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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Using the Problematic Moment Approach to Access Repressed Discourses and Emotions in Groups and Organizations

A problematic moment is a moment, typically a moment of silence, experienced by a group that marks a disruption to a particular discourse of values, beliefs, assumptions, and affect being constructed by the group. Individual group members may not appreciate the significance of the moment as it happens. However, at a later date a videotape of those moments can be played back that enables participants to reflect in tranquility on the meaning of the moments and to generate hypotheses about the nature of the values, beliefs, and assumptions being contested. At another level, it also allows participants to re-evaluate habitual responses, particularly emotional ones, that may be triggered at such key moments. The value of the problematic moment approach is that it allows access to the unspoken and silenced discourses and emotions that conscious and unconscious power dynamics may repress in a group. In other words, the approach gives members of a group the opportunity to see what the dominant discourse may have accomplished by the repression of alternative discourses in an organization, perhaps seemingly through processes of 'rational' dialogue. Organizational members also have the possibility of learning how some ways of thinking about; talking about; and accomplishing the organizational tasks get more attention than others.