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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Motivation, Meaning and Resilience

This paper will look at a number of organizational cases to which I have consulted, some that represent 'brittle' organizations and at least one in which an organization found motivation and purpose (meaning) in the face of trauma. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from a set back. In organizations, set backs can result from traumatic events as well as (albeit in less dramatic form) from market shifts and ongoing change in structures, processes, staffing, mission, etc. Resilience, long the domain of the physical sciences, engineering and medicine, has not been widely thought of or written about in the psychoanalytic literature, with only seven specific citations emerging from a search of the 2006 PEP. However, studies done first in the auto industry (Freeman) and then in post 9/11 World Trade Center organizations (Freeman, Hirschhorn, Maltz, 2005, 2006) have shown organizational resilience to be psychodynamic in nature - and an area that can be thought about, measured and developed over time. A model of resilience will be discussed that incorporates key factors in finding meaning and motivation. This framework will then be shown to be a part of an organizational framing of relational psychoanalytic theory and practice. The relational model offers a model for understanding motivation. In the relational (Mitchell, Fiscalini, Wolstein, et al) field, an extension of object relations (Klein, Fairbairn, et al) and Interpersonal (Sullivan, Fromm, Ferenczi et al) psychoanalysis, resilience is born from one's relatedness to those around her/him. Meaning and motivation are deeply impacted by how well organizational structures support the containment of anxiety, promote effective task achievement, and provide a secure environment in which to work. Meaning is closely tied to how a person understands and holds an organization's purpose; motivation can be seen as a derivative of an individual's internalization of purpose and role as well as her/his relatedness to the leader and coworkers.