Toward therapeutic politics

Elizabeth Young-Bruehl (2011) explores the history of theorizing a Marx-Freud (socialism-psychoanalysis) synthesis. Of particular interest is “socialist psychoanalysis”, its practical aim of healing “social-political trauma”, and how it has evolved since World War II. The eventual aim of the paper is to apply psychoanalytic insights to understand and prevent prejudice.

The article invites us to (re)consider the dualities inherent in psychoanalytic thinking: private and public, individual and social, self and other. In doing so, a psychoanalytic perspective is offered for thinking about the psychosocial consequences of trauma at multiple levels: individual, family, organization, and society.

The article, though not explicitly, also invites us to consider the organizational realm in terms of “allowing for adult dependency needs”, the dynamics of caring organizations, and the dynamics of leading and following (see Howell & Itzkowitz (2018) on the social origins of psychopathy). As such, it connects to current conversations about social (organizational) psychoanalysis as a “pragmatic theory” concerned with ameliorating social trauma.

Ultimately, the article is a call to a politically active psychoanalysis. One that recalls the early years of working with the poor, delivering care to the injured, and maintaining a vibrant presence in communities and society.


Managing the symbiotic lure

The symbiotic lure permeates the practice of organizational management and change facilitation. It can also be observed by researchers when they cross the boundary of an organization and as they 'open up' the organization in the research process. Diamond (1988) uses the symbiotic lure as a metaphor for understanding psychological regression in organizations. It is a reaction to anxiety in which members of a group or organization “[deny] their individual differences and psychologically [merge] with each other”, often against an "other". Leaders, when enacting effective containment, play a key role in managing the symbiotic lure to prevent its potentially devastating consequences in organizations and society.

Subjectivity and desire in research

"Is an interpretation always, to some extent, an imposition of our own discursive or psychical attachments?"

The answer to this question, in part, lies in exploring the subjectivity of researchers/analysts and participants/analysands in the research encounter. In part, it lies in tracing what happens to psychoanalytic concepts in the research process. This is the project taken up by Claudia Lapping in her 2013 paper entitled "Which subject, whose desire? The constitution of subjectivity and the articulation of desire in the practice of research".

The article reminds us that our inner emotional experiences are always both a potential source of insight and a path towards imposing our own needs and desires on organizational members. Interpretation is sometimes the expression of our own, not others', desires. And, sometimes it is an attempt to hide the lack that we cannot bear to acknowledge. The research encounter inevitably evokes something about us. We may attribute these aspects of our experience to the other (through interpretation) when, in fact, they reveal something about our selves.

Paradoxes of the self

"Moving back and forth between celebration of the private self and articulation of the impossibility of a one-person psychoanalysis, Modell’s quest to define the nature of the self has taken him from classical analytic theory, through Winnicott and object relations, to the philosophy of intersubjectivity and, in later years, to the work of infant researchers and neuroscientists."