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"The ticking clock thing": a systems psychodynamic study of UK organisations that engage the public on climate change

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Systems psychodynamic scholars have paid limited attention to organisational dynamics in organisations whose task includes addressing climate change, but the experience of working in such organisations is increasingly significant as the climate crisis intensifies. The doctoral study described here identified seven themes and related social defences characterising the experience of working in such organisations: exclusion, shame, sexualised excitement and threat, splitting, a sense of fragility, an uncertain relationship with authority, and difficulties with grieving. The emotional flavour of these social defences resonates with the climate emotions proposed by the existing body of climate psychology literature. A tentative proposal is made that working in this field constitutes a traumatic epistemological, social, and emotional experience; and that the fact of the traumatic experience is the "unthought known" in this work. Organisations that engage the public on climate change, it is proposed, may experience a trauma-influenced basic assumption mentality and may unconsciously activate a version of the "internal establishment" that exists to defend against the unthought known, with the establishment unleashing perverse dynamics and other defensive mechanisms such as shame, with a particular focus on maintaining the split polarities and thereby preventing genuine connection with others who are different.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2023

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  • Organisational and Social Dynamics is a forum for the publication of theoretical and applied papers that are relevant and accessible to an international readership; and, one where writers from psychoanalytic, group relations, and systems perspectives can address emerging issues in organisations and societies throughout the world.

    It aims to sustain a creative tension between scientific rigour and popular appeal, both developing conversations with the professional and social scientific world and opening up these conversations to practitioners and reflective citizens everywhere. We wish to attract manuscripts from contributors who are aware of their own values, suppositions and assumptions, the influence of counter-transference in their work, whatever form it takes, and the ability to connect the internal world of individuals and groups with societal and global processes.
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