Men of Fort Story operate an azimuth instrument, to measure the angle of splash in sea-target practice. 1942. (reversed)

Note: Basic Assumption MeNess (ba M)

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I found this discussion of baM in interesting and perhaps relevant in the recent sex scandal cases in the Roman Catholic Church. Although cases have predated Vatican II. It also seems relevant or illuminating in the changes within the American Evangelical churches. I have discussed the need for certitude, and found it interesting that Lawrence & co. touch on this in a way that was related.

They postulated a fifth “basic assumption group” in addition to the three from Bion and the one added later by Turquet: “Basic Assumption MeNess” (baM).

The article is rather thick going, or perhaps the field is simply too foreign for me.

The first inklings of baM came from the experience of working with religious (nuns and priests) on a series of action research projects 20 years after Vatican II. During these projects Lawrence had the first glimpses of the phenomenon we now call baM. The key factor in all these action research projects was that the majority of the known structures of the religious life had been removed because of Vatican II. At the time, Lawrence was preoccupied with the existential crisis that religious were in and wrote that they were experiencing the loss of a social world which had been ordered, regular, and had a purpose. While this loss was a release for some because it brought freedom-as expressed in liberation theology, for instance — for a great many it was causing feelings of grief and mourning. We can argue against the quality of religious life before Vatican II and give evidence to show that it had many disadvantages in terms of the human development of religious because the emphasis was on baD. That is secondary to our main point which is that, whatever its quality, the then structures of religious life provided a container into which uncertainty could be projected and certitude received back, or introjected. With the erosion of these structures indivduals were driven back into themselves, within their own personal boundaries, as the only sure anchor in a world of uncertaintv (Lawrence, 1985b). With hindsight it can be interpreted that religious were thrown into baM as a mode of survival.

As time has passed one can see that this baM experience became for some a necessary, temporary, basic assumption for it has allowed many nuns and priests to come to redefine the religious life as in, for example, their taking of the ‘option for the poor’. This has enabled them to redefine their apostolates and change their lifestyle accordingly. So they have been able to reaffirm themselves in the new versions of the religious life which are now more orientated to revelation through the processes of interpreting the Word in the light of the changing circumstances in the environment. There is, then, a sophisticated use of baM which can lead to a redefinition of Work and new activities to further that work.

[From “The Fifth Basic Assumption” [PDF], Free Associations (1996) Volume 6, Part 1 (No. 37): 2855, by W. Gordon Lawrence, Alastair Bain, and Laurence Gould]

Image Credit: Men of Fort Story operate an azimuth instrument, to measure the angle of splash in sea-target practice. 1942. Via Library of Congress. (reversed)

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