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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Group Relations: Achieving a new difference

The focus of this paper is on how group relations conferences can provide an opportunity for individuals to acquire new capacities and to develop their sense of identity, thereby achieving a new difference. Personal identity has some fixed and inescapable elements such as race, gender, class, personality type, personal history, unconscious core. Knowing who we are and what we are and choosing to be our inescapable selves, warts and all, is an ancient wisdom. On the other hand identity is also fluid and expandable. Bion tells us that it is not the same patient who returns to the next session and, for that matter, it may not be the same therapist. In Kleinian thinking a sense of identity comes from a relationship - as Klein puts it: the good breast forms the core of the ego and vitally contributes to its growth (Klein, 1975 p.180). Identity is the internalised outcome of an interaction between mother and baby. Starting out as an inter-personal reality identity develops a psycho-social dimension through interactions with the family and finally a wider group dimension as membership of race, gender, class and other social groupings is taken on board. Growth in a sense of identity is not only based on retrieving split-off or undeveloped parts of the self from within the psyche but also on acquiring something new from outside by taking in and assimilating something from the 'other', from the 'not-me'.