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Burack, C. (1997). Response to E. Victor Wolfenstein. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(3):375-378.

(1997). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(3):375-378

Response to E. Victor Wolfenstein Related Papers

Cynthia Burack, Ph.D.

I would like to thank E. Victor Wolfenstein for the thoughtful comments on my paper “Crossing Boundaries.” I will try to respond to his comments as they are set forth. As Wolfenstein suggests, I do indeed begin with something like Bion's conception that individuals are always psychologically embedded in groups even though actual dimensions of “groupishness” may not become evident until members are physically in proximity to one another in a discernible “group” (Bion, 1961). Thus, I believe that we share a theoretical starting point based on a shared assumption about human groupishness, so that when Wolfenstein asks how, in speaking of groups, we are to know if we are referring to the psychological relationship or the empirical collectivity, that point must be addressed.

In the broadest sense, my understanding of “group” is that of an “imagined community” rather than that of a gathering (see Anderson, 1991, for his argument about the nation as an “imagined community”). Unfortunately, the problem of “group” versus “collectivity” is well entrenched in the psychoanalytic group literature, as analytic thinkers often unreflectively elide the psychological “groupishness” of individuals with the actual groups (“collectivities,” in Wolfenstein's more accurate terminology) in which individuals, often individuals in group therapy, find themselves at any particular moment. This is true even of those thinkers like Bion, who are most subtle about the affective dimensions of human “groupishness.”

It is quite common for someone to ask when the group begins. Now from one point of view the perfectly simple answer is 10:30, or whatever the hour is that has been appointed for the meeting, but a shift of point of view … means that I am viewing group phenomena that do not “begin”; the matters with which I am concerned continue and evolve, but do not “begin” [Bion, 1961, p. 88].

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