Group therapy can be beneficial for some clients, at least that’s what we are told and that’s what participants say. It seems like a relatively inexpensive modality, so why has the Jungian lineage been opposed to it? Individuation is a process of exploring one’s inner world with the facilitation of a mentor/therapist. The therapist has experience in the process and knowledge of the world’s symbolic expressions of the spiritual domain. (Jung called this domain the collective unconscious.) Myths, legends, spiritual texts, and traditions provide the context within which spontaneous images intrude upon our conscious life. Dreams are the main vehicles of communication. The Source of dreams, the inner Divine Self, is the only accurate mirror by which the individual has to see him/herself. The Self uses the same multitude of images to communicate with all humans on the planet. This Indwelling Self/Spirit also attracts people to us who are on paths similar to our own. So it would seem reasonable that getting together with a group of like minded people would be beneficial.
I recently read Marie-Louise von Franz’ comments on the social function of the Self. She says, ” bonds with other people are produced by the Self and these relations are very exactly regulated as to distance and closeness. . . Each person gathers around him his own “soul family,” a group of people not created by accident or by mere egoistic motivation but rather through a deeper, more essential spiritual interest of concern: reciprocal individuation. . . This kind of relationship, by way of the Self, has something strictly objective, strangely transpersonal about it. It gives rise to a feeling of immediate, timeless “being together.” There exists no individuation process in any one individual that does not at the same time produce this relatedness to one’s fellowmen.” (p. 177, Projection and Re-Collection in Jungian Psychology: Reflections of the Soul, 1980) Here occurs a footnote, which I found very intense. She says, “this is why group therapy and “self-experience” groups are so harmful. Composed artificially, they obscure the working of the Self in the individual and encourage in its place shameless projections, aggressions, egotism, and narcissistic self-mirroring.” (note 49, page 229)
She hit the target there. Most groups aren’t composed of people who are drawn together by the Self. They are composed of random people with a common interest. Power struggles arise, with some people vying for attention from the leader and others undermining the process. The things which get projected onto one another in groups are “shameless” and very difficult for the facilitator to resolve. That’s been my experience in mental health venues. Dream circles drawn together by the Self are different, but the few times a well intentioned participant brought a friend, the group quickly degenerated. This is one of those things you have to experience in order to understand. Jung, his circle, and his lineage are people drawn to their art by the Divine which dwells within us. There are certain patterns of which we become aware. The social function of the Self is one of them. We become magnets for like minded people. They are drawn to us and we to them. They comprise our soul family.