Teaching About Groups

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David R. Beisel, SUNY Rockland

I’ve always felt that articles on teaching were broadly relevant and could help those working outside as well as inside the classroom because anyone discussing psychological history or publishing a scholarly paper or making a presentation at a scholarly conference is doing a kind of teaching.

Over the years I’ve written several pieces on varied aspects of teaching psychological history—for the American Historical Association’s Perspectives, The Journal of Psychohistory, and Clio’s Psycheon how I introduce my courses, the nature of course content, aspects of student resistance, ways of handling it, teaching the psychohistory of war, and the like.

Although group psychohistory has been part of my introductory classes for the past 27 years (three sections per semester and an additional Psychohistory II class in the spring), I’ve never tackled a formal paper on how I go about teaching groups until Paul Elovitz asked me to describe my approach for this issue of Clio’s Psyche.

There is a specific section of my three-credit introductory course devoted to groups.  First, I will describe the structure of the course before examining it.  Part I studies the ego defenses and how they’ve operated in individuals and groups in various historical periods.  Part II studies the history of childhood.  Part III looks at psychobiography.  When I begin turning to systematic discussions of group life in Part IV, the semester is a little more than half over.   That’s generally a good thing since, by then, most students have become more comfortable with thinking psychologically and are better able to add psychological ways of seeing to the traditional political, economic, and social categories they’ve brought with them to class from the very first day.

By the time we get to groups—the ninth or tenth week of the semester—I hope students have been convinced, or at least partly convinced, that the unconscious exists; that what’s in the unconscious can motivate behavior; that what happens in a person’s childhood can influence their adult actions; and that psychobiography, especially on US presidents, living and dead, can enrich our understanding of history.

It’s a simple step from there to the notion that because groups are made up of individuals, it’s possible to assert that when many individuals experience the same things, or nearly the same things—such as childhoods or traumatic events—we should expect them to sometimes think, act, and feel in the same ways that others in the group think, act, and feel. This point may strike some readers as mundane since we often assume it’s one of the givens of the social science.  Yet, in teaching psychological history, I’ve found it helpful to spell things out as often as possible and move through the material step by careful step, especially when transitioning from individual to group psychology.  Students find it helpful as well, since the findings of group psychology are sometimes startlingly different from what they’ve experienced, subconsciously assume, and consciously expect and are in some ways different from what they’ve learned in the first half of the course.  It doesn’t hurt either to mention that sociology conceptualizes some group behaviors in much the same way that psychological history does—that is, the notion of socialization—except that in psychological history socialization also includes the aftermaths of poor childcare, developmental dislocations, fixations, and trauma, both individual and collective.

As for trauma, students were introduced to full-scale discussions of it during the introductory portion of the course.  Since it’s already a familiar notion to them, they need only a brush-up on what constitutes trauma—rape, child abuse, war zones, natural disasters, and so on—as well as post-traumatic stress disorder’s short- and long-term consequences.  This allows me to move directly to the subject of groups seen psychologically and psychohistorically.

That, to be sure, is a massive subject in its own right and there’s an extensive scholarly literature in many fields, sociology, philosophy, psychiatry, group therapy, and social psychology, as well as psychology and history.  Indeed, there are semester-long and full year undergraduate and graduate courses devoted to the study of small groups alone.  To make things more manageable, (and to allow us to move in a timely way to the last part of the course, Hitler and Nazi Germany as psychohistorical “laboratories”), I simplify, and to some extent oversimplify, by dividing this rich literature into two types, that for large groups and for small groups, noting that while all of psychology constitutes one body of knowledge, it’s possible to conceptualize several kinds of psychologies—the kind that studies individuals, the kind that studies couples, a third that studies family dynamics, and a fourth and fifth that study the psychology of small groups and large groups respectively.  It’s not that individual psychodynamics, or relationships within dyads or families, do not interact with group behavior.  They do (or may).  It’s just to state again the well-known maxim that people sometimes act differently in large and small groups from the ways they act as individuals.

The reason we’re studying small groups at all, I remind them, is that presidents and CEOs don’t always make choices on their own.  Many major decisions take place in small group contexts, from presidential cabinets to the Board of Directors of IBM.  Research also shows that people in small groups—like our classroom, for example—often behave according to identifiable patterns.

To get things rolling, I introduce the findings of Bion, highlighting his division of groups into work and Basic Assumption groups, explain why he labeled his Basic Assumption groups “dependency”, “fight/flight”, and “pairing”, and mention Tavistock, its work in conflict resolution, and so on. I mostly use Bion as a touchstone for the findings of other researchers, such as John Hartman, adding the notion of messianic fantasy groups to Bion’s tripartite division.

The central point here is to show that small groups can (or do) operate on two levels at once: the rational, reasonable, conscious work group level where group members work cooperatively to achieve a common attainable work task; and the unacknowledged Basic Assumption, or unconscious group fantasy level where the acting out of unconscious fantasies has the consequence of sabotaging the group’s work task.  One process operates above, another beneath the surface.  It’s necessary to point out that acting out can be (but need not be) continuous, that acting-out group members are usually the delegates of others, expressing what many, if not all, group members are feeling, and that when such acting out does occur, even periodical acting out, it helps explain—as virtually everyone in the class comes to recognize—why people in groups act in irrational ways and why it’s so difficult for groups to get things done.

These ideas set the stage for a transition to the study of large groups, such as countries.  It’s necessary to point out that one cannot automatically assume that what holds for small groups also holds for large groups; it’s misleading and unscientific.  Some parallels may exist, and they’re worth thinking about, but large groups need to be studied on their own.  Still, it helps to suggest that perhaps the same type of processes as elucidated by Bion—a conscious one above, an unconscious one beneath the surface—may be operating, or may be operating at times, in large groups too.

It’s appropriate to remind students that many people over the years have noted similarities between large groups and mentally disturbed individuals.  Scores of experts can be cited to illustrate this “group-as-crazy-individual” metaphor, but the one I’ve used in recent years (after first explaining who he was), is Tennessee Williams.  He once said: “If people behaved in the way nations do they would all be put in straightjackets.”  This isn’t always the case, of course, but is sometimes the case, and is one good reason why we want to understand how and why large groups sometimes fail to act in ways that are in their rational self-interest.

To impress upon students that what we’re embarking upon is serious business, I remind them that indifference to the topic may be defensive.  As a nation we’re all in the same boat, an uncomfortable reality that we may not want to see if the group we’re in is acting irrationally.  Secondly, I point out that the topic is important to me personally since the central question which has driven my own research for many years is: why do some people act in ways that bring about the very thing they are most trying to avoid?  The evidence shows the phenomenon can be found in large groups as well as individuals.  Our first question is how to identify collective feelings and fantasies, then how to get hold of unconscious ones.

Clearly, the kind of opinion polls that ask questions about the president’s performance can be used over time as a rough gauge to graphically depict the public’s general mood and can serve as one kind of emotional index.  (When Gulf War I broke out, for example, the president’s approval rating, according to USA Today, soared to an unheard of 90 percent.  This nearly unanimous collective feeling needs explaining.)

To provide a working theoretical framework, I introduce Lloyd deMause’s group fantasy theory.  (Students are familiar with him since they’ve already read his “Evolution of Childhood” essay and an interview with him in The Best of Clio’s Psyche, 1994-2005,one of their required readings.)  Students are already familiar with the concepts of projection, projective containers, the designated patient, scapegoats, stereotyping, and various kinds of delegation, so one can move immediately into the group fantasy theory.

Readers will remember that deMause hypothesizes that collective sentiments, the group’s specific hidden wishes, fears, and thoughts, can be identified by a systematic analysis of the shared images appearing on the covers of the nation’s newsweeklies and by a systematic daily analysis of the themes and images drawn by the nation’s major political cartoonists.  Images connect here to the revealing symbolic pictures experienced in an individual’s sleep-dream cycle, for if dreams are the royal road to the unconscious, then the shared “dream images” of a large group should constitute the royal road to the group’s unconscious.

DeMause says the work he’s done on the US media from 1960 to the present reveals regular, cyclical patterns, a four-stage cycle he’s labeled “Strong,” “Cracking,” “Collapse,” and  “Upheav-al,” each stage representing a progressive deterioration of the group’s defenses, particularly repression.  In the last, or “Upheaval” stage, those intolerable repressed feelings—aggression, out-of-control sexuality, homosexual feelings, lawlessness, craziness, powerlessness, personal badness experienced as poison, and so on—that are now streaming into consciousness are projected into scapegoat (“poison”) container groups.

Throughout history, says deMause, large groups have engineered escapes from these intolerable feelings by way of one of three means: finding an enemy with whom to go to war (Saddam); finding a domestic group to persecute (Jews, Communists, liberals); sacrificing the leader by voting him or her out of office (the Jimmy Carter solution), by forcing a resignation (the Johnson, Nixon solutions), or by circulating assassination messages in the media which some group delegate eventually acts out (the Kennedy “solution”).  Any of these events shore up the group’s emotional defenses, which are now restored and firmly in place, returning it to the “Strong” stage, and the cycle begins anew.

Parts of the theory have merit, and I’ve used them profitably in my own writing.  For their part, students like the simplicity of the model.  But with things so neatly tied in a bow, they don’t take it kindly when we begin to look at what some of the critics have had to say.

As mandated by the Regents for all State University of New York (SUNY) general education courses, it’s my obligation to improve critical thinking among my students.  In all history courses we’re supposed to help them look critically at their ingrained assumptions about how the world works—that is, the traditional political, social, and economic categories—and examine their deeply held beliefs about human nature.  Critical thinking, of course, extends to psychological history as well.  As part of this critique as regards group fantasy theory in particular, I share with students not only the criticisms of others but impressions based upon my own work.  In twenty years of research on the origins of the Second World War in Europe, I found no cyclical patterns of any kind, while my research on the US in the last thirty years has found no rigid, “lawful” cyclical patterns there either.  The evidence shows, I think, that most groups are pretty much in emotional “upheavals” all the time and move out of “crisis mode” by various devices, then back again as stress levels increase.

One can counter, as students sometimes do, that my above perception reveals little about the external world, but everything about myself, that like “all” psychological historians, I’m merely projecting my own stuff into the world, which I then call “history.”  Whether this critical viewpoint tells us how defended the other person might be, the fact remains that students regularly mention this idea.  It’s a notion that’s not likely to go away anytime soon and is something psychological historians have to live with.  I mention this because I’ve found it important not to dismiss the student’s statement out of hand, at least if we want to continue to have an audience.

It is better to acknowledge that the student’s statement contains at least a kernel of truth and that many, if not most, psychological historians would agree with it, at least in part.  Although on careful analysis, the writings of many narrative historians pay no more than lip service to the historicist dogmas they learned in graduate school, one cannot ignore subjectivity as part of the social sciences.  On the other hand, simply because something is “in here” does not mean it’s not “out there.”  Erikson’s notion of disciplined subjectivity persuasively argued that what’s in here can actually clue us to what’s out there.  The research topics we take on (and the sources we select to help unravel them) do to some extent reflect our own inner needs and conflicts, what I think Peter Petschauer means when he says, “the topic chooses us.”  That those sources and topics have objective, intrinsic, merit is also true, so it’s really a kind of two-way street.

Nor do we always start with ourselves.  We must go to the documents first.  But, as I tell my classes, since we are part of America, what we’re feeling and fantasizing may be a clue to what others are feeling and fantasizing.  Corroboration or disconfirmation, deciding on whether or not these personal impressions match group phenomena (and to what extent they match them), depends on several things, including all of us working as hard as we can to maintain awareness of our own biases, remaining committed to the discovery of our own blind spots, and, as always and as much as we can, allowing the documents to tell their own tales.

Students eventually appreciate various aspects of the group fantasy theory’s explanatory power and find some insights quite invaluable, including the idea of leaders as group fantasy delegates.  At the same time, they come to feel that deMause’s largely unproven connections to fetal and birth trauma (his “fighting fetuses” and “poisonous placentas”), his insistence that everyone in the group shares one group fantasy rather than several, his contention that leaders are mere delegates of the group fantasy and have little or no importance in themselves, his search for Immutable Laws of Universal Human Behavior, and his attempt to construct a “scientific” psychohistory, along with the overall rigidity of his model, limit its usefulness as an explanatory tool for a full understanding of messy reality.  For those interested, I recommend students to deMause’s The Emotional Life of Nations (2002), and to Dan Dervin’s Enactments: American Modes and Psychohistorical Models (1996).

This is a good time to show Sam Keen’s Faces of the Enemy, a documentary based on his book of the same name.  The film offers a slightly different take from deMause’s on group rage and the manufacturing of enemies and has the added advantage of containing several brief segments from an interview with Robert Jay Lifton.  This allows me to introduce some of Lifton’s psychohistorical work, say a word about his scholarship on nuclearism and the apocalyptic, and recommend his book (with Greg Mitchell) on Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial (1996).  I ask students to read an interview with him and assign several articles on apocalyptic groups written by other authors, which originally appeared in Clio’s Psyche.

As my classes try to make sense of the group fantasy theory and of groups in general, their discussions, predictably, almost always lead to several related topics, the role and functions of the media, the question of whether media violence begets more violence, and the group fantasy role of popular films.  Disentangling these things is not easy, and since nearly everyone has views about them—some very passionate—one can expect lively exchanges.  Sometimes those exchanges end up with students leaving the class confused and with the sense that all they’ve learned is that people disagree, which they already knew when they walked though the door on the first day of class.

To remedy these impressions, and to help students feel they’re actually learning something, I like to narrow the class’s focus and, after several freewheeling discussions, list on the board a particular subject’s logical limits.  Listing logical limits has its downside by forcing students to think only inside the box, but has the advantage of encouraging systematic, structured thinking, and in any case students are familiar with the technique since I’ve used it twice in the past, once in discussions of denial and once for the history of childhood.

When discussing denial earlier in the semester, I had pointed out that only three reactions are possible when one hears new information.  The person hearing the news says either: 1) Yes, the evidence convinces me; or, 2) I’m still unsure about it but will keep an open mind; or, 3) What I’m hearing is downright wrong.  If number 3 is the person’s response (that is, if the person rejects the information) only two further options remain: the person is correct, the information is wrong; or—as is more likely if the rejection is immediate, excited, dogmatic, and spontaneous—the person is in denial.  (To keep the likelihood of frequent denial fresh in students’ minds, this model needs repeating several times during the semester.)

As for the history of childhood, even before one looks at a single document or dips into the writings of a single historian—no matter what one’s opinion is at first or becomes later—long-term trends reduce to four fundamental options.  Either: 1) childhood has improved over time; 2) childcare has gotten worse over time; 3) childcare has stayed about the same; or, 4) childhood has gotten better or worse, depending on circumstances (the arrival of plagues, wars, or economic depression.)  It helps our understanding if we can think within this framework as we look at and critique the evidence.

(I realize what I’m explaining here may seem quite mundane, tedious, and obvious.  Still, I’ve been asked to describe what I do when I teach about groups and that’s what I’m describing.)

The themes that always seem to be spun off from freeform discussions of group psychohistory are several issues pertaining to the media generally and to violent images in particular.  To help students better structure their thinking, I offer three lists of logical possibilities on these topics, one each for the influence of the media, the functions of the media, and the question of media violence.

The influence of the media on group fantasy can be reduced to five logical options: 1) there is no influence; 2) the media manipulates us, putting images into our minds to which we respond; or 3), the exact opposite, that is, the media simply mirrors, or plays back to us, our collective conscious and unconscious wishes, impulses, and emotional issues; or, 4) both media and society are engaged in a dialogue, at once creating and mirroring our collective fantasies; or, option Number 5) which holds that either 1, 2, 3, or 4 are at work, depending on what specific historical events and media images are under discussion.  (I inform students that deMause holds view Number 3, their professor, view Number 4, and that what we should probably do each and every time is look at each situation case by case, that is, option Number 5.)

I remind students that most people deny their own participation in constructing group fantasy images and maintain the popular conviction that it’s the media doing things to us; we’re never responsible.  To counter this conventional wisdom, it helps to point out what I’ve heard in interviews with the heads of the television networks on many occasions.  Time and again they state their conviction that television’s job is to deliver an audience to a product, not the other way around; if America wants the New York Philharmonic 24 hours a day, they say, that’s what they’ll give us.  It’s really a question of the bottom line, advertising revenues driving programming, which in group fantasy terms means we are the ones telling the networks and cable stations what group fantasies we want to share when we tune to programs X, Y, or Z.

A striking example of this aspect of group fantasy comes from the cable news coverage of the shooting rampage in Virginia a couple of years back.  As authorities were beginning to close in on the snipers, there was a moment when CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News all ran the same image for several hours: producers inserted a picture of a tree stump outside a house somewhere in the Northwest—Seattle, I think it was—into the backdrop of another image, a convenience store-gas station in Virginia where the most recent shooting had taken place.  The feed was exactly the same for all three stations.  It went on, unchanged, for several hours.  When the producers at CNN decided they’d shift to some headline news—fearing they’d begin losing an audience growing tired of the same image—they were shocked when tens of thousands of viewers switched from CNN to those other stations.  It shortly returned to images of the tree stump and the convenience store-gas station, joining the other stations because that’s what Americans wanted.

The issue of the functions of the media is a related but separate question from how media influence group fantasies.  The functions of the media—economic, political, emotional—also reduce to a few logical options.  The media: 1) provides information; 2) offers entertainment; 3) distracts us from uncomfortable realities; 4) promotes particular political agendas; 5) employs intra-psychic defenses (rationalization, denial, displacement, projection, and so forth) to keep us in the dark and emotionally defended.  Things are played down, de-emphasized, the pretense maintained that certain things don’t exist, or we’re told certain issues have no answers, or we’re told the causes of certain things are so obscure they’ll never be known, or, if we are not told they can never be known, we’re treated to so many alternative theories that it amounts to the same thing.  While other functions can doubtless be added, I end my list with a sixth: the media circulates group fantasies so our inner life can be confirmed by outer images so that we are safe in the conviction that the world is really the way we imagine it to be, a necessity if we are to remain sane.

The third theme naturally emerging from discussions of group psychohistory is the connection between violent images and violent social behavior.  This can likewise be handled by reducing the question to three simple propositions, which help students focus.  Either: 1) violent images produce more violent behavior; 2) violent images produce less violent behavior; or, 3) violent images have no relationship whatsoever to violent behavior.  In discussions, hardly anyone opts for option 3—until we begin to wonder if video games count.  Since so many students continue to play them as young adults, one expects a certain degree of defensiveness in the discussion.

The consensus among Americans, of course, is that media violence produces more acting out.  There’s ample psychological evidence to support it, and sooner or later one of my students mentions the idea that repeated exposure to violent images de-sensitizes us, requiring ever more violent images to excite us.  And there’s psychological evidence for that too.

Predictably, when I mention the second listed option—that violent images can actually reduce the incidence of violent acting out—students begin to frown.  How, they wonder, can violent images reduce violence?

I explain this view by citing Martin Scorsese, quoted in a Time or Newsweek article sometime back, as saying that exposure to cinematic violence is largely therapeutic.  Through vicarious identification with the action, he says, the more violence an audience witnesses, the more it discharges pent-up rage; instead of going home and beating up your wife or girlfriend, you watch a cinematic surrogate do it for you.  This becomes a somewhat different but related question when we reframe it to ask: do pornographic images contribute to violence against women?  What happens when women are seen as body parts, not as human beings?  Is pornography causally connected to rape?  What does the class think and what do the scientific studies say?

Before moving on to our next large topic, a last area of group psychohistory and group fantasy needs to be highlighted, namely, the idea that popular films can be used as a way of identifying a group’s unconscious fantasy (or fantasies).  The topic usually generates much heat as well as lively discussion.  There’s nothing students find more upsetting than suggesting that films may provide possible roadmaps to their unconscious.  It often produces angry denials.

When that happens it’s worth reminding them that other kinds of psychohistorical statements also seem guaranteed to make students angry: any reference to religion as regressive, or calling prayer magical thinking, or pointing out that some people reject the very notion of the unconscious while giving credence to dubious ideas such as UFOs, UFO abductions, precognition, out-of- body experiences, telepathy, telekinesis, psychic readings, and past life regressions, or suggesting that someone in the class is in denial, or that what’s happening in class is the same as the irrational small-group dynamics we’ve been studying.  Experience has taught me that even the thought that popular films can offer clues to the disowned fantasies of large groups tends to produce the same reaction.

Denial runs deep since psychohistory goes to the very heart of the matter and to the very heart of the filmgoer—the student sitting in my class.  Mention that any current or past film favorite may contain group fantasy material and someone is sure to shout out, “That’s a good movie,” or “It’s my favorite movie,” as if that somehow disproves the contention.  The very thought that a film’s content may reveal something about our unconscious, that we inhabit a larger community in which each of us is unconsciously moving in unison like a flock of birds or a school of fish seems almost un-American.  Besides, we make choices as individuals, don’t we?  Well yes, I say, but then we find ourselves sitting in the cineplex watching this week’s blockbuster movie as millions of others across the country are viewing it at the same time.

Good movie or no, as psychological historians we’re looking for themes and images that cluster at particular times.  It’s not a question of whether you, or I, or a critic somewhere like the film.  It may in fact have superior merit as an aesthetic work of cinematic art, but that’s irrelevant here.  We’re interested only in looking at popular films that pull large audiences, not at their aesthetic merits.

I mention here the ongoing work of the Group for the Psychohistorical Study of Film, recommend Paul Monaco’s study of post-World War I French and German films, Cinema & Society (1976), and note that every Monday’s New York Times business section provides lists of the most popular films in terms of box office take as well as the top DVD purchases and rentals for the preceding week.  Not every popular film is necessarily an indicator of group fantasies, but some must be.

To advance the argument I note several things.  That we’re not necessarily talking about series films—the Godfathers, the Rocky series or Star Wars trilogies and prequels; all tend to be popular because of the followings they’ve generated.  Almost all horror films are popular, geared to teenage audiences, and do well at the box office.  It’s not the release of an isolated disaster film, for example, that clues us to the existence of a particular group fantasy so much as it is a slew of them appearing at the same time.  Titanic is one thing, but it looks more than coincidental when Dante’s Peak, Volcano, Independence Day, Twister, Deep Impact, and Apocalypse all appear about the same time.  Does this tell us anything about the apocalyptic fears (or wishes) we may be unconsciously experiencing at that moment?

Spielberg’s Jaws was enormously popular even in Iowa where the chances of meeting a Great White Shark were rather remote.  Does the popularity of Jaws tell us something about America’s devouring oral rage?  Why were the sequels, Jaws II and III, so poorly received at the box office?  Students reply almost always that the sequels weren’t as good as the original, a statement implying that a good film is a good film anytime, anywhere.  This allows mention of the fact that when Jaws opened in Paris (where American films are adored), it was a box office disappointment—it just wasn’t as emotionally compelling to the French that season as it was to Americans.  The same phenomenon holds true for Oliver Stone’s Platoon, winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, which, when shown at that year’s Berlin Film Festival, received hisses and boos before half the audience walked out.  One might object that this was because the Vietnam War wasn’t as compelling to a German audience as it was to a US audience, but that’s precisely the psychohistorical point.

From here one can point out that we need to be alert to film critics who can sometimes identify group fantasy trends (they usually make little of them psychohistorically) when they say things like, “this season there are a lot of films about fathers and sons,” or, “films these days are showing men as wimps and women on top,” or, “there are an awful lot of abandoned kids in movies these days.”  Class discussion naturally springs up over the possible symbolic meaning of our current favorites.  Right now I’m asking my students to consider the significance, if any, of this television season’s cluster of new shows—Surface, Invasion, and Threshold—on alien invasion themes, and if they’re any way emotionally connected to Spielberg’s recent film War of the Worlds. (Here’s a good place to assign Jacques Szaluta’s Clio’s Psyche essay on Steven Spielberg.)

That about brings my unit on the psychohistory of groups to a close.  But before I bring my essay to a close, I need to point out that one important approach to group psychohistory has been left out of these proceedings, Rudolph Binion’s several studies on the principles of trauma and traumatic reliving.  I keep Binion’s approach under wraps before unveiling it in the next and last unit of the course because his work on the traumatic causes of Hitler’s murderous anti-Semitism and on Nazi Germany’s traumatic compulsion to war work best there.  (The same holds for Peter Loewenberg’s classic study on the Nazi youth cohort, which students read in full in his Decoding the Past [1996], required reading, along with Binion’s Hitler Among the Germans [1976], for Psychohistory II.)

Students are ready for the next portion of the course because they are already familiar with Binion’s name, having met him in an interview and having read three of his short essays, on reductionism, on Bismarck, and on 9/11 and the early days of Gulf War II, as part of their required readings.  Students are already familiar with examples of individual and group traumatic reliving, with the idea of intergenerational transmission, including possible intergenerational transmissions of the consequences of trauma impacting on one, two, or three generations or more (the Holocaust, the Irish famine, the genocide of native Americans, slavery, the Black Death).  For those who want to go deeper into examples of group traumatic reliving, and for the several other kinds of group processes Binion examines, I’m prepared to recommend his new book, Past Impersonal: Group Process in Human History, just published by Northern Illinois University Press (2005).

These skills in place, my classes are now ready to turn their attentions to the strange and deadly world of Nazi Germany.

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