Theory underlies or underpins all practice. Gestalt notoriously has no avowed theory of group behavior; nevertheless, theory is discernable in the way Gestalt training and therapy groups are managed. This article traces group theory from its possible primitive beginnings, through the often contradictory schools of European and United States thinkers and their relevance to Gestalt group and organizational work. It stresses the indivisibility of individual and group and thus, the political nature of all action. It also comments on the contexts of time and culture that alter the application of group theory.

My hope is that this short paper reminds you of some of the roots you can trace in your version of a Gestalt group. The root theories I speak of are probably major influences through many schools of psychotherapy. What is left out, what is added, becomes a telling comment not just on any practitioner, but on the changing zeitgeist from country to country and decade to decade.

Groups of different tasks and sizes work in different ways. Small groups have more occasions for intimacy. Large groups have more to do with power. All have a profound effect on the human psyche, and on how we exercise our competitive and our cooperative natures. The more understanding we have of that, the better our chances of making a polis, a society that functions for the good of the people in it. That is the wider application of counseling and therapy that perhaps needs to be more recognized.

I have done my best to stay with the underground, the buried roots, by hich I mean some that are many decades back and consequently, adapted or partially remembered or applied. In Serge Ginger's image, I trust that these roots are growing as Gestalt theory grows. And I will do my best to steer off very recent material.

In 1972, Paul Goodman wrote, “We exist mainly, though not altogether, in community relations. To be a private individual is largely pathological.” He did immediately add, “for a society to act as a collective is largely pathological” (1972, p. 65).

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