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

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

10

Intensive group and social systems treatment of psychotic and borderline patients

Marvin R. Skolnick


EDITORS' INTRODUCTION

Skolnick's contribution is unique in this volume in addressing the social and political issues which influence treatment modalities. All groups are indeed part of the 'body politic'. This consciousness is consistent with Skolnick's emphasis on community and the role of institutions and intergroup relations deriving from his long involvement with the A.K. Rice Institute. One can also see Skolnick's deep commitment to healing and providing care to the mentally ill while at the same time recognizing their deep layers of genuineness and their implicit critique of the normative social 'madness'. In that respect, he has formulated an important new way of looking at therapeutic community, synthesizing social psychology, Miller and Rice's 'Systems of Organization' and the Winnicottian and Bionian concepts of a holding and containing environment.

What follows is rich with clinically relevant theoretical perspectives as well as detailed case examples of how the small- and large-group processes of the therapeutic community facilitate constructive dialogue and emotional development in the face of the powerful conflicts and dilemmas attendant on treating severe psychopathology.

Wagner's Ring cycle can be understood as a mythic drama of human development (Donington, 1979). In these operas, the supreme god Odin orders Brunhilda to be put into a death-like sleep and surrounded by a ring of fire as punishment for a differentiating act that defies the established order of the gods. Sigfried reaches Brunhilda by braving the ring of fire and brings her back to life, revitalizing the developmental process. One might think of the sleeping Brunhilda as any individual whose efforts at growth and differentiation have misfired into catastrophic states of breakdown incurring social quarantine. Interventions, as seen with the seriously mentally ill,

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