‘The ticking clock thing’: A systems-psychodynamic exploration of leadership in UK organisations that engage the public on climate change

Nestor, Rebecca J (2022) ‘The ticking clock thing’: A systems-psychodynamic exploration of leadership in UK organisations that engage the public on climate change. Professional Doctorate thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust / University of Essex. Full text available

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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. This phenomenological study convened a group of leaders in organisations that engage the UK public on climate change (climate change communication), for seven meetings over eleven months. The results are analysed and the experience explored using an innovative combination of Co-operative Inquiry, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis and a systems-psychodynamic lens. Methodologically the study contributes new links between these three fields and proposals for how Co-operative Inquiry can be appropriately managed. The study identifies seven themes: exclusion, shame, sexualised excitement and threat, splitting, a sense of fragility, an uncertain relationship with authority, and difficulties with grieving. These themes represent social defences that can be seen as characterising the experience of participants’ work. 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, and the fear of annihilation that its elements carry, is the ‘unthought known’ in this work. Organisations that engage the public on climate change, it is proposed, 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. New connections are made between climate trauma theory and organisational social defences. Psychoanalytically-informed and ecopsychological trauma scholarship are explored to identify steps that could be taken to support people working in climate change communication and related fields. Further research is proposed, including organisational observation and biographical exploration.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Additional Information: A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Essex in collaboration with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust for the Professional Doctorate in Consultation and the Organisation
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in Consultation and the Organisation, D10D
Subjects: Groups & Organisations > Groups/Institutions/Organisations
Groups & Organisations > Occupational Groups
Groups & Organisations > Organisational Development
Psychological Therapies, Psychiatry, Counselling > Consultation
Department/People: Adult and Forensic Services
URI: https://repository.tavistockandportman.ac.uk/id/eprint/2712

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