The annual conference and PhD Course will take place at the Inter University Centre in Dubrovnik, Croatia, from 22–26 May 2023.

Theme: Basic assumptions and a world in crisis

In his seminal Experiences in Groups, the British object-relational analyst Wilfred Bion (1961) works psychoanalytic concepts into a delicate theory of human relationality and sociality – something he captured in the term “groupishness” (Schneider 2015, p. 416). Informed by his experiences as a doctor at a military psychiatric hospital during World War II, Bion saw the basic human need for, but also struggle with, sociality to lie in primitive phenotypical forms of reaction-formation that he located, not at the individual, but at the group level.

Wilfred BionBion (1961) identified three of these “basic assumptions,” as he called them, as predominant in shaping the character of a group, specifically, the basic assumptions of dependency, pairing and fight-flight. In a group in which dependency predominates, group members “think they need only wait for a single sustaining leader who will solve all their problems” (Bion, 1961, p. 82). In a group shaped by dynamics of pairing, “the group members participate in the creativity of a pair of individuals to produce a savior or saving idea, providing ‘a Messiah, be it a person, idea, or Utopia’” (Schneider 2015, p. 426, quoting Bion, 1961, p. 152). Finally, in a group in which the basic assumption is fight/flight, group members identify an enemy and group around either fighting this enemy or fleeing from them.

“The central feature of basic assumption behavior,” writes object-relational theorist Larry Hirshhorn (1990), “is the rapidity and ease with which groups take up and display these assumptions. They do not go through a process of group development; rather, the group magically creates a group culture or climate” (p. 57). All too quickly, groups are drawn to such magical forms of interaction in a primitive defence against the looming necessity to think and, as Bion put it, in “a hatred of having to learn by experience” (Bion, 1961, p. 89).

Building on – and departing from – Bion’s theory of group analysis, the 2023 annual meeting of the International Research Group for Psycho-Societal Analysis (SQUID) at the International University Center in Dubrovnik (Croatia) is dedicated to in-depth inquiries of group processes and ‘the group’ as a central relay station for psycho-societal and psychosocial thought in times of exacerbating crises, be they social, political, economic, or ‘anthropocenic.’ We will look into and seek to apply group analytical approaches at four levels: first, at the level of group theory in general (e.g., How does Bion’s approach differ from Foulkes and others?); second, at the more specific level of in-depth hermeneutics (e.g., How do group analytical approaches correspond and/or differ from Alfred Lorenzer’s conception of psychoanalytic hermeneutics and interpretation groups?); third, at the level of the challenges that these theories pose for reflections on our own “groupishness” (e.g., How does the ‘we’ of our own research group function? How can it be put to work in a careful and progressive way?); and fourth, at the level of wider questions about the world and our access to it (e.g., What does a focus on psychoanalytic group psychology tell us about the manifold human-made crises that human-beings, together with all living species, are currently facing?).


Bion, W. R. (1961), Experiences in Groups, London: Tavistock.

Hirschhorn, L. (1990), The Workplace Within – Psychoanalysis and Organizational Life, London and Cambridge MA: MIT.

Schneider, J. A. (2015), “Bion’s Thinking about Groups: A Study of Influence and Originality,”, The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, Volume LXXXIV, Number 2, 415–440.

For more information about the 2023 conference, please contact Head of the Executive Committee, Steffen Krüger (