The foundation matrix

Scholz, R. (2011). The foundation matrix and the social unconscious. In E. Hopper & H. Weinberg (Eds.), The social unconscious in persons, groups, and societies, Vol. 1. Mainly theory (pp. 365–385):

“This chapter contains an attempt to conceptualize ideas on transpersonal, supra-individual processes, usually referred to as “the social unconscious”, suggesting that it might be fruitful to revert to S. H. Foulkes’s notion of the “foundation matrix”. The concept understands individual and group as one single and inseparable process in which biological, social, cultural, and economical factors meet, based on ongoing communication. This chapter tries to work out these ideas without drowning the individual in the social or treating societies as though they were persons: in other words, to work on the endeavor of a group analytic idea of unconscious processes in which the multiple actors are constitutive.

After outlining dimensions of content that constitute the foundation matrix, I will enlarge the meaning of “communication” to include actions and the body as carrying meanings. I will also consider the time dimension of the “foundation matrix”. The unconscious is not a reservoir of eternal topics, released from the laws of time and space. Unconscious life has a special relation to time and has its special media. I try to stress the role of embodied memories and values, the significance of family talks, and that of externalizations such as books, museums, and rituals, as well as places, making a distinction between communicative and cultural memory, emphasizing the fact that personal memories emerge from, and are based in, collective memories.

I also argue that the foundation matrix pertains to group cohesion, as shared memories, stored and passed on by different modes, are vital for the duration of social entities. This aspect is then discussed referring to collective traumata, identifying them as “hot spots” in a foundation matrix and as very powerful group markers, connecting people in shared emotions, unconscious fantasies, and defenses. It could be an interesting question—and perhaps decisive in de-escalating international conflicts—to outline other factors of group cohesion and to which degree or in what situations individuals are dependent on it.”

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