Social Selves and the Notion of the 'Group-as-a-whole'
One of the concepts that many group therapists use to make sense of what is going on in a therapy group is that of the ‘group-as-a-whole’. A number of other terms are used to signify a similar idea. For example, some talk about the group as a supra-personal network, a living system, a matrix, a psychic apparatus, or a group mind. They talk about the group as being more than the sum of its parts, the individuals, who compose it. Group forces are said to impact on individuals and the group itself is said to have moods of its own and to speak through its members. People are sometimes said to be acting out some role on behalf of the group. All of these formulations, therefore, postulate an entity that is outside of, at a higher level than, individuals and there is a tendency to reify, anthropomorphise and mystify this entity, even when it is held to be an illusion rather than a reality. This entity is understood to be unconsciously constituted by individual intrapsychic processes of projection, projective identification, introjection, identification and splitting. The entity created in this way is then assumed to act back on its individual members as the unconscious cause of their actions. What is being postulated, therefore, is a metaphysics of human action, that is, a hidden reality beyond, above or behind appearances of the phenomena in question. This hidden reality is then understood as the cause of human action. [introduction]