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Differentiating anxiety, defence and work-related functioning in the psychodynamics of social systems : observing the unconscious cultures of psychiatric organisations

The aim of this thesis is the theoretical and empirical study of anxiety, defence and realityoriented functioning in social defence systems. The psychoanalytic background of the 'Tavistock approach' fonns the conceptual framework of this project. Thus the first chapter of the thesis discusses an overview of Freud's description of unconscious anxiety and defence, the positions of early psychic development as developed by Melanie Klein and Bion's extended view of projective identification as an early, non-verbal channel of emotional communication. An examination of group dynamics as studied by Freud and, in particular, Bion presents two major influences on the early work of the Tavistock group in the psychoanalytic study of organisations. In the second chapter, the emergence and establishment of the 'Tavistock approach' to the study of organisations is explored from a historical perspective. This serves to contextualise theoretical and professional shifts in this body of work, as well as illustrating the limited scope of its later application within the social defence systems paradigm. The following chapters present a re-worked, three-level view of social defence systems which incorporates co-existing defence-related and work-related states. This is an attempt to explore further the multiplicity of dynamics in social defence systems, utilising a wider range of psychoanalytic concepts. In order to test these theoretical constructs, an empirical study is carried out in two in-patient psychiatric wards. Using a psychoanalytically-influenced observational methodology, the empirical research focuses on the study of the institutions' cultures of work, hence connecting unconscious phantasy to work practices. The final chapter examines the main findings in a wider theoretical and professional framework. This thesis is a pilot study that attempts to illuminate the inner-workings of social defence systems through a psychoanalytic framework similar to the early Tavistock work in this area.
Date January 2009
CreatorsVonofakos, Dimitris
PublisherUniversity of Essex
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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