Group Psychology & TheAnalysis of the Ego (Freud, S., 1921) • John La Valle, Ph.D.
Sigmund Freud (1949) Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego“…only rarely and under certain exceptional conditions is individual psychology in a position to disregard the relations of the individual to others. In the individual’s mental life someone else is invariably involved …individual psychology is at the same time social psychology.”Here Freud begins to move beyond his basic drive theory and the emphasis on man’s instincts towards an appreciation of the importance of social relationships. This will eventually be picked up by the object relations school of psychoanalysis which will focus on object relations as the cornerstone of human development and motivation.
Group Psychology• “…is therefore concerned with the individual man as a member of a race, of a nation, of a caste, of a profession, of an institution, or as a component part of a crowd of people who have been organized into a group at some particular time for some definite purpose” (p.4).• “…the social instinct may not be a primitive one and insusceptible of dissection, and that it may be possible to discover the beginnings of its development in a narrower circle, such as that of the family” (p.5). All quotes are from (Freud, S. (1959) Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. (first published in 1922)
Le Bon’s and the Group Mind• “Whoever be the individuals that compose it, however like or unlike be their mode of life, their occupations, their character, or their intelligence, the fact that they have been transformed into a group puts them in possession of a sort of collective mind which makes them feel, think, and act in a manner quite different from that in which each individual of them would feel, think, and act were he in a state of isolation” (Le Bon, 1895).• “The psychological group is a provisional being formed of heterogeneous elements, which for a moment are combined, exactly as the cells which constitute a living body form by their reunion a new being which displays characteristics very different from those possessed by each of the cells singly” (Le Bon, 1895). Le Bon, G. (1895 ) Psychologie des foules, Paris. [Trans., The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, London, 1920.]
Characteristics of Le Bon’s “collective mind”• Invincible power• Anonymity & irresponsibility• Contagion• Highly suggestible (as in hypnosis)• Lowered intellectual ability. Its ethical conduct may rise as hight above his as it may sink deep below it.• Led almost exclusively by the unconscious. It thinks in images (free association) Primary process thinking (images and magic of words) The most contradictory ideas can exist side by side and tolerate each other, without any conflict arising from the logical contradiction between them.• Impulsive changeable & irritable• Open to influence, it has not critical faculty• Thinking in extremes. The feelings of a group are always simple and exaggerated. It knows neither doubt nor uncertainty. It is unconcerned with reality• Obedient to authority. It respects force and considers kindness a form of weakness. What it demands of its heroes is strength, or even violence. It wants to be ruled and oppressed and to fear its masters.
The Iceberg metaphor Ego Ego ideal Conscious mindPreconscious Unconscious conscience mind Superego Id
Freudian Topographic Theory• Conscious: Thoughts and perceptions of which we are aware of and attending to. What we allow ourselves to know about ourselves and others.• Preconscious: Information that is not conscious but is retrievable into conscious awareness (e.g., what you had for breakfast this morning)• Unconscious: A reservoir of mostly unacceptable thoughts, wishes feelings and memories of which we are unaware and do not allow ourselves to know about our true nature or the true nature of others. The identification with the leader and his superego occurs on this level.
Freudian Structural theory• Id: Contains a reservoir of unconscious psychic energy that strives to satisfy basic sexual and aggressive drives Operates on the pleasure principle, demanding immediate gratification Operates under primary process thinking (thinking that is not logical – such as the way we might think in dreams)• Ego: The executive part of the personality that mediates among the demands of the id, superego and reality Operates on the reality principle, satisfying the id’s desires in ways that will realistically bring pleasure rather than pain and satisfy the demands of the superego and society. Operates under secondary process thinking (concerned with logic) Contains the ego functions such as: impulse control, judgment, language, memory, reality testing and the defense mechanisms.• Superego: The structure which represents internalized ideals (ego ideal) and provides standards for judgment and prohibitions (the conscience) The heir to the Oedipus complex, formed as a result of castration anxiety in men and penis envy in woman. Formed when the child identifies with the parent of the same sex and takes on their values rather than continue to compete with them for the favors of the opposite sex parent. Ego Ideal: The ideal of perfection that the ego strives to emulate (pride) Conscience: The internalized values of right and wrong (guilt)
INSTINCTS• Live in the unconscious and supply the energy which drives the mechanism. Fulfillment of the instincts is what motivates human behavior in Freudian psychology.• Two basic instincts Aggression: That which seeks to destroy and conquer Libido: Sexual energy – that which seeks to bind, and join together as in sexual expressions. Eros: sublimated de-sexualized from of libido involved in intense friendships and comradeship. * That which binds men together in groups. (teams, police and fire departments, army etc.) The cement which holds the group together.
Freud’s theory on Groups• The leader is put in the place of the ego ideal• Each member identifies with each other in their shared ego ideal (the leader).• Through a common libidinal (love) tie to the leader they are all tied to each other and to the leader.• Each member wants the approval of the leader. In this sense we regress and become like children again all seeking the approval and love of the parent. We suspend our own superego and there is an absence of internal criticism. In this way Freud likened it to hypnosis where the hypnotist replaces the ego ideal of the subject being hypnotized. He also likened it to being in love, where the object of our love replaces our own ego ideal and we only wish to be close to him or her and will suspend normal judgment in order to maintain an idealized view of the loved person. Think of the crazy and dangerous things that people will do when they are in love.
How can a Single Man acquire the unquestioned rule over millions.• The “Leader” (Fuehrer, President, Pope) is the key to the psychoanalytic comprehension of such regressive modes of behavior• Leaders appeal to and capture the Irrational needs, desires and fears of the group.• The Leader is the unconscious heir to the mantle of the primal father (early wild groups of humans in prehistoric times). He inherits his absolute power and unquestioned authority and his followers (the sons) are, as a group, incapable of rational criticism and independent judgment in matters concerning the leader’s will.• The group hungers for the approval of the leader and caries out his absolute commands without regard to any personal, moral judgments.• The group is in a waking-state of hypnosis
What forms the group• The introjection of a common ego- ideal; the person of the leader• Eros, the aim-inhibited sexual instinct, which supplies the “energy” by which the group holds together
What group psychology has in common with love• Magical suggestibility…Words take on almost magical significance• Over valuation of the object• Suspension of reality testing and judgment• Wish to be lead• Disregard for what is rational or logical• Desire for extremes – The person in love is capable of extreme behavior – murder, heroism, sacrifice of ones one life, etc.
Illusion in groups• Members of a group stand in the need of the illusion that they are equally and justly loved by their leader. Christ and the church President and the country Family
Characteristics of being in love• Sexual over-estimation (p. 73) The loved object enjoys freedom from criticism and all its characteristics are valued highly. Idealization: the tendency which falsifies judgment ( the object serves as a substitute for some unattained ego ideal)• It is the fate of sexual love to become extinguished when it is satisfied; for it to be able to last, it must from the first be mixed with purely tender components (p.78).• Eros neutralized sexual energy, inhibited in its original aim – the force that binds the group together.