Freud started the book Group Psychology and Ego Analysis with an in-depth summary of the topic of group psychology . He begins the work by summarizing the work of a renowned sociologist of his time. Freud agrees with much of the theories of this sociologist, known as Le Bon. He argues that the individual gains immense power of association with a group. Consequently, he postulates that the individual feels a security in the mass.
Freud argues that an individual takes away the security of being part of a group. However, this feeling of belonging leads to a loss of conscious individuals. Thus, any feelings within the group tend to have a great influence on them. The feelings that are transferred to the individual of the mass are then amplified and returned to the group.
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Freud seeks to examine in detail, this effect that a huge mass of people tends to have on the individual . He seeks to examine how the feelings and thoughts of complete strangers can end up having such a significant impact on an individual.
Freud refers strongly to Le Bon’s work. The two most significant ideas he borrows are that;
- First, the group seems to work in harmony. Consequently, a single incident within the group reverberates throughout the group and influences its action. However, if the same individual is placed in isolation , his behavior and mannerism would be completely different from how he reacts in the group.
- Second, he also raises the point proposed by Le Bon, where a group is a being formed for a particular purpose.
He later continues to quote Le Bon in his theories about hypnosis and contagion in group psychology . He describes this contagion as the effect that an individual in the group has on the other members who are in the group. He also agrees with Le Bon’s statement that the group makes the individual express his most intimate desires without any inhibitions. Thus, he suggests that the individual in the group is driven by primitive instincts , something that would not be possible if the individual were in isolation. Consequently, he uses this as an explanation of why individuals who would normally stay calm become violent and uncontrollable in groups. It is because group psychology draws the primal being in them .
He then turns Le Bon’s attention to the group. He argues that a group is highly influenced by images and highly uncontrollable. In addition, he argues that the group, as a being, is impulsive and very intolerant. He argues that the only way to control the group is through extremes. According to him, the group only listens to the extremes of anything. In addition, he proposes that the group wants to be governed. However, he notes that Le Bon does not much explore the issue of leadership within the group, but he is impressed by Le Bon’s description of the leader having a hypnotic influence on the mass.
Freud goes further into the question of leadership , which he considers Le Bon does not adequately highlight. This is because he wants to find what it is that holds the group together. He postulates that relationships based primarily on the emotion of love are the key to bonding individuals together in the group. He suggests that in order for the individual to mix with the group, he has to give up something. Consequently, the individual abandons his individual tastes and inhibitions that make up his personality. In this way, he is able to handle the demands of the group.
In order to identify what really holds the group together, he began a careful examination of the armies and the church . He postulates that individuals are coerced into joining these two groups. However, defecting from such a group has an enormous cost to the individual. He also notes that a single individual holds these groups together. In the Church , Christ is the leader and his love is equal to all his followers. He suggests that this belief in equality of love is fundamental to maintaining cohesion in the group. Because of this, individuals are able to unite with one another. In fact, Freud notes that people in the church tend to see themselves as family. In the army, he notes that this structure is the same. The only difference is that this structure is divided into different types of units.
He notes that churches and armies represent long-term groups. However, he claims that there is another group that is short-lived and intended for a particular purpose. He adds that both are still the same and the dynamics of the group are all quite similar. For an individual to overcome his own narcissism and become part of a group, the discussion about identification deepens. He argues that all individuals identify with each other in the group. In the group, and the individual returns to his primitive nature. During this period, he argues that the primal horde was held in place by a feeling of unity, there was no individual thinking and all individuals flowed like a wave ( remember the film? ).
To close this work, he returns to the argument about the primal horde. He argues that, during this primitive grouping, the father figure forced his children into a group by denying them the privileges of mating. Consequently, these children came together and killed their father for that right. However, with the father dead, an individual had to master his courage and free himself from the group. In doing so, he took on the tribe’s leadership mantle.