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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Regeneration: The Confluence of Psychoanalysis, Biological Science, and Literature: Lessons for individual treatment and organizational consultation

The relationship between psychoanalysis and literature is well established. Clinicaltreatment draws on the stories patients share with their analyst with a goal of findingmeaning. At the same time, psychoanalysis and literature mutually inform their respectivetheoretical underpinnings. Freud's use of Greek mythology (Oedipus) and German poetryas well as the pervasive use of psychoanalytic principles in literary circles and academicdepartments demonstrate this connection in action. Recently, psychoanalysis had been forced to come to grips with modern biology,particularly neuroscience. Although still in its infancy, neuro-psychoanlysis seems toverify the basic tenets of Freud's theories in the areas of dreams, dissociation, memory,affect regulation, and executive (ego) functions. Nonetheless, a synthesis between thetenets of psychoanalysis and neuroscience remains elusive.Regeneration is the title of Pat Barker's award-winning novel in which both biological andpsychological regeneration are addressed from a literary perspective. Though clearlynot the author's manifest intent, principles explored in Regeneration resemble the biologygoverning the inability of human tissue, organs, and limbs to regenerate (in contrast toamphibians and reptiles). In addition, despite the author's not possessing clinical credentials,the novel demonstrates concepts applicable to both individual therapy and organizationalconsultation. Regarding the former, recently developed approaches to combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in American soldiers in Iraq bear a striking resemblance to Rivers' treatment of WWI British soldiers. As for the latter, concepts of regenerationmay be helpful with management of organizational differentiation, de-differentiation, and change, as shown in a vignette from consultative work with a non-profit company.