Friday 10:45-12:00

WHEN EXPECTING HONESTY IS RECKLESS: ALL OUR HANDS ARE DIRTY IN THE DEBASED POLITICS IN PSYCHOANALYTIC INSTITUTES DOMINATED BY BASIC ASSUMPTION GROUP FUNCTIONING

David M Brooks PhD

Abstract

When expecting honesty is reckless: An agar of Sartrean mauvaise foi (“bad

faith”) for debased politics in psychoanalytic institutes dominated by basic

assumption group functioning

Hannah Arendt (Truth and Politics, 1967) argues that the dignity of politics is truth. If a

working group’s politics is characterized by the use of power to seek and extend truth

(+K oriented authority), then the debased politics of basic assumption groups (Bion,

1961) is to bend or distort truth to serve the extension of power and “bad faith” (-K

oriented authority). This formulation is clearly at work in our national politics, social

media, advertising, etc. The paper will show it is also a useful heuristic for examining

the debased politics of a psychoanalytic institute, which is struggling to evolve itself out

of a patrimony of dependency basic assumption group functioning (a fallen patriarchal

legacy plaguing psychoanalytic institutes worldwide.)

The author presents three detailed vignettes which disclose the operation of toxic

ambivalence towards +K oriented authority, grown in an agar of Sartrean “bad

faith”. Toxic ambivalence (need and hate-of-need) is characterized by the group-as-awhole

projection of a powerful double-bind into a leader, which can have disabling

effects on his or her ability to assume proper authority (in the +K direction). On one

hand, the double-bind demands the +K oriented leader subjugate/subordinate him or

her frame of mind to the corrupting underlying system (-K oriented authority), installing a

-K frame of mind to neutralize Will into passive dependency. On the other, honest

expression (+K) is inhibited by anxieties such as that of retribution (“to be honest right

now might be reckless”). In order for toxic ambivalence to grow it needs a matrix of

distorted truth claims (an agar of “bad faith” rationalizations and justifications), which

support the group’s evasion of self-authorization and joint responsibility for group life

within a politics of dignity and truth – the possibility of living together in what some want

to call an “ethics of care for all” (Sowa, 2019). Instead, a culture of “back seat driving”

and scapegoating of +K authority predominates. “Good will” and passion to be an

active part of institute life dries up; a demoralized and fear-driven culture has set in.

Options for intervention to disrupt and transform will be considered.