During the past 6 years, a total of 25 people—members, candidates and staff —have joined together in once a month meetings in order to study the group life and group consciousness of our institute. On June 27 Art’s group held its final meeting.
The idea for this enterprise grew out of the revelatory chaos of the Firehouse meeting. After that, many of us felt we needed a better venue to understand our Institute’s process than through the (then) yearly retreats or occasional large group crisis meetings. Ten people came to the first meeting and the group just kept evolving. We announced the meeting once a year with variations on the central theme of collective analysis. For example one year we said:
“Art’s group continues to meet at 8:00 PM in the Aras room the 4th Thursday of all months. It is open to members, candidates, and institute staff. Our interest is to provide a reflecting venue for the institute collective, a way into its collective unconscious. To do this we collect data from as many institute committees, events, and meetings as possible and combine these with our dreams, process, insights, fantasies and interpretations and then work on the grand synthesis together! Lots of fun, very collegial, and also quite serious. The size of the group runs 10-15; membership has been very consistent and diversified.”
Over the years we pretty much kept to that task and method although as is inevitable and wonderful in intimate long-lived small groups we learned and felt a lot about each other. These powerful feeling and intellectual connections among group members were the main energy that kept us at our designated, difficult and occasionally exhilarating task. Art’s group served many purposes for each of us: a haven, a study center, a window, a connector, a conflict resolver. In no other place in our institute could the various subgroups that create our community try to make sense of our process without some “necessary” instrumental task competing for time and direction.
Art’s group was mostly about secrets—secret relationships and secret information—and their effect on our Institute. Teasing apart the intricate web of secrets that binds us all together and keeps us apart was the unending topic of discussion. The absolute need for certain secrets and secretive relationship is what makes our organization and its inevitable politics, scandals, conflicts socially unique. Secrets in the form of confidentiality in the analytic hour and also in the training committees are the life blood of our work, a critical element in our attempts to heal the psyche of our patients, and teach and evaluate our candidates and our colleagues. Secrecy is needed for our healing work and in our committees but secrecy is also about power. Ethicist Sissela Bok says secrets always contain power differentials, that lying (which is also deliberately not telling the truth) is about keeping the power differential going to maintain control. In our six years of meeting we confronted and contemplated a great deal of inappropriate power driven secrecy (the shadows of our healing confidentiality) and we traced and retraced its oft times coercive and malignant effects as well as its contribution to the healing temenos. All these secrets, necessary and contrived, shape our institution, its spontaneity and creativity more than we suspected.
Others have reached similar conclusions. At the last North South meeting Don Sandner spent some time analyzing the effect of these secrets, “family secrets multiplied many times” on the Institute and, for example, on the difficulty of getting a contained and insulated analysis within our institutes. Luigi Zoya, an Italian Jungian Analyst in Milan and Zurich has a distinctly ominous vision of this dilemma. In his article entitled “Reflections Concerning Ethics” in Cast the First Stone (edited by Lena Ross and Manisha Roy) he talks about the effect of the continuing secret bonds in training analysis and other analytic and teaching modes in our institutes: “The fact that these attitudes continue to be plagued by numberless phantoms of nonresolved transferences and counter transferences—and the dynamics of institutional life can make such nonresolved transferences and counter transferences ever more intricate—ranks indeed as a cancer, the metastasis of which can kill off even the most vital of analytic societies.” I think that many of those of us who participated in Art’s group felt we were working against the kind of malignant process with some success.
Art’s group has been a powerful creative wellspring for me in my work—some of which has found its way into my work as an analyst, in my book Up From Scapegoating and also in the consultations I do with organizations and communities. I will also miss the personal heart connections among the many members and the many powerful emotional experiences between us. But fundamentally Art’s group was about charting and occasionally effecting the individuation of our Institute. All that work on the secrets was much like shadow works in the analysis of the individual. In the last year or so we worried that we were carrying too much of the shadow on our own without finding an effective way to feed its digested and undigested parts back into the collective. That was one of the main reasons we decided to stop. Still all Art’s group members are also part of the Institute and we have and will have our say now and in the future. To this point I have kept minutes of all of the meetings. They represent a fascinating journal of one subgroup’s view of its larger collective’s history during the past 6 years. They are available to anyone with a legitimate interest in that history.
I will miss the group and its members very much. Arthur Colman
Copyright © Arthur C. Colman