Answering Freud

March 5, 2013 |  by

In Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1922), Sigmund Freud put a question to Gustave Le Bon. Actually, three of them:

What, then, is a ‘group’? How does it acquire the capacity for exercising such a decisive influence over the mental life of the individual? And what is the nature of the mental change which it forces upon the individual?

It is the task of a theoretical Group Psychology to answer these three questions.

Le Bon never answered (as far as I know), so let’s take a shot at it.

  1. What, then, is a ‘group’? A group consists of people who share a belief, idea or goal. Beliefs and goals are really just ideas, so we can simplify: A group consists of people who share a common idea.
  2. How does it acquire the capacity for exercising such a decisive influence over the mental life of the individual? Individuals want to be part of groups. It’s our natural state. To gain acceptance, we (consciously and unconsciously) act like others in the group.
  3. And what is the nature of the mental change which it forces upon the individual? Only unconscious changes are forced. Individuals tend to think, feel and act more similarly in groups than on their own. Neural networks of individuals in groups will sync and resonate with each other.
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