Fritz Perls: Quotes on Therapy in Groups

Fritz Perls on his work with groups:

“Basically I am doing a kind of individual therapy in a group setting, but it is not limited to this; very often a group happening happens to happen.”

group therapy

… on mind-fucking:

“Usually I interfere if the group happening comes merely to mind-fucking (…) ping-pong game, (…) opinion exchanges, interpretations, all that crap.”

to Perls, a group is wonderful if:

“If they are giving their experience, if they ae honest in their expression…”

Perls on helpfulness in groups:

“Often the group is very supportive, but if they are merely “helpful,” I cut them out. Helpers are con men, interfering.”

Basically, to Perls, the group should be a supportive place for people to share their experiences, and to take in each other’s experiences. Being helpful by giving advice, intellectualizing (or mind-fucking), is not being supportive, but actually blocks the other person from developing new means to deal with the world.

This snippet is cited from this book (introduction to dreamwork seminar):

Bion: The Function of Myths in Groups

A group is not an aggregate of individuals. It’s a body that has a mental state and creates a phantasy.

The group produces its own mythology. When the group work is focused on primary functioning, in problem solving, this causes the surfacing of anxiety. Myth has function. It acts as mediator from the mother – infant position to society.

From narcissism (living as only me) to socialism (living as part of society). Myth generates reaction and response because it connects the inner worlds of people. Myths can also be changed. Psychomythology.

Myths are used by the mother to explain “facts of life”.  It provides a illusion that answers the questions of the child and solves his/her developmental problems in understanding the self and world around him/her.

Parent-child transferences are re-played by individuals in groups. Family stories are re-told through unconscious acting out in groups.

Myths also occur in “work” & “non-work” transition.

External influences that change the group pose challenges to status quo of the group. This makes the group conscious of itself. Arrival of a new member, e.g., creates this kind of uncertainty and awareness.

This is a fright-flight response*, but with decorum. The new member is instructed then implicitly how to tow the line.

The task of making contact with the emotional life of the group is like the contact between mother and child. Breast mother family group. The chapter in this book describes an interesting case study of a group therapy, in whicha new member enters the group (Garland 2003).



Bion describes the situation that unfolds when the group is left without a leader. The leaderless group is displaced by one of the following: 

baD: Basic Assumption Dependency –> the need for an omnipotent omniscient leader (a kind of God).

baP: Basic Assumption Pairing –> Group members support tactically a  pairing, with a basic assumption that something good is going to come out of it (like a primal scene).

baF: Basic Assumption Fright Flight –> there is need for rational leadership. If the ability to reason fails, the group plunges into anxiety and hatred.There is regression, and a need to hold onto magical thinking. The group finds the man/woman that has marked paranoid tendencies (Carveth, 2017).


Carveth, D. (2017). THE TRUMP EFFECT: Freud’s and Bion’s Group Psychologies. Youtube video: .

Garland, C. (2003). Group Therapy, Myth in the Service of Work. Mawson, C. (Ed.). Bion today. Routledge. p. 298-316.