consultation to organizations, executive leadership training


Dr Feldman is a member of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations - ISPSO.

He has consulted to organizations in Japan, China, Russia, the U.S., Latin America and Europe.

Dr. Feldman focuses on issues related to team functioning, leadership, creativity, and change dynamics.

He offers executive leadership consultation to foster the development of creative and effective funtioning in groups and organizations.

Dr Feldman describes some of his experience with organizational consultation in the following paper:

Towards a theory of organizational culture: Integrating the 'other' from a post-Jungian perspective


Brian Feldman, Ph.D. (Palo Alto, California)


The ways in which we live and interact with each other in social groups is an important component of culture.  Our interactional styles can be thought of as constituting the external forms of culture.  Cultures and organizations have particular ways of structuring interactions, which from an analytical perspective give us information about underlying modes of interchange which are often unconscious.  In this chapter I would like to explore organizational culture from a post-Jungian analytic perspective.  I would like to propose the concept of organizational individuation, a process that occurs at a social level and which involves the integration of the 'other', as viewed in terms of ethnicity, gender, and cultural/social background.  The 'other' in this context are those individuals who are perceived as being outside the predominant social group and are often excluded or marginalized.   For Jung (1959), individuation is a naturally occurring process within the psyche that promotes the integration and awareness of the 'other' within, the previously unknown and parts of the personality. Jung's initial formulations about the impact of culture upon the development of the individual and the group have been expanded upon by Henderson (1990), Singer (2001), and Kimbles (2000).  These authors have developed the concepts of the cultural unconscious and the cultural complex to help understand the structuring of emotional experience at both the personal and group levels. Kimbles'(2001) elaboration of the cultural complex is particularly significant as he relates the development of a group identity to the shared experience of a cultural complex.  According to Kimbles (2000, p.166) the cultural complex organizes and generates in-group feelings of belonging and identity, and is a product of the conscious and unconscious accumulation of negative and positive group feelings and experiences.   Within an organization the particular culture that evolves and develops is a product of the accumulation of shared experiences that can be looked at from both an individual and group viewpoint.  Individuation within an organization would then involve the integration of disavowed experiences at both the group and individual levels of experience.  Organizational individuation would then involve the integration of the other, the aspects of group experience that are related to the impact of marginalization, power dynamics, and ideological differences.

I think that the concept of individuation is a key element in understanding growth and development within organizational culture.  Organizational individuation involves an integration of the 'other' within the organization.  Otherness within an organization emerges in relation to ethnicity, gender, culture and can be mediated by primarily unconscious interpersonal processes such as projection and projective identification

An assessment of how the group manages conscious and unconscious processes and how an integration of these processes occurs informs us about the basic underlying structure and dynamics of the organization.  This understanding can in turn then be utilized to help foster organizational integration, growth and individuation.

Jung's concept of individuation was further developed by Michael Fordham (1985) who expanded upon Jung's original model of individuation process by investigating their origins in infancy.  Fordham's post-Jungian theory has provided a developmental foundation upon which Jung's original thought can more securely rest. Fordham's post-Jungian (1995;1996) theories are grounded in developmental thinking based on infant observation studies, and give a prominent place to the work of Bion, Winnicott and the British school of object relations as well as to Jung's original theories.  Fordham’s concept of defences of the self has been useful in helping to understand the self protective maneuvers of more seriously disturbed clients in analysis.  Fordham has postulated that the defence of the self helps the analysand maintain an illusion of security in the face of depressive and often psychotic anxieties of an overwhelming nature.  For Fordham, the defence of the self is a protective maneuver that helps to preserve a feeling of stability in the face of intense anxiety.  For Fordham the primary self contains all of the archetypal potential of the human being.  Fordham believes that the infant at birth has a capacity for individuality and integration, while Bick (1968)believes that the infant does not have this capacity and is hence unintegrated at birth.  My own observation of newborn babies indicates that the baby does have the potential for integrative experiences at birth, and that these experiences are mediated through the interactive bodily/emotional dialogue with mother.  The baby's innate, archetypal potential for the experience of self is facilitated through the use of touch, smell, taste, sound and sight when experienced within the interpersonal matrix of the infant and his caregivers.  The baby's initial experience of self is mediated through his experience of an interpersonal environment that is sensitive and resonant to his needs.  It is within this relational context that body image and identity development begin to unfold.  According to Fordham the infant's self evolves through a process of deintegration.  The infant's active engagement with his caregivers leads to a processes of deintegration/reintegration where experience (both personal and archetypal) is internalized and an inner world becomes structured through the introjection of relationships with significant attachment figures in the infant's life. The primary self of the infant has its own defensive system that is activated when there is environmental failure as we saw in the infant observation material.  Fordham postulates that these defense systems arise spontaneously out of the primal self and are designed to preserve a sense of individual identity and intactness.  These defenses of the self create an impermeable barrier, like a second skin, between the infant's self and the environment, and the processes of deintegration/reintegration are prevented from evolving.  In extreme cases Fordham believes that the infant can evolve rigid autistic-like symptoms of a second skin nature that thwart psychological development.

At the level of organizational analysis, the Kleinian analyst Elliott Jacques (1955) in his pioneering work on social defences, postulates that the one of the primary cohesive elements that bring individuals into organizations is a shared social defence against psychotic anxiety.  According to Jacques, individuals may use social institutions in order to support their own psychic defences, so that these institutionalized methods become social defences.  What Jacques is referring to are shared shadow fantasies that are projected onto the other.  Aggression and destructiveness are projected onto other individuals and groups, either within or outside of the group, and these people are seen by the organization as constituting a threat to its integrity.   I think that the social defences Jacques is referring to can be amplified further to include a social defense of the organizational self.  In this regard the members of the organization collectively attempt to ward off depressive and psychotic anxieties through an unconscious collusion that keeps the potentially troublesome anxiety evoking elements and people at bay.  I have observed this type of social defence of the self in analytic institutes where a sacred analytic doctrine (the self of the group) is protected against criticism, and where group relationships can be constellated around defensive pattern involving splitting, hostility and suspicion.  These are, as Jacques rightly points out, unconsciously motivated attempts to defend against the experience of anxieties whose sources could not be consciously controlled.   I think that Fordham’s work on defences of the self  helps to add another dimension to our understanding of these processes.  Fordham focuses on the adaptive nature of the defence, and looks at the way in which the defence helps to preserve psychological stability in the face of psychotic anxieties as well as exploring into its more pathological implications.

Bion's work with groups also focuses on how defenses can be mobilized within a group setting that help to preserve the ongoing stability of the group. Bion (1959) calls these group defenses basic assumptions. One of the basic assumptions of a group according to Bion is that people come together in a group for the purpose of preserving the group.  This basic assumption presents itself as the group grapples with fears (which Bion postulates are naturally occurring) of disintegration or splitting. Another basic assumption, fight/flight, emerges as the group views that either fighting or running away are the only means available to preserve the group's existence.  In this circumstance the group tends to look for a leader who will help the group flee from or fight the perceived enemy, be it an individual, an ideology or some other perceived threat to the group's integrity.  Fordham's concept of defenses of the self can be seen to be similar to Bion's notion of basic assumptions in that both provide a way of thinking about defenses that are utilized to ward off anxieties that threaten our experience of intactness and integrity.  They can also create an impermeable barrier, like a second skin that impedes psychological and emotional growth.

Menzies Lyth's (1988) work with nurses utilizing the framework of social defences is useful in understanding the need for organizations, in order to maintain their health and flexibility, to facilitate opportunities for individuals in the organization to develop their own unique and adaptive ways of confronting anxiety.  When the organizational culture is able to help individuals achieve a level of satisfaction previously denied to them, they can enter into a more creative dialogue with the organization, and contribute to its growth, development and individuation.  Fordham (1987) would think of these new psychological processes as actions of the self.  These actions of the self help to promote individuation processes both within the individual and in the group.

In my own personal training with Fordham during the 1980's he often referenced W.R. Bion (1962) as a significant analyst to read, understand and integrate.  Fordham felt Bion's ideas had much to offer to a post-Jungian analytic approach, both from a theoretical as well as clinical standpoint.   I think Bion had many interesting and important ideas about how we encounter the other both within ourselves, and within organizational culture.  Towards the end of his analytic career Bion (1974) gave a series of lectures in Sao Paulo. Brazil.  When talking about the relationships and rivalries that exist between different analytic groups he said the following:

One fundamental matter with which we are all concerned is tension. Sometimes there can be so little tension between two people that they fail to stimulate each other at all.  At the other extreme, the differences in outlook or temperament are so great that no discussion is possible.  The question is, can the society or group or pair find the happy mean which is tense enough to stimulate but belongs to neither extreme-either lack of tension or too much?  (Bion, 1974, p.95)


I think that Bion's commentary on tension is a valid one for thinking about the dialogue with the other within, as well as our dialogue with other within a particular organization.  Growth and individuation all require a level of experienced tension to motivate and stimulate these developmental processes.  In my observation of babies, within the analytical setting, and in work with organizations the experience of optimal tension is a significant factor in growth and development.  The baby needs to encounter the unknown other in order to begin to make sense out of their experience.  The analysand's individuation proceeds as he is able to engage in a dialogue with the otherness within, as well as between himself and the analyst.  Organizational culture can grow, develop and mature, as dialogue is facilitated between opposing opinions and viewpoints.


Infant Observation Research

The post-Jungian developmental approach focuses a good deal of attention upon infant observation research as it helps to delineate individuation processes that are set in motion from birth (or in utero). Fordham (1985) utilized data from the observation of infants to support his theories, and it is important to note that this emphasis on the infantile origins of psychological processes is in line with all of the major analytic theorists of the British psychoanalytic school (Klein, Bion, Winnicott).  In order to better understand infantile states of mind that have relevance for organizational dynamics I have found it helpful to observe infants in the naturalistic setting of their homes. It is my belief that the infant/caregiver relationship provides important data to inform us about the development of organizational dynamics, especially the power of unconscious communication and its impact upon the development of self and identity.  The type of infant observation that Michael Fordham utilized for his theorizing was developed at the Tavistock Clinic in London.  Tavistock infant observation was first devised by Kleinian analyst Esther Bick(1964) to help analytic candidates gain a deeper understanding of preverbal states of mind. Infant observation involves the observation of the infant in the naturalistic context of his family, and in this sense it is ethological in nature. The family as an organization is also an object of reflection.  Each family is observed in the familiar setting of their home for one hour per week during the first two years of the infant's life.  The purpose of this two-year observational experience is to provide an opportunity to observe first hand, from an analytically oriented perspective, the unfolding of the early infant-parent relationship.  The ways in which the different family members: mother, father, and baby interact with each other offers significant information about how cultural attitudes are transmitted from one generation to the next.  In addition the development of the individual within the social group of the family is also possible to observe at close range.


As a result of my ongoing infant observational research I have attempted to build on some of Fordham’s original theories.  As a result of this research I have found the following hypotheses to be useful in understanding the growth of the baby within the primal relationship of infant and parent. I would also postulate that these mechanisms can be looked at and applied to work in organizations. The infant's sense of agency, his capacity to create his universe in relationship with and in interaction with the significant figures in his environment is fundamental in understanding his development.  Agent act and agents are the subjects of their actions in interaction with others. This principle can also be related to organizational work and our need to support emerging agency in the organizational arena.


My observations lead me to postulate that the infant's mental and emotional development evolves in the context of his early relationships.  Mental and emotional developments do not evolve in isolation from the significant relationships in the baby's life.  The contextual component of the infant's experience is fundamental in understanding his development.  In regard to organizations the contextual component of an intervention is critical in understanding the nature of the problems as well as the course of the intervention.


The early mother/infant relationship is quite fluid in nature.  There is an ongoing oscillation between states of connection and states of separateness.  There is a rhythm and tempo to these fluctuating states.  The baby and mother undulate with each other in their particular dance.  These observations are in contrast to Fordham's (Fordham, 1985) conceptualizations that the infant is separate from birth, and are also divergent from Winnicott's (Winnicott, 1960) concept that the mother and infant are in a state of fusion during the earliest period of life.  In this regard individuals can have different needs in terms of their connection to and separateness from an organization.  I have found this to be especially important in understanding my relationships with organizations from different cultures.  For instance in Japan, there is much formality about the nature and timing of connections, such as business meetings, business dinners, and other highly structured interactions such as the tea ceremony.  While in Brazil, another area where I consult, the social/professional boundaries are far more fluid, and need to be understood in the context of Brazilian culture which places far less emphasis upon ritual and hierarchy than the Japanese.


It is also important to look at individual dynamics when assessing organizational life.  While Kets De Vries(1984)talks of a neurotic organization at a systemic level, the individual also makes contributions which are of significance to the system.  Main’s(1968) work on the interface between the individual and the organization is important in this regard.  According to Main, the way in which an organization is structured depends upon the individuals involved.  In this regard the study of leadership from a post-Jungian standpoint is also fundamental.  The leadership of the organization helps to provide structure, vision and clarity about its purpose and mission.  The creativity of the leadership is critical for the organization to grow, evolve and individuate.  From my perspective organizational leadership involves the development of a symbolic capacity, and a possibility to imagine the future, create possibilities and work effectively with the potentialities of the organization.  My own research into symbolization processes indicates that these potentialities emerge in infancy and evolve throughout the life cycle.


I think that the infant's capacity for symbolization evolves from birth onward.  The skin, as the first experience of a container is fundamental in this regard.  Bick (1968) has noted, based upon her infant observation research that through the experience of the skin the infant develops a concept of inside and outside spaces, with a boundary which separates the two distinct areas.  The skin is the envelope in which the body is contained, and it is the skin that provides the points of contact with the external world.  The skin acts as a delineator of boundaries between what is experienced to be outside and what is experienced as inside the self.  This primary skin function (Feldman, 2002) involves the evolution of a psychic container within which thought, affect and symbolic experience can be held and reflected upon.  This experience of the skin later evolves into a concept of an internal and external world.  Difficulties in the evolution of the psychic skin, the mental representation of the sensory skin, can be seen in primitive mental states where boundary difficulties are prominent.  In these cases a secondary skin function can develop.  The secondary skin function is a defensive maneuver that helps to contain unbearable affects through the use of bodily and mental processes such as can emerge in eating disorders, sexual addictions as well as in other psychosomatic conditions (Feldman, 2001).  Leadership involves the evolution of what I call the primary skin function.  The primary skin function helps in the evolution of appropriate psychological boundaries, and the development of a secure and bounded internal space where symbolization processes take place.  A space to think creatively is necessary for effective leadership.

I think that is it also possible to extend the concept of the psychic skin in the social area and formulate a concept of a cultural or group skin function.  In this respect the cultural skin becomes a metaphor of a social and organizational container.  We can begin to think about groups and organizations as having a particular type of skin function.  For instance, a group or organization that utilizes primarily defenses of the self, or is dominated by Bion's fight/flight basic assumption has an impermeable skin, and can be thought of as utilizing a second skin defense mechanism.  Groups and organizations that utilize second skin social defenses have a rigid group identity that does not allow for the inflow of new information, new ideas, and new observations.  It is a group that, according to Bion, has difficulty learning from experience.  A group or organization with a more permeable skin function can allow for change, transformation and growth, for the inflow of new ideas and new discourses, and the free flow of information is possible.  This capacity for a primary social skin function helps both the individual and the groups in their evolution of identities.  These individual and group identities are in an ongoing process of formation and transformation without a fixed or even necessarily unified goal.  These processes of growth and transformation are the most significant aspects of the primary skin function at the social level.  These cultural identities are forged and transformed as the tensions between past history, collective memory, and present social discourses are encountered.


Japanese Culture as Other


During the past three years I have been involved in consultation projects in Japan with a group of Japanese psychologists.  I have found our relationships helpful in clarifying each other’s cultural perspectives and in understanding more about our respective cultures.  As Japanese and American consultants working together in Japan we have experienced 'otherness' both within our work relationship and between each of us and the culture of the other. We have each needed to become more aware of our 'unconscious theories of the other' in order to form a working relationship and to be able to provide effective ongoing consultation to organizations in Japan.


Japan is a complex and ancient culture.   My first encounter was often bewildering and confusing, especially as I did not have a grasp of the language.  I found my experiences there helpful in understanding the Japanese other, as well as in gaining a better understanding of myself. I found the tensions between North American and Japanese culture to be a significant motivating factor to stimulate reflection upon our respective cultures.  In this regard I have found the American anthropologist Ruth Benedict's(1946) work on Japanese character entitled 'The Chrysanthemum and the Sword' to be very helpful. In many respects what Benedict describes is a culture that utilizes second skin social defenses to preserve a sense of harmony, stability and integrity; and where the introduction of new ideas is often difficult.


According to Benedict, the Japanese rely upon order and hierarchy in their social relationships.  This reliance upon hierarchy, as well as the important rituals that frame social relationships influences organizational culture as well as social life in Japan.  Relationships in Japan depend upon hierarchy; every greeting, every interpersonal contact must indicate the kind and degree of social distance between people. Every time a man says to another eat or sit down he uses different words if he is addressing someone familiarly or is speaking to an inferior or to a superior.  There is a different form of you that must be used in each case and the verbs utilized even have different stems.  The Japanese have a respect language which is accompanied with proper bows and kneeling.  All such behavior is governed by meticulous rules and conventions.  It is not merely necessary to know to whom one bows but it is necessary to know how much one bows.


The Japanese psychoanalyst Takeo Doi(1971), has written in his classic book, 'The Anatomy of Dependence', that Japanese interpersonal relationships are characterized by a concept he calls amae.  Amae is a concept which captures a particular aspect of interpersonal relationships in Japan.  Amae implies a kind of dependence which is ingrained in Japanese culture.  According to Doi, amae first emerges in infancy, and implies an indulgence of the child often idealized in Japanese culture.  This nourished dependency continues throughout the childhood years when a sharp ship in attitude occurs.  Amae signifies a complex web of interpersonal relationships which involves dependency, duty and obligation.  There are a complex set of rules that govern this behavior, and there is an underlying attempt to save face and avoid shame


The Japanese trust their meticulously explicit map of behavior.  This involves guaranteed security so long as one followed the rules.  This can cultural attitude leads to a more conservative view of life.  The Japanese are not encouraged to express their individuality within their culture, and tension between opposing viewpoints is often not encouraged.  We could say that the Japanese do not tolerate a great deal of tension, following Bion, and hence their organizational and social relationship can limit innovation and creativity. It is for this reason that innovation within Japanese culture often happens through the importation of foreign ideas and practices.  For instance, the Japanese imported Zen Buddhism from China, and one of their alphabets, Konji, is based on Chinese characters.  In modern Japan, American culture is hugely influential, and trends that first emerge in New York or California quickly migrate to Tokyo and beyond.  I have found this way of importing foreign ideas very curious. New ideas are tolerated if they help the maintenance of stability of the group, and enhance the leadership of the group.  They are not tolerated if they provoke tension and foster changes that are antithetical to the ongoing stability of the group.


I have found this to be the case when I have taught analytic theory in Japan.  I was actually asked to teach developmental Jungian theory (Fordham) and practice in Japan because it was thought dangerous for a Japanese analyst to promote a way of thinking that has not yet taken root there.  The predominant mode of Jungian thinking in Japan is classical, and this school of thought has a strong and powerful leader who dominates the Jungian culture there.  I was told that it would not be considered safe for a Japanese analyst to teach theories that may promote tension with the predominant power structure within Japan.  As a foreigner it would be alright for me to teach an opposing theoretical viewpoint as I would be seen as outside the group, and less of a threat as I would be there for only short stays.  At first I found this somewhat odd, but later came to recognize and respect, that the Japanese operate within a particular social and cultural framework that is hesitant about the introduction of new ideas and practices, and which only very slowly and deliberately can assimilate new ideas that may lead to changes and transformations in their clinical practices.  The Japanese utilize this second skin defense at a social level, to help preserve feelings of group harmony, unity and integration.  It has been a challenging, frustrating and rewarding endeavor to work with Japanese analysts to help in the transformation of their analytic culture, and to experience at first hand how powerful social defenses of a second skin nature can be.


In a paradoxical way it is also interesting in Japan is to observe how Zen culture fosters freedom of thought and experience with a practice of discipline to train the mind to be able to perceive more clearly.  I think that utilizing Bion’s concept without memory or desire we can think of Zen as a practice akin to analysis in that its goal is the search for truth and the modification of defensive maneuvers that block the experience of our thoughts and affects.  To know in Zen is to know through direct experience and not through the study of its sacred texts.  This is also the goal of analysis of any school, as the experience of analysis is fundamental to its practice.  In this sense to know is outside of all texts. Zen, in its practice promotes a capacity to experience what Bion (1962), following Keats, terms negative capability.  For Keats negative capability exists 'when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’(in Bion, 1962). Shunryu Suzuki(1970), a modern Zen teacher, calls this beginner’s mind.  ‘If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything.  In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.' (Suzuki, p.21)  In a sense the practice of beginner's mind is a metaphor for the evolution of a primary skin function, where new observations can be made, and where there exists a capacity to learn from experience.  It is an interesting paradox that within a culture where there is an emphasis on the utilization of second skin social defenses, that practices that emphasize the development of openness to unconscious processes are so revered.  Perhaps this paradox is an important one, as it points to the potential for transformative processes to be found even within a rigid and hierarchical social framework.  This observation lends support to the Jungian notion that we can find potentials for healthy growth even within complexes that appear rigid and inflexible.



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