Complete group relations consultant interventions in a Tavistock small study system

Laurence J. Gould, Ph.D. (Remembrance)

Transcribed, edited, and annotated by Stan De Loach, Ph.D.
 
 
 
This presentation of all verbal and behavioral interventions made by an experienced Tavistock group relations consultant to a small study system is intended to serve educational ends.

It provides verbatim content to accompany, complement, and enrich other publications in the Tavistock group relations field.  This presentation is a particularly useful companion work to three earlier publications:

De Loach SS.  (1988).  Study group consultancy: Elements of the task.  New Orleans, LA: Author.  (An electronic free-to-use version of this book is available here.)

De Loach SS.  (Ed.)  (1991).  Study group consultancy: Styles of interpretation.  New Orleans, LA: Author.  (An electronic free-to-use version of this book is available here.)

King PD.  (1975).  Life cycle in the "Tavistock" study group.  Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 13, 180 – 184.  (An authorized version of this article, in Spanish, is available here.)

Linda J. Webb, Dr. P.H., Houston, Texas, organized and directed the event reported here, which was called a "workshop."  She recruited the participants and subsequently gave permission for the transcription of the 3/4" videotapes made of the eight small study system meetings.

This Tavistock small study system experience took place over two days, probably in 1980, more than 30 years ago.  It was offered as a stand-alone experience and was not part of a full Tavistock group relations conference.  The workshop consisted of eight small study system sessions, all with the same membership.  Three cameramen or videographers were present in the group space during the sessions.  An observer was also present during all eight sessions.  The duration of each session was 1 hour. 

The small study system here reported met and was recorded in Houston, Texas.  Verbatim transcription of the videotapes was completed, also in Houston, Texas, over a three-year period: on 29 June 1983, 12 June 1984, and 14 September 1985.

In the following reports and summaries, all proper names used (except for those of Drs. Webb and Gould) have been changed in order to provide anonymity and protect the privacy of the participants. 

Bold text indicates the consultant's tonal emphasis.  Within the verbatim interventions presented, all editions appear italicized in parentheses.  The intervention number is indicated by In before the intervention itself.

Complete interventions, sequentially 1
   FIRST day 2
   SECOND day 3
Complete interventions, contextually 4
   FIRST day 5
   SECOND day 6
Group relations consultant's and observer's post-session summaries 7
   FIRST day 8
   SECOND day 9

 
 
 
 
 

 

Complete interventions by the group relations consultant, sequentially
 
FIRST day

Session one (with 5 interventions)
I1 Perhaps indirectly the group is talking about me at this point.
I2 At this point, it does seem clear that the group has implicitly defined a task for itself: to be comfortable and probably to be friendly as well.
I3 Perhaps if that task were really pursued vigorously, the group would avoid anything that caused discomfort.
I4 I think there is a wish to obliterate me from the group or at least (to) obliterate the distinction of me from the group.
I5 To this point, with the talk about structure, agenda, and task methods, (I wonder) whether the group is still not talking about reducing anxiety.  The sense I have very much is that that's what you'd like to have the structure for, not necessarily to accomplish a task, but to get comfortable.

Session two (with 6 interventions)
I6 I think with the discussion of "12" or "13" (participants), there is an implicit question of whether I am a savior or a saboteur, like Christ by Judas.
I7 I suppose if I had to characterize how this discussion made me feel, it would be something like an "unnatural" resource.
I8 I would like to point out, though, that for this entire discussion around whether my comments are meaningful, useful, (and) whether I should be included or not, there is, at least for me, a very strong quality of depersonalization.  I think I am experiencing the notion of being treated like a resource.

It's really as if you wouldn't have feelings about me.  You might use my comments or not, but that you might have any feelings about my presence or contribution seems to be totally excluded from the conversation.

I9 It is noted though, but not really explored, what influence it may have that some of you come here with more knowledge about this situation and perhaps about me, by rumor, reputation, or gossip, than others.
I10 I think the last comment probably expresses something which also seems to be a continuation of the theme in the first session, which is to what extent the group is experienced as being imposed on you rather than something you volunteered to do.  It's as if someone is really trying to tell you what to do, rather than this experience has been offered to you and you wanted to participate.  But the feeling is quite different.
I11 I do think that the talk about permission earlier and this last interaction signifies something around whether anyone is going to take a risk in here: namely, to risk the group's displeasure.  So what I hear is really an attempt to develop a contract with each other.

Session three (with 11 interventions)
I12 The comment ("Let's just study the group as a whole.") has been exaggerated as an expression of the entire group, of the notion that the group is getting in the way of what would be good and proper.  Somehow there are good people, namely yourselves, struggling to interact and whatever.  Then there's this group which seems to thwart your efforts.  In other words, good people in a bad group.
I13 That's another way to state the dilemma of the group: that perhaps you own the interactions among you, but I own the group.
I14 "Potentially dangerous" would be a more apt description.  (This) may be a group that turns against its own members.
I15 Perhaps the real dilemma and anxiety is that one really doesn't know what the consequences might be.
I16 The discussion about aggression (and) is focused on one member, but I think represents an anxiety in the group.  That member makes a passing comment that is not picked up on, a worry about who might fall asleep.  And then there's a comment about somebody who uses "we" all the time, as being aggressive.  As I've listened to the group, I'm the only one who uses "the group" in my comments or a collective pronoun.
I17 I think we agree that consciously there is a wish to forget me.
I18 At the end of the last session, a few members expressed some frustration, which has been expressed on and off in the group.  Somebody said directly (that) they were frustrated.  I wonder if an aspect of this is related very much to just the recent few interchanges about me.  Which is that there really is much more preoccupation with me and noticing me than people want to let on.  So the process is very much trying to ignore that.  And (that) may be why it has the quality of going round and round.  It's not dealing with this one major source of discomfort.
I19 One of the interesting things about the discussion, although it's difficult to say except by omission, is that none of the (dimensions) of leadership are discussed: competition, envy, rivalry.  All the messiness that might come up if there really were a struggle for leadership.
I20 I wonder if anyone remembers the content of the comment that was rolled over: That men were preoccupied (with leadership).
I21 I wonder, though, if there isn't a strong, unspoken, and maybe even unexperienced anxiety around being exposed.  Because there's some implication that what leadership would be in this group would be making sense out of the situation, (that is) what's going on beneath the surface.

And there was one comment that I thought was interesting largely because no one picked up on it or responded to it: that if I were here for two weeks, I might be concerned, but I only am going to be here for two days.  I internally coded that statement, for a second, as being relatively realistic in one sense.  But then I suddenly realized that this would probably be one of the longest-lasting groups in the world because it's on (video) tape.

I22 There seems to be some confusion about who is the group consultant.

Session four (with 17 interventions)
I23 Perhaps the confusion between myself and Mr. Jacobs in the last session and his (now) sitting in my seat are related.  I wonder if the group has unconsciously identified him as my number 1 son.
I24 I wonder if the question isn't really, "What is the primary purpose of this group?"  Is it for you and your learning, or is it for someone else and their uses?  Are you being exploited?
I25 What does the group have to be rescued from?
I26 I think (that) one of the processes of this group, which perhaps interweaves with others that have been mentioned, is that there really is a great deal of cooperation, at a covert level, among the members, to make each other look good.  One of the covert questions is whether I will cooperate with you in that enterprise.

That's part of what my sense is of the uncertainty and mistrust of me.  Will I appropriately help the group to look good, to be a "good" group?  Or, will I expose the seemingly "good" group to (be) something else by my interpretations?

I27 I think that the quality of abstraction about the discussion, which may give rise to the frustration, is that both literally and metaphorically the discussion doesn't have any flesh.
I28 We're talking about leadership without talking about who's occupying that role at a particular time.  I would just like to point out that it was noted amongst you in the last session that a comment in the last session by a woman, (namely,) that the males were competing for leadership, was very quickly overridden by a number of male comments.  That was the first reference to gender in relation to leadership at that particular point.
I29 What perhaps would be more appropriate to say is "an interest in simplifying and keeping the discussion neat."  Perhaps when it becomes fleshy, it also becomes more difficult.
I30 Perhaps "flesh" is too rich an image to swallow.
I31 I think one particular aspect, again going back to what I think began in the last session, is highlighted, for me at any rate, by the repeated us of the term, for example, "resources," which one member introduced but a number of people used subsequently.  Also, an emphasis on talking about the comments rather than who the comments came from.  Or, very quickly the emphasis becomes (placed) on the comments, detached from the person who made them.

As far as I know, neither comments nor resources have a gender, for example, or an age or a hair color or a style of dressing, or anything like that, which may describe you or me.

I32 I think part of the good behavior, to give an example, is the almost total avoidance of any comments or discussion or putting on the table (of) one's stereotypes and one's experiences around stereotypes, as if that doesn't happen.  About men, about women, about Blacks, about whites, about the disabled, about the young, about the old.  I think that's again part of the "good" behavior, the "good" group.  We're all free of those things.
I33 (Direct response to female member A's question: "Are we not supposed to be like that?")  I would merely suggest that it's unlikely that you are.
I34 Some people are waiting for me to come in and stop the foolishness.
I35 I think what's left out, though, is that there's an implicit assumption which doesn't match my experience: that I'm not involved or implicated in any of this.  As if there (are) no competitive feelings with me, as well as others, perhaps.
I36 (Direct response to female member A's statement: "You're not showing it!")  I was referring to feelings that the group members might have.
I37 I think that the group has really joined--(and) I mean that quite explicitly--joined with Mr. Merton to obliterate me.
I38 The word "resent" and the possibility of resentment is raised continuously whenever these discussions occur.  But my experience is that there may be a lot of other feelings that are more difficult to talk about.
I39 (Direct response to female member A's question: "Than resentment?")  Ummm.  For example, being intimidated by me.

SECOND day

Session five (with 16 interventions)
I40 Perhaps, though, the real uniqueness is the fact that this group is being conducted under, if you will, extraordinary circumstances.
I41 I think what's curious is that in the last few comments, particularly Mr. Rizan's comments, is certainly both an explicit and an implicit complaint about my behavior, which nobody has really disagreed with.  And yet it's not entirely clear what the group thinks about that (behavior).
I42 But perhaps just to note at this point one of the aspects of the discussion that we talked about yesterday, that word "vagueness," if you will, the lack of being fleshy.  Whoever the "they" are, a lot of people in this room in fact know who the "they" are, and who the "they" are connected to, (that is,) the other "they's."

But it's really as if it's an anonymous group of people who have put this thing together.  That's clearly not the reality.

I43 You see I do think there's a power struggle going on, and you might take the expressions about my trying to speed the session up, although there's even some denial in that.  "I'm not really upset by that," (and) "That's not a negative thing."  But clearly the tone to me is negative, as I experience it.

But I think the power struggle is around the sense of my trying to flog you into the kind of openness and revelation which you don't feel prepared for.  That's the way you experience my comments, trying to pull things out of you that you don't want to give.  And, again, I would suggest, especially under the circumstances.

I44 There is a quality, I must say, of unreality about this discussion.  All those foolish people who have written thousands and thousands of books about race, sex, gender, the handicapped.  Nobody has any feelings about that stuff.  (This is a) quite remarkable group, free of all that baggage.
I45 I think, you know, just even this brief exchange makes it clear why people are not willing to say much about what they feel.
I46 But I do think perhaps Mr. Merton in fact may be being punished a bit for my sins.  I would say the underlying notion might be that you also need to protect and preserve me.  So that really keeps the edge off any resentment that you might feel.  And you take it out on somebody else, especially somebody else who presumes leadership in the group.

Because I had made the comment earlier, for example, about trying to flog you into working and revealing things.  And I think there was a clear implication yesterday that Mr. Merton was trying to take that role, to get you to stop being vague.  He's (then) the one who gets punished for it.  What is expressed toward me is (just) mild annoyance.  I "intrude too much," said mildly.

I47 The key word is important.  There have been a number of expressions (of it).  One was in relation to Mr. Merton.  But yesterday, exactly the same thing was said about me: "You think you're really important in this group."  It was Mr. Schwartz who said that; he'd been "annoyed" at first.
I48 I just might add at this point that we were talking about stereotypes and a number of different ones were mentioned.  But I think there are also very powerful stereotypes about authority, which everybody has.
I49 I would suggest, though, that one of the dilemmas--and I tried to speak to it before--is that you are very dependent on me.
I50 (Indirect response to group's stating its inability to counter the consultant's influence and statements, mainly because he doesn't answer back.)  I'm not sure it's just my influence.  I mean, I think Ms. Gouch, for example, said very clearly (that) if there was an imminent cataclysm and a leader had to be found pronto to save you, I'm the one who's going to do that.
I51 I think there's an interesting question, which is being avoided: "What would be so terrible if you were dependent on me?"  It's clearly being talked about by implication.
I52 Well, perhaps that really does reflect some source of irritation, (namely,) that I have immunity that nobody else does.
I53 But again, I would suggest (that) it's only half of the story, because who does one go to when one bruises one's knee?
I54 (Direct response to female member B's statement: "I wouldn't go to you, because you wouldn't respond!")  That doesn't stop the wish.
I55 Again I would like to emphasize, because I experience it as an important aspect of this group, (is) how much contempt there is for dependency.  Like it's the eighth deadly sin to be dependent.  Anything but that!

Session six (with 5 interventions)
I56 I experience it as a suggestion from the men.
I57 But, it was said teasingly.  But I'm not sure if the group really wants to look at the more serious implication of the comment "We had an insurrection."  I, in fact, experience it that way, following on the comment by Dr. Sargent about how she pays attention to me more.  Certainly there were a whole bunch of suggestions about my scattering the group by being overstimulating.  I experience the concept of "Let's focus on something" as an antidote to me presumably. 

I'm messing things up.

I58 But I wonder.  I wonder, though, if the wish about how things might be and the reality aren't somewhat discrepant.  Because of my recollection of the interchanges (in) when the idea was introduced.  There were four or five men very quickly in succession who gave it support.  I didn't hear a woman's voice at that point until after I made the comment.  Then Ms. Moore said that she endorsed it, also.  But in fact, it was only men who spoke.
I59 I have a feeling I'm being talked about.
I60 I do wonder, though, if what's not being left out in part--and it was actually said quite explicitly, (in fact) you said it, but it wasn't picked up on at all--(is) the notion of who had outside affiliation in this group and what influence it might have.  And I was thinking, for example, that it was clearly identified that Mr. Jacobs had a previous relationship with me. 

And one person who I think is perhaps present in this group, but not consciously, and affecting the group is Dr. Webb.  I certainly know that some of you know her and have a relationship.  And she is directing this enterprise.


Session seven (with 14 interventions)
I61 But I do wonder if the issue is not "good (and) bad," but "dangerous and safe."
I62 I think what's really left out in both the account and the comments people have made in why I said "dangerous and safe" a few moments ago, is (that) I'm not compelled nor do I think anybody else in the group is compelled, including Mr. Rizan, with just simply leaving it that I'm pushing you too fast.  Yes, that's the beginning of it.  But, too fast and to what? 

I mean (that) I think the anxiety is real, that I am dangerous for you, that if you really allow me to be in the lead, you might wind up in places you'd rather not be.

I63 I would add, because I think it is important, that there is one bit of what is--at least I think it is--irony, (namely,) that I introduced that, that subject for discussion, by commenting on what I felt as the male-female differences in response to me.
I64 Well, it also gets back to being vague.  All those unnamed people, all over the place, "out there."
I65 I wonder if even the use of the word "topics" doesn't have some significance, as if the group is discussing topics rather than its interactions.  Really, it detaches it from the group, in some way, to use the term "topics."
I66 There are two things that strike me.  I wonder if there isn't a connection between what's been described as a struggle for leadership and desire for my my approval.  And, secondly, I think something to me which characterized certainly the beginning of the session and seems to continue, is I am really struck by the tone.

I mean I have made a number of comments of "dangerous and safe."  The tone has been incredibly subdued.  I wonder about that.  At one point, I had the fantasy of being in the "emergency room."

I67 (Direct response to female member A's saying, "You're in good hands!")  I think the question is whether you are in the emergency room.
I68 I think one of the dilemmas in the group has to do with the fact (that) it's, it's really as if there are two kinds of processes that are going on in here simultaneously, but (that) are not related to each other.  That is, feelings and attitudes about me, and feelings and attitudes and how you behave with each other.  As if they have no relationship.  You can discuss one, and then you'll discuss the other.

I wonder, for example, if the pattern of the struggles for leadership and competition might be very different in here had I been a woman.  And how much what does happen amongst you is connected with the fact, just for example, that I am a man.  It might have to do with other things as well.  But just to take that point.

I69 I think maybe to apply a specific example from this session: Mr. Madden talked about the issue of wanting approval, which was shortly followed by some comments about Mr. Merton and Mr. Jacobs and the role that they were taking in terms of struggling for leadership.  I think since, and it goes back to yesterday when I made a facetious remark about Mr. Jacobs's being my number 1 son and being put into that role, (it) is whether the leadership again really has to do with who is going to be my favorite person in the group and some phantasies about that.

And that's much harder to talk about than some abstract notion about who's taking the lead and to what purpose.  And even though I don't give feedback, it doesn't mean you can't have fantasies.

I70 (Direct response to female member C's question: "Why would it be important who you like the best?")  Beats me!
I71 It must be some symptom of what's happening in the group that that response (= I70) is considered to be an approving one.
I72 But quite seriously, I would ask you to consider what it means that what can be constructed as the smallest individual response from me--no matter what it is: "Beats me!", "Fuck you.", whatever--is seen as the most important thing that one can get in this group.  Because there really is an as if quality to that.

I mean, if I gave the slightest bit of personal feedback to anybody, it would be worth its weight in gold.  I think that makes a very powerful statement about my role in this group.  You'd sell your souls for a couple of syllables from me.

I73 But I think, you know, (that) there's really some overlooking of the evidence.  While I have no reason to doubt that these can be his feelings, I think it's also convenient for the group to use his feelings as a way of avoiding what I said, for which I think there's a great deal of evidence.
I74 But I do wonder, you see, if a more apt characterization wouldn't be that you, collectively, wish you didn't have these feelings.  And that it's really been important for you to try to act at times as if you didn't have those feelings, avoid them, ignore them, go on to others.

Who wants to say that one really wants approval from authority, (that) one feels dependent on authority, (that) one wants to kiss the authority's garment?  Those aren't terribly comfortable things for adults to say, acknowledge, experience.


Session eight (with 16 interventions)
I75 I do suppose it makes Dr. Gould wonder about what's going on.
I76 Well, perhaps there is a particular kind of symbolic coalescence.  I'm struck by the fact--at least my recollection is--that Mr. Cassio is a pastoral counselor and may be representing that the real God now occupies my seat, as is rightfully so.
I77 But, you see, to make a connection again, I wonder if both your own experience of your selves as well as others really isn't influenced by your relations to me.  That is, I think you may define both yourselves and each other in terms of how you think, for example, the other person feels about me.  Recall (that) that's been talked about quite explicitly in some instances and, just in this session, Mr. Karn's role was defined in relation to his feelings about me, his questions about that.  The only one (Mr. Cassio) who is not influenced by that Dr. Gould, and yet he's (the one) sitting in my seat!  There's quite a bit of that.
I78 Well, perhaps what Mr. Karn said earlier expresses at least in part what one of the dominant processes has been in the group and that is the rebellion against me, for example, really just being symbolic of the rebellion in yourselves to struggle against having these sorts of feelings.

When I say "these sorts of feelings," I mean what are the sorts of feelings you might have in terms of your own role in exercising authority or, if you are in a subordinate role with authority figures, just how powerful these feelings are.

I79 I think there may be a general point to be made, and that is how do these strong feelings about authority, whether they are positive or negative, influence your assessment of competence, for example.  Because one thing that hasn't been talked about at all is how competent you are.  I assume that the only way you would know that I was competent or not competent is your assessment of the accuracy of my interventions.  In fact, there has been very little talk about that (or) discussion about that.  As if that were the least important.
I80 (Direct response to female member A's statement: "I think there has!")  I think not much.  What has been expressed mostly is what they do to you, the earlier process of speeding up the process, pushing you too hard, too quickly.  Actually, quite little, I think.
I81 (Direct response to group members' wondering how to check out the consultant's competence.)  Well, I'm not sure.  I think the most direct way you could check it out would be to examine your experience of my interventions in this group, because they're about what you're doing.  It's the most direct data you could have.
I82 Well, I think (that) at the moment I experience the silence.  And my own internal experience of my role is around the issue of how are we going to end this group.
I83 I would say two things, though, that occurred to me at this moment.  One is something around the issue of how harsh you are with yourselves in regard to these feelings.  Very powerful--at least to me--self-punitive quality that comes through about having these feelings toward authority.  The comments are really quite self-punishing, as I experience them.  It's almost apologetic, really.

And the other thing that I think is perhaps related to that is--it was said before but I don't think sufficient emphasis perhaps was put on it--is that all of you to some extent now, and probably increasingly, because that's what happens when one matures professionally, are going to be in authority roles yourselves.

And how much being in touch with these feelings in yourselves may illuminate how your subordinates, for example, may respond to you.  There was an issue raised about, well, I don't work with authorities that are so remote.  That's true.  In our work situations, we don't.  But I think Ms. Gouch said early on in the session, if you will, she breaks her neck to be nice and these feelings (towards her) still seem to exist.  Maybe not as overtly, maybe not as clearly, but they're still there because there's a role difference, there's an authority relationship.

I84 I'll just add at this point that I think it would be a mistake to just focus on the resentment, because I think the idealization is just as much of a dilemma and issue.  I don't feel personally, for example, particularly resentful at anything I feel overtly idealized (about).  Still, certainly not to deny that resentment is there as well.  But it's not the only thing that's there.
I85 I think the important piece that's left out is how much these sorts of feelings may be stimulated, either positive or negative ones, by anxiety.  And one thing about the situation is that it's unfamiliar.  Roles aren't terribly well defined.  How much that really exaggerate and stimulates these feelings.
I86 At this point, I would, I think I would simply say, well, what is the experience of this group in relation to those issues?  Direct and immediate data about that (= warmth and competence existing together in one authority figure)?
I87 But I wonder if there isn't some, well, perhaps, anxiety about having to make a judgment in these matters.  That there really is no right way to do it.  Situations always change; the people you're working with may be different.  There isn't a prescription.
I88 But I wonder if a lot of the feelings about ending haven't been expressed.  And the process of ending has (instead) been to try to get some evaluation, some generalizations perhaps, that work.  My hunch is that there may be a lot of other feelings around.
I89 (Nonverbal response to female member A's question: "About ending?")  [Consultant shakes head "yes."]
I90 I would like to thank you for everything.

 

Complete interventions by the group relations consultant, contextually
 
FIRST day

Session one (with 16 interventions)

Context: Consultant's specifying a new, unstructured task leads to nervousness.  Small talk.  Indirect references to the consultant.  Consultant looked at members as they talked.  Members expressed need to "entertain consultant to make him feel comfortable."  Hostility and aggression in silences.  Superiors described as "silent authority figures." 
I1 Perhaps indirectly the group is talking about me at this point.

Context: Disagreement with and rejection of intervention.  Fear "leader" will leave them stranded if they do not perform. (Neither members nor consultant make comment on a bed outside the door to the group space or on the presence in the group space of a wheelchair used by one of the members or on the presence of a square coffee table placed in the center of the group space.  The consultant wore a sport coat, without tie, for all 8 sessions.)
I2 At this point, it does seem clear that the group has implicitly defined a task for itself: to be comfortable and probably to be friendly as well.

Context: (Silent reflection.)
I3 Perhaps if that task were really pursued vigorously, the group would avoid anything that caused discomfort.

Context: "Damn!"  How does the topic relate to the group and to the consultant?  (Consultant smoked cigarettes and got up to use the ashtray.)
I4 I think there is a wish to obliterate me from the group or at least (to) obliterate the distinction of me from the group.

Context: Difficulties defining what the group members want to do.  Setting its own tasks to neutralize or undermine the force of the consultant's authority.  Members' need for consultant to be the evaluator of task performance.  How to manage the task and group members.
I5 To this point, with the talk about structure, agenda, and task methods, (I wonder) whether the group is still not talking about reducing anxiety.  The sense I have very much is that that's what you'd like to have the structure for, not necessarily to accomplish a task, but to get comfortable.

Context: Issue of acceptability of using "I" versus "we."  Differences in amounts of personal anxiety and frustration.  Need for consensus as way of dealing with approaching end to the session. (Group continues briefly, after the consultant withdrew.)

Session two (with 6 interventions)

Context: (All members sat in their previous seats.)  Concerns with evaluation, measurement.  Self-defined as a "group of 12."  (Neither the consultant nor the three cameramen were taken into account.)  Roles, resources.  Being filmed as cause of performance anxiety.  Latching onto others or what others say so as to be rescued from the "mass" of 12 or maybe 13 people, from floating anxiety, from namelessness, and from lack of identity.
I6 I think with the discussion of "12" or "13" (participants), there is an implicit question of whether I am a savior or a saboteur, like Christ by Judas.

Context: Talk of disallowing the consultant, turning his chair to the outside.  Questioning usefulness and meaningfulness of consultant's comments.
I7 I suppose if I had to characterize how this discussion made me feel, it would be something like an "unnatural" resource.

Context: (Brief silence.)
I8 I would like to point out, though, that for this entire discussion around whether my comments are meaningful, useful, (and) whether I should be included or not, there is, at least for me, a very strong quality of depersonalization.  I think I am experiencing the notion of being treated like a resource.

It's really as if you wouldn't have feelings about me.  You might use my comments or not, but that you might have any feelings about my presence or contribution seems to be totally excluded from the conversation.


Context: Wanting to leave with one's "shit" together.  Knowing or not knowing what is in store in these two days.
I9 It is noted though, but not really explored, what influence it may have that some of you come here with more knowledge about this situation and perhaps about me, by rumor, reputation, or gossip, than others.

Context: (Sometimes the consultant is referred to as "Larry," sometimes he is referred to as "Dr. Gould.")  Smoothing over conflicts.  Concern with "should's." (Consultant does not interrupt members who are speaking or their silences.)
I10 I think the last comment probably expresses something which also seems to be a continuation of the theme in the first session, which is to what extent the group is experienced as being imposed on you rather than something you volunteered to do.  It's as if someone is really trying to tell you what to do, rather than this experience has been offered to you and you wanted to participate.  But the feeling is quite different.

Context: (Lengthy silence by the consultant.)  Group members appear immobilized.  "I don't know if I want to be here."  Minor irritation expressed about silent members, because of concern with what "they" are going to get out of it.  Beginning expressions of anger and dissatisfaction are quickly shut down by other members.  Focusing on straw leader, who is attacked briefly before politeness puts a stop to the expression of aggression.  "We're trained to be polite."  Let's study individuals in the group so we don't have to look at whole-group behaviors.  Need to defend oneself from negative feedback from others.  Monitoring if everyone is all right and not wounded.  Permission is given to provide negative feedback, so as to lead to "comfort."  One member wants to look at what the group-as-a-whole does, but others assure him that he may do that without all the members' doing it, too.
I11 I do think that the talk about permission earlier and this last interaction signifies something around whether anyone is going to take a risk in here: namely, to risk the group's displeasure.  So what I hear is really an attempt to develop a contract with each other.

Context: What resources are there in this group?  Frustration.  Inability to believe that the time for this session has passed.

Session three (with 11 interventions)

Context: (Lengthy silence.)  Insecurity about relative value of group-as-a-whole and of individuals with their personal learning goals.
I12 The comment ("Let's just study the group as a whole.") has been exaggerated as an expression of the entire group, of the notion that the group is getting in the way of what would be good and proper.  Somehow there are good people, namely yourselves, struggling to interact and whatever.  Then there's this group which seems to thwart your efforts.  In other words, good people in a bad group.

Context: Must all agree before doing anything? (Latecomers to session were not commented upon.)  Who decides how to proceed?
I13 That's another way to state the dilemma of the group: that perhaps you own the interactions among you, but I own the group.

Context: What to do if all do not agree to procedures?  Results of disagreement.  "I can't see the group as bad."
I14 "Potentially dangerous" would be a more apt description.  (This) may be a group that turns against its own members.

Context: "That's certainly a horrifying thought!"  Treating each other with kid gloves.  Maybe when they feel very aggressive to each other, it leads to a false sense of productivity or success?
I15 Perhaps the real dilemma and anxiety is that one really doesn't know what the consequences might be.

Context: (Short silence.)  Denial that there are any feelings to be expressed, so no need to risk anything.  Tentative attempts to give feedback having two faces: assertive and aggressive.  Most things could be an insult or a compliment.  Female member "attacks" first and then is called a "resource" because of her daring. 
I16 Context: The discussion about aggression (and) is focused on one member, but I think represents an anxiety in the group.  That member makes a passing comment that is not picked up on, a worry about who might fall asleep.  And then there's a comment about somebody who uses "we" all the time, as being aggressive.  As I've listened to the group, I'm the only one who uses "the group" in my comments or a collective pronoun.

Context: (Silence as rejection and inattention to I16.)
I17 I think we agree that consciously there is a wish to forget me.

Context: Wishes not to hear what the consultant says, to forget his presence.
I18 At the end of the last session, a few members expressed some frustration, which has been expressed on and off in the group.  Somebody said directly (that) they were frustrated.  I wonder if an aspect of this is related very much to just the recent few interchanges about me.  Which is that there really is much more preoccupation with me and noticing me than people want to let on.  So the process is very much trying to ignore that.  And (that) may be why it has the quality of going round and round.  It's not dealing with this one major source of discomfort.

Context: "We have to decide if we trust him, keeping his function in mind."  Discussion of who is the ill-defined leader and of in what leadership consists.
I19 One of the interesting things about the discussion, although it's difficult to say except by omission, is that none of the (dimensions) of leadership are discussed: competition, envy, rivalry.  All the messiness that might come up if there really were a struggle for leadership.

Context: Denial of desires for taking on leadership and of desire for struggles for leadership between men and women.  Men more interested in leadership than women.  Conscious rejection of "putting down" of members, which is felt to be going on in the group.
I20 I wonder if anyone remembers the content of the comment that was rolled over: That men were preoccupied (with leadership).

Context: Yankees and Rebels, regional speech variations, referring only indirectly to the consultant.  "We don't need a leader because we don't know what he would do here."
I21 I wonder, though, if there isn't a strong, unspoken, and maybe even unexperienced anxiety around being exposed.  Because there's some implication that what leadership would be in this group would be making sense out of the situation, (that is) what's going on beneath the surface.

And there was one comment that I thought was interesting largely because no one picked up on it or responded to it: that if I were here for two weeks, I might be concerned, but I only am going to be here for two days.  I internally coded that statement, for a second, as being relatively realistic in one sense.  But then I suddenly realized that this would probably be one of the longest-lasting groups in the world because it's on (video) tape.


Context: Fears of exposing "things" that members do not want known, of later analysis, of "breaking down."  All want to be good children for daddy.  "I like talking with (a male group member) because he nods his head while I am speaking."  This comment was interpreted by some to be a reference to the consultant's responses.
I22 There seems to be some confusion about who is the group consultant.

Context: "Fuck you!" expressed as manifestation of group's subtle and generally undirected aggression.  (Shocked silence as response to session's end.)

Session four (with 17 interventions)

Context: (When the consultant enters, a male member is sitting in his place.)
I23 Perhaps the confusion between myself and Mr. Jacobs in the last session and his (now) sitting in my seat are related.  I wonder if the group has unconsciously identified him as my number 1 son.

Context: Cigarette smoking is mentioned.  Seating changes are noted, as is the fact that established pairs and subgroups remained physically together in their seats.  "Why do we break at the end of the hour when we are going well?  Why don't we continue for 90 minutes?" (Group members ask a cameraman why they cannot continue for 90 minutes.)
I24 I wonder if the question isn't really, "What is the primary purpose of this group?"  Is it for you and your learning, or is it for someone else and their uses?  Are you being exploited?

Context: "Why do we waste so much time getting started?  We don't need a leader to start it."  Talk of rescue; denial of competition.  "Saying you are competitive is not a negative statement."
I25 What does the group have to be rescued from?

Context: (Members' observing others in the group, almost with a subtle petition for avoidance of conflict or disagreement.)
I26 I think (that) one of the processes of this group, which perhaps interweaves with others that have been mentioned, is that there really is a great deal of cooperation, at a covert level, among the members, to make each other look good.  One of the covert questions is whether I will cooperate with you in that enterprise.

That's part of what my sense is of the uncertainty and mistrust of me.  Will I appropriately help the group to look good, to be a "good" group?  Or, will I expose the seemingly "good" group to (be) something else by my interpretations?


Context: Seeing that the consultant has a sense of humor taken as indication that he has slipped out of role.  (The implication is that the group has ideas about the right and wrong way for the consultant to act.) I6and I23 have raised fear that the consultant might level his comments to individuals in the group.  Members assure selves that "He's trained in this; he knows what he is doing."
I27 I think that the quality of abstraction about the discussion, which may give rise to the frustration, is that both literally and metaphorically the discussion doesn't have any flesh.

Context: "We can't flesh it out."  "We have the skeleton of great things."  Evaluation of who is now and then the "leader" in this setting.
I28 We're talking about leadership without talking about who's occupying that role at a particular time.  I would just like to point out that it was noted amongst you in the last session that a comment in the last session by a woman, (namely,) that the males were competing for leadership, was very quickly overridden by a number of male comments.  That was the first reference to gender in relation to leadership at that particular point.

Context: Denial, via abstraction, of the specifics of the matter of competition within the group.
I29 What perhaps would be more appropriate to say is "an interest in simplifying and keeping the discussion neat."  Perhaps when it becomes fleshy, it also becomes more difficult.

Context: "We wandered off topic, to outside the group, to breaks, etc." 
I30 Perhaps "flesh" is too rich an image to swallow.

Context: Uncertainty about how group is relating to authority and its exercise, how to use the resources.
I31 I think one particular aspect, again going back to what I think began in the last session, is highlighted, for me at any rate, by the repeated us of the term, for example, "resources," which one member introduced but a number of people used subsequently.  Also, an emphasis on talking about the comments rather than who the comments came from.  Or, very quickly the emphasis becomes (placed) on the comments, detached from the person who made them.

As far as I know, neither comments nor resources have a gender, for example, or an age or a hair color or a style of dressing, or anything like that, which may describe you or me.


Context: "How can being personal be put to a productive use?"
I32 I think part of the good behavior, to give an example, is the almost total avoidance of any comments or discussion or putting on the table (of) one's stereotypes and one's experiences around stereotypes, as if that doesn't happen.  About men, about women, about Blacks, about whites, about the disabled, about the young, about the old.  I think that's again part of the "good" behavior, the "good" group.  We're all free of those things.

Context: "Are we not supposed to be like that?"
I33 I would merely suggest that it's unlikely that you are.

Context: "He answered you!"  "We only get fleshy, personal with the consultant."  "It feels good if you are acknowledged by others.  You feel superior."  Male/female issues.  Earlier negative remarks about choosing up women led to anger's being placed on women.  Slight, vague attacks by men on each other.  Vagueness as a way of saving group members from showing off on TV.  By being vague, "one member is leading us in our vagueness."  "We pat ourselves on the back for accomplishing something."  "This is a damn silly conversation."
I34 Some people are waiting for me to come in and stop the foolishness.

Context: "I can't think of anything to attack anyone about!"  The current self-appointed leader is ignored, while searching for evidence of competition. 
I35 I think what's left out, though, is that there's an implicit assumption which doesn't match my experience: that I'm not involved or implicated in any of this.  As if there (are) no competitive feelings with me, as well as others, perhaps.

Context: "You are not showing it!"
I36 I was referring to feelings that the group members might have.

Context: Slight resentment is expressed about the way one member had taken on leadership.
I37 I think that the group has really joined--(and) I mean that quite explicitly--joined with Mr. Merton to obliterate me.

Context: (Laughter.)
I38 The word "resent" and the possibility of resentment is raised continuously whenever these discussions occur.  But my experience is that there may be a lot of other feelings that are more difficult to talk about.

Context: "Than resentment?"
I39 Ummm.  For example, being intimidated by me.

SECOND day

Session five (with 16 interventions)

Context: Uneasy, silent, but thinking.  "Do we have to start all over?"  Is every session of the group unique?
I40 Perhaps, though, the real uniqueness is the fact that this group is being conducted under, if you will, extraordinary circumstances.

Context: "We can't let the taping affect us."  Annoyance with time constraints.  Belief that the consultant is inserting himself too frequently because "we have so little time."  Denial that consultant has any control over the timing of the sessions.  "He's just an industrial consultant whose comments we have discounted or ignored."
I41 I think what's curious is that in the last few comments, particularly Mr. Rizan's comments, is certainly both an explicit and an implicit complaint about my behavior, which nobody has really disagreed with.  And yet it's not entirely clear what the group thinks about that (behavior).

Context: "The consultant is trying to speed up the process, but that is not wrong."
I42 But perhaps just to note at this point one of the aspects of the discussion that we talked about yesterday, that word "vagueness," if you will, the lack of being fleshy.  Whoever the "they" are, a lot of people in this room in fact know who the "they" are, and who the "they" are connected to, (that is,) the other "they's."

But it's really as if it's an anonymous group of people who have put this thing together.  That's clearly not the reality.


Context: The group essentially ignores the previous intervention.  Sense of defensive boredom, listlessness.
I43 You see I do think there's a power struggle going on, and you might take the expressions about my trying to speed the session up, although there's even some denial in that.  "I'm not really upset by that," (and) "That's not a negative thing."  But clearly the tone to me is negative, as I experience it.

But I think the power struggle is around the sense of my trying to flog you into the kind of openness and revelation which you don't feel prepared for.  That's the way you experience my comments, trying to pull things out of you that you don't want to give.  And, again, I would suggest, especially under the circumstances.


Context: "We don't know what's expected by the consultant."  "What can we say about race or gender?"
I44 There is a quality, I must say, of unreality about this discussion.  All those foolish people who have written thousands and thousands of books about race, sex, gender, the handicapped.  Nobody has any feelings about that stuff.  (This is a) quite remarkable group, free of all that baggage.

Context: Intervention led to openness by one member about racial stereotypes.  He was then verbally attacked by the other group members.
I45 I think, you know, just even this brief exchange makes it clear why people are not willing to say much about what they feel.

Context: Further strong verbal attack of member reporting racial stereotypes.  Sexual, racial issues.  White men competing with Black men for white women.  The handicapped group member is seen as asexual.  Stereotypes hypothesized to exist because of lack of awareness.  Some, possibly false, admiration expressed for male group member who opened this "topic."  Race issue was dropped quickly.  "Handicapped" issue perceived as safer. (Because handicapped female group member could defend herself better?)  Group quickly returned to a vague, "nice" state.  Race issue again raised, which led to a denial of anger by a male member, who, after further prodding, admitted anger about other, unstated issues during yesterday's sessions.  Surprising introjection of how good the "leader" (= consultant) is and how well-trained.  Wish for rescue from the uncomfortable feelings expressed in this time period.  "Give me a leader, or we are doomed."  Splitting of good (= the consultant) and bad (the member with racist issues).
I46 But I do think perhaps Mr. Merton in fact may be being punished a bit for my sins.  I would say the underlying notion might be that you also need to protect and preserve me.  So that really keeps the edge off any resentment that you might feel.  And you take it out on somebody else, especially somebody else who presumes leadership in the group.

Because I had made the comment earlier, for example, about trying to flog you into working and revealing things.  And I think there was a clear implication yesterday that Mr. Merton was trying to take that role, to get you to stop being vague.  He's (then) the one who gets punished for it.  What is expressed toward me is (just) mild annoyance.  I "intrude too much," said mildly.


Context: Confident denial of even mild "annoyance" with the consultant.
I47 The key word is important.  There have been a number of expressions (of it).  One was in relation to Mr. Merton.  But yesterday, exactly the same thing was said about me: "You think you're really important in this group."  It was Mr. Schwartz who said that; he'd been "annoyed" at first.

Context: Possibility of relation between feeling depersonalized and depersonalizing the consultant.
I48 I just might add at this point that we were talking about stereotypes and a number of different ones were mentioned.  But I think there are also very powerful stereotypes about authority, which everybody has.

Context: It's hard to relate to the consultant.
I49 I  would suggest, though, that one of the dilemmas--and I tried to speak to it before--is that you are very dependent on me.

Context: "We're dependent because we can't counter it."  He doesn't answer back.
I50 I'm not sure it's just my influence.  I mean, I think Ms. Gouch, for example, said very clearly (that) if there was an imminent cataclysm and a leader had to be found pronto to save you, I'm the one who's going to do that.

Context: "He's the leader because we have no organization to give us an alternative."
I51 I think there's an interesting question, which is being avoided: "What would be so terrible if you were dependent on me?"  It's clearly being talked about by implication.

Context: "We want positive feedback, not criticism."  "We are dependent; we see him as the conscience of the group to bring up what we should be doing."  "He knows what we should do to be a good group."  "We can't take potshots at or disagree with Dr. Gould."  Members appear to want something from the consultant, indeed to be needy.  The members continue to deflect potshots from the consultant to a male member of the group.
I52 Well, perhaps that really does reflect some source of irritation, (namely,) that I have immunity that nobody else does.

Context: "Father" and "child" views of group situation.
I53 But again, I would suggest (that) it's only half of the story, because who does one go to when one bruises one's knee?

Context: "I wouldn't go to you because you wouldn't respond!"
I54 That doesn't stop the wish.

Context: (Silence.)
I55 Again I would like to emphasize, because I experience it as an important aspect of this group, (is) how much contempt there is for dependency.  Like it's the eighth deadly sin to be dependent.  Anything but that!

Context: "We are interdependent."  "We fight dependence as there is both comfort and danger in being dependent."

Session six (with 5 interventions)

Context: Very personal issue at end of the last session is dropped to focus instead on general group's dependence on consultant.  "Will we accept, and how, the utterances and leadership of the consultant?"  Expressions of feeling too stimulated by the consultant because he brings in too many issues.  Group wants to decide to control or limit "topics."
I56 I experience it as a suggestion from the men.

Context: Statements are made about going back to personal issue at the end of the last session, but doing so is avoided.
I57 But, it was said teasingly.  But I'm not sure if the group really wants to look at the more serious implication of the comment "We had an insurrection."  I, in fact, experience it that way, following on the comment by Dr. Sargent about how she pays attention to me more.  Certainly there were a whole bunch of suggestions about my scattering the group by being overstimulating.  I experience the concept of "Let's focus on something" as an antidote to me presumably. 

I'm messing things up.


Context: Perception arouse that men were only mad and irritated because the consultant interrupted the men when they were talking together.  Five women are said to have voiced appreciation for the consultant and his comments before the men decided that they wanted to control the consultant's input.
I58 But I wonder.  I wonder, though, if the wish about how things might be and the reality aren't somewhat discrepant.  Because of my recollection of the interchanges (in) when the idea was introduced.  There were four or five men very quickly in succession who gave it support.  I didn't hear a woman's voice at that point until after I made the comment.  Then Ms. Moore said that she endorsed it, also.  But in fact, it was only men who spoke.

Context: Avoidance.  "Do we want to decide upon a topic for the group?"  Male-female issues highly supported.  Male-female power in the group.  "Bullshit" came up, and silliness.  Women waiting in the background, but really being in control, while the men play silly competitive games.  Men have to try to dominate one another.  Men referred to as "asses."  A male member occupying the consultant's chair.  Admission that women also have been competing for leadership.  (Little differentiation exists among group members along professional lines.)  Fear of addressing sexual issues.  Denial of wishes for a leader, whether male or female.  Quiet members are regarded as those with the "key" or a secret; "When they open their mouths, it feels real good."
I59 I have a feeling I'm being talked about.

Context: Desires to have a male as the leader.  "The leader isn't always the one who talks the most."  Whom in the group would we have picked as leader?
I60 I do wonder, though, if what's not being left out in part--and it was actually said quite explicitly, (in fact) you said it, but it wasn't picked up on at all--(is) the notion of who had outside affiliation in this group and what influence it might have.  And I was thinking, for example, that it was clearly identified that Mr. Jacobs had a previous relationship with me. 

And one person who I think is perhaps present in this group, but not consciously, and affecting the group is Dr. Webb.  I certainly know that some of you know her and have a relationship.  And she is directing this enterprise.


Context: Group decides that it wishes for a woman in the leader role.  Disappointment with female professionals. (Possible indirect reference to Dr. Webb?)

Session seven (with 14  interventions)

Context: Three group members arrived after the time boundary.  Discomfort, paralysis because the consultant did not say anything for 35 minutes during the last session.  (Female member in the wheelchair was absent for a long time, but no comment was made on her absence.)  Group felt that it has passed the "test" because it had chosen a topic, talked about it, and still the consultant had said something, thereby indicating his approval. (Significant amounts of silence.)  (Female member in the wheelchair arrived without spontaneous apology.)  Review of good and bad behaviors in the group.
I61 But I do wonder if the issue is not "good (and) bad," but "dangerous and safe."

Context: The group is perhaps not finished with the "topic."  And the group is annoyed with being pushed forward.
I62 I think what's really left out in both the account and the comments people have made in why I said "dangerous and safe" a few moments ago, is (that) I'm not compelled nor do I think anybody else in the group is compelled, including Mr. Rizan, with just simply leaving it that I'm pushing you too fast.  Yes, that's the beginning of it.  But, too fast and to what? 

I mean (that) I think the anxiety is real, that I am dangerous for you, that if you really allow me to be in the lead, you might wind up in places you'd rather not be.


Context: "Did we choose a 'fleshy' topic?"
I63 I would add, because I think it is important, that there is one bit of what is--at least I think it is--irony, (namely,) that I introduced that, that subject for discussion, by commenting on what I felt as the male-female differences in response to me.

Context: "That's right.  I want to please whomever they are who will watch this tape and those behind the window."
I64 Well, it also gets back to being vague.  All those unnamed people, all over the place, "out there."

Context: "We want approval from each other."  "What are they going to do with these tapes?"  Expressions of a need for guidance in discussing topics.
I65 I wonder if even the use of the word "topics" doesn't have some significance, as if the group is discussing topics rather than its interactions.  Really, it detaches it from the group, in some way, to use the term "topics."

Context: Exchanging the word "stereotypes" for the word "topics."  "Who is going to make a leader out of whom?  Because we want one very desperately."  Some discomfort because process became group-therapy-like.  Then there were attempts to move it to a more general level, not to individual personalities.  Those opposed insisted that there was a need for interaction to study here and now.  The struggles or attempts were seen through a prism of efforts to gain a leadership role.
I66 There are two things that strike me.  I wonder if there isn't a connection between what's been described as a struggle for leadership and desire for my my approval.  And, secondly, I think something to me which characterized certainly the beginning of the session and seems to continue, is I am really struck by the tone.

I mean I have made a number of comments of "dangerous and safe."  The tone has been incredibly subdued.  I wonder about that.  At one point, I had the fantasy of being in the "emergency room."


Context: (Laughter.)  "You're in good hands!"
I67 I think the question is whether you are in the emergency room.

Context: "He only talks to you."  Discussion of what's risky.  Mention of a "hard on" was quickly overlooked.  Group members began to look briefly at responses to authority figures outside the group.  Assumption or certainty that a woman in the consultant role would not be so obnoxious or objectionable.
I68 I think one of the dilemmas in the group has to do with the fact (that) it's, it's really as if there are two kinds of processes that are going on in here simultaneously, but (that) are not related to each other.  That is, feelings and attitudes about me, and feelings and attitudes and how you behave with each other.  As if they have no relationship.  You can discuss one, and then you'll discuss the other.

I wonder, for example, if the pattern of the struggles for leadership and competition might be very different in here had I been a woman.  And how much what does happen amongst you is connected with the fact, just for example, that I am a man.  It might have to do with other things as well.  But just to take that point.


Context: (Silence.)
I69 I think maybe to apply a specific example from this session: Mr. Madden talked about the issue of wanting approval, which was shortly followed by some comments about Mr. Merton and Mr. Jacobs and the role that they were taking in terms of struggling for leadership.  I think since, and it goes back to yesterday when I made a facetious remark about Mr. Jacob's being my number 1 son and being put into that role, (it) is whether the leadership again really has to do with who is going to be my favorite person in the group and some phantasies about that.

And that's much harder to talk about than some abstract notion about who's taking the lead and to what purpose.  And even though I don't give feedback, it doesn't mean you can't have fantasies.


Context: "Why would it be important who you like the best?"
I70 Beats me!

Context: (Laughter.)  The male member mentioned as possible the consultant's number 1 son states: "The proof is that the consultant speaks more to women and gives them more credence."
I71 It must be some symptom of what's happening in the group that that response (= I70) is considered to be an approving one.

Context: Brief contemplation of the intervention.
I72 But quite seriously, I would ask you to consider what it means that what can be constructed as the smallest individual response from me--no matter what it is: "Beats me!", "Fuck you.", whatever--is seen as the most important thing that one can get in this group.  Because there really is an as if quality to that.

I mean, if I gave the slightest bit of personal feedback to anybody, it would be worth its weight in gold.  I think that makes a very powerful statement about my role in this group.  You'd sell your souls for a couple of syllables from me.


Context: Denial of consultant's "specialness."  Approval is wanted in order to alleviate aloneness.
I73 But I think, you know, (that) there's really some overlooking of the evidence.  While I have no reason to doubt that these can be his feelings, I think it's also convenient for the group to use his feelings as a way of avoiding what I said, for which I think there's a great deal of evidence.

Context: Recognition of the consultant's "power" in determining the group's behaviors.  Resentment at his "steering" the group.  Not taking his comments seriously.  A Black female member mentioned the issue of wanting to date the consultant. (Reasonable amount of work group functioning.)
I74 But I do wonder, you see, if a more apt characterization wouldn't be that you, collectively, wish you didn't have these feelings.  And that it's really been important for you to try to act at times as if you didn't have those feelings, avoid them, ignore them, go on to others.

Who wants to say that one really wants approval from authority, (that) one feels dependent on authority, (that) one wants to kiss the authority's garment?  Those aren't terribly comfortable things for adults to say, acknowledge, experience.


Context: One is obligated/taught to respect authority.  Avoidance of deep feelings.

Session eight (with 16 interventions)

Context: "Do you suppose it makes Dr. Gould anxious when someone else takes his chair?"
I75 I do suppose it makes Dr. Gould wonder about what's going on.  (The consultant never refers to himself as the "consultant.")

Context: Regret expressed that nothing ever "coalesced."
I76 Well, perhaps there is a particular kind of symbolic coalescence.  I'm struck by the fact--at least my recollection is--that Mr. Cassio is a pastoral counselor and may be representing that the real God now occupies my seat, as is rightfully so.

Context: Group members have things that they would like to say to "God."  Depersonalization of the consultant.  Rebellion inherent in sitting in his seat.  Roles and self-disclosing. 
I77 But, you see, to make a connection again, I wonder if both your own experience of your selves as well as others really isn't influenced by your relations to me.  That is, I think you may define both yourselves and each other in terms of how you think, for example, the other person feels about me.  Recall (that) that's been talked about quite explicitly in some instances and, just in this session, Mr. Karn's role was defined in relation to his feelings about me, his questions about that.  The only one (Mr. Cassio) who is not influenced by that Dr. Gould, and yet he's (the one) sitting in my seat!  There's quite a bit of that.

Context: The group asked the consultant to leave the group so that the members could study the group without him.  Fears that the consultant will forget the group members but that they will not forget him.  Wanting to work with superiors.
I78 Well, perhaps what Mr. Karn said earlier expresses at least in part what one of the dominant processes has been in the group and that is the rebellion against me, for example, really just being symbolic of the rebellion in yourselves to struggle against having these sorts of feelings.

When I say "these sorts of feelings," I mean what are the sorts of feelings you might have in terms of your own role in exercising authority or, if you are in a subordinate role with authority figures, just how powerful these feelings are. 


Context: Assurances that there is little or no resentment towards the consultant.
I79 I think there may be a general point to be made, and that is how do these strong feelings about authority, whether they are positive or negative, influence your assessment of competence, for example.  Because one thing that hasn't been talked about at all is how competent you are.  I assume that the only way you would know that I was competent or not competent is your assessment of the accuracy of my interventions.  In fact, there has been very little talk about that (or) discussion about that.  As if that were the least important. 

Context: "I think there has!"
I80 I think not much.  What has been expressed mostly is what they do to you, the earlier process of speeding up the process, pushing you too hard, too quickly.  Actually, quite little, I think.

Context: Preconceptions and prior knowledge of consultant's reputation.  Uncertainty about how to check out his competence.
I81 Well, I'm not sure.  I think the most direct way you could check it out would be to examine your experience of my interventions in this group, because they're about what you're doing.  It's the most direct data you could have.

Context: "They don't (have to do with what we're doing)!"  (Silence.)
I82 Well, I think (that) at the moment I experience the silence.  And my own internal experience of my role is around the issue of how are we going to end this group.

Context: Continued avoidance of the here and now.
I83 I would say two things, though, that occurred to me at this moment.  One is something around the issue of how harsh you are with yourselves in regard to these feelings.  Very powerful--at least to me--self-punitive quality that comes through about having these feelings toward authority.  The comments are really quite self-punishing, as I experience them.  It's almost apologetic, really.

And the other thing that I think is perhaps related to that is--it was said before but I don't think sufficient emphasis perhaps was put on it--is that all of you to some extent now, and probably increasingly, because that's what happens when one matures professionally, are going to be in authority roles yourselves.

And how much being in touch with these feelings in yourselves may illuminate how your subordinates, for example, may respond to you.  There was an issue raised about, well, I don't work with authorities that are so remote.  That's true.  In our work situations, we don't.  But I think Ms. Gouch said early on in the session, if you will, she breaks her neck to be nice and these feelings (towards her) still seem to exist.  Maybe not as overtly, maybe not as clearly, but they're still there because there's a role difference, there's an authority relationship.


Context: (Silent reflection.)
I84 I'll just add at this point that I think it would be a mistake to just focus on the resentment, because I think the idealization is just as much of a dilemma and issue.  I don't feel personally, for example, particularly resentful at anything I feel overtly idealized (about).  Still, certainly not to deny that resentment is there as well.  But it's not the only thing that's there.

Context: "What do you think of Dr. A?  Dr. B?  Dr. Gould?"  Efforts at evaluation of authority figures.
I85 I think the important piece that's left out is how much these sorts of feelings may be stimulated, either positive or negative ones, by anxiety.  And one thing about the situation is that it's unfamiliar.  Roles aren't terribly well defined.  How much that really exaggerates and stimulates these feelings.

Context: Attempts to relate experiences in the group to those outside group.  Uncertainty about criteria for judgment about competence.
I86 At this point, I would, I think I would simply say, well, what is the experience of this group in relation to those issues?  Direct and immediate data about that (= warmth and competence existing together in one authority figure)?

Context: Uncertainty about their own capacity to judge and about the appropriateness of judging others' competence in a work setting.  Requests for specific guidance about application of the group relations method.
I87 But I wonder if there isn't some, well, perhaps, anxiety about having to make a judgment in these matters.  That there really is no right way to do it.  Situations always change; the people you're working with may be different.  There isn't a prescription.

Context: Attempts to close exploration of feelings.  Efforts to obtain an indication of their "goodness" or "normalness" or aptness for learning.
I88 But I wonder if a lot of the feelings about ending haven't been expressed.  And the process of ending has (instead) been to try to get some evaluation, some generalizations perhaps, that work.  My hunch is that there may be a lot of other feelings around.

Context: "About ending?"
I89 (Consultant shakes head "yes.")

Context: (Short silence.)
I90 I would like to thank you for everything.

 

Group relations consultant's and observer's post-session summaries
 
FIRST day
Session 1

A typical beginning session, with a prominent aspect being confusion regarding the task, interspersed with a fairly explicit statement of the task as getting comfortable and friendly.  A quick development of concerns about authority (silent supervisors, silent meetings followed by much talk, fear of openness around authority).  The imagery used suggested preoccupation with the consultant's role in the group.  The members seemed to dethrone authority at the end of the session, suggested by the decreased attention paid to the consultant's comments during the second half of the session and by attempts to make the consultant just another one of the group members by calling him "Larry."

A member's comments that the group had ignored the consultant's comments brought him back into the group and out of the imagery that indicated displacement of the authority issue.  Both group members and consultant colluded, out of the wish to deny the videotaping, to avoid reference to the studio, the taping, acting "as if" it were not an intrusion.

Anxiety was sexualized.  Primitive emotional life came out as a result of hysteria and anxiety, which led to a lack of silence and much chattering.  A valuable focus might be: what does it really mean to get engaged with others in public (i.e., on film)?  How real can it be on film?  Maybe we are playing at it and not passionately involved.

Session 2

The group members are just beginning to realize the implications of being in this type of group.  The quality of the anxiety shifted from the first to the second session.  Now there is more a sense of or fear of what might really happen as they open or if they opened up.  The members tried to develop a social contract, including permissions, fear of risk, and advance knowledge of consequences.  There was testing whether we could all be together and have consensus in the group.

During the first part of the group, there was much talk about the consultant, which was the manifest content of a discussion of whether they really needed me or would I betray them.  Their response to what might happen if underlying meanings were brought out or revealed by the consultant (that is, the matter of betrayal) was a discussion of evaluation and of wanting more concrete structure for the group.  Perhaps they had first to deal with this, comprehend it, work it out with the consultant so that then they could move on to do it with each other.

The consultant always goes back to his experience of what it is that is going on.  They could not really resolve it with the consultant, so they tried to get closure with each other around the same issue.  There were three quick interventions on the consultant's part, followed by 30 minutes of silence from the consultant; the consultant felt that he did not have anything new to say about it and so let them have an extended go-round with each other.

There is some individuation or differentiation going on with individuals vis--vis the group.  There is some splitting, dividing the group from the individuals in the group (e.g., the group is bad but the individuals are good), as if the group had an independent life apart from the individuals.  My work now will be to help them begin to explore the connections between them and the group as their own creation.

Session 3

The prediction came true.  Members finally came to recognize some anxiety regarding (video)taping and owning their concerns about not wanting everyone to know their "shit," (thus) putting their anxieties on the table.  They were testing, playing with, feeling titillated by what it might mean to be on TV.  They were "flirting" with the media, evidenced by the use of "fuck," "shit," and exhibitionistic qualities in general.

I want to focus some on the relationship between how they see me or their relationship with me and how they treat each other (i.e., the degree to which they trust me compared with the degree to which they trust each other).  They are (of course) interwoven.  The level of trust they have for each other is a function of how much they can trust me to manage, control, not let things get out of hand.  But the members are splitting their attitudes about me and those about each other, as if they were separate and parallel processes.

My style is not to impose on the group.  The consultant attempts to teach what is going on in the group but does not encourage or force the members to take it any further than they wish.  Recall Bion's dictum about interpretation: that interpretation is a comment on what is both obvious and unnoticed.  The behavior needs to go on for a while so that the data can build up.  Interpreting is positing a hypothesis.  The more data there are, the more difficult it is for the members to turn their backs on the hypothesis.

Usually the consultant's know, from experience, that an issue will come up again means that he does not feel pressed to make or force the group to comment on it now.  Other types of splitting going on (during this session) were: not noting my gender or age vis--vis the group's concerns with leadership.

Session 4

I did not get a chance to comment, as it was the last session of the day.  They wanted to end on a light note and/or a slight irritation.  Such is quite typical.  That the irritation was feigned is indicated by the fact that they were all going along with the game.  Mr. Merton's playing with the use of paradox (i.e., playing at being vague so as to lead the others to anger and to production of "flesh") as a way of getting the group back to its task was apparent.

I found that I didn't want to say much about the end; there was only an ambivalent wish on the members' part for me to stop the foolishness and (also) a wish to obliterate me.  There was a definite bid to displace me and much displacement of the group's feelings about me onto Mr. Merton.  This displacement occurred because of feelings of discomfort and danger.

My "fleshy" comment was provocative and attempted to illuminate the fact that there was much abstraction instead of real discussion and that comments were being detached from their speaker.  I was bored by the abstract nature of the discussion.  Both provocative comments were in the right direction.  The observer noted that he felt bored and drifted to other thoughts, and felt slightly irritated and frustrated at the end.  The consultant concurred in these feelings, noting that he had looked at his watch more than usual and that he felt worn-out after a long day.  A comment about this being the last session of the day might have illumined the group.

The consultant predicts that the next session will be "heavy."  Group members' repetitive use of the "flesh" image indicates that it clearly captured their imagination.  There will come a reaction to the foolishness and an attempt to get into the fantasies, material, and feelings stirred up by the "fleshy" business.  Becoming fed up with the game, they will become serious.  Their turning away from what the consultant had posed to them is strong evidence of their wish to obliterate him.

The really significant things go uncommented on: "You think you are more important to the group than you really are!" (directed to the consultant).  This feeling must be very strong in the group, but it was expressed also because it is easier to share the resentment than to say, "I feel intimidated by the role of the leader," (that is,) the essence of what is being avoided.

SECOND day
Session 5

After an evening's break, the members begin to develop themes that were previously only incipient, such as "What happens if you stick your neck out and say non-rational feelings and thoughts?  They are shoved down your throat."  In this case, two Black women, who had the most to gain by getting the (racial) ideas explored, did the shoving; and one white member became the repository of all the group's bigotry.  The members want to keep such thoughts to themselves.  I wanted to move from those stereotypes, which were influencing the group, to those about authority, in conformity with the group's primary task.

The last 30 minutes of the session contained sustained work-group process.  Internalizations are treated differently from stereotypes; the former are more primitive, chronologically.  Internalizations may develop earlier in the group.  The members talked more about children playing but neglected to talk about the helpless infant.  The family metaphor both illumines and obscures nonrational feelings about authority.  It is thus protective, defensive, because it excludes non-familiar aspects and limits definition of its application or breadth of application.  If the consultant is seen only as a parent, then he is precluded from other potential roles (older brother, colleague, supervisor), with the result that or so that feelings about those other roles will not come out.

The observer noted that the consultant brought the group back to the primary task, rather than allowing it to remain (focused) on the secondary task (namely, understanding the development and impediment of stereotypes on group functioning).  The group is not a Tavistock/sensitivity group.  It is important for the consultant to be aware of his own valencies so that he is not easily misled from the group's primary task to a secondary one.  But the consultant has to let the personal themes develop in the group because it is important to the members and because later it can be linked up with authority issues and the primary task.

How do the personal stereotypes interfere with or help our exercise of leadership and authority?  How people are experienced in their leadership roles may be a function of the kinds of stereotypes that they have.  Some facilitate, some do not.  The important thing is to link them together.  There was some narrowing of the dichotomies between the group and individuals, between the consultant and members.  There was more personalizing of the consultant (at least he is some degree older and has red hair).

The members began to allow for both dependence on and independence from the consultant, but the evidence of narrowing of the focus is more evident in the group's feeling than perhaps in verbal statements.  There was more tolerance of silence; there was more collaboration with me as the consultant.  I did not feel split off from my comments.

This model is an excellent tool for teaching people or helping them to see what makes it difficult to work together.  The observer noted warmed demeanor on the consultant's part.  As a consultant, one wonders sometimes if these insights will ever be worked with and explored.  And it is not always so clear.

Session 6

The power struggle continues.  The group was a transition group, trying to deal with the problem of getting some equilibrium and maintaining it.  Often, after the group has a prolonged discussion of the consultant's role, it retracts from that and tries to reclaim or regain the group for itself and from the consultant.  The male-female issues arose in regard to their differential response to me as the consultant.  The men tried to wrest the group from me, while the women showed some appreciation, which was followed immediately by an insurrection with a cry of "Let's structure it!"  The group did not try to examine how I, as the consultant, influenced the male-female issue.

Splitting was again present, as if my being male had nothing to do with the authority issue.  Dr. Webb's role behind the scenes influenced which of the men jousted for leadership, namely, those who had prior relationships with Dr. Webb, her "only begotten son[s]."  The observer wondered why the consultant had made no bridging comment that although the male-female issue was rich and had bearing on the group, it was the issue that had been used to spirit the power/control/leadership away from the consultant, as a type of rebellion.  Instead, at that point, the consultant's comment was, "I feel you are talking about me." 

The group had put the consultant out to pasture and wanted this session for themselves, (which is) a type of splitting.  The problem for the consultant was to formulate something that would join with the group in my work.  There was no to-do about the members' taking the consultant's chair from him or returning it because it is not a separate issue from their overall treatment of him.  The consultant hoped that the group would bring him into the general discussion of male-female issues and of Dr. Webb's role.

Session 7

This session was a direct response to the previous session.  Having "fired" the consultant and then (having) gone off by themselves aroused guilt, which was approached and then denied.  This led to a discussion about desires for approval.  The members chose not to express their guilt but rather to act in a way that would make it clear to me that they were feeling guilty.  The quality of the group was subdued.

Their seeing Mr. Jacobs as one of two leaders in the group, when in fact he has said very little, goes back to his saying that he knew "Larry" from before and thereby garnering some of the leadership role.  The group's response to him is related to the group's fantasies of his having some inner track or connection with the consultant and is fed by the "number 1 son" characterization.  Envy arises.

The group's heavy quality exists because the group can no longer deny their feelings and their guilt over the sense that they were previously avoiding issues.  Splitting was used to avoid the feelings.  Members, though, began to get the awareness that their feelings towards the consultant affected their relationships with each other, for example, in their wanting to pair with the consultant.

They are clearly making preparations for the end of the workshop.  They are making reparation by acknowledging their feelings, wanting to leave with a sense of honesty and integrity about themselves.  They admit their desires for approval so that they do not have to feel badly because they have not owned up to them in the group.

The group was tempted to try to get everything in as the group is ending, to make reparation with the members ("I am not so bad after all.").  Of course, premature closure may not facilitate continued learning.  There exists a temptation for the consultant to be more active, more didactic, to try, as consultant, to get everything in before the group ends.  But the consultant and the group must leave and live with the idea that the group will end incomplete.

The consultant predicts an active working on the ending rather than a denial that the group is ending.

Session 8

No review or summary of this final session was recorded.
 


Index of related articles

The intergroup event: An overview

Levers of institutional transformation: System-level working hypotheses

The intergroup and institutional events: An overview of designs, foci, structures, and functions

The Institutional System Event (ISE)

Group relations conferences in the Tavistock tradition: Comparison of consultants' interventions in the
Institutional System Event (ISE) and in the Intergroup (IG) or Institutional (IE) Events

The paths of authority: From the unconscious to the transcendental: Work at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem

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