Psychoanalysis, teaching, and learning

CPOS is proud to present their third biennial workshop, "New Engagement with the Future: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Anxieties and Defenses in Teaching and Learning (about Management and Organizations)". The workshop will be presented online as part of the annual symposium of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations on June 29, 2022 at 6:30am CST.

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CPOS associates will share their experiences at the intersection between psychoanalysis, educational institutions, and classroom teaching practices – focusing on how we see psychoanalysis as potentially disruptive to dominant theories, practices, and discourses of teaching and learning. Psychoanalysis usefully provides important concepts that can help us unpack unconscious meanings and motivations – transference and countertransference, splitting and projection, denial and defense, illusion and disillusionment. And, it offers something more – a way of being and working in the space of education that has the potential to encourage reflection in action and support our efforts to work together to move past the trauma of the pandemic and build a better world.

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Healthcare, management, and the humanities

A recent commentary by Nathan Gerard argues that the humanities can offer new ways of understanding and doing research, teaching, and scholarship in the field of healthcare management. The two fields intersect in the desire to know, to understand, something about the human experience. The paper focuses on three areas in particular: “lived experiences of management”, the “tyranny of metrics”, and “confronting rather than avoiding anxiety”. The paper’s aim is to “encourage interdisciplinary dialogue”. Gains made through such engagement could include “substantiating critical healthcare management scholarship, collaborating with humanities educators to design novel curricula, proposing alternatives to unduly circumscribed performance targets and competency assessments, creating case studies of formative experiences of practicing healthcare managers, and advancing guidelines for better managing anxiety and its concomitant stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue in healthcare organizations”. Gerard’s comments are specific to the field of healthcare management, but they can also challenge us to think differently about the practices of management, research, and teaching more broadly – how can we engage with disciplines such as literature, philosophy, poetry, and the arts and why should we?

Negative emotions in entrepreneurship

Today’s social and political environment often embeds entrepreneurs in “entrepreneurial ecosystems”, which shape their emotional and motivational responses. In researching social interactions, Doern and Goss (2014) found that Russian entrepreneurs experienced negative emotions, like shame, and enacted behaviors to manage such emotions in interactions with state officials. Their main finding is that while such behaviors may help entrepreneurs “manage negative emotions, and minimize conflict” they also “corrode entrepreneurial motivation” (p. 864) and distract entrepreneurs from developing their ventures. One key takeaway for us is the authors’ exploration of shame as “one of several ‘social,’ ‘other-oriented’ emotions … that have an important function to play in social interactions” (p. 866). We share the authors’ enthusiasm about raising awareness of the role of negative emotions in entrepreneurial success, failure, and motivation. We add to it the encouragement for scholars to continue to explore the entrepreneurial mindset, and the pursuit of innovation, as a psychosocial process laden with both conscious and unconscious emotions, thoughts, and imaginings.

Reflections on the research pair

In this short post, we reflect on the fieldnote-writing method presented in our 2020 paper entitled "(Inter)subjectivity in the research pair: Countertransference and radical reflexivity in organizational research". While fieldnote-writing is often associated with a lone researcher in a distant land, we have found it useful as a collective process in both organizational and field research. The process we developed may prove especially useful to researchers and practitioners who already use a psychosocial approach to organizations. And, our fieldnote-writing method, when used in concert with organizational assessment, aids in making both the analysis and intervention phases of the work more meaningful. Throughout the paper, we share our ‘behind-the-scenes’ experiences, demonstrating “how a research pair working together in real time can become aware of their intersubjective processes, fold together multiple dimensions of experience (conscious and unconscious), and co-construct a shared understanding of organizational dynamics” (p. 1). We also share how we discovered that the research process can yield much more than we initially thought possible. Discovering those hidden possibilities is what reflexivity is all about - and it is at the heart of the psychoanalytic endeavor.

The cocoon transference: An intrapsychic trap of ambivalence

We describe the "cocoon transference" as resistance to change and suggest ways of intervening in defensive cocoon transferences as part of implementing organizational change. The cocoon transference recreates, or transfers, patterns of non-attachment set in motion early in life. The cocoon transference may be enacted as a defensive process when interpersonal relationships or social settings are perceived as a threat to the self. The workplace presents many interpersonal "dangers" that can trigger a defensive cocoon transference. As a result, people withdraw from important aspects of organizational change (e.g. brainstorming, scenario planning, and strategy formation). In times of stress and change this kind of intrapersonal, ultimately interpersonal, dynamic should be anticipated as a potential barrier to change.