes, as used to be said about some kinds of teaching, from the notebook of one to
another without passing through the minds of either.

When discussing the feasibility of baM with Lawrence, Jonah Rosenfeld described his
experiences in a German working conference in which he had taken part as a consultant.
He said that he had never heard so many examples of cruelty recounted by members. One
woman told of how as a child the meal consisted of boiled eggs. Each was set in an egg
cup. When she opened hers she found an embryonic chicken which she was made to eat. A
man told of how as a fouryearold he had been at the seaside with his parents. While they
sat on the beach he had ventured into the water, got out of his depth and was drowning
when a man came and rescued him. The man deposited him on the beach. The rescuer did
not tell the parents and neither did the boy. He had never spoken about the incident until
being in a group with Rosenfeld.

Rosenfeld's observation was about the cruelty of parents to their children that was
sometimes witting, more often not. We speculated why he had been given this
information. We thought it was because he was a Jew and an Israeli citizen, and that the
German members were describing their experiences of cruelty to someone whose religious
and cultural group had suffered because of the Nazi regime. But the more Rosenfeld
reflected on the evidence the more he felt that he was being given evidence of how
people's experiences had made them preoccupied with their individual survival and the
necessity to hold on to the Meness of the 'I'. The 'I' could be violated abominably but not
the 'me', the essential core identity of the self.

A supplementary working hypothesis for the incidence of baM is that this propensity for
Meness is based on a split; the classical split between the imago of the good mother and
the bad mother. The bad mother is splitoff into society, or rather projected into it, and
badness is located in society, or any of its intermediate institutions such as work, the
government, the economic market. External objects can then be blamed for the individual's
unhappiness. Sadism comes into it because of this construction of a failed environment. A
probable, logical sequence of thinking is: 'You have owed me; you have failed me; you
will therefore pay for it'. By such thinking ruthlessness and selfishness become justified.

Any social figuration such as the group, society, thus comes to represent the damaged and
damaging object. The group is construed as an antagonistic object because it is deemed to
be phobic. Consequently, the 'me' who feels impotent and vulnerable, with real anxieties
about obliteration, takes up a counterdependent position to the group which is succeeded
by a denial of its very existence; only 'me' has reality. This seems to be of the essence of

Part of the experience of being in baM is of being present in a room with a set of other
people who must never form a group because it is by unconscious definition a nongroup;
must never achieve a language that can make use of 'we'. It is to be in a scientific posture
of observing an object. The object is always potentially threatening and damaging. It can
never carry hope. It is disappointing and always frustrating. In such a situation there is no
space for concern for the mood is fatalistic-whatever happens, happens! All that one can
do in such a situation is survive by keeping the goodness in and the dirty, messy,
contaminating, reality of the other out. There is no place for emotions because the concern


of the participants is that feelings be notexperienced and that they be notexpressed. Hence,
life in a baM culture is ordered, calm, polite, and androgynous.

When baM is salient and activating the life of the group, the consultant to the group is
made to feel that he or she has to work harder and harder giving working hypotheses, and
that each interpretation has to be better than the last one. The members seem to have
retreated into apathy and the consultant feels pressure to rescue, or save, the group from its
arid, futile life. The consultant is made to feel, 'If only I could make the right interpretation
to unlock the stalemate'. The consultant may continue to give working hypotheses which
may to him or her seem 'good enough'; in fact they may be pertinent, but they have no
effect. In actuality the interpretations are likely to be about flight (baF) which is what the
behaviour feels like because the flight is from the reality of the group as a group. Such
interpretations may very possibly have a reverse negative effect in that the group solidifies
increasingly into withdrawal and Meness. As a consultant one is made to feel that one is
not making contact with any members of the group; one is isolated, alienated. In a real
sense the consultant is either not present for the members in a culture of baM, or felt to be
a threat to individual survival, i.e., the preservation of Meness. (Survival we can
understand to be the meta ba.) This consultant experience is a reflection of the fact that
members are not psychically, politically, or spiritually present for each other.

We have been noting in recent years the dangers of a baM culture in working conferences.
When we were not sure about our thinking we could only describe our experiences in
terms of dissociation, or of anomie, or of alienation, or of schizoid phenomena. Now we
are more certain. We see that there is a tendency for some consultants and directors to act
in such a way that they occupy space and become a central object of concern and
admiration, needing to be nurtured constantly by other staff and by members of the
conference. This, at its simplest, is the wish of some staff to be star performers; but we can
now suggest that they are acting in a baM mode.

Bain has used the term 'space invader' to refer to the kind of teaching situation where the
teacher invades the space of the child, rather than allowing the child to learn and to work
out for themselves what he or she can do (Bain, Long, and Ross, 1992). This concept
applies also to the inappropriate use of director or consultant's Meness in relationship to
the primary task of conference events.

When this mental relationship of baM exists between group and consultant the chances are
that preemptive interpretations (Lawrence, 1985a) come to the fore. These are
interpretations that cut off further exploration of reality because they are presented as a
definitive statement, a final assessment or summary, an indubitable psychological fact; and
spoken sometimes quite punitively. Consequently, there is no space, because it is now
invaded, for what can be called mutative interpretive work, i.e., the offering of working
hypotheses that themselves can be changed and which will initiate transformations in the
culture of the group. Another way of putting this is to say that preemptive interpretations
are disguised 'attacks on linking'. What it also means is that there is no potential for group
reverie which is so critical for participants if they are to be able to make themselves
available for thought and to develop thinking.

Bain reports that during a followup meeting to a Working Conference in Perth, Australia,
a member said to him, 'It's marvellous you're able to be here!' while Bain thought that


there might be a wish of this exmember to be dependent on him it might be more that there
was a need to flatter the director's marvellous 'Meness' - 'the plume he wears so well'.

Here, it is worth drawing a parallel with psychoanalytic practice. Neville Symington in an
essay on Sandor Ferenczi says that repeatedly Ferenczi emphasised the need for the
analyst to be free of narcissism. If in the context of groups the consultant is caught up in
his or her Meness they feed into and off the baM culture. The group cannot be related to in
an adaptive way. 'We all know that in a love relationship there has to be a continual
process of adaptation, because without it there can only be selflove or narcissism'
(Symington, 1986, p. 195).

Participants can be 'driven into Meness', as Jon Stokes of the Tavistock Clinic suggested
during a discussion of the evidence for and against baM. This telling phrase captures not
only our experiences of groups but also increasingly our experience of living in
contemporary societies when we consult to industrial, educational, and church
organizations. What Stokes's phrase signposts is the cultures which we have cocreated in
our contemporary, industrialised societies that cause people to behave as they do which, in
turn, creates the culture that reinforces their behaviour. In Bion's terms, the culture of the
group is such that the individual's valency - that 'spontaneous, unconscious function of the
gregarious quality in the personality' (Bion, 1961, p. 170) for baM is mobilised.


It begins to be evident that we are living in societies which increasingly reward Meness
behaviour. The 'yuppies' of the Thatcher years are a case in point. Bain notes this
rewarding of Meness behaviour in relation to the career concerns of public servants in
Australia. For many in the public service there has been a loss of a sense of task and a
consequent loss of organizational purpose and structure which leads to destructive greed
and envy. The losses experienced have eroded the idea of 'I' as a system relating to others;
all that matters is how these changes have affected 'me'. This fosters a culture of baM.
There are, then, limited psychic, political, or spiritual bases for developing social concern.
Therefore, the main preoccupation of civil servants becomes that of advancing their
personal careers, and less attention is paid to public policies which they might shape and
for which they might take responsibility and authority.

The more that the individual is driven into Meness the mores selfish individuals become
for this is the only way that they can survive in the social world. We note other instances
of survival behaviour in our societies. For example, there is an increase in the bullying that
takes place in offices which Andrea Adams and Neil Crawford describe in their book

Bullying at Work (1992). The victim is driven to helplessness and despair, impotence,
murderous feelings, and has fantasies of killing the bully who can be a headmaster, a
senior manager, a head of department. The bully will have had a childhood of
relationships with abusing authority figures. His or her history will be one characterised by
depression, anger, and violence. He or she recreates these experiences when in positions of
power because the bully is the only imago of authority he or she can elicit from his or her
inner world. The bully's selfdefinition of Meness is such that he or she can have no
conception of ruth for other persons who are objects to be manipulated.


For some time Lawrence has been referring, halfjokingly, to the 'PostThatcher Sadism
Syndrome' (PTSS) in Britain. This arises from the Thatcher government and its successors
preoccupation with efficiency and value for money. While this preoccupation is
supportable, what is not is the way in which the policies that ensue are implemented. For
example, there is a reorganisation in a hospital. People are invited to apply for the jobs
which they may have been executing for a number of years without complaint from their
senior management, their colleagues, and patients. They are interviewed and rejected. One
aspect of this is that one set of people (managers and consultants) determines criteria
which selects and rejects others in the system. More precisely, as we understand the
matter, use is made of doctrines of Quality Assurance and the Patient's Charter to
implement policies with, what is experienced as a vicious judgementalism.

We see another version of this Meness also in the ruthless, opportunistic behaviour of
some business managers. The Guinness scandal would be a case in point. The most recent
case in Britain is the 'dirty tricks' campaign of British Airways in relation to Virgin
Airways. British Airways wish to succeed caused them to think only of themselves and
how they could win supremacy in their domain. Here we can speculate that there was an
oscillation between ba fight and baM. One distinguishing feature of baM is that the enemy
becomes an object which has to be annihilated, not just conquered, by any means. There
is, we think, a psychopathic element present in baM which is much stronger than in baF; a
total absence of conscience. Ethics and morality are merely words. If British Airways had
been successful one assumes that the management would have celebrated with no thought
for the wrecking of a competitor who might provide a better service for the consumer.

The first inklings of baM came from the experience of working with religious (nuns and
priests) on a series of actionresearch projects 20 years after Vatican II. During these
projects Lawrence had the first glimpses of the phenomenon we now call baM. The key
factor in all these actionresearch projects was that the majority of the known structures of
the religious life had been removed because of Vatican II. At the time, Lawrence was
preoccupied with the existential crisis that religious were in and wrote that they were
experiencing the loss of a social world which had been ordered, regular, and had a
purpose. While this loss was a release for some because it brought freedom-as expressed
in liberation theology, for instance-for a great many it was causing feelings of grief and
mourning. We can argue against the quality of religious life before Vatican II and give
evidence to show that it had many disadvantages in terms of the human development of
religious because the emphasis was on baD. That is secondary to our main point which is
that, whatever its quality, the then structures of religious life provided a container into
which uncertainty could be projected and certitude received back, or introjected. With the
erosion of these structures indivduals were driven back into themselves, within their own
personal boundaries, as the only sure anchor in a world of uncertaintv (Lawrence, 1985b).
With hindsight it can be interpreted that religious were thrown into baM as a mode of

As time has passed one can see that this baM experience became for some a necessary,
temporary, basic assumption for it has allowed many nuns and priests to come to redefine
the religious life as in, for example, their taking of the 'option for the poor'. This has
enabled them to redefine their apostolates and change their lifestyle accordingly. So they
have been able to reaffirm themselves in the new versions of the religious life which are
now more orientated to revelation through the processes of interpreting the Word in the


light of the changing circumstances in the environment. There is, then, a sophisticated use
of baM which can lead to a redefinition of Work and new activities to further that work.


Like all the other basic assumptions baM can have its temporary uses for the ultimate
furtherance of W. In the same way, for instance, that baO can be a transitional state that
leads into transcendent experience so can baM be of value for exploring realities. There is
a necessity for all of us to withdraw deeply into ourselves, to plumb our own inner worlds
in order that we can reengage with the external environment. Sometimes this is called
regression in the service of the ego. There is a necessity that periodically we assess the
nature of our own feelings in order to disentangle what we may feel is being introjected
into us and what we may be projecting. Although we have difficulty in ever identifying
them with any certainty we try to isolate what may be our countertransference feelings in
order to find out what the transference feelings may be in whatever human context we are

There is this work to find within ourselves what could be called 'the moment' which is the
capacity to arrive at a clarity of insight which cannot be avoided or gainsaid because it is
as near truth as can be. That, of course, we are struggling with lies is not to be denied.
BaM can be the temporary mental space we need to have in order to be out of the world to
mentally and spiritually recuperate so that we can reexplore external realities without
memory, desire, or the wish that they be other than they are.

There is a sense in which baM can be viewed as a dependency on oneself and one's own
resources in order to have a basis of dependability to participate in and hearken to the
realities of the environment. It can be a necessary withdrawal into the self to be able to
make oneself available for thoughts and thinking and to be able to be attentive to external
reality BaM can become an introspective activity which, for example, is difficult to
achieve in a baF/F culture

Bion makes reference to Freud's idea that particular specialized work groups make use of
the activities of particular basic assumptions. Bion goes on to say that the Church or an
Army has to hold on to basic assumption mentality and work group activity at one and the
same time. Just as a Church is prone to interference from baD and baO activity so is the
Army from baF/F phenomena. Bion goes on to suggest that these ba groups are budded off
by the main Work group of which they form a part. The Work group's purpose is 'the
translation of thoughts and feelings into behaviour which is adapted to reality' (Bion, 1961,
p. 157). Here we are puzzling out the relationship between baM activity and Work group
activity recognising that 'basic assumption mentality does not lend itself into action' (Ibid.,
p. 157). Tentatively, we are suggesting that baM activity is part of the necessary
experience an individual has to have as a self with a boundary in order to engage in terms
of Work with whatever is the reality of the Other; be that other persons, the group as other,
or the environment. We can see this operating in any group. One example is in a religious
retreat where baO and baM activities have to be budded off into specialised groups;
otherwise the overarching W of a religious retreat would be destroyed. We see baM
operating in a consultation to a business enterprise which is having to reorganise its
resources for its future in an uncertain market environment. BaM activity, again, has to be
budded off into subgroupings so that the human resources of the enterprise can be


rediscovered in much the terms which have been used above. The W of the consultation
which is to engage with changing realities is thus furthered.


BaM has social and intellectual roots, we are hypothesising, which have come to justify
this particular psychic position. Our concern is to find cultural explanations for baM rather
than to reduce everything to narcissism. The intellectual roots lie in our immediate
experiences of contemporary societies as we have tried to indicate. There are, however,
more profound reasons that are part of the emergent fabric of twentieth century societies.
Since Plato through Descartes, Leiboiz, Locke, Hume, Kant, Husserl, and Popper there has
been an endless circular argument about the individual and society; about the individual as
the subject of knowledge and how that individual gains knowledge of the objects in the
external environment. This solipsistic viewpoint carries the image of the individual being
inside a closed container looking at the world of other individuals, each with minds,
guessing at what is inside the others' sealed minds. Norbert Elias calls this conception

homo clausus. This conception of the isolated ego, of what he calls 'weless I's' (Elias,
1987, p. 266), he rejects and for his own conceptual base proposes homines aperti (open-
people) who are linked together in various modalities and in varying degrees.

Open people recognize that their knowledge does not begin with them as individuals but
that individuals learn from their historically determined environmental contexts through
the ordinary processes of maturation and socialization. As Stephen Mennel (1992) points
out, Elias in The Civilizing Process ( 1987) analyses the relationship between changes in
the structure of human relations in societies with the concomitant changes in personality
structure as part of a societal process. The image of homo clausus, however, is a persistent
one because it accords with selfexperience and has existed since Renaissance times.

The philosophers' homo clausus is just an externalization of this mode of selfexperience:
the sealed container in which we sense ourselves is sealed with the iron bands of the
civilized selfcontrols forged in a longterm process. (Mennel, 1992, p. 193)

The sealed container has been an organising theme of twentiethcentury literature. Walt
Wllitman identified this as 'the principle of individuality, the pride and centripetal isolation
of a human being in himself-identity-personalism' (quoted in Tanner, 1976, p. 19). This
has been the century of the celebration of personal selfactualization because it is believed
that only the individual can work out his or her destiny in isolation. That isolation
produces its own existential pain. Indeed, the theatre of the absurd explores one aspect of
this anguish which is the inability to communicate.

A gloss on this metaphor of the sealed container has been the twentiethcentury
intellectuals' dismissal of the masses. John Carey suggests:


that the principle around which modernist literature and culture fashioned themselves was
the exclusion of the masses, the defeat of their power, the removal of their literacy, the
denial of their humanity. What this intellectual effort failed to acknowledge was that the
masses do not exist. The mass, that is to say, is a metaphor for the unknowable and
invisible. We cannot see the mass. Crowds can be seen, but the mass is the crowd in its
metaphysical aspect-the sum of all possible crowds-and that can take on conceptual form
only as a metaphor. The metaphor of the mass serves the purpose of individual self-
assertion because it turns people into a conglomerate. It denies them the individuality
which we ascribe to ourselves and to people we know. (Carey, 1992, p. 21)

The intellectual is in the sealed container and so can assert his individuality because
whatever is outside is a conglomerate. This echoes the psychic and nonpolitical and non-
spiritual position of the participant in baM. The group of other people is an
undifferentiated mass in which people have no individuality and are not worth knowing.
There is an element of contempt present in baM which is not so evident in other ba groups.

The paradox is, however, that while this has been the century of homo clausus it has also
been the century of communication. Human relations in contemporary societies are
importantly influenced by the plenitude of the mass media. This abundance of information
can generate anxiety because the television viewer of, say, the Gulf War or events in the
former Yugoslavia is left with a feeling of impotence. At the same time, the viewers have
to make up their minds about the rights and wrongs, the truth or falsehood, of the
information they receive which is often complex and contradictory. Because we are living
through the collapse of dogma and received belief and, as Umberto Eco has identified, a
multiplication of ideologies, the individual is pressed into becoming an autonomous man-

homo individualis (Tecglen. 1992, p. 159).

While this has many positive advantages in that the individual who can assimilate the
information which is available can have an unprecedented mental richness, questions arise
as to what the nature of social life will be in the future. We feel that this trend points to the
emphasising of the 'I' and the 'me' to the exclusion of the 'we' and the 'us'. There are, it
appears, a number of factors which increase the risk of baM phenomena in societies that,
we have to remind ourselves, is truly psychotic.

A related reason for the emergence of baM phenomena lies in our beliefs as to how we
gain insight and knowledge. Simply stated, the engagement in baM, as we have hinted,
may be a throwback to a scientific methodology that we associate with Newtonian science.
The methodology of Tavistock Working Conferences celebrate different ways of coming
to know what reality might be. The emphasis in conferences is on participation, paying
attention, and hearkening which involves the participant as a whole person. This
methodology which sounds vague, nearmystical, obscure, and is downright subjective may
be a contributory factor in driving people into Meness which is the posture of the
nonparticipating, objective observer, regarding the group as a conglomerate, a mass.

Bion's hypotheses derive from a psychoanalytic knowing of groups. This has enabled us to
see connections between basic assumption behaviour and the interpretation of what reality
might be. Basic assumption behaviour is psychotic, albeit temporarily. The more
permanent it becomes, however, the more that mature, healthy individuals capable of
social contribution, because they have a capacity for rush, are swamped in the basic


assumption cultures of groups, organizations, or society. Donald Winnicott was alive to
this over 40 years ago when he showed how fragile democracy is as an achievement
because it is always struggling against the psychotic which may become the majority force
in a society at any time (Winnicott, 1950). The more that we can identify through
expei~ence and come to know basic assumption behaviour, the greater our chances of
interpreting the realities in which we live and transforming them so that human beings can
become more mature through the quality of their contact with realities. Notwithstanding
the sophisticated uses of baM, the major consequence of baM behaviour becoming salient
and perseverative is that possible explorations of W and ba cultures are prevented and
their potential experience rendered unattainable.


A number of people have contributed to the thinking out of this paper. In particular, W. G. L. acknowledges
the continual support and help of DavidArmstrong, Brendan Duddy, Leslie Freedman, Peter Goold, Kenneth
Eisold, Colin James, Joan Hutten, Bipin Patel, Jonah Rosenfeld, Mannie Sher, Burkard Sievers, and Judit
Szekacs. To Anton Obholzer of the Tavistock Clinic, W. G. L. is grateful for a chance to try out ideas with
his course on social institutions. A. B. is grateful to Suzanne Ross, Allan Shafer, and Helen Costello as well
as the members of AISA who took part in a Scientific Meeting on baM. We are all grateful for the
opportunities we have had over the years to work with conference participants and staffs.


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