are we ready for the times ahead?

OR, Riding the waves Along with Gas!

 

“There is a popular saying among information technologists, ‘When a new technology comes along, you can drive the steamroller, or you can be part of the road.’ This does little to lessen the anxiety of people struggling with a new technology. However, it does reflect quite well the idea that managing to get one's anxieties under control can present many great new opportunities for growth. Like it or not, the Internet will increasingly provide the medium for groups, large and small, to come together and develop. How willing the members of the group-analytic community are to bring their expertise and insight to bear on this process, however, and engage in this development, remains to be seen[1].

 

This is the conclusion reached by Aldon Hymes in his article for the Special Millennium Issue of Group Analysis. An image says more than a 1000 words, it is said. Then how many words are worth not one image, but two? We are already walking through the times ahead! One either climbs onto the bandwagon or loses a civilization. That is what I told myself twenty years ago when I bought myself an IBM XT (54 RAM, 19 MK HD without modem, of course). The mañana already has turned into a yesterday, the future into past tense. To look backwards in order to clearly see ahead has been my motto in life for a long time. It is the safest of ways to stay sane in the middle of uncertainties of the here and now in a world that is running amok. So, we survived the change of millenniums and I doubt there are many of us without a PC or a Mac in their office or home. Of course, this paraphernalia may be used just as an old Underwood, for prestige reasons or else, or in our case, to facilitate communication among members in the broad arena of GAS. Another old veteran of the GAS Foreign Legion, a sort of a “Ghurkha” like myself, Olov Dahlin, is bringing to the Web’s Forum and in this same issue of CONTEXTS an interesting statement with which I completely agree:

 

If we take the group seriously we must also take seminars, workshops and symposia seriously.  There is a need for an ongoing dialogue and for local knowledge to develop and be recognised as valuable and important. I believe the grand symposia no longer are important. They are out-of-date as information-exchange and vehicles of development. But what is the alternative? I believe the answer must be searched for in the www. I have a vision in which people find each other by the net and go to small local workshops all over Europe. In fact, that is what happens in the margin at the grand symposia. People get involved with each other in informal small groups more or less spontaneously on the base of a common interest they have discovered they share. The Group Analytic Society has taken a first step in that direction by its homepage and forum. I hope we can look forwards to more diverse formats of also meeting face to face.”

While I am writing this, I have open on my desk the latest issues of Group Analysis, the Journal (March 2002, Vol. 32(1)) and of CONTEXTS (June 2002, issue Nº 21). I am connected to Internet, by flat rate ADSL, the bell sound of dripping e-mail into my mailbox accompanying me, and if I raise my sight above the PC’s screen, I have before me the view of the Foster's Collserola tower I can share with you. So, no wonder if I dream of the days ahead when I will be able to enjoy the fixed Broadband Wireless Internet Forum (BWIF)[2], the incoming Internet 2. At my fingertips I have the whole of the communications system of

GAS. So it has been a long march since at 8 pm on Tuesday 3rd June 1952, in 22 Upper Wimpole Street London W.1 our Society was founded by a small group of seven, not just of three as it is becoming fashionable to say today.[3]. I do not know if then the name of GAS already carried on its back the tail flag of (London), the part some Europeans like myself at the Heidelberg AGM in 1993 did not feel should be constitutionally dropped. Ever since we have, slowly but surely been moving from the Era of Information into a Communicating Age where we hope that honest “free floating dialogue” will be possible. For organizations, like for dogs, 50 years are a long time. Never mind, our ancestors and predecessors lasted many more; think of Freud’s Wednesday’s Psychological Society, Vienna 1902, and Burrow’s The Lifwynn Foundation, Maryland 1927. To grow or to perish is the alternative we are facing in GAS at the beginning of the third Millennium. We are already reaching the psychosocial stages of the life cycle defined for individuals by Erickson as that of Older Adulthood, of Integrity versus Despair, where the tasks ahead are to review life accomplishments, deal with loss and prepare for death. Are Erickson’s eight life cycle stages applicable to human organizations such as ours? Well, we don’t know but, regardless, it turns into a good metaphor to get going with the tasks ahead in our Society. The problem is that for most of us the message of the following Times’ cartoon still holds true:

 

In Foulkes’ review in CONTEXTS[4] of Sheila Thomson 1970 book with Kahn we find a paragraph worth being brought here:

 

 “In group analytic theory it is a fundamental tenet that its principles must each time be tailored to the particular purpose, task and conditions of any group. All these conditions, including the mandate of the leader, are called the group situation, and it is held that this situation determines all part processes as well as the nature of the interventions of the leader. We in turn set the situation according to the purpose and realities of any group. I have therefore emphasised the common features, the general principle and considered the detailed particulars as modifications and variations on a theme. The phenomena are all there, always. It is the use we make of them which determines what becomes figure and what ground.”

 

What is the group situation of the Society nowadays?  What are its particular task and conditions? Before I give an answer to this question I feel I must first clarify why I chose images rather than just words for the “good article” entrusted to me by Tom Ormay —our “one-man-bandleader” in communications— to get the ball rolling in the Web forum he opened at the beginnings of June in our GAS Web.[5]  As you can see that this, more than an article, looks like a propaganda pamphlet trying to sell you into the Internet business. This trend has already been started by Anne Harrow in her farewell editorial in issue Nº 21 by asking members to authorize sending CONTEXTS by e-mail through the web “in order to take advantage of the benefits of the rapid changes in new technologies”[6] and also by my three Web propositions as a tribute to Sheila.

 

Well, it is obvious that small is beautiful but net “schmoozing” is not as cosy as the above cartoon will have it. In a group as large as ours in GAS, we will have to settle for less, and it is always hard to give up comfort. The drawing heading the article - for me - depicts a developmental life chart of Humanity. It has been a long way ever since we came down from the trees, stood up on our two feet and started talking. Just before sitting in front of the PC screen, there is “homo faber” with a pneumatic hammer in his hands. What is this tool for? To break down the wall of silence that impedes free-floating communication among people and build the community to which we all belong. The man of the industrial revolution has to move ahead into Cyberspace. If in the GAS we want to avoid globalisation, we have a long way to go and a lot to learn to conduct our large group the groupanalytic way.

 

The debate “On Internationality” has filled the pages of CONTEXTS since September 1993, when at the request of the Management Committee of the GAS (London), the Heidelberg AGM ratified all the constitutional changes for becoming an international society, but one: dropping the word London from the name of the Society. At the beginning the debate centred on this “pseudo problem”, while a wall of silence was covering up the “real problems”, turning them into shared symptoms: organizational, administrative, financial, residential and God knows what. Soon, however, it became clear that with more and more “overseas members” in the Committee to conduct the business of the Society, this became more complicated and expensive. So much so, that by 1998 the Society was nearing bankruptcy, had been evicted from its premises at Daleham Gardens and was running the risk of being sued as delinquent payer by the Institute of Group Analysis. “A grandes males, grandes remedios” goes the Spanish saying. Fortunately we not only know “how to survive in an institution” but also how to insufflate life in a dying one: “Group first, cure thyself”, but do it in the group analytic way, the one established by S. H. Foulkes with the invention of GAIPAC when foreseeing trouble.

One of the “collateral effects” with this treatment was to cut down on expenses by moving premises to a basement nearby, settling debts with the Institute, and CONTEXTS being printed home based. The crisis of the “purloined letter” was the most obvious symptom of the prevailing discontent. As usually happens in times of crisis in our Society, the nature of the problem permeates the themes of symposiums, workshops and correspondence. Following the footstep of their themes one could retrace its development, a possibility I will not pursue here. I just will remind you that the AGM of Saturday, October 10th 1998 was preceded by a Study Day on the topic of “Thinking the Unthinkable: Whither the Society?” suggested by Bryan Boswood, the President under which aegis the Society had turned international four years earlier. However, coinciding with the 100-years anniversary of Dr. Foulkes’ birth, Stuart Whiteley, then president, quite an expert in international affairs, secretary of the IAGP, took the decision to increase and improve the system of communication of the Society by getting the GAS (London) office on-line by e-mail and establishing the first home-made GAS Web-site.[7] Now we have a new and better looking professionally designed Web-site, but run under the same principles and with the same limitations as the one before[8], this is, access to active interaction is limited to members, conditioned to a not user-friendly login and password that only Internet wizards know how to manage. So much I deduct from the scarce commentaries I received as feedback to the query included in my “Dialogo de Besugos” —the advertisement to promote participation in the forum “On Internationality”. I sent it to the one third of members who have an e-mail address listed in the last directory. These obstacles are likely to be overcome if our Forum was run as an ordinary e-list and the Web opened also to friends of Group Analysis and sympathizers, as was originally the aim of GAIPAC.

 

I do not have as yet a sure response to the motion that in my name Werner Knauss submitted to the last AGM in Bologna for the creation of a new virtual category of “corresponding members” or whatever it could be called. I am looking forward to see if the next CONTEXTS clarifies matters. It seems that the AGM left the membership issue for the Committee to decide and that, for the time being, some non-members could be accepted as “correspondents”, without paying a fee. That is nice. Since in Bologna we have taken sides for “relational goods”, maybe we could set up a “Banca del tempo”. So much for a change. J

 

This has been the third and, I hope, the last that I make an attempt at initiating “Operation Phoenix GAIPAC”. The first time was in June 10th 1979, when with my “Group Analysis International Panel and Correspondence? A Bystander’s view” I reminded the readers that the “eventual aim of our Correspondence in Foulkes’ mind always had been an international association of group analysts” and suggested that the oncoming International Congress in Group Psychotherapy in Copenhagen 1980 was a good occasion for a joint meeting of UK and “overseas” members of the Society, and correspondents of GAIPAC. Jane Abercrombie took my proposition seriously and we met. This led into a chain of events that by September 1981 in the Midas Hotel in Rome under Malcolm Pines’ cry “No taxation without representation” was to become what is known as the “overseas revolution”. In 1982 during the first May Meeting at Bedford College in London we voted for the “overseas” membership category to be abolished and with it all discrimination based on nationality. There we became aware, also in the words of Malcolm Pines, that “a change in perspective and a change in identity in GAS has taken place, and that we have become part of a European Groupanalytic Movement and should take full cognisance of that. We needed, however, to move slowly and definitely towards a different organization.” For the time being we decided to do so within the context of the Society. This is how and where the European Groupanalytic Movement started.

 

My second attempt at “Operation Phoenix GAIPAC” was in Heidelberg in 1993 during the Ninth European Symposium in Group Analysis, where under a facsimile cover of GAIPAC, I put together a series of documents that I thought would be of use for the AGM  to vote on the issue of internationality of the Group Analytic Society. Bryan Boswood, the then President, granted me the right to publish under this facsimile cover as long as it was well understood that it was my correspondence and not that of the Society. Unfortunately, beyond the copy prepared for the Heidelberg AGM —which will be available in the library of «grupoanalisis.org»[9], I did not make use of this right, among other things because I have already moved into Internet sailing.

 

What will come out of the last attempt of mine of debating the issue of “On Internationality” now in the GAS Web, remains to be seen. Let us hope that good luck accompanies us for this trip and to new discoveries.

 

Juan Campos

4074jca@teleline,es

 



Aldon Hymes. The Internet and the Large Group Group Analysis © 2002 The Group Analytic Society Vol. 35 (1) 153-164[1]

[2] Broadband Wireless Internet Forum (BWIF), <http://www.bwif.org/>

[3] “The Group-Analytic Society (London) was founded in 1952 by S.H. Foulkes, Jane Abercrombie and Norbert Elias as a learned society to study and promote the development of group analysis in both its clinical and applied aspects” <http://www.groupanalyticsociety.org/orga1.htm>

[4] Sheila Thomson and J. H. Kahn (1970) The Group Process as a Helping Technique, Pergamon Press, reviewed in GAIPAC 3 (3), p. 191.

[5] <http://www.groupanalyticsociety.org/forum/foru1.htm> put “Elisabeth” for both login and password to enter.

[6] See a demonstration with CONTEXTS Nº 21 I< http://www.grupoanalisis.org/contexts21/ >

[7] The first intended as a revival of the correspondence section of old GAIPAC groupanalytic.society@virgin.net and the web-site http://freespace.virgin.net/stuart.whiteley/ rather as a BBS where to advertise the activities of Group Analysis UK.