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Armstrong, D. (2004). The Analytic Object in Organizational Work. Free Associations, 11(1):79-88.

(2004). Free Associations, 11(1):79-88

The Analytic Object in Organizational Work

David Armstrong

This Paper Arises Out of a mental irritation of my own. This irritation is something I have found myself worrying away at for a number of years, in the course of trying to practice organizational consultancy within a framework and a tradition that is conventionally described as ‘psychoanalytic and systemic’. It is this copula that is the source of the irritation.

What kind of coupling is envisaged here? Is it simply the coming together of two frames of reference, with their associated disciplines and methods, each of which is then brought separately to bear on the issues and dilemmas presented by organizational clients? Or is it more like Bion's ‘reversible perspective’ in which the same phenomena can be seen now this way, now that, as in the figure/ground illusions I remember being intrigued by as an undergraduate psychology student? Or again, is it rather a clumsy, provisional way of pointing to or naming something new, neither ‘psychoanalytic’ nor ‘systemic’, but ‘psychoanalytic-and-systemic’; an emergent but not yet fully distributed third.

These may sound like the kind of questions and fine distinctions that can ‘tease us out of thought’, into barren and defensive speculation. For my own part, however, they are emotionally grounded: in the experience of trying to make sense of, or of feeling I cannot make sense of, what I am doing with a client, or of what I am achieving, or of what is going on inside me. At its most discomforting, I may sometimes feel like a professional tinker, with an array of pots and pans, culled from experience as an analysand, a group relations consultant, an action researcher, a practitioner of open systems thinking — grasping for whatever seems to be handy at the time.

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