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Thoughts on Psyche at Work

Implications of Jungian analysis for social groups


Psyche at Work is a new book (Wilmette IL, Chiron, 1992), edited by Murray Stein and John Hollwitz, that aims to indicate the relevance of Jungian analytical psychology to issues of organizational development, notably at the workplace. This note endeavours to highlight, in the light of the contents of the book, where new challenges lie. Thus despite full support for what the book achieves, the concern in this note is with the challenges for analytical psychology beyond those on which it focuses there. As part of a dialogue, these points are strongly made without contextual niceties -- and for that apologies may be due!

1. The book acknowledges that Jungian psychology has traditionally concerned itself with the individual. Two reasons are given:

  • Jung's opposition: Jung was known for his antipathy to groups and organizations. It was his wish that the C G Jung Institute, if it were to exist, should be "as disorganized as possible" (Auger, p. 40) He argued that "Large political and social organizations must not be ends in themselves, but merely temporary expedients." Apparently Jung's crucial concern was that "organizations are destructive to individuals". The primacy of the individual is almost holy writ to Jungians (Auger, p. 44). Whilst such views carry truths, in such a simplistic form they distort the challenges and opportunities of a complex society -- especially for those non-western cultures for which the individual is secondary to community. If they are maintained as truths by the discipline of analytical psychology, that would suffice to establish its current irrelevance to the problems that many face.

  • Introverted analysts: The book reports research that 85 percent of Jungian analysts "are introverts who find it difficult or unrewarding to relate to the world of organizations" (Auger, p. 50).

It is a matter for some wonder that a discipline that is so intensely self-aware should allow itself to be constrained by a particular set of biases for so long. This is especially the case when the discipline is professionally concerned with such biases and their consequences in the processes of psychotherapy. From the point of view of organization theory, it might even be asked whether the kinship group, nuclear family, or the analyst/analysand couple, did not also constitute organizations -- to which the same opprobrium should therefore be attached.

2. For outsiders, it remains a further matter of wonder that the relationships between the various psychological and psychotherapeutic disciplines should be so strained -- even hostile. Again there is concern that the skills of such disciplines are not used more effectively to analyze these tensions and shift their relationships to a higher level. Failure to do so makes it only too easy for outsiders to reject the use of any of these insights in other areas, and notably those relating to the collective. Again one wonders whether, as with all disciplines, sufficient attention has been given to the nature of the shadow of analytical psychology and the challenge that it represents for the evolution of that discipline.

3. In this period when all insight frameworks have been challenged and are considered wanting (at least by their competitors), there is a real obstacle to acceptance of insights from any particular framework -- especially if it is labelled (if only for convenience) by a particular person's name. It is interesting that Jungian thinking is best known under that label. The label "analytical psychology" does not convey the richness with which it is associated. For outsiders there is much confusion and overlapping of images between the different psychologies and psychotherapies. How does analytical differ from depth psychology? It is unfortunate, for example, that the International Association for Analytical Psychology should be known under the same initials as the International Association for Applied Psychology. For a school of thought renowned for its concern with integration, it is regrettable that its formal title should focus on "analytical". Much of the intellectual tragedy of the times is due to the unfortunate success of "analysis" unmatched by any corresponding insights into integration and synthesis. Analytical psychology has many such integrative insights which it effectively hides under an analytical barrel. In organizational terms it would be described as having an "image" problem -- which paradoxically is to be expected because of its specialist interest in images.

4. Unfortunately few of the insights from the discipline have been used to heal the relationships between the psychotherapeutic disciplines or within disciplines ("one only needs to observe how organizations of Jungian analysts are operated to realize how greatly organizational development could make positive contributions to them" Auger, p. 50). The status quo appears to suit most of those involved. But there is a heightened level of impatience in the wider world.

5. The book notes that there have been previous attempts to apply such Jungian approaches to group dynamics and processes, to world politics and to the arts "to varying degrees of success". The focus here is on organizational development. However some authors note that organizational development (OD) was itself born in rather conservative times. It has already been abandoned by some in favour of organizational transformation (OT). Whilst the shift from the individual to the organization is much to be welcomed, it is important to recognize that the challenges of the times have also shifted. Whilst the development of organizations remain of interest for all the reasons indicated in the book, the tragedy is that this avoids the locus of real difficulties in improving social governance.

6. The principal argument in this note is that the locus of difficulty is no longer within organizations, it is now between organizations. Considerable expertise has been applied to improving the functioning of individual organizations. Whilst there may be much scope for improvement, it is useful to assess whether this is an appropriate allocation of resources or simply an allocation of effort where resources are often available. What resources are available to respond to the needs of groups of organizations torn apart by a range of dynamics? Obvious examples are the "greens", peace movement organizations, civil rights groups, religious/spiritual groups, etc. Token collaboration is now being used to disguise the limited ability to deal with mutual suspicion and hostility. The desperate pursuit of "consensus" and "universal" values, and the radical rejection of any "negativity" or "criticism", signals the emergence of a new form of fundamentalism that is terrified of its own shadow. Only "equality" is accepted, with any "differences" being tolerable only as an unfortunate precursor of "agreement". Even in hierarchical structures only positive reporting is acceptable if career advancement is to be ensured.

7. Both analytical psychology and OD give a focal role to the intervening expert. This is fine in situations where such a relationship can be successfully contracted. In individual therapy the client contracts into the process. In organizational "therapy", the OD consultant usually negotiates a contract with the "boss", whether the CEO or a department head. The emerging challenge in society is however the need for integrative insights in situations where no one is authorized or empowered to position the therapeutic catalyst so that he/she can control (or even facilitate) the process. At the individual level this is best seen in the challenge faced by a community development worker in a community in which he/she is given no power but nevertheless has to act as an integrative catalyst in bringing people together more constructively. At the collective level this is seen in the role of the mediator/negotiator in situations where that role cannot be imposed on the opposing groups (as was done by the US in the current Middle East peace negotiations). And in the case of the psychotherapeutic disciplines, this is most dramatically seen in the improbability of any one person being accepted as the mediating figure to heal the relationships between those disciplines (or the organizations representing them).

8. In the above sense many arguments in the book contrasting individual and organizational situations need to be shifted to apply to sets ofn the book contrasting individual and organizational situations need to be shifted to apply to sets of organizations. Much of what is stated in terms of projections of the individual onto single organizations also applies with a set or network of organizations. In a sense a set of organizations is a superordinate organization waiting to be born -- a primodial state of institutional chaos.

9. "How can organizations acknowledge their unconscious and do something about it? Where are their creative sources? What are the possibilities for transformation in the structures of traditional organizations...?" These questions apply as much to a set of organizations in sub-optimal relationship. Interventions in organizational sets should be similar to those with individuals. The book makes allusions to larger social groupings, including world politics. It is questionable whether breakthroughs can be sought at this level -- as one might have hoped in the case of the relations between nation states. Intergovernmental systems are especially resistant to the single expert or group of experts, and especially when they are flying a particular conceptual flag. However it would be a mistake for any group with relevant insights to expect that when things get bad enough those in power will come knocking at their door. By the time it gets that bad, it is effectively impossible for the value of the expertise to be sufficiently widely recognized for any viable form of therapeutic process to be initiated.

10. Let us call a sub-optimal set of organizations a network, even a "flabby" network where structural integrity of any kind is questionable. Stein notes: "One of the essential functions of a good organization is to contain the spirit of the organization's unconscious and to keep it from devouring its members" (p. 4). He notes that "shadow projections can be caught, in envy reactions and rivalries. One envies someone who has some sort of perceived access to the self, perhaps in the form of creative spirit or a privileged position vis-a-vis the power throttle in the organization" (p. 7). Also: "if your organization envies another, it is projecting the collective, or organizational self onto the other organization" (p. 8). But: "If an organization is well put together, it will have the capacity to contain the shadow and to work with this unsavory material as it arises...Competition and rivalry, even envy, are deadly and corrosive only if they are rampant and unmanaged: contained, they promise to yield enormous benefits" (p. 8-9).

11. What then is the structure to contain the spirit of the network? If, as Stein notes, the "organization uses its individual members to act out roles as they become activated in the group's collective unconscious" (p. 10) -- can the same be said of a network's use of its member organizations? Can the same be said of the network of psychotherapeutic organizations?

12. Hollwitz develops the question as to whether an organization has a "personality" (p. 29). As he notes, if an organization has a collective personality, then it is likely that it has archetypal structure that can be revealed in its imagination -- its symbols, narratives and rituals. Can the same not be asked of a network, even one distinguished by a high level of rivalry and antipathy? It is typical of any multicultural network that, as Hollwitz notes, what passes for acceptable practice in one culture becomes shadow in another (p. 31). What of the case with the network of psychotherapeutic organizations?

13. For Auger: "An organization's hierarchy may be analogous to subpersonalities, and sometimes, complexes of an individual" (p. 42). This should be even truer of a network. What subpersonality does depth psychology represent in contrast to those of Freudian inspiration?

14. One of the characteristics of a network is the rejection of hierarchy and any privileged centre or leadership. In this sense it corresponds to a rejection of the patriarchal values so characteristic of traditional organizations. One may however argue whether many networks benefit from matriarchal values or suffer from an excess of them. The book follows a fashion in rejecting patriarchal values and there is a need to recognize their limitations -- but what of the special relationship to Jung? Unfortunately there is little recognition of the limitations of matriarchal values -- except in the insightful phrase of the "devouring mother". Networks as proto-organizations may suffer from excessive matriarchality. How is the divine marriage between hierarchies and networks to be brought about to ensure an appropriate and fruitful balance?

15. Auger refers to the importance of the hero (for analytical psychology) and of leadership (for organizational development). Thus "leadership is crucial in any organization. The leader's role often is to exercise power to keep the organization's subsystems...in balance" (p. 44). For both disciplines strangely, absence of "leadership" tends to be an anathema. In a sub-optimal network leadership functions are effectively distributed, even if only chaotically and spastically active. The issue within a disorganized network of somewhat responsible organizations is not how to engender "a leader" but rather how to distribute the leadership function amongst responsible elements most appropriately. In this sense the focus on "a leader" is simplistic in relation to the larger challenge.

16. For Lepper: "Departments that perceive each other as enemies across demarcation lines, rather than a flexible boundary, will have deep effects on the communication of important information -- and quality control" (p. 88). Once established, a "psychoid level of organization will quickly represent itself in institutional forms. Subgroups form, acquire a history and culture of their own, and before long take on the impenetrable and seemingly eternal forms that we call 'political reality'" (p. 89). Schisms are characteristic of most disciplines and belief systems. To what extent do such remarks apply to the psychotherapeutic disciplines, especially those originating with Freud?

17. Colman takes as his subject "collective development per se, including broadening the concept of individuation, currently only applied to individuals, to include individuation in the collective as well" (p. 92). It is interesting that he explores two techniques (p. 115) which others have attempted for similar reasons. These include:

(a) some form of publication to carry virtually unedited reflections from members. When such a publication was first advocated to a leader of the Global Forum at the Earth Summit, the expressed concern was that the "unconscious" of the group would be given a vehicle. It has been used in a number of large conferences as a vehicle for unvoiceable concerns.

(b) forming a study group whose task is to study the collective unconscious of the organization. This is a special form of monitoring from which many groups or gatherings of groups can benefit.

It is useful to speculate on an adaptation of conference technology to permit participants to use the interpretation channels to receive a psychoanalytical commentary from a monitoring group -- possibly using several channels for "competing" schools of thought. Such technology could also be used to collect publicly unvoiceable feedback.

18. Olson notes:

"Jung defined ego as the center of consciousness, but stressed that the ego is limited, incomplete, and less than the whole personality. The ego maintains the tensions of opposities until the psyche can manifest the transcendent function. The ego then surrenders to a greater authority: the ordering principle of the personality that emphasizes both the conscious and the unconscious which Jung called the Self. If one's ego cannot maintain the tension and one makes a one-sided choice between two foces, the opposing force will become even stronger -- and the tension will build again. At the group level...if the tension of the polarities is held between aspects which are in the unconscious of the group members, the group can shift to a new level of understanding of its purpose and its way of operating" (p. 161).

In the case of a sub-optimal network of organizations, these points chart very interesting possibilities. For indeed, many such networks are subject to polarizing dynamics, and there is often aspiration for resolution of such conflicts at a higher level. Tensegrity structures provide a very interesting model for redistribution of tensions through polarizing forces in order to engender a new spherical structural form -- whose centre is empty. The need for a central organizing unit or leader, like an ego, represents an uncompleted phase in development of any such network into a state of tensional integrity.

19. Olson describes a group process in which individuals are asked "what gift do they bring to the team" (p. 166). What is required is a similar process with organizational representatives: "what gift does their organization, profession, or discipline bring to the network". As Olson notes: "The symbolism of gift giving helped the members release latent positive feelings about each person's Self and unexpressed feelings about being a part of the new team (the group Self)" (p. 166). One might ask whether this has ever been done with a group of representatives of different approaches to psychotherapy -- and if not, why not? Is there not a larger "team" to be recognized -- as in most domains torn by mutual suspicion and antipathy?

20. Olson also describes (p. 166) use of a personality inventory to enable members of a group to recognize types to which they belong, then matching people of similar and different types to experience the nature of the tensions and complementarities between them. Again there is a case for using such an approach to heal a network of organizations. One might speculate, for example, that therapists of different schools would tend to feel greater affinity for particular types rather than for others. Just as a high proportion of Jungian therapists are introverted, many may be primarily characterized by particular type categories, in contrast to those of other therapeutic disciplines. To what extent then does the pattern of Myers-Briggs categories map the different orientations in psychotherapy (or even the success of a given therapist/client bond)? The merit of such a perspective is that the map legitimates the complementarity between different therapeutic orientations -- recognizing the tensions that must necessarily exist between them. It also clarifies the way that those of one approach may judge another to be superficial, or cold, etc.

21. Perlman explores the issues of patriarchal vs matriarchal values governing group functioning. Analysts tend to focus on the matriarchal function of the group whereas OD specialists stress the patriarchal values which are proving increasingly ill-adapted to the times. The latter view has also been challenged by feminists: "The patriarchal developmental litanty intones the celebration of separation, autonomy, and individuation, but is supported by the invisible but essential context of connection, protected by the feminine recognition of the ongoing importance of relationship in the male life cycle" (Gilligan). The difficulty in such discussions is that both sides are remarkably skilled in endeavouring to highlight the primacy of their particular end of the polarity, possibly with condescending recognition of the (secondary) merit of the other.

22. Perlman concludes: "To apply the ideas developed in this paper to group life in organizations requires a shift from the patriarchal perspective" (p. 191). But does this mean there should simply be a shift over to the matriarchal perspective as she seems to imply:

"The creative potential in a group cannot be released unless group members are equally empowered in a collaborative way, until the process is recognized, even embraced, as necessarily chaotic, messy, and painful, and unless the group members each take responsibility for maintaining, to the greatest extent possible, the containing presence of the good mother." (p. 191)

Although a radical feminist perspective is important to correct the excesses of the male chauvinist perspective, what is required is a dynamic, magical balance between the opposites. In fact, for healthy functioning of the group, each member should be able to hold all variants of both male and female archetypes, not just "mother" or "father".

23. More fundamentally, the issue is that of bringing about some form of divine marriage. And here the challenge is how to express this in a form which does honour to both and is not a cunning put down of the other. There are traps therefore in interpreting Perlman's richly significant statement that:

"Each participant becomes a microcosm of the group, containing the archetypal mother and child within, acting out those roles, and others, in a changing and fluid manner. Each participant takes responsibility for leading and following, for sustaining the presence of the archetypal good mother who neither abandons nor intrudes. Then individual creativity and group creativity intermingle as group members attend to the group's process within themselves, with each other and the group as a whole. The child which then may emerge from the unconscious lpsychic life of the group carries the possibility of new life, the creative new approach to the group's task, as well as those archetypal energies that renew the individuals, the group, and the organization of which the group is a part." (p. 191).

One trap is assuming that simply by increasing matriarchal values a divine marriage necessarily results -- somewhat following the Mediterranean assumption that if a man and woman are alone in the same room they necessarily have intercourse! Bringing about a divine marriage is somewhat more complicated. Aspiration to integration, wholeness and transcendence may be necessary conditions, but they are not sufficient.

24. It is as yet quite unclear what organizational form can carry this transcendent level of complexity. Messiness, for example, is no guarantee of a fruitful marriage -- although some tolerance of it is no doubt necessary in an increasingly chaotic environment. Again the tensegrity structure is very suggestive of ways in which tensions could be distributed to provide "tensional integrity" -- and is useful in highlighting the difficulties of putting together, and comprehending, such a dynamic structure -- in contrast to hierarchies and networks. The mysterious dynamics of a divine marriage are above all a challenge to comprehension through dualistic thinking. Intellectually it may appear simple but, as an art form in process, it is another matter. And perhaps, of such a marriages at the group level, it may be even more true that, as Stein says: "Precisely because we need them in order to become ourselves and to become whole, human organizations are fraught with danger and have the power to overwhelm and destroy us" (Stein, p. 1)

25. A final comment is appropriate about the assumption apparently prevailing amongst both OD consultants and psychotherapists concerning their untarnished innocence in any professional relationship (and despite surveys of unprofessional conduct). Auger, for example, states: "The goal of the analytical psychologist is to help analysands move toward wholeness: to become the full and unique individuals they are" (p.45). This may indeed be the declared goal, it may be the conscious goal, but it is not necessarily the unconscious goal. Indeed the distinction between a good therapist and a less good therapist (and such distinctions are of prime professional concern) is the extent to which the therapist's unconscious goal is as disinterested as that statement implies. How well has the therapist/consultant integrated his/her shadow nature? In a network situation, groups are less prepared to accept any type of consultant on the basis of declared objectives -- especially across cultural boundaries that shift the pattern of shadows. But how can the consultant prove his/her appropriateness to the task? This is not a question of objectivity but of establishing a relationship through some form of drama that is difficult to plan or orchestrate.

26. If the limitations of the single consultant/therapist can be acknowledged, is it not possible to envisage some kind of team of such "network therapists" designed so that the strengths and weaknesses of each are compensated within the team? In such a situation it is not necessary that each team member should have integrated his/her shadow. What is necessary is that each shadow element should be openly acknowledged (at least by others), and that one or more other members should be competent in containing its effects on the group. Rather than the hyperbole with which consultants currently present themselves as "white knights", there is a need for a balanced presentation of the strengths and weaknesses of each team member. In dialogue with a "client" network this level of honesty could evoke the need for a corresponding assessment amongst the network member bodies. As with an individual analyst, the "map" of checks and balances embodied by the "therapist network", then serves as a kind of catalytic template or scaffolding with which the client network can enter into resonance -- hopefully to be entrained into a healthier self-sustaining configuration.


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