Ring of Fire: Primitive Affects and Object Relations in Group Psychotherapy

By Victor L. Schermer; Malcolm Pines | Go to book overview

2

Between theory and practice, light and heat

On the use of theory in the 'Ring of Fire'

Victor L. Schermer


EDITORS' INTRODUCTION

Co-editor Victor Schermer offers in what follows a guided tour and critique of the variety of theoretical constructs utilized in Ring of Fire. Schermer argues that the 'modernist' view in which logical and consistent scientific theory reflects the nature of an orderly, lawful universe is being supplanted by a 'postmodernist' emphasis on diversity, incompleteness, uncertainty, chaotically disorganized elements and catastrophic change and transformation. In group theory and therapy, global theoretical frameworks and schools of thought are being replaced by the use of multiple theories to achieve perspective and containment within the living group.

Schermer first examines several group-as-a-whole theories. He reviews the seminal contributions of Freud, Bion, Foulkes, Lewin and Miller and Rice and then looks at contemporary systems theory.

There follows a perspective on contemporary schools of psychoanalysis: Kleinian, British Independent school, Kohutian self psychology, and the psychoanalytic contributions of Bion. Emphasis is placed throughout on the way each chapter of Ring of Fire employs group-as-a-whole and psycho analytic concepts to elucidate specific group situations.

As co-editor of this volume with Malcolm Pines, it is my opinion that readers will be impressed with the diversity of concepts and theories which the contributors have brought to bear upon group psychotherapy, as well as their combination of clinical sophistication and empathic attunedness to be seen in the way each author has used his or her theoretical frame in the treatment context. Such themes, variations, and applications of conceptual schema have called, in my view, for a commentary on the current multiplicity of theories and their relationship to the practice of group psychotherapy.

What follows is an attempt to provide such an orientating framework. I would like briefly to review and examine the various authors' key theoretical

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