Objects Of Desire: Sexuality, the Individual and the Group Morris Nitsun Consultant clinical psychologist, Camden and Islington NHS Mental Health Trust, and group analyst, the Institute of Group Analysis, London Images of Sexuality in Art Expression of desire and sexuality in visual art a reflection of changing cultural norms in different societies Pompei fresco Egon Schiele Goya – The Naked Maja Francis Bacon Japan – The Floating World Jeff Koons Indian erotic drawings Thomas Ruff Turkish erotic manuscripts The Culture Of Group Psychotherapy • The overall field as a cultural context • The culture of a specific therapy group • Sexuality as an aspect of the culture • Therapist’s sexual context • Values as integral part of cultural norms What People Talk About – and not – in Group Psychotherapy • Public and private selves • Fears of exposure and judgement • Shame – the gap between public and private • All psychotherapy potentially shaming – group more so? • Regulating influence of shame in groups • Challenging norms and assumptions Sex as a Spoken Subject • • • • • • • • Both universal and highly individual The most difficult to talk about in groups? Sex and the body Non-verbal – difficult to mirror Intensity of sexual desire Need for the other Incompleteness of sexuality Transgressive aspects Narratives of Desire Different perspectives on the place of desire in human experience Plato Freud Lacan Relational psychoanalysis Buddhism Sex and Psychoanalysis • Sexuality and the origins of psychoanalysis • Most detailed and elaborate theory of sexuality • Discrepancy between theoretical emphasis and practice • Fears of enactment • Normative approach – pathologizing • Liberalizing and restraining • Desexualization of psychoanalysis • Bifurcation – psychosexual therapy Sex in Group Psychotherapy • Opposite to psychoanalysis – practically no discourse • Very wide range of practice • Challenging voices – Burman, Moeller • Uncritical absorption of dominant values and norms • Lack of framework creates ambiguity and uncertainty Changes in the Sexual Landscape • • • • An expanded sexual universe Greater openness about sexuality Increased acceptance of sexual diversity Ensuring problems – addiction to internet pornography inter-generational differences conservative backlash • Challenge to – oneself as person, as therapist psychotherapy in general group psychotherapy The Group as an Object of Desire • Can a group be an object of desire? • The Anti-group Negative attitudes and enactments that undermine the therapeutic task Fears of intimacy and exposure Bowden’s research (2002) • Double perspective of desire expressed in group and group as desirable • How do we create a framework that strengthens this aspect of the group? Parameters of sexuality in the group • The embodied group The body of the group ‘Highly charged libidinal network’ (Moeller) ‘Theatre of desire’ (Tylim) Non-verbal communication • The erotic imagination • Dynamic levels Conscious and unconscious / fantasy • Group morality The super-ego and social restraints Necessary and unnecessary restraints Developing a model of sexuality in the group • • • • From critical super-ego to benign authority The group as witness Re-contextualizing intimacy The sexual self – social dimensions The individual sexual self The relational sexual self The social sexual self • The possibility of social reconstruction The group therapist • Major influence on the sexual discourse • Therapist morality Blind spots / prejudice Relationship to diversity Self-reflection • Therapist sexuality Degree of comfort / discomfort • Paradoxical role Dynamic administrator plus object and subject of desire • Dealing with shame Institutional issues • Recognition of desire and sexuality in group therapy training Recognition or lip-service? • Trainees’ experience in own group therapy? • Supervision • Institutional dynamics Enactment of denied or repressed sexuality Scapegoating Ethical considerations • Need for appropriate boundaries • What constitutes transgression? • Risks of “safe analysis” • Encapsulation of the erotic narrative • Ethical to minimize or deny an area of such personal significance?