(2003). Free Associations, 10(1):1-13
This paper was written for a commemorative Conference in honour of Robert Gosling OBE (1920-2000), held at the Tavistock Clinic in February 2001. The title of the Conference, ‘Group and Institutional Processes at Work’, made reference to Gosling's lifelong interest in and engagement with this field of work. Trained as a psychiatrist and later as a psychoanalyst, Gosling joined the Tavistock Clinic as a senior registrar in the 1950s. For several years, he worked as an assistant to Michael Balint in his pioneering approach to training for general practitioners. He became a familiar staff member of the programme of Group Relations Conferences led by Ken Rice and later Eric Miller at Leicester and elsewhere, without ever losing a quiet but sustained independence of mind. From 1968-1979 he led the Tavistock Clinic, as Chair of its Professional Committee, during a period of significant expansion, both in the extent and range of the Clinic's work. When his hearing began to fail, he decided to take early retirement from the NHS and pursue new paths as craftsman and part-time farmer. But he continued to keep in touch with colleagues and friends working within the Tavistock tradition. He was a major supporter of the Bridge Foundation in Bristol and retained to the end a lively and generous interest in the work and development of a new generation.
In his practice and occasional publications, Gosling drew on, without drawing attention to, many strands of his experience and training: on early personal experiences of prolonged illness and hospitalization, on his own analysis with Wilfred Bion, the collaboration with Michael Balint and with colleagues at both the Tavistock Clinic and the Tavistock Institute, but also on his direct experience of engagement in many areas of organizational and social life, as participant, consultant, colleague, and leader.
In preparing this paper, I was asked to focus on Gosling's published contributions to the field. I found it impossible to do this
without at the same time recalling and trying to convey something of my experience of the person behind the words. This is where I start from.