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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

When self-reflection and interpretations become perverse: Thoughts of an organisational consultant

Many authors start from the individual, psychoanalytical practice to clarify the role and task of the psychoanalytic informed organisation consultant. They (a/o. Zaleznik, 1995) work from a rather restricted, older notion of the unconscious. The consequence is that the task and the scope of work of the organisation consultant are seen rather restricted. Within that frame of reference they find it inappropriate to interpret the unconscious. When one starts from the psychoanalytic group, and one works with a broader notion of the unconscious the work of the psychoanalytic consultant gains in scope and content. In this article, I will try to illustrate this and at the same time point to some dangers of perverting the situation.I like to start from the psychoanalytic group practice. More precisely I find my starting position in the study- or learning groups, where members come together to benefit from learning about group processes and their own experiences in groups. First, such groups have a given task, shared by all group members, which requires besides logical, rational thinking the discussion of members' experiences and concerns as they emerge in the here-and-now. In these groups the total person is clearly present with his conscious and unconscious mental processes. a) The unconscious in the way issues, and ideas become associated with the task, topics become introduces, broken off or meaning is given or becomes attributed to words, or to manifest behaviour (a/o. gestures, postures). In the way members interact amongst themselves and with the group consultant, as well as in the way meaning is portrayed in actual activities and group behaviour. b) Logical thinking is appealed to by the relevance of the given task, the plenary lectures or theory sessions, and by other small group activities like consulting groups. But foremost the logical thinking is present in the 'work group mode' of dealing with the task (Bion, 1961). Second, in such groups there is the visual presence of an external reality, of other human beings (in contrast to the individual analytical session where the analyst is hidden behind the couch) observing, initiating and participating in what they individually or as a group come to perceive as the shared task. It is not because the perceptions may be coloured by transference, counter transference and other psychic mechanisms that they are less real and physically present. Group members and consultant are there and they do bring in their perceptions, their memories of what happened or what was said by whom at what time. It is in this process of sharing, comparing, finding out and cross checking their understanding of events and processes that realities become clarified and understood. In other words, the psychoanalytic work takes place in a social setting in which all members and consultant have access to a much richer variety of observable data than the spoken word and empathy.