Notes on Meeting No.1 of Safeguard Group
Meeting No.1, 9th November 1968.
Purpose To enquire into the purposeful uses of knowledge of the psychological behaviour of groups and to recommend safeguards against misuse.
A family or committee is a group in which psychological dynamics occur naturally and it is not our intention to examine these. Rather our interest is in situations where the knowledge of group behaviour is applied deliberately to achieve some specific objective, such as training.
Situations where deliberate application is made:-
"Laboratory" Training, Leadership "Conferences",
Collaborative groups (e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous)
Interviews, Thought Reform.
Organisations using group techniques (U.K.):-
The Church. C. of E. Council for Education, Christian Teamwork, Leadership Training Institutes, Dioceses of Chelmsford and Guildford (St. Albans from May, 1969)
Industry. Large companies generally. Esso integrated crews in particular.
Universities. Manchester, Leicester (?)
Institutes. National Institute for Industrial Psychology, Tavistock.
Services. Army (Aird?)
Government. Board of Trade (?)
The use of group techniques can be beneficial. There is no case for proscribing them.
We cannot tell if Christ used group dynamic techniques. Scientific knowledge of psychology of group behaviour relatively recent, therefore only recently could be conscious.
(Experiments) Unconscious use O.K. (natural versus artificial conflict).
Must not affect sanctity of individual. Even God, asks to enter our lives. He does not force himself on us. Deliberate manipulation without our knowledge is not acceptable. The Christian way is conscious persuasion within a loving relationship.
Should group dynamic techniques be used on a person who does not see eye to eye with his colleagues? Acceptable if that person consents in full knowledge of what is involved. Change may, however be undesirable. He may be a prophet without honour . . . . The Saints might never have been if made to conform.
The washing of the disciples' feet by Christ was an indication of true leadership. Has it lessons for us in the interchangeability of managers and workers?
The baring of the soul in group dynamic sessions is like an open confession. It brings about a state of spiritual nudity. The Church has evolved strict safeguards in confession, which is also followed by absolution. Is there a parallel here to be followed in the case of group dynamics?
Overstress Group dynamic sessions induce severe mental stress. One participant in an industrial scheme ended up in an asylum. Another had a nervous breakdown. One member of Safeguard Group was greatly stressed and suffered from indigestion for three months - but thought it worthwhile. On one course in the U.S.A. participants were worked very hard till late at night, spent a disturbed night, then woken early to find that the kitchen doors had been locked against them.
Inadequacy of expert supervision is a major problem. Anyone can organise a group dynamic course.
Comparison with physical exercise. If voluntary and carried out to the point of tiredness - acceptable and beneficial. Exhaustion is however detrimental. If permission is not given it becomes physical assault. Surgical operations are probably in a more advanced state than "mental" operations.
Subversion Application of knowledge of group behaviour can be used to control or brainwash rather than train. Such an application may be represented as training. Much information becomes available about a person which could be used to his detriment by an unscrupulous trainer.
Conditioning. Thought reform, indoctrination, etc. is carried out in some countries on a group basis.
Careful selection of group members.
Full explanation of risks and consequences.
Consent by trainee.
Trainer to have adequate qualifications and experience.
Supervision of trainers required, also verification of integrity.
Strict confluence to be maintained.
Agreed basis for checking stress.
Recognition of need to care for individuals.
The techniques of persuasion: J.A.C. Brown: Pelican
Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: R.J. Lifton: Pelican
T-Group Theory and Laboratory Method: Bradford, Gibb, Benn: Wiley
Learning for Leadership: A.K. Rice: Tavistock.