What are Organisations?

In 1987, Free Association Books published my first authored book. It is no coincidence that it was an attempt to organise much of the thinking and ideas that had gone into papers of mine up to this point. This publication led to my own sense of greater confidence in having understood organisations a little better, and in a serviceable way; so, despite developing my own psychoanalytic practice with individuals in this period, and teaching psychotherapy both in the NHS and in private psychotherapy organisations, for a while I produced a number of consolidating paper.

1987 What Happens in Groups
RD Hinshelwood (London: Free Association Books)
The title was not mine, and the ‘groups’ it refers to were exclusively therapeutic communities. Nevertheless, the many illustrations do in fact survey a wide range of group phenomena, not in an orthodox group-analytic way, nor in a precise Bion-Tavistock way but it does retain the use of Kleinian ideas, especially projective identification which serves as an important bridge from the individual to social phenomena. This idea spawned a notion of the internal worlds of individuals dramatised in the external figures of the group and organisation, and owes a lot to Jaques view of the ‘phantasy form and content’ of the organisation.

1987 The psychotherapist’s role in a large mental institution.
Psycho-Analytic Psychotherapy 2 207-215
Psychotherapy has an ambiguous position within the psychiatric services, both needed and somewhat devalued. This paper addresses psychodynamic issues embedded in the professional contest between psychological and biological approaches.

1987 Large group dynamics and nuclear war.
Group-Analysis 20 137-146.
Whilst the 1986 paper was for a readership not versed in psychoanalytic ideas, this one addresses more technical group issues that may operate in public attitudes to nuclear war. Much of the psychoanalytic concern about the psychology underpinning nuclear war, appears to speak as if society, and large social groups, can be interpreted as individuals operating individual dynamics. This reductionism is difficult to avoid but should be supplemented by a more sophisticated understanding of group dynamics.

1987 Social dynamics and individual symptoms.
International Journal of Therapeutic Communities 8 265-272.
This is the first of three paper (the others in 1988, 1989) addressing sequential projections flowing through a number of social inter-relations. In this case, it was possible to observe a disturbance in someone with a long-standing psychosis, that led in unconscious ways to a disturbance in nursing staff, brought eventually to a supervision session,and manifesting itself in a discomfort in the supervisor.

1989 The therapeutic community in a changing social and cultural environment.
International Journal of Therapeutic Communities 10 63-69
This paper returns with a backward look at therapeutic communities over the period in which I had been involved. The socio-political conditions at this point, in the late 1980s, were very different from those when I had become first acquainted 20 years previously, and in turn very different from the origins of therapeutic communities in psychiatry 20 years before that.

1989 Social possession of identity.
In Barry Richards (ed) Crises of the Self (London: Free Association Books)
In this paper (like the 1987 one on social dynamics) serial projections through many interpersonal relationships could be followed, deriving from observations in the open climate of the Marlborough Day Hospital therapeutic community. They showed how the experiences mutated, and in general drifted from very personal ones, to more and more widespread group phenomena, as if the specifically individual could be possessed by, and deployed as, the social.

1989 Communication flow in the matrix.
Group-Analysis 22 261-269.
This is the third paper reporting serial projections from relationship to relationship amongst the membership of a functioning group, and shows similar phenomena to the last paper, thought the example is different..

1988 Discussion of Mark Ettin’s `Babel of Tower’ – the process and dynamics of Reagen’s National Security Council Group.
Group-Analysis 21 75-78
I was interested in the use of group dynamics to speculate about a current affairs issue that had been in the news.

1988 Psychotherapy in an in-patient setting. (Review article)
Current Opinion in Psychiatry 1 304-308
Invited to do an up-to-the-minute review of this topic, I was surprised at how flimsy the thinking about in-patient psychotherapy had become. Not the best of my work.