Academic journal article Organisational and Social Dynamics

The Oedipal as a Defence against the Sibling

Academic journal article Organisational and Social Dynamics

The Oedipal as a Defence against the Sibling

Article excerpt

One of the challenging aspects in my own journey of life developments has been my personal background of being the fifth child in a family of nine. On the couch as much as in normal life I came to acknowledge the profound effect my siblings had on me and that it was not all about my parents, parental messages, and the vertical. My peers, my trainees, my trainers, and my therapists, were often, like myself, initially not prepared to think into a horizontal or lateral frame. I recall a feeling of dragging along with my analyst at one stage where we apparently were on a different wavelength, that felt like coming from different planets. The most accepting of the acknowledging of the impact of siblings were those colleagues who came from larger families themselves. It seemed that own life experience played a decisive role in accepting a perspective that included siblings as life agents, who are at least as important as fathers and mothers.

My training as a psychotherapist and consultant has followed the classical route of the vertical paradigm and the centrality of the oedipal conflict, but new attention for horizontal influences on life-scripting (Berne, 1972) has emerged. A breakthrough publication was Juliet Mitchell's book Siblings (Mitchell, 2003) in which she, in a scholarly and passionate manner, challenged the "near exclusive dominance of vertical comprehension to the interaction of the horizontal and the vertical in our social and psychological understanding" (p. 1).

In her book review for Organisational & Social Dynamics of Mitchell's work, Sirota raised an important question:

Mitchell is proposing that the lateral dimension has been crucially ignored in the psychoanalytic consulting room, how, then, might we be failing to take sufficient account of it in group relations (GR) thinking and theory, in GR conferences, and in the interpretations offered in the groups, organisations, and institutions we consult to? (Sirota, 2005, p. 146)

Armstrong wrote about the increasing interest in lateral relations at work which he defines as: "A relation between collaborating persons, role holders, groups or teams that is unmediated by an actual or assumed hierarchical authority" (Armstrong, 2007, p. 194). I brought the issue of the lateral forward in an elaborate case study of enacted sibling love in the staff of a group relations (GR) conference with the containing dynamic of the staff as other siblings, and the conference director as the hierarchical authority (Van Beekum, 2008).

As a consultant engaging in studying organisational behaviour, I apply psychoanalytic concepts, insights, and methodology, in conjunction with socio-dynamic and systemic perspectives. It is a mixture that I share with many colleagues, even when we differ in personal style, in pacing, and in the way we reveal our own internal process in our work with clients. I consider people like David Armstrong, Siv Boalt Boetius, and Burkhart Sievers as important early mentors and teachers, who all inspired me, although in quite different ways, in using my own unconscious process and not be restricted to use the client's unconscious process only. I think that in particular the thinking aloud of internal process in a relational manner as often demonstrated by David Armstrong, opened up my interest in what is called the relational psychoanalytic perspective (Aron, 1996; Aron & Starr, 2013; Mitchell, 1988). In consulting, this approach manifests itself in an ongoing process of working with the interaction of the client's impact and the consultant's own countertransference, awareness of enactments and "almost" enactments. Speaking of clients, they come in a variety of whole corporations or organisations, GR-conference participants, training groups, or senior executives in in-depth coaching.

Relational consultants research their client's worlds not only by observing but also by actively engaging and being impacted in their own world, consciously and unconsciously. …

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