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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Object Relations, Work and the Self

Why do people work and what meaning does work have for them? At one time the answer to these questions directed our attention toward external factors having to do with the remuneration to be gained from work. But over time the external factors have become less important and internal factors have become progressively more important in any meaningful account of work motivation. This book focuses attention on those internal factors that shape the meaning of work and of work settings. In considering internal factors, three have central importance in our effort to understand the meaning of work: greed, guilt and the self. In this book, work is considered as an expression of these three factors taken separately and together. Special attention is paid to the factors that determine the individuals emotional capacity to do work that engages the self and its creative potential and to the related matter of impairment in that capacity. This is a book in the field of applied psychoanalysis. In psychoanalytic theory, the richness or poverty of the inner world has been understood to shape relatedness with others, specifically the capacity to form relationships and the quality and meaning relationships have for those participating in them. This book is distinctive in the way it applies psychoanalytic ideas regarding internalized object relations to the problem of the capacity to do work. In particular, I attempt to understand the meaning of work applying (1) Donald Winnicotts ideas concerning creativity and play, (2) insights from psychoanalytic object relations theory, especially the work of Otto Kernberg, regarding the formation of an internalized object world and impairment in the process of internalization, and (3) Melanie Kleins ideas concerning guilt and reparation. The book combines case studies with a more general account of the nature and meaning of work.