When parents are confronted with a crisis regarding their children, they often bring their adolescents to psychotherapists to be “fixed”. If the facilitator is experienced, the adults are confronted with the need to do some family of origin work in order to look at the unconscious reality driving the dysfunction. Organizations work the same way, but there is an even greater set of rationalizations that prohibit introspection and cultivating emotional intelligence, such as, “It’s not appropriate at work”; “that’s too private”, and “that will inhibit productivity.” These are all nice little mottos that are a defense to introspection (and systemic fear of litigation), and therefore eliminate the opportunity for transformation. Kilburg (2004), in a study of psychodynamic approaches to executive coaching, writes, “…events, feelings, thoughts, and patterns of behavior that are outside of the conscious awareness of executives significantly influence what they decide and how they act” (p. 246).
Effective organizational development processes that cultivate emotional intelligence and the integration of unconscious material have their roots in psychodynamic theory. These processes involve the transformation of sometimes painful self-awareness toward a mature and vibrant approach to life and leadership. The pioneer of consciousness work as a spiritual development practice was Carl Jung. Regarding Jung’s encouragements to know ourselves as leaders and humans more deeply, King and Nicole (1999) write, “With such perspective, management not only enhances its prospect for precluding the dysfunctional behavior of the spiritually bankrupt, but also enhances the organization’s capacity to foster heightened initiative and productivity from its members” (p. 234).
Transformational processes related to Jung’s practice of active imagination (subsequently known as the expressive arts therapies) are useful for letting go of intellectual rigidity. Fritz Perls’ Gestalt therapy, J. L. Moreno’s Psychodrama, and Alexander Lowen’s Bioenergetics techniques have proven effective in developing processes that facilitate integration of unconscious material that may block authentic expression. These processes are often called “action methods”. Blatner (2000), a student of Moreno and the foremost contemporary writer on psychodrama, identifies these techniques as something more than a mere set of tools: “…psychodrama, in combination with all the other psychological and social technologies being developed, can facilitate a new, potentially achievable goal: the conscious, intentional transformation of consciousness itself” (p. 20). Though organizational leadership is often loath to slow down enough to do this type of work, these influential positions may have the most potential impact on societal health.