In my fifties I’m still aware of the constant struggle that I and those around me have to break out of the role that their original family gave them. Perhaps an older sibling given part as nurturing parent or youngest to be rubber-ball Labrador emotional sink?
I read a commentary on Wilfred Bion’s group work recently (extract below) and in an epiphany I realised that we are kept in these roles partly because new groups sense them and through projective identification seek to keep us there. Indeed groups probably natural form around the nucleus of individuals given roles.
Nicola Glover writes:
At the Tavistock Clinic, Bion worked with small groups of patients to help clarify group tensions, Bion stressed the importance of the emotional reactions of the observer who is often made to experience certain forms of projective identifications, from the members of the group who wish to cast him in the role of say, teacher, consultant, or parental figure. Bion deals with this by refusing to take on these roles assigned to him by the group. He describes the group’s resulting exasperation, confusion and anger, as he objectively and impassively witnessed their behaviour, noticing that there often followed a re-instatement of some willing – and usually authoritative – person who would be prepared to carry out the roles designated to him or her, depending on the ‘basic assumption’ of the group.
Certainly I can identify with the anger in a group when you “don’t play the game” you don’t adopt your given role.
The answer surely is to ENTER new groups with a different role, by acting in a new way? Tough, but surely better and more interesting than continuing to recreate your group of origin as infinitum?