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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Stan Gold February 2012

President’s Letter.
February 2012.

You will by now have received details of the program and registration for our next, 29th, ISPSO Annual meeting in San Diego in June, 4th -10th( As you will see, Amy Fraher, Elisabeth Henderson, Kathy Jones and the team have put together an excellent series of workshops, plenary presentations and parallel papers, and the venue, the Hotel del Coranado, is sensational. I am aware that we are all trying to cope with the effects of financial instability in the world, but I urge you not to miss this excellent opportunity to replenish both our intellectual and physical needs.

You will also shortly be receiving notice from Clare Huffington(, our immediate past President, concerning an upcoming election for a vacant board position. This arises because Larry Hirschorn will be completing his 3 year term in June, when the new member will join the board. Larry is also free to run for a second term. His most recent contribution has been directed to investigating the possibility of assisting younger members with publication of their work. Mannie Sher has recently resigned from the board due to time constraints, and I want to thank him most warmly for his contributions. Theoretically another board position became available following Mannie’s departure however, in the interests of financial prudence and what is the optimal size of a working board, I have decided, at this time, not to fill that vacancy. Kathy White will be reviewing the work of his committee thus far and reporting to the board in June. Also leaving the board will be Renata Bugge who completes her three year contract as Director of Professional Development. Again we are all most grateful for the time and energy she has put into this board appointed role. Her committee will remain and be chaired by the President Elect Jerry Fromm. Carole Eigen, and the board, has been working to clarify the kinds of support available for Regional activities which are increasingly taking newer forms. You will be aware of the upcoming meeting in Sofia, March9th-11th, which has been announced on the member list serve. The board has also been engaged in clarifying the categories of Guest, Student and Special membership

In December of 2011, I, together with Mike Faris, our Secretary/Treasurer and Past President Jim Krantz, attended a regional meeting in Santiago Chile, the first such in Latin America. This was the first, but I am sure not the last such meeting and included representatives from the Argentine and Venezuela. Our hosts, Professor Eduardo Acuna and Associate Professor Matias Sanfuentes from the business school in the University of Chile were able to meet all costs including those of simultaneous translation. Both are presenting papers in San Diego. One issue which surfaced, particularly in the opening remarks of Eduardo, was the continuous struggle to maintain the capacity for freedom of thought and reflection in varying political conditions. This links for me to a discussion I have initiated in the board concerning the “Primary Task” of ISPSO including a comparison between the Psychoanalytic and Socio-Analytic approaches to our work and interests. One comment has it that the latter tends too much toward the political, a proposition that we may be able to approach during Members day in San Diego where I have asked six members from different geographical areas to examine the relevance of our way of thinking at the broader socio-cultural level. All members, including new members, will be invited to participate in an online exercise which will culminate on Members day. I will circulate more details shortly.

Arising from the above, I thought I might share with you some issues that, as President, I see as emerging within our Society and worthy of your reflection.

David Brooks, journalist, and political commentator has recently suggested that “the central evolutionary truth is that the unconscious matters most.” He goes on to say that though we like to pretend that our decisions and fates are mostly determined by deliberate ratiocination, our unconscious minds are, saturated with instincts, biases habits and emotional responses…..that silently shape our most important attitudes and decisions. No news to us!

However, whilst we, as organisational consultants grapple with demands from clients for rapid results and solutions to often deep seated problems, it is worthwhile to reflect on the schism that seems manifest between so called scientific and humanistic views of the function of society and it’s reflection in differing demands within our own Society (ISPSO). For us it may be seen as concretised in the addition of Systems thinking, Group Relations, Organisational and Management Studies and Social Dreaming to Psychoanalytic theory, or to the necessity for us to function within the orbit of the “Real” world and its practical and understandable demands. It has been said that the only business of America is business. Does that also hold true for ISPSO?

The Philosopher Isaiah Berlin (1974), tackled this in his essay ‘The divorce between the Sciences and the Humanities’. In this he warns against the central tradition in Western thought that every genuine question has one true answer and one only, and that the method that leads to correct solutions is rational in character. By contrast, “every generation of seekers after truth stands on the shoulders of its predecessors and begins where others left off, and adds to the growing sum of human knowledge”.

Are we then interested in forming closer and more formal links to the International Group Relations movements; to various psychodynamically oriented training programs; to private and national consulting practices; to University and privately run business management programs?

Today we are moving into newer means of communication with each other to facilitate contact between our Annual Meetings via our regional activities and web related contact and information. In this we are being led by our Director of Internet Services, Adrian Fronda and the e –ISPSO committee, now with the very welcome addition of Philip Boxer whose up to date experience with modes of communication can only be to our benefit. Our new Administrator, Karen Gaulke has moved into her new role with the assistance of Adrian and Ernest Fruge’ our Executive Director whilst Angela Eden and her committee continue their work on our online Library ( Mike Faris, our Secretary/Treasurer has done remarkable work in bringing our financial status into line and, again with the board, modernising the Handbook, which we hope, will soon be available on our website. Change, as always is difficult and may be disruptive. Bear with us. The board will next meet in San Diego and on Members day we will report further on the role of our subcommittees. I look forward to seeing you there. Thank you to all.

Stan Gold President ISPSO.