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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

A Search for New Partners or an Invitation to join a Harem? The interplay of emotion and structure in the expansion process of a consulting firm

Based on detailed descriptive material from a three-day consultation workshop, whose primary task it was to manage the expansion process from a 'family-type company' to a structured corporation of partners, this paper explores the role of emotions, conflict and unconscious phantasy inherent in such a process. The company involved, itself engaged in the work of training and consultation, proved quite psychologically-minded, and thus particularly amenable to a psychoanalytically oriented approach.Our aim is to show that in the context of the dynamics of group life, not only individual and/or group conflicts, but also seemingly rational structural problems are experienced at a 'primitive' emotional level, that is as elemental emotional phenomena in the inner world of the individuals and in the life of the group in question. These phenomena find their form and are expressed as unconscious phantasies. Although such phantasies can serve as defences against facing such structural problems, the paper demonstrates that people need to be able both to experience and reflect upon these dramatic and emotionally highly charged aspects of their basic psychodynamic 'scripts' in order to access the psychic energy, the passion and the commitment necessary for the making of strategically risky decisions and the performance of difficult tasks. Further the paper shows how emotional entanglement at an unconscious level prevents proper thought and action at the structural, strategic and economic levels. However, as we must restrict ourselves to addressing the question of the particular role which emotions play in organisational life, these other equally important aspects of the consultancy are mentioned only briefly.'