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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021


June 18, 2024 / 5 mins read

Parallel Papers Session 5
Saturday 6 July 3.30pm-4.45pm EEST
Paper Code: PP31

Stop the idealization of acceleration and complexity. A framework and a few building blocks for how to work with strategy, implementation, and intervention from a systems psychodynamic point of view.

Presenter: Steen Visholm
Moderator: Moritz Senarclens de Grancy


The rhetoric about the accelerating speed of societal change and the escalating complexity of organizations and society has been ongoing for several decades. It all goes so fast that there is no longer time to think or plan, instead you have to use reflection in action, think and reflect while you act. As early as 1993, Ralph Stacey turned up the speed rhetoric as follows:

"… it becomes impossible to think before we act. Strategic thinking therefore becomes reflection while we act."

To think before acting is positioned as historically outdated, where development has long since rushed past when the idea has been thought through. Today, everything is probably going so fast that there is only room for second thoughts, while we look at the partly smoking partly flooded ruins of civilization(s).

We have to stop the idealization of speed and complexity. Fist because it stresses the thinking. Secondly because we need to work out which processes we need to speed up and which we need to slow down or complete stop. It is true that there is a lot of complexity out there, but the use of the concept of complexity in a way stops the thinking instead of breaking the problem into pieces that can be worked with.

Both the climate issue and many other big and smaller societal and organizational issues need to be thought of and worked on with a focus on the possible and wanted futures. It is important to develop and negotiate strategies and ways of implementation of sustainable organizations and civilizations.

Psychoanalysis is not in itself technology for strategic planning. The focus of psychoanalysis is to examine conscious and unconscious processes here and now in the light of then and there. How unprocessed pasts often overlay and disrupt work and relationships in the here and now. The work with here and now and there and then, however, develops learning and experience that cannot necessarily be crystallized in precise scientific laws, but perhaps can be turned to locate points of attention in planning and implementation of organizational and societal processes.

This paper will present a framework and a number of building blocks for how to work with strategy, implementation and intervention from a systems psychodynamic point of view. These blocks will among others be presented in the paper:

  • How to support and employ creativity in organizational processes – reparative, oedipal, and evolutionary creativity.
  • How to be aware of the dynamics of representation when different organizations are cooperating on a task.
  • How to anticipate gains and losses in processes of change and how to mourn the losses and contain the envy in a civilized way.

Biographical Summary

Steen Visholm is a Professor in the Department of People and Technology, Center for Organizational Psychology, Roskilde University, Denmark. Presient of ISPSO (The International Society for Psychoanalytic Studies of Organizations) 2019-2021. Linkedin: