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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021



The Psychedelic Balcony: Phantastic Object or Simply Fantastic?

Presenter: Courtney Rennicke

Given psychedelics varied history as the gateway to consciousness expansion, tool for covert government intelligence operations, illegal drug, mascot for creatives, as well as new cornerstone of wellness culture (Breen, 2024), the current study aims to explore the possible unconscious societal undercurrents that have supported their reentry into our zeitgeist. In a world reeling with existential threats due to climate change, artificial intelligence (A.I.), and mental health crises, among many other challenges, have psychedelics come again to save us, help us cope or disconnect us from our overwhelm? Data for this study will be collected through ethnographic methods of field notes and individual interviews (Long, 2018), as well as through a series of listening posts (Khaleelee & Stapley, 2018) with consultants, coaches, leaders, and mental health professionals who are tasked with catalyzing individual change or organizational transformation.

Despite the plethora of articles, podcasts, and videos touting the use of psychedelics in leadership and organizational transformation (Cook, 2023; Dawn, 2023; Marshall, 2022; Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2023; Petzinger, 2017; Singh, 2022; TNW, 2017), and the accumulating data in the field of psychiatry that psychedelics can provide documented healing effects for posttraumatic stress disorder (Mitchel et al., 2023), addictions (Calleja-Conde et al., 2022; Noller et al., 2018), anxiety associated with cancer and terminal illness (Grob et al., 2022), and major depressive disorder (Davis et al., 2021; Gukasyan et al., 2022; Singh et al., 2016) there has been little study done to date exploring psychedelics in the realm of systems psychodynamics. This study builds on the foundation of the “the work” (Petriglieri & Petriglieri, 2022) of systems psychodynamics thinking and its lineage of psychically moving up to “the balcony” or peering through “night vision” goggles (Van de Loo & Lehman, 2017/2022) in order to gain a perspective with sufficient depth and nuance. It acknowledges that those both tasked with assessing and catalyzing change and those they are serving have all long experimented with how to expand their perceptual capacities with practices like meditation and, more recently, with the resurgent use of psychedelics (Gordon, 2023; Simonsson et al., 2023).

This investigation into psychedelics potential role in the systems psychodynamics of our civilization’s discontents will be held in a dialectic between what is currently known about their “fantastic” properties from neuropsychological and psychiatric perspectives (Hipolito, 2023; Carhatt-Harris et al., 2014; Carhartt-Harris & Friston, 2010) and the ways in which they may have become a receptacle for societal projections as “phantastic objects” (Tuckett & Taffler, 2008). This study will inquire if psychedelics have something “real” to offer us in their purported capacity to help get us unstuck from our perceptual ruts and predictable human limitations for novel associations in a complex world. And, if they do, what does that have to do with their sometimes exalted or reviled cultural status? Lastly, do psychedelics’ potentially “phantastic” status offer something generative as well, even for those who have no actual experience with them?

Biographical Summary

Courtney Rennicke, Ph.D. is currently completing a degree in systems psychodynamics at INSEAD and is a Columbia University trained clinical psychologist, who founded a group practice, Rennicke & Associates, specializing in attachment-focused family psychotherapy for adopted children in New York City. Dr. Rennicke is a Certified Trainer in Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy © (DDP) and teaches mental health professionals working in child welfare around the world about how to support children’s healing from developmental trauma, including in Australia, Czech Republic, Greece, Kenya, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In addition to certification in DDP, Dr. Rennicke has received advanced training in Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) for relational work with adults. Dr. Rennicke has also supervised and taught psychology externs, social workers, post-doctoral fellows and psychiatry residents in a range of treatment modalities at New York University/Bellevue Hospital, Columbia University, and Yeshiva University.


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