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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Understanding Difference: The Role of Ethics and Self-awareness in Organizations

Increasingly we are faced with differences which people find difficult to comprehend, hold in their awareness and manage it. Due to this, more and more is expressed outwardly by different kinds of protests, hate, violence and intolerance. This makes ethics and the process of deepening self awareness increasingly interesting. We also need to examine whether the processes of wealth accumulation and need for success have undermined the much more subtle processes needed for self awareness, expressions of self and sharing of those expressions. While there is a lot of knowledge regarding attachments, role of thinking processes, exploring the shadow side of oneself and other such blind or poorly understood areas, there is seemingly little actual space or inclination for exploring the undercurrents of informal organisations, organisations in the mind, resulting effects of people on others, group behaviors and multi level pressures. It is sometimes as if conformity and submission to authority is taken as a positive sign rather than a possibly problematic or even pathologic issues. This comes out how time is used and understood, and how limited people feel in their respective organisations.One such examination can be done though understanding expressions of ethics in culturally diverse contexts. Also, with advances in brain research, we can no longer ignore the role self awareness plays in ethical scenes. Increasingly we know how others affect our psycho social and psycho physical realities, and how organisations as bodies of people socialize people in certain behaviors. In this sense, ethics and the need for ethics have just arrived!Ethics and ethical behavior in organizations have become under assault from various corners of organizational life world. Scandals involving well known and respected companies have undermined the little there was to promote 'good' and 'excellent' behaviors. While this is frustrating in a short run, it provides a platform for developing ethics for the 21st century which cannot be built only on reliance on norms, rulesand regulations. Firstly, these differ greatly in different parts of the world; Secondly, such norms, rules and regulations do not take into consideration human behavior and unconscious processes. So how to then increase awareness and understanding of deep organisational undercurrents? The conventional ethics looks at reasoning processes and what is right or wrong. However, in diverse contexts, such as in organizations, it is difficult to easily and without some form of conformity pinpoint the exact right all would easily agree to. This needs deep examination, which is not high on the 'to do' list in many organisatons. However, the same organizations speak of 'purpose', 'changing the world' and 'visions', all which have deep meanings. The question is: are these deep meanings accompanied with deep understandings? In this case, understanding the levels of awareness and the deep corners of the mind. Increasingly we need to examine matters beyond just expressions, because at the moment ethical 'truths' have been heavily discounted. We need new ethics build on understanding human behaviors and new values that build on the realities of today. Dilemmas and ethical situations are understanding processes where understanding boundaries we work with is one way to understand the self. But there are other ways too, especially in groups, teams and organizations.This paper looks into these processes using the author's experiences with working with groups, individuals and situations. It tries to examine what avenues ethics is taking and why those avenues are important. The paper thus draws both from experiences in group settings and also from related insight processes that ensue when engaging with those groups. Theoretically, the author draws from group relations literature, spiritual and wisdom practices, therapy and organization studies. The paper concludes that learning to juggle multiple realities is the only way one can live with global mindsets.