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David Armstrong,W. Gordon Lawrence, Robert M. Young (.pdf 204 Kb)

The group relations tradition developed by W. R. Bion, A. K. Rice and others at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London is surprisingly short of introductory works. One reason for this is that it is a particularly experiential form of learning. Another is that it is not at all easy to express what one has learned in group relations events, and assimilation of these experiences can take many years.

The authors had a unique opportunity to reflect on the basic principles of group relations when they were part of a team of consultants who staged a first-ever conference in Eastern Europe, in Bulgaria. All who took part found it a remarkable event. As a consequence, a new Institute of Human Relations has been set up in Sofia, for the purpose of training people in this approach. As a part of these developments, the authors have had occasion to spell out their understanding of the group relations tradition to interested people. Their expositions are reprinted here, together with the first essay which got key Bulgarians interested and others which round out the collection. The result is intended to be an accessible and clear exposition, representing a distillation of the tradition, including its most recent developments. A comprehensive bibliography is also included.

David Armstrong, MA, studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford and Psychology at Cambridge and worked at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, Chelsea College of Science and Technology and the Grubb Institute before becoming a Consultant at the Tavistock Centre Consultancy Service. He has been on staff and director of group relations conferences in a number of countries and consults to public service institutions and to industry.

W. Gordon Lawrence, studies social sciences at Aberdeen, Leicester and Edinburgh universitie and at Gesamthochschule Weppertal, Bergische Universitat, where he obtained a Dr Rerum Oeconomicus. He is Chair of Imago East-West and Visiting Professor of Organizational Behaviour, School of Management, Cranefield University. He worked for many years at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, in France and consulted to many multinational companies. He has considerable experience on staff and as director of group relations and social dreaming events. He is the editor of Exploring Individual and Organizational Boundaries (Wiley) and the author of To Surprise the Soul: Psychoanalytic Explorations of Groups, Institutions and Society in the Bion-Tavistock Tradition (Process Press).

Robert M. Young, PhD, studied philosophy at Yale, Medical Sciences at Rochester and History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge, where he was a Fellow and Tutor at King’s College. He then spent a number of years in cultural politics and in making television documentaries and founded Free Association Books. He is Professor of Psychotherapy and Psychoanalytic Studies, Centre for Psychotherapeutic Studies, University of Sheffield and Co-Director of the Institute of Human Relations, New Bulgarian University. He is the Editor of Free Associations and the author of Mind, Brain and Adaptation (Oxford), Darwin’s Metaphor (Cambridge) and Mental Space (Process Press).



1. Mental Space and Group Relations: Robert M. Young 1

2. Totalitarian States of Mind in Institutions: W. Gordon Lawrence 21

3. Making Absences Present: The Contribution of W. R. Bion to Understanding Unconscious Social Phenomena: David Armstrong 44

4. Guilt and the Veneer of Civilization: Robert M. Young 60

5. Benign and Virulent Projective Identification in Groups and Institutions: Robert M. Young 82

6. The 'Institution in the Mind': Reflections on the Relation of Psycho-analysis to Work with Institutions: David Armstrong 104

7. Names, Thoughts and Lies: The Relevance of Bion's Later Writing to Experiences in Groups: David Armstrong 117

8. Won from the Void of the Infinite: Experiences of Social Dreaming: W. Gordon Lawrence 136

9. Signals of Transcendence: W. Gordon Lawrence 167

10 Introducing Group Relations into a New Environment: Robert M. Young 185

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