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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Claudia Nagel, September 2021

Dear ISPSO friends and colleagues,

Autumn (in the northern hemisphere now) and spring (in the southern hemisphere) are special seasons – they are about transition, change and development. Both have a special fragrance and you can smell them before you ‘see’ them.

Being in transition with our clients, helping, containing, supporting and advising them, is at the core of our task. And it feels like the world being in a huge transition, politically, socially and climate wise as well. And maybe ISPSO is also in transition, but we will talk about that in a moment.

Our corporate clients still deal with COVID19 and hybrid workplaces, although a large part of the jobs still must be executed physically, if you only think of doctors and nurses in hospitals, bus drivers, cooks, car assemblers, package delivery and so on. Yet, home office has been introduced to many more office jobs. Our clients also struggle with the need for more digitization while at the same time not giving up the analog world. We all grapple with the ethical questions arising from the opportunity to use more artificial intelligence.

Our individual clients suffer from fears and anxieties caused by corona, job loss, climate change, by the uncertainty of how to manage that ever faster moving life, the seductions of consumerism and its inherent self-optimization demands, and also with the loss of physical contact and containment by family, friends, neighbors, societies and corporations.

Our primary task is to study these developments from a psychoanalytic, psycho- and systems-psychodynamic and socio-dynamic perspective. We study this field to provide ourselves with insights to inform and improve our work with clients, individuals as well as organizations (I wish we would somehow also advise social systems leaders as nations, very few of us are involved that field, maybe that is also an important subject to think about). However, I have always wondered why we never talk with our clients about their perceptions of our world within the framework of ISPSO. Of course, we do talk with them as consultants, coaches and clinicians. But I mean, talking with them as ISPSO and inviting them to talk with us. So, one of my main visions (summarized under CONNECTION in my AM speech) for the future is to offer reflection days, conference days or workshops to which we invite this until so far underrepresented part of our ecosystem. I imagine a space in which we can reflect on major trends and issues in the sphere of organizations and which might help us and provide us with questions we want to answer from our special perspective – from an academic as well as practitioner lens. I am very curious to hear what you think and would like to invite you to let me know via my email if you would like to be part of that endeavor. I should add that the new ISPSO website coming out soon is also made to inform ‘the rest of the world’ and of course ourselves as well about ISPSO and the great members and the output they produce. We hope to attract more attention to our work by this.

The second big subject for me is our own capacity for equality, mutual respect and openness for otherness -summarized under INTEGRATION. As a first step we had a group of people organizing together with me the first anti-racism event in June. Out of that grew the need for more exchange about all kinds of discrimination. Recently you have received a call for contribution via the list-serve to form together with me a meta-reflection group about how to best organize this. The first idea is to have several smaller groups meetingd on different discrimination subjects meeting maybe monthly and coming together quarterly in a fish-bowl discussion. I am still looking for people who want to engage with this subject. Please let me know if you would like to participate. We are still looking for people who want to be part of this larger initiative.

The third important subject for me is GOVERNANCE. Our board consists of very interesting and very engaged personalities who all want to contribute to the wellbeing of our society, but our governance and our structures could be improved – also in order to create some more containment for us as board and by that also for the society as such. Over the next month we will rethink our governance structures, the roles and responsibilities of the board members as well as of committees such as the executive committee. This will then be integrated into the Handbook and – if necessary – into the Bylaws. We have also started to modernize our own board processes by now using MS Teams as main communication and information tool. We will also work together on our board culture and will start to think of a new ISPSO strategy which we can further develop all together maybe next year in Moscow.

Reading this I would say we have a lot to do with these major themes CONNECTION, INTEGRATION and GOVERNANCE. I had talked about them already in my first speech at the end of the AM Berlin.

Our society is continuously growing as are the expectations and hopes of our members. And technology offers new ways of working for us as well. Hybrid meetings such as the next AM 2022 in Moscow will become a genuine part of our meeting portfolio. And, of course online-events will continue to exist further. They have many advantages as they connect people from all over the world without traveling and climate impact. Yet face-to-face meetings will come back – we all know the power of real encounter and have experienced what we lack when only meeting online. The depth and the touching of the soul of a physical conversation can never be achieved online, and I would assume that you are as hungry as me to meet your dear, cherished, respected, loved and sometimes even admired colleagues and friends. Let us hope that this will be possible rather sooner than later for all of us.

I am enormously proud and happy to be your new president and I thank you for the trust you have given when electing me. I will serve as good as I can, and I hope to provide together with this fabulous board you as ISPSO members with what you need from ISPSO and what you expect.

Yours always and with warm regards


President ISPSO