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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 6
Sunday 7 July 11.00am-12.15pm EEST
Paper Code: PP32
Presented Online

Hypothesis: Polarization as a regressed defense mechanism against unbearable anxiety driven by emerged unreliability of current social systems due to lack of trust.

Presenter: Alina Sokolova
Moderator: Brigid Nossal


The fundamental events of the last five years and their intensity - COVID, war in Ukraine, Armenia, Gaza, conflicts in Africa, China/Taiwan tension, Brexit, rise of crypto currencies and so on - challenged not only physical safety and wellbeing of those involved, but also psychological safety of majority of the World’s population. What seemed impossible became possible. The moral principles such as fairness and trust, the boundaries and authorities on which societies were built and on which individuals planned and lived their lives did not pass these stress tests in many ways. There are growing concerns that supremacy of law and inviolability of private property got be getting eroded.

Given that information/data is crucial for any decision making, technological progress granted easy access to any data around the world at one click. However, there is no longer mainstream trust in the sources of information due to ‘fake news’, propaganda, censorship etc. World trade and globalization with its promises of ‘unitedness’, rising living standards, diversity and supremacy of human rights has been on a back foot amidst rising nationalism. The current polarizations trends seem to represent social, political, economic and cultural regress.
Pandemic and wars happened before, but the speed, extent, intensity and unpredictability of current events raise a number of fundamental questions – do we actually know the World that we live in? What will happen tomorrow? Who and what can we trust? Thus, in this article the author argues, that the recent events challenged one of the major psychological constructs important for human and social psychological wellbeing – the notion of trust in individuals and in societies overall. The growing mistrust, in its turn, triggers feelings of fear, deep uncertainties and anxieties about the future. Inability to tolerate these unjust feelings activate regressed defense mechanism – take us back to basic needs/desires, to ‘default settings’ – the need for security, need to go back to something certain – to the families and bigger communities, to large identity groups, thus enhancing polarization.

Key words: polarization as a defense mechanism, social regress, trust and fairness

Biographical Summary

Alina Sokolova

Alina was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, lived in Russia and currently resides in United Arab Emirates. She has over 22 years of experience in different dimensions of consulting, including corporate governance, risk and compliance, forensic, post-merger integration, HR consulting and other types of organisational change. Alina obtained a bachelor’s degree in management from Moscow State University, an Executive Masters in Change from INSEAD, and is certified as an executive coach by ICI, MRI. She is keen to explore how psychoanalytic thinking and practices can further our study of organizations, particularly group dynamics, and how to successfully apply them as interventions.