Legend, myth and idea. On the fate of a great paper

Cooper, Andrew (2010) Legend, myth and idea. On the fate of a great paper. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 26 (2). pp. 219-227. ISSN Print ISSN: 0265-9883 Online ISSN: 1752-0118

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Isabel Menzies Lyth's seminal paper on social systems as a defence against anxiety is so well known and frequently cited that it risks acquiring mythic or legendary status. But what explains its phenomenal influence? In this contribution I suggest that it is a model example of the psychoanalytic case study, deriving its power from a deep engagement with organizational particularities as a basis for general theorizing. Its continued influence depends upon the way in which it is used to conceptualize new organizational experiences. An example from an institutional observation undertaken as part of an advanced social work training at the Tavistock illustrates this. Institutional observation is one of a range of non-clinical psychoanalytically informed methods of training at the Tavistock, and in the final part of the paper I discuss new applications of Menzies Lyth's work that aim to illuminate the irrational forces shaping modern social policy. Death and anxieties about death emerge as a subtext of the present paper, perhaps reflecting the fact that it was prepared as part of a memorial conference to Menzies Lyth herself, and also that the paper taught us to think better about death as an aspect of organizational experience.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Isabel Menzies Lyth, Case studies, Death, Quakers, Social Policy
Subjects: Social Welfare > Social Welfare Personnel
Groups & Organisations > Groups/Institutions/Organisations
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services
URI: https://repository.tavistockandportman.ac.uk/id/eprint/393

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