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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The 'work group': Redressing the balance in Bion's Experiences in Groups

The intention of this article is to explore and develop Wilfred Bion's theory of groups, and to contribute to its wider application across the social sciences. Bion suggested that groups operate simultaneously in two strictly contrasting ways, based on distinctive mental states, which he called 'basic-assumption mentality' and 'work-group mentality'. He believed that these mentalities determine a group's capacity to achieve its purposes. However, the development of these ideas has tended to focus on the regressive tendency in group functioning on basic-assumption mentality. This article attempts to redress the balance by ascribing equal importance to the notion of work-group mentality. First, it extends Bion's framework, developing the concept of the 'work group' in parallel with the 'basic assumptions'; second, it considers the dynamic relationship between these two mentalities, in order, finally, to explore the application of Bion's ideas via a case example.