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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Psychodynamics of Regression in Work Groups

Individual regression in groups stems from anxiety arising from each individual s attempt to construct a psychodynamic equilibrium between ones demands for adequate self-identity (individuality that is not a threat to other group members) and group membership (affiliation that is not a threat to ones identity). The dilemma of reconciling needs for individuality and group membership provokes annihilation anxiety in which one resorts to regressive action in order to protect one's self from anxiety associated with uncertain object-relations, annihilation and feelings of persecution, and loss of affiliation. As a result, group cultures often are characterized by unconscious actions and shared fantasies stemming from the sum of individual regressed and primitive coping defenses. Individual regression and other primitive defensive actions are observable at the group level of analysis, and lend themselves to description as a group culture. The psychodynamics of individual and group regression with four work-group typologies is illustrated. Each typology represents a predominant coping pattern observed in groups as members attempt to contain their basic anxiety.