The Department of Motor Vehicles is a state agency.  If you have a problem with the DMV you have to take that up with the state government.  If you write your Congressman about the problem, he will write back to you: “Sorry, that’s a state matter.  It falls outside my federal jurisdiction.  Contact your state officials.”

But that’s not entirely correct.  Conceivably, a problem with the DMV could involve the federal government.  For example, if the DMV commits a federal civil rights violation, the federal government will get involved.


This points to an important issue about entities that have given up a portion of their autonomy to a group.  Whenever you deal with an entity that has given up a portion of its autonomy to a group, the group will always be hovering in the background.  You can’t escape the group — it is always present.

The same principle applies to groups of people.  When a group of people, say in the workplace, have formed a group — say for example, a basic assumptions group, as the group theorists would say — individuals in the group have given up a portion of their autonomy (their individuality) to the group.  As Dr. Kernberg has said: “On the basis of observations of small groups, large groups, and mobs, I propose that group processes in general pose a basic threat to personal identity . . .”  (Read also: “A state’s membership in the federal union poses a basic threat to States Rights.”)

This is not a conscious process.  People do not huddle together and decide to give up a portion of their autonomy.  It is an unconscious process.  Individuals who are group oriented, who participate in group process, give up a portion of their autonomy unconsciously.

My therapist says that I should be friendly with people in groups and then they wouldn’t scapegoat me.  That’s not entirely correct in a situation in which the group is a fight-flight basic assumptions group and I am an outsider.  The fight-flight group fights against and shuns outsiders.  Group members have not willfully decided to do that, they have not conspired to do that; it’s an unconscious process.  An outsider who is shunned by a group can no more be friends with a group member than Canada or Mexico can enter into a trade agreement with the state of New Jersey — trade agreements are a purely federal function.

When an outsider has dealings with a group member the group is always hovering in the background — at least unconsciously — in the group member’s mind, just as the federal government is always hovering in the background when it comes to the DMV, even though the DMV seems to be a purely state function.