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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Psychodynamics of Psychoanalytic Organisations

People become leaders of organizations for a variety of reasons, among them greater investment of capital, being the son or the son-in-law (who also rises), being the next in line, being a ruthless person. But some rise because of genuine merits, among them special insight or skills, charisma, piety, the ability to confer status on the organization.The question I want to address is what happens when the qualities of merit which lead people to be placed in leadership roles come into conflict with the other aims of the organization, in particular, democratic process and accountability. Lest this seem too abstract, I want to draw attention to a particularly troubling reflexive quality in some organizations, i.e., when the leader's special status gets in the way of the ideals of the organization. It is potentially a problem in any organization, but it is a dreadful problem if the organization is specifically set up to do good. Examples come all too easily to mind: corrupt or megalomaniacal churchmen, in particular, revelations about the Catholic hierarchy and in charismatic Protestant sects but also in innumerable cults; ruthless Soviet leaders acting in the name of socialism; trustees of charities who misuse funds.