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Experiences in Groups: and Other Papers Revised ed. Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415040204
ISBN-10: 0415040205
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Since Bion's papers on groups appeared... they have made a profound impact on social psychologists... Published within one relatively slight volume, the full status of this remarkable contribution is more readily appreciated... no one working with groups should be without this book for periodic re-reading." - The International Journal of Psychoanalysis

About the Author

Wilfred R. Bion (1897 -1979) was born in India and first came to England at the age of eight to receive his schooling. During the First World War he served in France as a tank commander and was awarded the DSO and the Legion of Honour. After reading history at Queen s College, Oxford, he studied medicine at University College London, before a growing interest in psychoanalysis led him to undergo training analysis with John Rickman and, later, Melanie Klein. During the 1940s his attention was directed to the study of group processes. Abandoning his work in this field in favor of psychoanalytic practice, he subsequently rose to the position of Director of the London Clinic of Psychoanalysis (1956-62) and President of the British Psychoanalytical Society (1962-65). From 1968 he worked in Los Angeles, returning to England two months before his death in 1979. A pioneer in group dynamics, he was associated with the 'Tavistock group', the group of pioneering psychologists that founded the Tavistock Institute in 1946 on the basis of their shared wartime experiences. He later wrote the influential Experiences in Groups, in 1961, an important guide for the group psychotherapy and encounter group movements beginning in the 1960s, and which quickly became a touchstone work for applications of group theory in a wide variety of fields. Bion's training included an analysis with Melanie Klein following World War II. He was a leading member in the Kleinian school while in London, but his theories, which were always based in the phenomena of the analytic encounter, eventually revealed radical departures from both Kleinian and Freudian theory. While Bion is most well known outside of the psychoanalytic community for his work on group dynamics, the psychoanalytic conversation that explores his work is concerned with his theory of thinking and his model of the development of a capacity for thought.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; Revised ed. edition (March 22, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415040205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415040204
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #294,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Reader beware! Bion did something great here. In a detailed analysis of people's behavior in groups, he shows us that some strange and often unsettling subterranean processes are at work within groups. While these processes (and the events that follow them) may defy the understanding and description of most, Bion offers insights that are at once straightforward, bizarre and sublime. In the end, his ideas provide the reader with simple, psychodynamic explanations of group behavior.
Bion points out that much of psychic human life occurs inside groups. Bion shows us that each group has a specific and directed goal to accomplish (i.e., a corporation seeks to make money and a family seeks to raise their children and provide support for the members within it). He then provides a fascinating and detailed account of the ways that these groups are often subverted from their main purpose. Bion focuses on the "basic assumptions" that lead people in groups to function in unusual ways that are frequently, if not always, outside of their awareness.
Bion suggests that there are "basic assumptions" which take over in a group. Some of these assumptions are that of "Fight/Flight" or "Pairing". Bion suggests that at times, a group will abandon their work in order to unite for either fighting or fleeing. He suggests that humans are `herding' at these times-we find ourselves in a group and we think we either need to get ready for a war or to run for the hills. This unconscious assumption, based solely on being together in a group, can severely detract from the work the group was originally brought together to accomplish. Think of those peewee football leagues gone awry.
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This is a slim 175-page paperback, but it is not easy reading. Nor is it particularly well-organized; but it is thought-provoking about experiences in groups. Bion worked in the military with therapy groups in the 1940's/50's and attempts to analyze his experiences building on the basis of Freudian psycho-analysis.Finding no evidence for a herd instinct, he does argue a basic 3-fold pattern. First is the dependent group where members depend on the leader, individually expecting attention. The "Church" is the archtype of such a group where the members depend on the Deity. Second is the Flight/fight group where the members have a shared fear (or anger) and await the signal (whoever gives the signal functions as leader, manipulated by the group as much as the group by the leader) to discharge their emotion in concrete action that manifests either fight or flight. The archtype here is the "Army." The third kind of group configuration/dynamic is the pairing group in which members become interested (often subconsciously) in developing a relationship between 2 members.This will lead to something, and since Freudian attraction is always at base libidinous, the pairing is expected to lead to a new idea ("brainchild"?) which will solve everything, psychicly speaking. This archtype is "Messianic," in Bion's view.
Other elements in Bion's observations include the basic group, which is the circumstance of the yet unstructured group; the emotional field that a group generates; and the work group which is focused on a task with the members clear in their parts. This appears to me to be yet another structure or classification, but Bion does not discuss it in those terms.
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This book is so filled with information that I can only read a small amount at a time, then I have to put it down so that I can absorb the content. It is written in plain English, but the ideas expressed require a great deal of thought. It explains exactly how groups function. It is a revelation to someone such as me. No wonder it is considered a classic. I consider it on a par with Jung's Memories Dreams and reflections.
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Willfred Bion is a brilliant writer and has superb insights that directly translate into problems that arise in the workplace.
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