Location of Disturbance: a Group Analyst perspective on BLM and impact of Covid-19 on the BAME community

Anthea Benjamin

“But all our phrasing – race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy – serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscles, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth… You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body,” TA-NEHISI COATES, BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

Foulkes stated “The individual is pre-conditioned to the core by his community, even before he is born, and his personality and character are imprinted vitally by the group in which he is raised” (Foulkes 1966, p152). This group is not just the family of origin but the social political context we are all born into and navigate throughout our lives.

According to Freud, ‘Since the beginning, individual psychology has also been social psychology’. (1921) Foulkes built on this with his ideas of man as a ‘nodal point’ in a network field of relationships in space and time. (1964) Foulkes was thinking about the matrix, a metaphorical web of conscious and unconscious communication that weaves the group together.

Yalom has written extensively about how to create a positive group culture. He refers to the need for qualities of altruism, group support, acceptance, group cohesion, deep engagement in self disclosure, and capacity for confrontation and conflict as essential to the process of interpersonal learning. (Yalom, 2005; p108)

A core premise within group analysis is how we are all permeated by the social influence of the community we are a part of which leaves a specific imprint on our psyche. (1984) My experience has been dominated by the cultural context of being in the minority, both as a black person and as a woman. The group analytic concept that have been central in my journey in understanding marginalisation have been Foulkes’ notion of the “location of disturbance”. (1948:127)

Foulkes describes this as psychological disturbance that takes place between people that can never really be confined to one person. (Foulkes, 1983:127) The location of disturbance is a way of understanding how an individual can become a recipient of unconscious projections, which reflect a wider group dynamic that is a blind spot for that wider group. Foulkes and Anthony consider this to be one form of a group’s self-protective function, “to preserve its ignorance of its own wishes which are then projected onto an individual scapegoat”. (1965:243)

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