On Group Analysis and Beyond, by Anastassios Koukis

Group Analysis as Meta-theory, Clinical and Social Practice, and Art

Bauhaus-Kandinskys-Shapes-Triangle circle square by Wassily kandinsky (1)

On Group Analysis and Beyond records my theoretical and clinical investigations in the domain of group analysis over the past two decades. Its chapters fall into four main parts which re-evaluate the theoretical and meta-theoretical foundations of group analysis, and explore specific issues and phenomena as seen in the operation of the group-analytic group. The book also demonstrates how major mental disturbances such as eating disorders and psychosis can be effectively treated through group analysis, and examines the interrelations of group analysis with issues related to the social unconscious as well as with art, more specifically music.

The first part of the book consists of two chapters that explore new pathways in the formulation of group-analytic theory and meta-theory by linking the paternal and the maternal functions as expressed by the conductor and the group-analytic group respectively, according to the views of Foulkes. I also extend these theories to the philosophy of Kant, the psychoanalytic and psycho-linguistic aspects of Lacan, and the structuralism of Levi-Strauss’s anthropological views.

philosophia-reformata-mylius_19-Father Sun & Mother Moon

“father (triangle) and mother (circle)”: Philosophia Reformata engraving

In Chapter One, the main aim has been to construct and propose a new epistemological model in which the idea of the circle (signifying maternity on the pre-Oedipal level) expressed by group analysis as encompassing the triangle (symbol of the Oedipal situation and paternity), according to Foulkes and Bion. The idea of the Oedipal triangle or paternity, contributed principally by psychoanalysis, is often shown as taking precedence over the circle (following Freud’s views), instead of trying to co-exist by absorbing each other – with one prevailing over the other in a malignant symbiosis, touching each other externally rather than internally (as a benign symbiosis of two autonomous entities).

In Chapter Two, an effort has been made to supplement the new proposed model by conceiving the role of father and mother as parts of a ‘kaleidoscope’ rather than as triangle and circle respectively. Paternity and maternity, or psychoanalysis and group analysis, ceased to be registered on the triangle and circle respectively that represent static and self-restricting schemata, and are instead conceived in terms of a kind of mental and psychological kaleidoscope that combines both circular and triangular dimensions in a highly flexible way. The role of father (triangle) and mother (circle) as symbolic, imaginary and real (following Lacan’s views) are conceived in their kaleidoscopic dimension as autonomous and interchangeable positions, “languages” or “mythemes” that rotate freely and uninterruptedly in a dynamic way based on the “reverse symmetry” of the parental functions as expressed by Lévy-Strauss.


“a kind of mental and psychological kaleidoscope that combines both circular and triangular dimensions in a highly flexible way”

Part II aims to initiate the process of building a group-analytic theory and meta-theory by studying some fundamental aspects and phenomena of group analysis in operation. I investigate the role of money in group analysis by indicating the ways in which the members’ payment for their therapy expresses the different levels of their therapeutic development, as long as they re-experience the pre-Oedipal and Oedipal phases in the group.

51fpJu6qOSLI extend Klein’s views by exploring further scapegoating and envy – two extremely strong and primitive phenomena linked with projection and projective identification processes as exhibiting the features of a malignant symbiosis syndrome. I also examine the ways in which people with borderline personality disorder terminate their group-analytic therapy early due to some alterations of the patients’ ego linked with morbid introjections of a mothering object, which, as in the case of psychosis, although in a milder way, is conceived as psychically “dead” following Bion’s views. Part II concludes with a chapter on normal ending in the group-analytic psychotherapy of people suffering mainly from neurosis, considered as the result of the patients’ ability to transcend the inverted Oedipal situation and resolve the Oedipus complex adequately by selecting and deciding on the right timing of their farewell.

Part III of the book is dedicated to group analysis as applied to the treatment of major psychic disorders such as eating disorders and psychosis. The treatment through group analysis of anorexia and bulimia in women patients and depression in patients with schizophrenia is explored, and the contribution of the group-analytic group to helping people who suffer from psychosis – especially people who hear voices – to reconstruct their lost ability to dream. Ways in which dreaming proper can be reconstituted through the group-analytic psychotherapy of people suffering from psychosis is also studied, using illustrative clinical material and citing recent neuropsychological research.

overconsumption (1)In order to extrapolate further the relationship between group analysis and social science and its application to the social domain, Part IV begins by examining the ways in which the phenomena of the social unconscious become intermingled with the history and practice of group analysis, especially in the context of today’s post-modern Western societies. This is explored specifically in the evolution of human desire leading to despair, as a result of the tendency imposed by post-modern capitalism to over-consumption, which leads to the hallucinatory aspect of desire as associated with the immediate fulfilment of needs and the demand for love and thus “deadens” desire by reifying people and human relationships. Group analysis, which is founded on the idea of the development of relationships based primarily on the foundation matrix within a democratic community according to Foulkes’s views, has proven to be a strong antidote to the devouring dragon that is the international matrix of the post-modern world.

And finally, the relationship of group analysis to music is examined. Since the group-analytic process is based on all the turns, pitches and tonalities of human speech, man’s primordial musical instrument, the analogy was studied between the group conceived as an orchestra and its conductor considered as a maestro, as first described by Foulkes in the guise of a metaphor.

Utilising the theory and history of classical music in its more sophisticated dimensions as presented in the literature, not only by expert researchers but also by major composers such as Wagner and Berlioz, the second chapter of Part IV, which closes the book, concludes that there are significant and real – not just metaphorical – similarities between the art of the maestro and that of the group-analytic conductor, despite their differences. This is because the group-analytic group, owing to the evolution of its free-floating discussions as expressed by related musical scales and seen in human speech and prosody, bears a strong resemblance to a baroque orchestra in particular, as distinct from a classical one. The study raised the question of whether group analysis should be considered and practised as an activity that combines science and art, an issue that is as crucial as the scientific, theoretical and meta-theoretical, foundations of group analysis.

Daniel Barenboim, Dirigent, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra / 25.08.2006 / Koelner Philharmonie

Orchestra as metaphor: Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

Anastassios Koukis, PhD, BSc (Hons) in Psychology, MBPsS, is a psychologist, group analyst and psychoanalyst, a full member of GASI and a member of IAGP, and also the founder of ISPS Hellas, the Greek branch of ISPS. He is the author of two books in Greek, Dreams in Group Analysis, and The Decline of Paternity , and has written many papers on group analysis and psychoanalysis, especially on grou -psychotherapy of psychoses. He is also a musician and clarinet player.

His book, On Group Analysis and Beyond: Group Analysis as Meta-Theory, Clinical Social Practice, and Art, has just been published by Karnac.


Reviews and Endorsements

on-group-analysis-and-beyond-group-analysis-as-meta-theory-clinical-social-practice-and-art-by-anastassios-koukis-1781815739‘The lack of a coherent group analytic theory has stimulated many contributions including this excellent book. Anastassios Koukis suggests a new model of the symbolic roles of father and mother in the group that is, quoting Lacan, “kaleidoscopic”, freely rotating from conductor to group. With great courage it is discussed that man as a social animal finds his natural place in a group, predetermined by organic inheritance, metaphorically called instinct or drive. The new approach is convincingly followed through the theories of Foulkes and Bion, and the transcultural aspects of groups become easier to understand. Problems of early ontogenetic origin like envy, and inherited ones like psychoses, can be easier to work with, and a comprehensive meta-theory opens up wider scope for group work.’
– A. P. Tom Ormay, training group analyst, and former editor of the journal Group Analysis

‘As a group analyst and musician, the author is very sensitive to tones emanating from participants in his groups, from where he takes clinical examples and inspiration. Sensing the unconscious and preconscious vibrations in a special way, he enters the spheres of the art of composition of the group, connecting them not only with theoretical principles but enlarging them towards meta-theoretical concepts clarinetwith the rich imagery of a researcher-poet.’
– Professor Ivan Urlic, MD, PhD, neuropsychiatrist and training group analyst


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