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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Emotional Communications of Transference and Countertransference as an Instrument of Working with Organizational Unconscious Defenses in the Format of Psychoanalytic Business Coaching.

Modern business organizations face challenging dilemmas in how they choose to act in the new reality of low stability and high volatility providing their businesses with every opportunity to keep running sustainably and bring dividends to the shareholders. The current business context undeniably demonstrates the ever growing precariousness and unpredictability that make the use of formerly productive business models obsolete, ineffective and unreliable. When leaders of an organization are put at risk of not being able to perform successfully, their narcissistic Ego might be very emotionally affected leading them to taking organizational decisions that toxically influence spoken and unspoken ethical standards of the company, creating turbulence and confusion in the morale and state of minds of their employees. The recent general trend of social shifts from the traditional social leadership and common sense in management to flexible leadership of disputable morality and lack of control (Lash, 1978) have also contributed to a tendency for some organizations to have been making unconscious transition from a position of a benign, thoughtful and well-differentiated 'good enough Mother' (Winnicott, 1973), where a leadership team was associated with the law establishing Oedipal Father (Freud,1924), to either a symbolic pre-Oedipal diffusive Mother with a non-existent Father figure around (Kernberg, 1998) or to a malignant Step Mother where the leadership team acted as an elusive, escaping the real contact with their employees distant Father. By observation, in the two latter models of organizational behaviors the companies overtly might claim their adherence to the dogmas of democracy, transparency and social responsibility while covertly they might unconsciously enough act in the paradigm of withholding critical information from employees, taking decisions that compromise the organizational integrity and create a highly insecure environment negatively impacting employees' performance and reducing their ability to check the reality (the Enron case as an example).The paper explores the ideas of how psychoanalytically oriented coaches and consultants can be of valuable assistance to the organizations, their leaders and employees in getting back on track of effective functioning and ethical integrity. The particular focus is laid on the importance of understanding the emotional communications from the coach to a leader/their team and from a leader/their team to the coach when working with individual and group unconscious defenses which prevent the organizations from acting effectively (Spotnitz,1976). For the coaching intervention to be successful the phenomena of transference and counter transference are to be analyzed, managed and made use of to form appropriate interventions to solve organizational resistances ( Meadow,1977).Following the standpoint of modern psychoanalysis (Spotnitz and others) we believe that the ability of a coach to identify the counter transference feelings induced by the transference of their clients is critical to help identify the prevalent unconscious moods reflected in prevalent patterns of organizational behaviors. In psychoanalytical paradigm we are working with groups in a binocular vision mode: keeping focus of our attention both on the conscious content of what is happening in the group session and on unconscious processes which determine individual patterns of behavior. We are grounded in Bion's concept of the group functioning as a whole entity and having group think bearing individual desires of each member and group culture which identifies its structure, tasks and organization to achieve the group goals (Bion, 1961). Depending on the way of resolving the conflict between unconscious collective will and individual needs of group members the group will either function as an effective and rational cooperative Working group or succumb to dysfunctional from the perspective of organizational and personal growth and development Basic Assumption group. Basic assumptions of Dependence, Fight or Flight and Pairing as strong primitive collective defenses based on regressive emotions of fear, anxiety, aggression and helplessness have an irrational, disconnected from objective reality, nature and are opposed to rational, scientifically-oriented, connected with the reality opinions of some group members. Each group simultaneously functions at both levels which creates an internal conflict when a Basic Assumption group sabotages the activity of a Working group. In the times of crisis the organization as a multi-level hierarchical congregation of various groups, leadership team included, tends to slip to much more irrational, uncontrollable, ethically corroding and simply suicidal for the company's ecology and effectiveness processes leading to inadequate decision making. There will be presented a case of combined individual coaching of a leader of a big multinational organization and group coaching of his team where we were together working on aligning moral principles and core values of the leader and his team to help them to develop and implement a new business strategy and redesign the organizational structure. In depth analysis of emotional communications of transference and counter transference and their impact on the unconscious defenses selected by the team and the ways of resolving the combination of individual and collective resistances will be discussed as well as the outcomes and lessons learned by the organization and the coach. Bibliograhhy: 1. Bion, W.R. (1961). Experiences in Groups. New York: Basic Books. 2. Freud, S.(1924). The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex. S.E.19 (pp.171-179). 3. Kernberg, O.F. (1998). Ideology, Conflict & Leadership in Groups and Organizations. Yale University Press. 4. Lash,C. (1978). The Culture of Narcissism. New York: Norton. 5. Meadow, H.W. (1977). The Treatment of Marital Problems .Mod Psya, 12:131-150 6. Spotnitz, H. (1976). Psychotherapy of Preoedipal Conditions: Schitzophrenic patient: value of some positive anaclyctic countertransferences. Mod Psya, 8: 169-1727. Winnicott, D.W. (1973). The Child, the Family and the Outside World. Penguin.