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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Where past and future meet: Clues from Bion and from the Christian tradition on attention-in-the-moment.

The concern of this paper 'as of the Symposium ' is organizational change. Its focus is on the one place where change can occur: the present moment and specifically on the state of mind that allows a person to sustain attention in the moment.Clearly, past and future must be taken seriously; they have a strong influence on the present and, therefore, on the ways in which change is thought about and responded to. However, because change can only happen in the present, past and future are also fantasies ' their fantastical nature and power well captured in the Symposium's images of 'angels' and 'ghosts': 'we treat them as if they were real and true' (Segal, 1985: 20). The lure and impact of these fantasies of past and future ' one might even say their unconscious 'purpose' is to distract attention from the present moment: rather face the fantasy than what is in front of us, now. [Fantasy is also acknowledged as 'one of the most important words in the hesychast vocabulary', that is, the tradition that started with the desert fathers and mothers; see Glossary in The Philokalia.]We believe that among the many factors which affect the outcome of organizational change initiatives, an important and much neglected one is the tendency for those involved to be pulled out of the present moment and, as a result, to lose touch with reality. We will consider aspects of the thinking of Wilfred Bion and of the desert fathers and mothers, which shed some light on this phenomenon.