Koronavirus ja organisaatiodynamiikka – 3. katsaus

This 3rd Patchwork from the Global Group Relations Council/Network/Collective/Forum emerges at the Equinox. It is a significant position in the changing circumstances of the global pandemic. USA is entering the election season and Israel is coming out of the trial of the Prime Minister after their 3rd election in 18 months. There have been migrant crises in India and economic collapses in Latin America and we are yet to experience the full impact of the aftermath of COVID-19 across the rest of the world. 

The patches do not represent every member’s contribution but they do harness the feelings of being inside and outside, and somewhat like the virus itself, somewhere on the boundary between the two. It could be experienced as a place of hypothesis and frustration, as articulated by the Group Relations Russia contribution. 

We did note that the presence in absence of the Leicester Conference 2020 was striking. It evoked for us a taboo too hot to handle. In a year where many things went online due to lockdowns and hotel closures, the Leicester Conference took place, face to face. Not in Leicester, but in Bavaria Germany. Not with 80 people, but with 14 people. What does it mean for the founding seed of the group relations tradition to have changed in so many ways that could be seen to run counter to our dominant narratives about how things are done? 

Issues such as ambivalence to authority, the experiences of blackness of skin in whiteness of thinking, creativity and tradition, envy and ambition can be found in the patches. There are explorations of the tension between risk, opportunity and possibilities and how different nations are responding to the virus. There seems to be an underlying mistrust about scientific thinking and the potential of science to improve lives. How do we hold the vaccine and its possibility for cure in mind? What is located in the Swedish experience in response to COVID-19, a nation that had no lockdown? We noticed that the colours of the Swedish flag were manifested in the video submission from Italy by an Italian opera group. 

The clear ringing DING of the bell of the TAO emerged from one of the patches. Exploring the I- Ching Hexagram as a method of sense-making was inspired and profound. Above all, this set of patches seemed to speak to us about creativity and the capacity to work with the unformed and emergent with both curiosity and playfulness. 

The patches have been put together in the form and order in which they were submitted. Giving readers access to the primary material in as raw a form and undigested a way as possible, leaving maximum room for the reader to construct, weave and braid the patches into a meaningful pattern that speaks to their context. In group relations tradition, we hope to ensure that the participant reader has maximum freedom to experience the patches with fresh eyes and ears. 

As you enter the patches, we invite you to notice what moves you, what speaks to you, what makes you fall silent? 

By Arifana International & Tavistock Institute of Human Relations 


CASSGO- America 

The “new normal” has propelled us into the world of virtual group relations. Considerable anxiety accompanies the movement of our work in group relations into a virtual environment; our Large Study Group Consultation Training Program, which we hoped to conduct virtually in August, has been postponed, presumably due to our lack of experience with making this transition. 

On the other hand, the virtual group relations conference that I directed for psychiatry chief residents was a resounding success. The forty-four members and twelve staff engaged in a remarkably intimate and authentic group relations conference experience as evaluated by a highly qualified conference staff which included four previous conference directors in addition to me. The conference schedule was identical to a face to face conference, which seems to debunk the idea that the immersion in a virtual experiential conference needs to be tempered to prevent “Zoom fatigue.” 

Our next conference in China has probably also been affected by anxieties about working virtually. When we planned for a face to face conference, we included a research task to study both the experiences of members and staff. The consulting staff became concerned about being studied like “laboratory rats,” though much of the concern was projected onto how the members might react to research. We decided to offer a more modest conference size of fifty-five rather than the seventy members initially planned, to reduce the schedule from five days to four days and limit the research task to an internal study of staff dynamics without involving any study of individual member’s experiences. 

An additional acceptance of the “new normal” is evident in the planning of virtual conferences well in advance. We do not seem to expect to be able to hold face to face conferences in the near future. 

I am still planning on directing a virtual conference for Russian colleagues next spring, and I have sent a proposal to OFEK for a virtual conference for Arabs and Israelis, who would otherwise not be able to attend a face to face conference even without the pandemic due to unstable and impermeable political boundaries. 


Given there is no single thing that can be definitively called GR thinking, it’s useful to highlight just three GR phenomena, which I label disorientation, differentiation, and dis-ease

Disorientation: GR experience provokes profound questions about personal and group identity. Questions such as “who am I?”, “who are you?”, “who are we?” “who are they?”, are part of the moment-by-moment traffic of group relating. And also the intersections of these different coordinates- how do me-ness, you-ness, we-ness and they-ness affect each other? 

Measures taken to reduce the spread of COVID give rise to similar questions. With the folkways of normal human communication dammed up through lock down and social distancing, our relatedness to each other is fundamentally changed. There are many stories to tell, of isolation, but also of spontaneous community building. The way in which GR experience allows us to lose and find ourselves is a template for thinking about these processes. 

Differentiation: GR experience asks us to think about borders and boundaries. . The relentless attention to how these boundaries work helps us think about our authority and responsibility, and the fantasies we create about “otherness”. GR allows an exploration of how a system is structured, and why certain voices might be privileged or marginalised. 

The COVID experience offers a plethora of potential “others” to blame (government, the young, the deep state, mask wearers/ non-mask wearers). It also lays bare some of the ways society is structured- witness the higher incidences of infection among BAME groups. The application of GR thinking gives us a greater understanding of how to make sense of this. 

Dis-ease: The pandemic has been a profound caesura to people’s experience of the “normal”. We know some of the narratives (the grandparent unable to see their grandchildren, the burnt-out health worker, families wrestling with school closures) but there are many, many more- experiences both of trauma, and, sometimes, of being surprised by joy. 

The most essential element of GR is people coming together, and the possibility of reaching an understanding of another’s experience. In the face of dis-ease, this is where renewal begins. 

And COVID, of course, has impacted on GR practice, Our usual superstructure, of hotels and conference venues are closed. We have moved online. But we are discovering that this offers new opportunities. A greater reach; a simplicity to hosting; and perhaps most significantly, a lower barrier to entry through lower costs. If we are serious about “making a contribution”, we need to continually attend to how to make the GR experience accessible: How not to a club, but to be a mission.

Group Relations India 

Covid-19 cases in India are rising alarmingly and currently highest in the world despite low testing, schools remain shut, economic indices have plummeted, and the huge numbers of India’s poor are struggling to keep afloat. As a response to what must be huge anxieties that remain suppressed, the ‘craziness’ in society is unprecedented alongside a decimation of basic human values- ‘insaniyati’- in public discourse. 

The government rather than handle the crisis with competence and compassion, has abdicated its primary task, presenting a false choice between economic and health related survival. In collusion with a willing media, there is a propagation of narratives that manipulate and hijack the focus from issues of health, poverty, employment, to issues of retribution, war on its borders, and national pride. Under cover of COVID 19, laws are being passed that are undemocratic, unjust and unsustainable via processes of deceit, subverting all structures and options of dissent, free speech and human rights. Public institutions follow suit. 

Citizens mirror this abdication, with people thronging public places without protection putting themselves and others at risk. Simply put BaM is the new order, with BaF at its heels. BaD is on display with dependence on gods and goddesses, as leaders are no longer dependable. 

The large group is becoming increasingly difficult to get a handle on – moving, multiple, complex, and there is a desire to wish it away by retreating into smaller systems. The ray of hope is in of new forms of leadership and alternatives emerging at local levels where the view of the system as a whole leads to meaningful responses. 

The conference directors of GRI’s 2020 residential conference ”Unpacking Hierarchy & Privilege: Leadership for Purpose and Potential”, (scheduled for June, then postponed to November2020) decided to cancel the conference. It seemed an important moment of reckoning with what it means to believe that GR is situated within its context. GR is informed by, and seeks to influence the context no doubt, but not, in our view, through a bypassing of it! 

Proceeding with the conference seemed to us to be about our own ambition than about creating an opportunity for learning in inclusive and equitable ways. This would amount to an enactment of hierarchy and privilege rather than an unpacking of it as the theme asks of us. We believe that this stance acknowledges the socio-political, ethical, and spiritual dimensions of GR work. 

Group Relations Australia 

Our reflections over the last few months are a reminder of the importance of mature political, social and organisational leadership during a crisis and the capacity to hold and contain the anxiety. New tensions emerge everywhere at this time and under conditions of chronic stress we are pushed and pulled into reactive, judgemental and primitive (paranoid/schizoid) thinking. 


The global Coronavirus crisis has shown us a range of models of leadership, from the brash, reactive and unthinking, in Australia and internationally – to the more thoughtful and authentic, in our part of the world, especially Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand but unfortunately not too many more. 

The Premier of Victoria, our home Australian State, has matured into his leadership role to become a containing presence, conducting daily news conferences, where he has had to tolerate not only the tensions of an entirely new role, but some blatantly political, immature and emotional questioning. His focus on the underlying concerns of different groups in the community and his steady thoughtful response – has been largely welcomed by the majority of citizens. A good enough leader. 

Regressive behaviour 

We have a had a series of government directed lockdowns generating the predictable splitting and a puerile level of debate symptomatic of a regressed state of mind – perhaps seen most clearly in framing not wearing a mask as a political gesture and a ‘human right’.
Covid is also revealing pre-existing weaknesses in all our institutions – health care funding, confusion about state/national government authority, trust in our institutions, support of the vulnerable and racial inequality to name a few. The challenge will be how do we respond to what has been made visible as we move into a post-covid time? 


Looking back at the previous notes shows the unfolding of the drama: in the first ”250 words from Tel-Aviv” the pistol was visible, by now, the third, act it fired: Covid 19 that seemed to be contained by the end of May has surged again to the measure that Israel occupies the second place of rate of infection following the USA. 

Failed and self-absorbed leadership abdicated the interest in citizen’s welfare for self-interest. Weekly demonstrations and civil unrest are a major force as we are entering a second lock-down. As I write it is unclear if the lock-down will be respected or will meet a civil disobidience. 

Many people are at a stage of despair, having lost their jobs, their businiesses, their pride.
The lock-down coincide with the celebration of the Jewish New Year, so as to prevent family gathering and mass prayer. What a message for the New Year! The political abuse of the pandemic is to do away with democratic institutions. 

From Tel- Aviv to PCCA:
PCCA held a Virtual Event during three Fridays in July. Here is a summary of what we learned through the Event: 

❖  We learned about the shape of the trauma we are in: helplessness and dependency are preoccupying the psyche at this period. The pandemic has resulted in an ongoing powerful and traumatic paradoxical experience – what seems good may be bad; what is a source of life may be a source of death and vice versa. People’s sense of what is real and what is true has been turned upside down. The capacity to make judgements is disturbed.

❖  Dreams brought up in the SDM were harsh and dark, eg: images of amputated legs, the decapitated head of a child, intergenerational murder.

❖  We learned about the depth of depression: a prevailing view of a gloomy future and a present marked by isolation. The need to maintain ”physical distancing,” dubbed ’social distancing,’ became a self-fulfilling prophecy as the physical distancing led to the internalization of social distancing – of distance from the Other as the carrier of danger . The recall of past connections and relationships underscores the present isolation and remoteness.

❖  The ’new (ab)normal’ results in a superficial and emotionally constricted internal and social lukewarm experience.

❖  We learned about the prevelance and operation of both We-ness – the phantasy that ’we are all in this together’, and Me-ness – ‘I am taking care of myself,’ not obligated, protected from others.

The phantasy that “we are all in this together” hides the differences in privilege, race, and economic development – among other factors – and masks the realization that we are in this in very different ways. 

❖  We learned that it is difficult to trust our own experience and about our doubts whether we can trust our leaders. We are in a new and insecure world. The sense of security built on past, familiar or established structures, may not be suitable in the future, leaving us feeling caught between the old and the new, the past and the future, and full of anxiety.

❖  We learned about intergenerational tensions – there is no place for everyone, one generation is endangering the other. Co-existence is challenged: the possibility that the adult generation can be helpful and guiding for the younger generation is attacked or does not exist in the psyche at the moment.

❖  We learned that the ’Covid state of mind’ is a compliant state of mind: abdicating pesonal authority and automatically accepting external authority (e.g., a given interpretation is experienced as a dictate and a command). 

To sum up: It was an important and meaningful Event for many who participated, providing a moment of getting together in a time of social distancing. 

We learned that we are hardly all in the same sea, surely not in the same boat – as we have local circumstances that make for a quite different experience.
We learned about the sense of deep isolation and loneliness, of being ’dis-membered’, of a vision of a dysphoric future.
We learned about the different defenses mobilized at this unique time: taking shelter in ”as if” privileges and Me-ness, closing up and rejecting the outreached hand of the Other. 

GR tools, in their PCCA application provided an adequate setting, even when moved to the Virtual space. 

Arifana International: Sweden 

So, here we are, in the ”new normal.” 

The number of people who are severely ill by Covid 19 has fallen drastically in Sweden, which is the good news. There are still many persons who are tested positive, but those numbers are diminishing as well. For quite a few days now, we have had zero casualties.
That is so good.
So, why still this unrest, this nervous energy in the air? We are all waiting for the vaccine – but can we trust it? I hear many voices saying “I will never test the first edition of the vaccine, I’m sure it won’t work…”

In Sweden we have not had a lock-down like in other countries. Were we “right?” More than 5.000 persons have died in a population of about 10 million. Is that “right?” 

The different phases of this pandemic in the different parts of the world are almost impossible to understand. In so many countries it is still raging, in a second wave, and in Sweden we are in some sort of frozen calm. Or is it an illusion? And in due course a second wave will shake Sweden as well? 

As for Arifana, we are in a reconstruction phase regarding the annual Conference TOLC, Transformation: Organization, Leadership, Creativity. There is a new venue booked, the staff is ready and the new dates are set; a year from now, so we can be sure to make it happen. 

The virtual Conference that we offered, found too few members to be realized. Conclusions could be that our energy wasn’t big enough. Or that the longing for a Conference IRL was too big… On the other hand, there have been so many virtual Conferences these past months, so there were plenty of opportunities for those who desired it. 

To be continued… 

Group Relations International 

“The new now” 

We are trying to come to grips with living in the “here-and-now” and how anxiety provoking this is. Everything is constantly changing. The desire to go back to what was and the fantasy that we live in a “new normal” serves to deny the fluidity of the current moment. COVID-19 is not the only thing that’s raging, so are wildfires, storms, and people – more and less contained. 

Trust and Safety
Irrationality is raging as well, fed by an uncontained, uncertain environment. In this “new now” questions of trust and safety apply to all levels of analysis. Can I trust this person not to have COVID? Can we trust to travel from X to X depending on travel advisories? Who do we trust when we get conflicting and contradictory messages? Can I trust my own judgement in who to trust? 

Task and Purpose
Collectively, it appears we are not only fighting about competing tasks, but we may have lost the purpose beyond the task. What is sacred? 

Many local initiatives to make the world a better place. Collaboration, creativity, grassroots initiatives, reaching out outside, energy for making things happen. 

GRI has offered international virtual events: Group Relations, Race Relations, Applications; Small Study Group Training and has been involved in organizing a virtual GR conference. 

Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust 

What can Group Relations speak to us about COVID-19 from our part of the world?’ 

A big question. What’s ‘our part of the world?’ The Tavistock Clinic, or London? Or the UK, or Europe – or not… What’s ‘COVID-19?’ It’s so many things now – the virus and its impact on so many bodies, and lockdown, and masks and bankruptcy and working from home and graphs in the newspapers. And even, ‘what’s Group Relations?’ The events themselves? The model, the learning, the community, the kinds of processes that can take place within a GRC’s ‘temporary organisation’ or within our permanent ones…? All of these things keep moving and changing, and the ongoing uncertainty of who we are to each other and what ‘COVD-19’ actually is feels exhausting at times. 

Our two recent GRC’s reflect this uncertainty; one online and one (last week) face to face – maybe the last opportunity for a while in this NHS Trust for GRC members to meet in this way with the restrictions we face as winter approaches. One consistent theme throughout the July ‘virtual’ GRC was the sense of loss and deprivation felt as a result of the pandemic. There was a sense of rushing towards premature solutions in an attempt to avoid the pain of loss. Members seemed to appreciate our organising this GRC and talked about their reservations prior to it. However, the closing plenary suggested this was tempered with what they felt they had gained. 

As in a GRC, we are seeing the system as a ’fractal’, with repeated experiences of responses from central government echoing and being mirrored in interactions closer to home; in our own organisation or our own individual way of responding. So a GRC director finds themselves responding to ‘Covid’-related decisions in the same way as a political leader; and as managers we are struggling to consult or to tolerate knowing how hard our decisions hit others. 

There is a boundarilessness that feels dangerously close, all the time. When will this end? Is there a horizon? Are we moving forward or just drifting, out in space while simultaneously feeling the restrictions of not being able to travel, not being able to touch? In the UK there is the ongoing pain of being part of a nation that shows care by clapping, as if care was a show rather than hard work – and that this is a place where some can break rules with impunity while others suffer for it. 


After the peaceful summer the second wave of covid19 is here in Finland. This time those who get sick are the younger ones. Even the numbers of those infected are quite modest Covid19 still divides us in two: those who are very cautious and to those who are risk takers. 

There is other separation being realized in Finland. Fins seem to think the homeland as safe place and other nations being some way polluted. The face mask has become the symbol of that separation. So practical thing as the mask is, it some howe seems fins are avoiding the use of mask. Mask has become the symbol of shame and stigma of covid19. 

Covid19 has changed the way we think of work life and howe it should be organized. We are in the middle between of ongoing change. There is no way back to normal as it used to be before Covid19 and same time new ways are just in merge. Remote connections has become normal way to communicate with each other. Face to face connections are under the continuing evaluation: when and for what reason we should meet face to face? Many people talk seriously about this phenomenon being in the middle of change which is not fully understood. 

Both Metanoia Institute and FINOD are part of this development. We are continuing seeking ways to work with virtual connections and looking lighter and agile ways to organize training and gatherings around group relation thinking. Either it is because agile ways to work or because of covid19, virtual gatherings collecting more people than live conventions, we had before covid19 appeared. 


Here in Italy we’re now at the beginning of the scholastic year and the anxiety for the learning of young generations is full of turbulence and uncertainty.

One open question is How the young generations are supported in coping with the effect of the traumatic impact of the covid 19. Another one is how can we face up on the fear of the financial situation; a data is that in Italy in this covid19 time 600000 workers have lost their jobs (expecially young people and/or women).

From these datas it seems so important now dedicate energies to redesign and rethink to the training and 1. create containers to better cope with the social trauma in which we are all immersed meanwhile it’s going on and 2. develop new, resilient and creative forms of adaptation.

Franca’s poetry : 

The summer is over
Looking for a feeble rhythm of safety as uncertainties,
fear of a foreseeable breakdown is lurking behind the corner.
children go to school,
unemployment is on the rise,
waves of the virus are expected.
’normality’ gone,
loss to be comprehended,
the law of change, coexistence and adaptation slowly piercing a thick layer of denial, 

a mourning process slowly to be started. 

Beauty will save humanity? 

and the earth we live in? 

Franca Fubini and me we had the opportunity to be present at the performance at the Greek Theatre of Syracuse on August 2020 and in the attachment you can find a very short video. Beyond the wonderful spectacle was so interesting the effort of creative adaptation to the new covid19 reality putting the spectators on the traditional stage and the performers on the audience so changing the point of view and perspective. 

Il Nodo Group Italy is navigating between face to face events and online ones; an application od GRC , Learning from Action, will take place in presence next October. For Italians only: the present situation is an interesting obstacle to international events, unless they are online; the next module of the Social Dreaming training will be hosted via zoom in September, in fact it would have been difficult for the international participants to travel; a Reflective Citizenship event is taking place (19/09) in a sport centre where social distancing can be maintained. 

Tavistock Institute China 

Invisible and To Be Seen 

Tavistock method is to deal with those under sea level (Iceberg theory) which we call unconscious. Let invisible to be seen, it’s the way to acquire knowledge. 

China now is to be seen by its rapid development in economic and lately Covid-19. In Chinese Taoist culture, says the Tao – Universal truth can be related, but the related truth is not Universal. That is to say unconscious (Tao) there is nothing to explain, this is exactly the difficulties we are facing right now when we hope to bring Tavistock method into Chinese Organizations. 

In Chinese ancient history, the Book of Changes (I Ching) make unconscious manifest through divination. This morning, I made a divination, asked about “how would be the development of Tavistock’s method in China?” Following is the content of the hexagrams: “Ding” – It’s made up of two hexagrams with wind below and fire above, wind underneath makes fire stronger, the symbolism meaning is creation. 

Ding is an ancient cooking vessel and an important sacrificial vessel for God. It is a container with high casting cost, most made by brass or bronze. The implication of the remark is that the gentleman should be dignified and upright when he sees the Ding (tripod) and become the pillar of the state, based on their own (centered, with self-authorization), having weight and having a great bearing. It’s a prosper hexagrams about power. 

There are six lines in hexagram, which give us six inspirations according to the characteristics of the Ding:
1) Discard the old things, clean the tripod, and make new food; The casting of the tripod is one mold one tripod, each time is different, so it is a new creation, and the starting point of each reform and renewal should be right. 

2) When the tripod was full of food (fully prepared), my enemy suddenly became ill, and I stopped to attack, which was a good thing.
3) Do not carry the leftover food, do things light, update at any time.
4) If the Ding has a broken leg, it can’t stand any longer. If the team works together and everyone makes the effort, the Ding will be stable. 

5) The ears of the tripod and the weight of the tripod are gilded. It means that those who have made contributions to the country and the nation will be given enough dignity.
6) The weight to carry the Ding should be made of jade, it’s no longer for carrying the Ding, but to be given the honor and dignity in the history. 

To sum up is to say that a country should advance, dare to remove the old shade, dare to innovate; In the process of re-innovation, first we need to understand the purpose, second we need to understand the way, and third we need to give warriors dignity and honor, so that we, as a giant (Ding), can forge ahead with the efforts of all. 

I regard this remark as the guidance and reminder of heaven to our cause of TIC. 

Group Relations Taiwan 

Group relations speak to us about COVID-19 in Taiwan in terms of how our internal political conflicts affect our government’s Covid-19 management. Our government continues to do a great job in keeping people safe from Covid-19. There has not been evidence of community transmission in recent months. However, the pro-China political camp, with strong business tie with China and often align their views with China against Taiwan’s best interest, continues to challenge and even rebel against our government’s COVID-19 recommendations for its political and business gains. If not for a strong leadership and support from Taiwanese people, and for understanding the importance of having a clear boundary with China, our government would not have such a success in containing COVID-19 today. 


The new Hebrew Year is about to begin. Rosh- Hashana is our holiday. COVID-19 feels out of control. It will Influences our ability to celebrate. We all lost our trust in our leaders.
OFEK members did not meet each other face to face for many months. There is a very lively online learning activities in the Organization. Lately, there is violent apparition form members directing towards the board members and founders, after the decision to prosopon our next international conference. It seems like the frustration in our country is crossing the boundaries into our organization. 

We will try to continue our primary task and create new containers to digest the Betta elements in our GR community. 

Lithuanian Group Relations Society 


As we reflect on current situation and pandemics, we are constantly observing polarities emerging in our experiences, stories and themes: being insider in the society – being someone from outside who is experiencing the society, talking about the virus being integrated into our lives – at the same time discussing the stigmatization of those who are infected, being relaxed in the country – at the same time shutting the boarders and managing country boundary while having one of the most strict entering criteria in Europe, supporting strive for independency of our neighbour – Belarus – building the live chains of people connecting two nations symbolically – at the same time having no conceptual discussion why we are shutting ourselves from the movement from the rest of European countries, shutting from those, who treated as ‚infected‘. We say we got used to the news about pandemic, we feel safer – but we still emphasize in national statistics, how many cases were ‚brought in‘ by someone who have returned from other countries (the ones who got it inside are unfortunate. The ones who brought it – are guilty). 

So even though consciously we want to believe in ‚integration‘, data emerging from reflections still indicates we are splitting. And trying to make sense of everything we observe, so that it makes us feel safer. We lived in phantasy (or short glimpse of reality) that summer „save it all‘ – we can travel again, we can mingle around (with masks on!) while not keeping social distance, as if sun, sea and summer breeze would empower us to believe that we will have weddings, classmates’ meetings, gatherings, christenings and family holidays. 

We say we need to live on, we want to fly, travel again. We even have an idea, that maybe we have already had virus before it all started? The idea of secrets and of unknown creeps in – secrets are owned by other Countries. Also one owned by us. Secret that pandemic made us to face – our own vulnerability. Do we feel like wanting to keep the secret that help-seeking professionals were looking weak and vulnerable? 

It is safer to self-isolate when you feel vulnerable. We say we want to jump on planes again. We say we integrate as much as we can. We believe we are quite good at. We keep boundaries strict – as if we want to be pure. We manage and change the rules, we keep ourselves busy. We share lots of personal stories, though we do not share the feelings related to them. We tell them like fairy tales, as if that would be normal to be saved from virus by accident, to rush madly out of the country, not to see your family as planned. It feels as if we met Little Red Riding Hood in the forest while picking the mushrooms and it is no surprise. 

How is the virus changing our container? Well.. second wave is coming… 


In the months since the last patchwork, the experience of the Covid-era in the US has changed dramatically. The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis—along with the earlier murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and the ongoing disproportional impact of the pandemic on the black community–ignited the fire of a Black Lives Matter uprising across the country. While the mass demonstrations and civil disobedience have largely subsided, the sense of fracture and division remain, with violence erupting most recently in Kenosha and Portland. Meanwhile, I’m writing under skies white with smoke from wildfires, even though I’m on the east coast, 3000 miles from the western fires. All of this seems like a fitting backdrop for Trump’s reelection campaign. 

For AKRI, the intensity of the national dialogue on race brought added energy, conflict and learning to our biweekly Zoom membership meeting. Attendance at these meetings reached new heights as the membership discussed issues of race in things like conference staffing, leadership elections and roles, and resource allocation. In this context, AKRI hosted its first Zoom candidates’ forum and held a highly contested election, with six candidates running for two Board seats. We plan to continue a series of Zoom membership meetings through the US presidential election in November. 

At times, all of this has been energizing and engaging, and it represents a potentially transformative moment in AKRI’s history. Yet it has also proven exhausting, and the relentless presence of disease, hatred, distrust, rage, and uncertainty has left us all frayed. 

Tavistock Institute of Human Relations 

BART has never been so important. 

1. How do we locate our Boundaries internally as well as externally?

2. What does Authority mean in a world that is increasingly atomised and individualised – where everyone is an entrepreneur?

3. When the person take primacy as the means of engagement, how do we work with the concept of “person in role” in the Artificial Intelligence-driven technological systems?

4. The Primary Task and its associated sentient system can open up new ways to navigate the hyperturbulent, vortical environment and what it means for being human

The forces of dependency are alive and well, caused in part by the shifting patterns of guidance and advice from governments about Covid-19 and its impact on travel and the economy.
Fiscal stimulus responses from all governments have resulted in Trillions of national currency being pumped into the employers and banking systems to avoid a total collapse of the global economy. Simultaneously, the ripples of the inequal impact of covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter campaign is making itself felt in the old and new world. Many are mobilised to explore the role of colonial powers and the forces of organised capital and the propaganda used to achieve their purposes. 

The narratives of gender and leadership have been gaining traction, and yet we are yet to understand the nature of the body’s biology and how it affects our thinking and feeling. Perhaps there was some validity to the early eugenics like thinkers, like Marie Stopes, that there is a “something” in the body that shapes the development and manifestation of character. 

The digital agenda has meant that despite the use of the terms social distancing, we are more and more connected through online platforms, and are finding that they can provide emotional, vital experiences that are impactful on our psyche and body in unexpected ways. 

Perhaps there is an opportunity for us to encounter ourselves and what it means to be human in new ways. As more and more work is done online, we have to work harder to locate the boundaries of our nations and what meanings the countries we inhabit retain in the digital world with its alternative construction of boundaries. 

As this group continues to explore issues of inclusion and exclusion, representation and role, we can share our experiences with others who are engaged in the same struggles. 


The Black Leadership and Authority Collective (BLAC) can be said to have its origins, much as with Group Relations Global Council, at the most recent Belgirate meeting. Yet, such an origin story would only be partially true. In reality the express direct study of “Black Authority” began through a conference entitled Authority and Identity: An African American Experience sponsored by the Washington-Baltimore Center in 1995. As far as we know, it was first group relations conference ever to be conducted with an entire staff who identified as being of African descent. Work on Black Authority continued unabated obliquely through conferences at Columbia University, New York University, University of San Diego and Morgan State University in the United States as well as those that were launched the Caribbean where Black directors were at the helm. The all Black staff conference made its return 20 years later as the On the Matter of Black Lives conference sponsored by Group Relations International. The series continued as Black Authority in the Post- Obama Era this year, the final face-to-face group relations conference held in the United Stated before restrictions on large gatherings were imposed throughout most of the nation. 

The Black Leadership and Authority Collective that emerged from Belgirate as well as the most recent conference meets monthly, has presented its work in a well-attended national forum, and will be offering additional experiential learning opportunities informed by group relations. 

Three months ago, there was a written request for identification of BLAC into GRGC. There was no response. Recently another group was admitted and welcomed. This group has a rich linkage and history to the group relations tradition. While the ease of instituting the implicit inclusion criteria for such an organization is understandable, there is the larger question of what are the unconscious considerations that influence inclusion in this patchwork. Our hypothesis is rather simple one: Blackness and the corresponding authority represents an experience that is ambivalently held; recognized, integrated and welcomed into the group relations world only when blackness is embodied in roles imbued, authorized and steeped in a history of whiteness and the corresponding dominance discourse. 

It seems that, with the exception of the most recent addition, Tavistock name, or nationality and internationality are seen as part of the boundary of what constitutes membership. It could be that affinity based in other forms of identity have no place in this quilt. Yet, amid a world where those of darker hue are more often than not denigrated and receive projections as the wretched of the earth, where in the United States Black skin is associated with a disproportionate likelihood of death from the novel coronavirus, where systemic racism contributes to chronic injustice with compounded consequences, then the fundamental question is whether this offering of Black Authority as one piece of patch can be held in the work of global group relations. 

CASSGO- China 

Sorry for the late, hopefully these words can be lucky enough to be included.
With it comes into September, university students come back to the campus, till now, all students of different grades, comes back to the campus. 

We had the Opening Ceremony for freshmen this morning in our football field, 3,000 students with teachers all showed with masks. Long time no see such situations, all seems come back as before. 

Meantime, it is different, news with people made suicide surrounded, even nearly my university. I did crisis intervention these days, even feel heavy and exhausted myself. 

The world looks familiar and strange at the same time. Something new is showing up, with strong dynamics. A lot of leaders changed, together with lots of employees. Organizations become turbulent, I can sense some innovations are giving birth to. 

For GRC in China, we cancelled the large study group consultant training in Guangzhou, because the lack of confidence of doing this kind of training online. I wonder whether the trust issue between staff composed of Americans and Chinese also play a role under COVID-19 pandemic and the trade war between USA and China. 

A big conflict also happened in the staff meeting for 2020 GRC in Shenyang, which was changed into a virtual one. From the surface, it is related to the research issue, underneath, it is related to the trust and competition. The power struggle between US and China, among Chinese, and maybe among Americans. Who can be the observers, who can keep the data, how will the data be studied, how will be the members participating the GRC with observers around, all these questions just blocked the staff. 

It is also turbulent the whole world, many countries begin to reorganize their connections with other countries. The world organization structure is under reconstruction.
COVID-19 is a trigger, what is being triggered by it? 

Group Relations Russia 

As this document goes over all the possible deadlines, GR Russia as an organization reflected on the dynamic mentioned and produced some hypothesis as a reflection of country dynamics: 

1. Fear of expressing the thoughts not to be poisoned or put into the jail, feeling of paranoia

2. Dependency on those who are in authority position

3. The feeling of hopelessness

4. The bigger split in the society and search for guilty

Although there are a part of borders are opened for Russians to travel, which are mostly holiday destinations (Turkey, Africa, Maldives), the majority, including Europe and America, are closed. The sense in the air “they opened the borders shortly to lock us later on again”. Which comes with the sense of manipulation from authorities. 

People are in the expectation of the “second wave” of COVID, trying to be ready emotionally and physically to be put into the quarantine again, which happens in some small communes (some classes at school, kindergartens and at some officies). 

The uncertainty in the future, brings organizations , which already revisited their strategies and made huge redundancy , into high level of anxiety. 

i An urdu word which means humanity 

Koronavirus ja organisaatiodynamiikka – 2. katsaus

Final stitch: Friday 5th June 2020

This is a second set of reflections about how Group Relations thinking can assist people and systems to explore the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not intended to be complete, but is a snapshot of a moment in time from a group of systems-psychoanalytically informed people. 

The contributors are members of a group which has been meeting on Zoom following on from a tri-annual meeting that took place in Belgirate, Italy in November 2018. The Group has been exploring the hypothesis “Are we Better Together?” – can we as group relations practitioners, theorists and advocates live and work through, the dynamics that we invite members to encounter in a Group Relations Conference. As a result of COVID-19 the question of being “better together” is now one for us all, as we “Social Distance”. 

As we prepare to re-enter “physical closeness” perhaps our fear and anger will also emerge closer to our experience. 

The Patchwork that follows, invites you to engage with the eye of an artist. The offerings are rooted in institutions and geographies but are the vistas of the authors. 

We will produce another patchwork in the Autumn. 


These latest patches have been written just as countries are starting to come out of quarantine; the previous one having being done as quarantine was beginning. The brief for every member of the group was, as before, 250 words on COVID-19 in their context and what a group relations perspective could add. The patchwork of contributions which follows has been somewhat edited for clarity. Our job as one Londoner and one Russian was then to attempt to synthesize and create an overview. 

We thought of the pandemic as an earthquake: the first shock has passed, the fear of death is reduced; people are striving for belonging and are returning home to rebuild their lives. There is hope: organizations are rescheduling their events. But there could be aftershocks.

We noticed that more representatives participated this time (18 to 12 previously). May be there is more clarity now, both about the task and the situation with COVID. The contributions seemed more hopeful and lively, with less talk of trauma in comparison with the first patchwork.

Statistics have again been largely removed, although there were noticeably far fewer this time round. There also seems less variation in the balance of Personal vs Organizational vs National viewpoints, this time, with much more emphasis on organizational ideas and very little about the individuals who wrote them. Connections with and support by other organizations and people were highlighted. And curiosity as a part of anthropological way of seeing things: first experiences with on-line events – moving from shock to acceptance of a new reality, to trying new experiences and curiosity.

Depression, melancholia and loss were touched on- perhaps the buzz of initial action in a crisis was a manic defense which has worn off.

Anger seemed to be missing – might it be hidden somewhere? Inner and outer protests were described; about rules and regulations long work shifts, not wanting restrictions anymore.

More questions were asked than in the previous patchwork and the majority were about the future, as if it is easier to look forward than backwards: recent experience is perhaps too traumatic to refer to. What’s next? What is the meaning of life? What does it mean to be human? Valuing having less opportunity to do, and much more to be. Is it a privilege to be privileged? Or is it an illusion. What is the risk taken by those who are among the most privileged eg Sweden?

Again the patches convey tribal competition, othering, looking for scapegoats, so as not to be one. But race and the interaction of ethnicity with the virus, once again seemed less in focus than one might perhaps expect, and its relative absence, seems worth commenting on. Linked to this, ‘losing 3D thinking’ and ‘the 3D globe made into a flat 2D drawing’ convey a loss of complexity and critical approach, a reductive process of moving towards simplicity and polarity.

Body: From personal need for humanity, to touch and be touched in return, to organizational – how are organizations embodied?

Control: less (trust replaces control) or more (control and segmentation, “blind democracy”)?

Role of the government and authority: dependency and the search for a father and mother. Disappointment in authority on the one hand and dependency and realization how much we rely on social systems (government, social and health care) on the other hand. Hence protests against rules and regulations. Basic Assumption Oneness was frequently described – despite or because of leadership?

There must be envy of those countries that are more open, who managed the situation better, with fewer deaths. We wish not to be in the ‘bad’ group. We all want to be ‘good’ and be on the winning team, to do well, get a gold star and come out of lockdown quicker. Is this a version of the search for the Holy Grail? National characteristics were again highlighted as affecting response to the crisis – restlessness and rebellion particularly in the States vs defensive retreat to isolation, such as the Finnish response. This can raise issues of being self-centered or even selfish, with one’s moral compass switched off. Does this link with feeling orphaned?

Like the authors of the patches, we seemed to be left with more questions and less answers than before. 


It has been 28 days since we last had someone who caught the virus within Taiwan. As a result, people are less and less compliant with the Taiwanese CDC guidelines (e.g., wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing). Still, people are required to wear masks while taking public transportation and in banks…etc. Many businesses affected by the pandemic are gradually recovering although international travels are still almost closed. 

As the result of the pandemic, Group Relations Taiwan had canceled the 2020 Taiwan GRC, originally scheduled to occur this July. We are hoping to reschedule the conference to April 2021. As we are in the infancy stage in our organizational development, we rely on international colleagues for most of our consulting staff support. We are fully aware of the fact that we need our international colleagues; just like that Taiwan needs our international allies to support our survival and growth. 

We are very grateful for OFEK and GRA for their support in our organizational development. Even though Taiwan is an orphan in the global community (not recognized by the United Nations due to the objection of China), we are aware of the fact that we have something to contribute to the world and we hope to foster connections with more and more like-minded organizations over time. 


Experiences of being a Scapegoat.

At present, the Covid-19 situation in China is slowing down, new challenges of economic and the crisis of mass unemployment and bankruptcy looms. During this period of time, China has been assisting other countries with its own successful anti-epidemic measures, and there have been reports of confrontation. A large amount of masks donated by China to other countries have been returned due to substandard quality. In some countries, it has been launched a crusade to China, requiring huge reparations. Although it is clear in our hearts that the top priority is to do our best to contain the spread of the epidemic and save lives, we are now faced with a complex and cruel situation in which accusations, abuses, cover-up of mistakes, failure of the plane, shirking responsibility… China has become a scapegoat in the global system of panic, division, paranoia and mutual harm.

The Chinese nation is troubled! But anyway, we have to carry on! The United States is too domineering, we struggle with it for a long time, we must prepare and plan for a long-term battle!!

China is now a scapegoat in the world system; China is also a country that specializes in making scapegoats. If there is any problem in history, one or a number of scapegoats will always be introduced, and then turn over the page, people rarely reflecting on the substantive issues; This makes the cycle of evil repeat itself. Why does a nation that prides itself on 5,000 years of culture never reflect on its mistakes and foolishly repeat them over and over again? 

There is a God in the Bible who pardons all transgressions as long as people are honest with themselves and confess their SINS honestly and he will forgive sinners with grace. But for the Chinese, we don’t have grace and forgiveness in our culture and those who have committed sins will never be able to repair, so no one dare to confess, dare to face their own, only with all the strength to cover up, to whitewash.

The Chinese are people with unbounded affection, but history and trauma have done great damage to humanity, and this is a nation in need of healing. The courage to look at ourselves and the ability to reflect on ourselves determine our future.

The East is the other of the West and it is another aspect, different from the West. ”De-Chinese” (get rid off Chinese) will bring both suffering to Chinese and retrogression to the West, which is a common failure of the world.


I talked of my panic and death anxiety previously. And we began an online support group during the pandemic time, to provide a space to hold the emotions and to support each other, so as to contain the emotions and help persons to face the uncertainty, helplessness, and regain control. During this process, I, myself, also became more and more calm and under control. 

With the decrease of the pandemic, I became depressed for several days, lying on the bed, nothing interesting, lost direction with the enemy disappearing. Later, I got up and resumed normal daily life.

One day, I went out to buy breakfast without a mask, when I found out, no time for me to go back home to wear it. I decided to buy breakfast without a mask; it is the end of the April already. I quickly found that I hesitate to come close to the person who sell the breakfast, and the people around me keep distant from me, I felt shamed, all the people around me wore masks, I stood just like a wild beast, feeling myself like a source of infection, awkward. I suddenly realized that there exists a panic about touch, lack of interpersonal trust, and that these will last for a long time.

I need a container to rebuild my security again, I know our government did a great job during this process, from the very beginning, many people questioned some officials, governmental organizations, and to the end, many people began to show confidence and gratitude to Chinese government, and felt luck and happiness living in China.

I know the Chinese government began to build a social service system, hoping to provide a better container for Chinese people to regain security. I can sense there does exist some competition and cooperation at the same time. Some people sacrificed to alert us to something, some people got punished for setting up some rules, some people still question the Chinese government, some people struggle to survive after the pandemic, some people reach out to help small and medium-sized enterprises, some people work hard to contribute to the future innovative life.

I know the whole structure of the world is changing, COVID-19 intruded on the world, destroying boundaries; the whole world lost its normal structure, and has to begin a new structure to rebuild security. Take the world as a big family, just like siblings, love and hate, competition and cooperation, without parents. What the hell, we are brothers and sisters, and have to figure out our position in the big family, but for what? 


We are adjusting to the “new normal.” Personally, I have conducted twenty virtual groups every week, including psychotherapy groups, consultation groups, process groups and mutual support groups. Our Chinese colleagues report emerging from the plateau of morbidity and mortality of the pandemic to greater mobility and return to face to face contact with others in a carefully managed loosening of restrictions. The cautious nature of this return is underscored by the decision of the directorate of the Guangzhou Large Study Group Consultation Training Program to hold this program virtually this August. Similarly, the directorate of the Shenyang Group Relations Conference decided to hold this conference virtually this December. 

This immersion by CASSGO into virtual group relations mirrors my own surrender to the “new normal.” Having learned that the annual leadership conference for psychiatric chief residents in the US has been cancelled due to the pandemic, I am organizing a virtual group relations conference in August for forty psychiatric chief residents to be staffed entirely by psychiatrists trained in group relations methods. I anticipate that this conference will help prepare me for directing the Shenyang conference in December, and I have been invited to direct a virtual group relations conference in March 2021 for a Russian colleague who runs the Institute of Psychodynamic Coaching in Moscow. 

I note with gratitude that a community of group relations practitioners who are supportive of working in the virtual environment is developing in tandem with the pandemic. As I write this report, I am preparing for a meeting with a subset of the global leadership council to discuss our interest in virtual group relations, and after that for a community meeting with the A. K. Rice Institute where a breakout group will be addressing the same topic. With deepest sympathy for those who continue to suffer in this pandemic, I see our willingness to adapt our work to the needs of the community as a sign of hope. 


In response to the Covid-19 crisis, AKRI has shared many of the experiences common across the global Group Relations community—the cancellations of conferences and other events; anxieties about the health and well-being of our members; and curiosity about the possibility of virtual conference life. As in the rest of the world, we’ve felt our inter-connectedness, in both its power and its hazards; and we’ve also been reminded of our differences, especially vis-a-vis vulnerability, both to the virus and to the accompanying political and economic turmoil.

One special thing worth noting in the AKRI community has been our online membership meetings. Prior to March, the AKRI community had never gathered online. Since then, we’ve held four meetings (with another scheduled, and the expectations that they’ll continue once every two weeks for the foreseeable future). 

These meetings have been remarkable for several reasons. First, they’ve been extremely well attended (with 20%-35% of AKRI’s entire membership attending) and they’ve offered deep, substantive engagement with our experience of this crisis. Second, they’ve offered a tangible experience of being a membership organization; rather than the membership being in-the-mind, the membership is visible on Zoom screens— more than 60 faces you can see at once: old friends, colleagues and strangers, young and old, from far and near, together on your monitor. Finally, tangible organizational desires have emerged from these meetings. Among them, desires 1) to help and support front line healthcare workers; 2) to learn more about how we study organizational life online and offer group relations learning in a virtual environment; and 3) to explore how what we know about authority can help negotiate our experience of irrational governments and authoritarianism in places like the US and China. My sense is that these organizational desires can help guide our organizational work and link our mission to what our membership wants. 


What is real? Who can we trust? How should I relate? Who takes leadership and in what way? Who am I? What has priority: health, life, economy, jobs, climate, collaboration? Who and what and where is privileged? Giving or withholding? What does it all mean? Where do we go from here?

Because of the pandemic we notice familiar but exacerbated patterns: Black, LatinX communities are disproportionally affected. Older people die in their “care homes” disconnected. The most vulnerable youth drop out of education because they don’t have access to the internet let alone suitable electronics to do homework. People seem to be even more set in their political ideologies. 

People are getting restless and antsy. Protests pop up more and more: against the stay at home order, masks, gatherings, new rules and regulations. Resilience is wearing off, anxiety is increasing. Restlessness. Uncertainty. Irrationality is rampant: science seems to be used willy-nilly. ‘Othering’ and ‘if only’ dynamics are prevalent. Staying in the moment remains the most difficult place to be. 

Desire for connection – touch and ‘being touched’ – with each other, with the earth, with something More? Virtual gatherings: living life in Zoom boxes – escape, necessity, new reality?

Pause. Do I do what I want to do? Do I live the way I want to live? What choices am I making? What is the meaning of life? Where is the Spirit? 

GRI held its first gathering ever – online. 


In Finland we have historically defended ourselves from our enemies by retreating to the wilderness far from everybody. Sometimes we have fled Vikings some times Cossacks. Modern hideaway places in Finland are summer cottages. In many places those escaping form crowded cities have doubled local population. Those who cannot go to their summer cottages have curled up in their home nests. We are known for keeping social distance and now this ability is put to good use. No touching or kissing and staying far from each other. The situation has created polarity. One part of Fins is scared and strongly dependent authority and collective instructions given by government. Has Prime Minister Sanna given permission? Yes, we are calling our prime minister by surname and making her into a mythic war mother taking care of us and fighting for us. At the same time others are frustrated, maybe aggressive and grown numb about all restrictions. 

Right now we are little by little opening society. Students are going back to schools, restaurants are about to open their doors, gatherings less than 50 people shall be permitted etc.. Still many people are as scared as those hiding from Cossacks centuries ago. Is enemy still here? What if covid-19 will catch us? How do we survive economically when many things are closed down? 

This hide-away strategy has divided us into those who can remote work in hide-away places and those who are working in less educated jobs and are either working in the front line of the pandemic or being suspended. Still remote work has created lots of creativity and feelings of freedom. Many of those, who could not have dreamed of working away from their offices, have found lot of joy and peace when working from home or summer cottage. Surprisingly a lot of the control there has been in work is missing and it seems that trust has replaced control. 

It is possible that safeguarding and social isolation raises in many a feeling of me and mine first, which makes it impossible to plan the bright future. At the same time there is still lot of hope and collective care of others.

The Finnish group relation movement is now active in video conferencing and social media. Social Dreaming has gathered lots of interest and we are going to organize a virtual conference, and a Listening post. We are also taking part in on going dialogues organized by other agents. 


I am going to stay with 250 words because one of the most significant features of life at the moment is growing flood of information, guidance, offers of help, commentary and spin. There is a huge sense of uncertainty, and a rush to action that is a temporary relief but when the buzz stops, the uncertainty is compounded by a recognition that the action hasn’t, materially, changed anything, and we are still in a world that looks the same in some ways but feels totally different. 

Inequalities and inequities are raw and more vivid than ever, in the proportion of those ill and dying, in the Catch-22 expectations about who will now be expected to take risks in going back to work on public transport (if you have the kind of job you can’t do from home there’s a high probability that you won’t have any option to get there other than by overcrowded public transport). And people are tired, and flagging, tired of all the change and adaptation, tired of ‘zoom’, tired of Covid. 

Group Relations thinking seems helpful in recognising the state of a system struggling to connect and potentially in freefall, but without the boundaries that might at least say: this will be over, this can’t happen in this space, this is what we need to do. But trying to join up, having some confidence that the system is in the individual is helpful, valuing the small connections that can get made. 


I have become obsessed with maps of the world and how they represent what is real from the 3D globe onto a flat 2D drawing. France is 5 times the size of England, and the whole of the UK should fit into the USA State of Texas – there are other anomalies, I invite others to take a look. Perhaps it is the spread of the virus that is bringing these questions of territory to mind? 

If the picture in the mind bears no relation to the external reality, what foundation do we have for our relations? What sense can we make of our history? What does it mean to be human or part of humanity? COVID-19 is shifting our social order. States and nations are reaffirming old borders. I have re-read Freud’s Moses and Monotheism and re-discovered his skill in saying difficult things to ideologues. What are we finding difficult to say to each other? Are the issues of representation and authority relations too painful to be worked through? Perhaps the flight into loyalty is more comfortable than the struggle required to sustain commitment? 

Staff across a range of industries are facing issues during “furlough” – being paid not to work in order to safeguard their jobs and organisations.
The Institute has made a smooth shift into its digital existence. Staff are on furlough in a rotation pattern, a new deepening creative practice course has started, preparations are on the way for its first ever AGM online. There is a creative energy flowing through the system. 

Where is home? Our bodies/ jobs/houses/workplaces/nations/identities? How do we face the political realities of the bodies we inhabit without literal and metaphorical masks? 


Will the focus shift from the virus of entitlement and narcissism to the vaccine of compassion and sustainability? That is how a group of associates in GRI ended our earlier reflective piece on 26th of March. We were at that point just 2 days into a national and total lockdown announced with exactly 4 hours’ notice to a nation of 1.3 billion people, 80% of who are poor, informal – daily wagers or subsistence agricultural workers/artisans. Today, the 52nd day, and the lockdown is sure to be extended to its version 4.0 as the graphs of infected cases and deaths only rise.

Heightened persecutory anxieties – because everyone is a suspect, a possible COVID infector a threat to my survival. The more privileged you are, more the anxiety about infection and personal safeguards. Feeding on this fear is the projection of blame on Muslims via fake news and persecution. The sensitization shown towards health and sanitation workers seems mostly about ensuring I won’t get infected.

Authoritarian state
The nation is gripped by the impacts of another more devastating virus. The rise of blatant authoritarianism, and the use of fear and power to enforce and control, is visible in a series of moves by the government and its pairing with corporates. The callous and inhuman abandonment of millions of its migrant workers with no work, no food, no money and no means to go back to their homes – leading them in state of acute distress. Heartrending images of thousands just walking, walking, hundreds even thousands of miles, enduring massive trauma and risk – just to get home. This will be the shameful and lasting image of corona virus time for any sensitive Indian. Shockingly, at this juncture several state governments have decided to abrogate the already precarious and flimsy protection of workers via labour rights and laws, in order to favour capitalists and the accumulation of private capital. This throws us into the era of slave or bonded labour, instead of being one of the world’s largest democracies. Other institutions of democracy – the judiciary, the police, the administration, the mainstream media seem to be blind, invisible, apathetic, or they are sold out. A moral deficit of humaneness plagues us, perhaps the outcome of a pervasive culture of Ba M, and it has shown up in relative terms the novel corona a more ‘ethical’ virus to reckon with.

Uncertainty leading to chaos
A fragmented cacophony of different voices of self-interest Ba M, Ba Fight/Flight is evident in an increasingly uncontrollable and undisciplined nation – who will take care of me? The prime minister’s addresses to the nation reinforce the image of the single powerful man who takes the weight of the nation’s woes on his broad shoulders. His speeches are simplistic – to continue to promote an infantalisation, with big promises of deliverance, but no accountability or back up as to how this will all be implemented. His latest clarion call to be a self-reliant nation is perhaps a decisive attack on the idea of an open system and its interconnectedness – which is what covid 19 teaches us the world is in reality.

Locked into our choices?
The talk of the new normal is often experienced as being locked in to our choices – how do we get out of them? The difficulty in accepting the new without the familiar, especially when the new may indicate shifts in power and privilege. This results in decision-making that is unilateral, manipulative and authoritarian, rather than dialogue as a lever of change, for small transformations in systems. From the viewpoint of systems the questions loom: What could have been prevented? What is my role and how much of what happens systemically is a consequence of my stances and actions? Grief, and guilt over privileges seems to be a ready defence to disable more radical action.

The ray of hope: While the state suffers from deficit of compassion and accountability and abandoned its primary task, civil society activists, some sections of the media, and common people demonstrate that a responsible use of personal authority and leadership towards collective – connecting action is our best, even if frail, hope.

Whither Group Relations? 

For us from a GR lens – why is the overwhelming focus on individuals and their emotions – fear, anxiety, lack of my normal life, and how little we think about systems and institutions. How helpless, apathetic and even unthinking we are when these institutions that we have set up and delegated authority and mandate to, don’t do what they are supposed to do. Is it because most institutions we build favour the privileged in any case? How much is GR going to risk in order to understand and work with these trends? Will it see all of society as its terrain or choose to stay in familiar and safe agendas? What does the rush of online offerings mean? Is it a creative outburst – pilots of different kinds, is it to contain and comfort? Or are there elements of colonising markets on the World Wide Web – where, like the corona virus, there are no boundaries or barriers to entry. 

Israel is coming out of the health crisis, revealing the tension between society and individuals
. After the dominant climate of oneness during the last two months, we can see that individuals are different in the way the financial crisis meets their personal life.

The protest of young physicians against having to work very long shifts. During Covid 19 health care staff were our heroes. In these days when there is an improvement in the public health condition, the intern physicians are beginning to feel the pain of working too many hours. It might be the beginning of a social protest. The feeling of ’togetherness’ seems to give them a hope that their voice would be heard.

The Education System-is being challenged. There are tensions between the education system and the treasury in managing the crisis routine. The treasury expected the teachers to donate some of their time. Schools are partially going back to routine; most classes will be divided into subgroups and will attend only part of the week.

Covid 19 meets Israel in a political, moral crisis. We have been struggling for more than 15 months to create a government. The leader, Prime Minister Netanyahu has to fight to prove his innocence in court. The pandemic reinforced his political power. COVID 19 has helped him to be the next prime minister in Israel.

The pandemic brought up a shared sense of losing control. The need for dependency on leaders was reinforced. Leaders seem to use this and these times for their personal needs.

It seems to be difficult to return to routine.

Mourning- Until recently Families that lost their loved ones couldn’t be comforted. According to the social distancing regulations, instead of sitting Shiva in an open house many grieving individuals and families received short text messages.

At a time when we all withdrew into our homes, many initiatives sprung up from OFEK members: Zoom meetings for OFEK members; international social dreaming matrices; developing an online GR Conference, and more. At the same time the board found it difficult to work during this time that things were urgent. It seems as though there was more room for special initiatives rather than official, routine activity. 


Looking back it seems that Israel did well in containing the pandemic. For some, yet unknown reason, the whole Middle East seems to have done well with varied degrees of governmental control. Now facts are remembered, but the anxiety and fear attached to them are hard to retrieve. So fast!

From one day to the next the whole psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic community moved to work ”remotely”- by phone, WhatsApp and Zoom. Time went in a different way than the usual. Endless meetings led to ”Zoom fatigue”. Many conferences, including PCCA conference in August, were postponed.

Questions waiting to find answers: 

Did we learn from Covid-19? If so, then what did we learn? Was it a trauma? If so, then in what way was it so? 

Did we at least learn to be more modest, or will our hubris get the upper hand again?

The Israeli specific situation was that Covid-19 broke out in the midst of a political crisis and was used politically. Leadership decisions were not trusted by half of the country. Daily broadcasts told of catastrophic forecasts: ”end of humanity”, ”worse since the Black Plague”, ”10s of thousands will die”, ”we will be like Italy”. Despite the mistrust, the fear-mongering led to a collective submission to authorities. What ensued was a collective regression to dependency, paranoia and loss of personal authority. On the positive side, the anxiety and fear of a shared catastrophe bred solidarity. Neighbours went out of their way to help those who had to stay in. This regression may be the collective trauma, even more than the danger of the disease. Nature-made calamity combined with man-made calamity. During this period ”Mathematical models”, a language unknown before, became the authority. Pessimism became the political tool of control.

Under these circumstances a new political coalition was formed, and highly suspected. The ”economical virus” – the aftermath of the health virus – is in the making and is now the source of anxiety and deep concerns.

From my GR perspective I participated in an unusual WhatsApp group of 150 psychoanalysts: a leaderless Large Group for which the daily summaries provided containment and interpretations. This large group became a ”good mother”, a container and healer. We also organized for the psychoanalytic community 3 weekly sessions of Social Dreaming Matrix. Some of the emergent themes:

Catastrophic dreams full of danger, imagery of death and malaise. Phantoms and Holocaust. Children as well as adults are in danger. Isolation and social distancing.

Wish for a father figure to know exactly what to do, ready to take risks and save the day. Flooded. Lost in familiar place. Longing for parents, feeling of being orphans. Cemetery and wedding. Generational tensions. My first report ended with the sentence: ”I try to keep the situation as an uncanny reality against the temptation of adapting too fast”. Now I can finish by saying that I hope the uncanny situation will not evaporate too fast in the rush to get hold of the previous life. 


Switzerland was in a semi-confined state with non-essential businesses and schools closed and priority for health care (COVID-19 healthcare) at the center of the society. Now businesses, and most schools are reopening, social/physical distancing is still there, healthcare systems are trying to reorganize themselves without focusing only on COVID-19. 

Looking in the past weeks we see: Fear, sorrow, hope, exhaustion, grief, losing track, losing 3D thinking, trying to get preconscious back, where is “rêverie” …what is the task, what is the meaning…Why? 

They are heroes…what heroes? Men vs. women leaders? What is the truth? Do we need to do all that? Can they take our liberty like that? Are we responsible? Is it all a conspiracy…for what? For who? The US? CHINA? WHO? GAVI? ID2020? Gates foundation? 

Ethical dilemmas, health vs. economy? Young vs. old? Fit vs. obese? Poor vs. rich? School vs. no school, who can we treat? Millennials vs. boomers? COVID-19 as a “boomer remover”…?

Why is the weather so nice and the sky so blue? Is it true? Look at this landscape so calm…the air so fresh, the smell…the smell of the flowers and the trees… 

The world is going to change?…tomorrow will be different?…more cooperative?…with profound transformation?…an opportunity for autocratic leaders to control?…resiliency?
What about philosophers? Artists? Trying to make sense? Not too fast…
Dreaming? Social-dreaming? Rêverie! 

Our 8th Geneva conference in May was canceled, as was our yearly group dynamic training (first time in 26 years). Isn’t this crisis an opportunity also for us? Rethink the task? Our role? 


Yes, the fear has transformed. It is tinged with depression now. The young people greet each other with “Hi, how ́s the ’dep’?”

We ́re out of the initial shock, confusion and incredulity. We have moved into the next, or the next in plural, stage/s. We are confronted with existential questions for the future. When will this pandemic be over? When will we touch each other (physically) again? What will we feel then? Another kind of fear? All we wanted to do! All we had planned to do! 

Winnicott wrote about the psychologically so important relationship between mother and baby. He spoke about to do – and to be. In our society, so much depends on to do. Our self-esteem, our social status are closely linked to what we do, and how we promote our actions. And here we are, with much less opportunity to do, and much more to be…Winnicott emphasized the importance of to be, and not always do. 

So, here we are, on the threshold of the next phase, which we hope will be “it ́s over.” Patience, endurance. It is humbling.

On the doing side, Arifana is working on a virtual conference. The work is slow, and the ambivalence is alive. Maybe the biggest obstacle is the longing for a “real life” conference, where we touch and smell each other. Where our laughter rings in one and the same room.

Oh, and yes. We are privileged. Our society is still not in a lock-down. Schools are milling with kids, hospitals are working overtime with heroic effort, shops, cafés and restaurants are open, albeit empty, but still. Faith. 


Australia and Australians’ responses are generally characterised by a compliant acceptance of expert medical advice, social distancing, business closure, significant government support and other Covid19 regulations and policies. A few fatal or at least life-threatening mistakes leading to infection clusters have largely been accepted as unfortunate errors in a novel crisis rather than an opportunity for blame or scapegoating. Some less generous areas of government support have been met with volunteer, philanthropic and community assistance. 

There has been an ongoing attempt at political bipartisanship; sometimes interrupted by outbursts from less mature politicians or media commentators but these have been the exception. This shared leadership has pleasantly surprised everyone. Jacinda Ardern’s example as Prime Minister in neighbouring New Zealand – of decisive action, genuine engagement and empathy – has been widely admired and praised. There has also been sadness at the catastrophic impacts elsewhere in the world – where many Australians trace their heritage – and public bewilderment at the social policy and leadership failures. 

It does seem to be understood that this crisis response in Australia of trust and reliance on authority is in our shared interest, despite the real costs. This can be characterised as a depressive position response. The alternative, much less accepted narrative – that these government and communal actions are a reckless over-reaction that is destroying lives and businesses, seems to be explicitly or intuitively seen as denial or distortion, as personal counter-dependency or worse, a wilful attempt to make others fearful. This does seem to represent an ongoing shift and flow between depressive position and paranoid schizoid responses. It is, for now, unclear how or why the largely depressive position state of social mind in Australia has come about and predominated at this time.

We have conducted the first two of three Listening Posts, initiated a ‘Dynamics of Racism and Covid19’ blog and will soon commence a ‘Working Mothers and Leadership blog’ and a series of ‘Trust and Mistrust in Organisations’ online workshops. All are intended as offering a space for members and the general community to reflect on our shared experiences of the Covid19 times; these have been welcomed by members, who seem eager to connect and engage. 


This is to share the experience of being in Italy, before and during Covid19 as it has emerged during monthly social dreaming matrices. In January, when the virus belonged to the distant China and Italy was far from recognizing the threat of the contagion in its own territory, dreams were talking of:
– fear
– an invisible enemy
– the complete loss of control
– the urgent need of containment and of somebody who could take care and responsibility for us 

genetically modified insects. 

In February, when the contagion had just landed in Italy, but there was still much disbelief about its extension and future consequences, the dreams narrative spoke of:
– being unprepared and anxious
– loss of bearings 

– tsunami
– facing an event like 9/11, which would change the perception of the world
– confronted by a deep sociocultural identity crisis (who is on the boat now and kept at the borders?)
– searching for safety

On the optimistic side one dream spoke of the possibility to reassemble and give meaning to something from the past that needed to move on and let go.
In March Italy was in lockdown, ahead of the rest of Europe; the SDM took place via zoom and it was flooded by people who wanted to join, expressing the need for connecting and sense making. Dreams’ narrative:

fragmentation of body parts. Legs, denied; eyes, hypertrophic; the eyes of science and technology, drones and apps to control us;
– Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde science, which saves, science that controls and goes out of control producing androids, disquieting beings.
what is left out, denied, hidden, cannot be spoken of. Death of the elders, in particular men; the eyes of who is left to dye alone; selected to die in order to leave space for a younger person. Guilt, how does one feel, locked at home, hiding, while doctors in the front line have to make choices, unprepared and unprotected?
children of the fairy tales, unprotected by careless parents, betrayed by them: like Hansel and Gretel and Tom Thumb. As in the previous matrix, one sign of optimism appears: children are intelligent and know how to survive.

With the virus we have been put in front of a mirror, which reveals more than we were ready to acknowledge. Covid19 has interfered with our culture of denial. We are exhausted and traumatized; the future is confused and hazy.
The image of rubbles left by the war or by the earthquakes that shake Italy every few years, has come to our mind; as well as the awareness that what we are dealing with now is an invisible, untouchable, boundaryless danger. 


The loss of privilege of physical contact and doing what you want, frustration, having to keep silent. Wanting to be more active, not wanting restrictions anymore. Missing fighting and flirting. Longing to travel, but having to stay at home, a nice home, but it is starting to feel like a nice prison. 

Divisions in the society. One group is used to and loved IT before the virus, so they feel comfortable working from distance. The other group is tired, flooded, overwhelmed, and confused by blurred boundaries between work, family, parental tasks and roles, and longing for coming back to ‘normal’ mode of living and working. The third group is trying to adapt to changes, feeling “back on track”, exploring on-line work possibilities, recognizing the need to get used to the thoughts of restrictions lasting through the end of the year or maybe even longer. 

Quarantine and restrictions created conditions for living laboratory to experiment with technologies. Tech companies promise a better future, but it isn’t for all. IT skills adds up to the sources of inequality. 

How life will be after two years of zooming? Political and social changes? Some won’t come back to “normal” as it will be proved as cost effective. Some businesses will die, others will survive and maybe some new to be created? COVID-19 changes forever our ideas of what an organization is, who is in and out. Boundaries are changing in companies, breaking rules, authority taken away, changed. 

Evolution? Natural selection? Who dies in evolution? Inequality. In the last news from Lithuania, the hospices, old people houses, almost all inhabitants affected by COVID-19. Harsh target group. Hospitals became centres of virus infection, patients with chronic diseases or other conditions are not admitted, they might die not from virus but because of virus. It is a risk of seeing the virus everywhere. 

The need for self-sustaining, survival, some national economies cannot sustain themselves, are dependent from products produced in China, or international market for export. There may not be food in the shop if we can’t work in the lands. Farmers may not harvest. 

Tenseness of constantly being watched by cameras connects to data gathering. Is there liberation through technology or more control and segmentation? To protect you against corona they can trick you, and your data can be used against you. Are those on-line communication platforms secure? Or do they just feed The Big Data?

Creating the narrative: is it going to be a new one or a repetition of the past? 

• The mood in Russia is like a swing – from fear of death in some people (fear of going out even to buy food, hysterical quarrels in shops about social distance, aggression, etc.) to the notorious Russian “to hell with the rules” that stems from history (historical mistrust of the officials and official news: “they lie to us”, “they make money from us”, “it’s all fake”etc).

• No or very little financial support to small businesses and people. There is high anxiety about the future individual well-being, fear of not being able to survive the consequences. People do not trust the government; the psychological burden of being left alone in this crisis is unbearable.

• Enforced confinement at home brings out the genetic memory of the Soviet times – jails, fear of being punished for nothing, fear of being detained in the street. Many Russians live in very small apartments with no individual space, so the combination of high anxiety, fear and physical discomfort causes a lot of problems in families.

• Russians have an inferiority complex about having to get a visa (often with difficulties) for travel abroad. This complex has become much bigger in this situation. There are a lot of rumours and speculations that the borders will be open only to the rich and privileged, that we are back to the “iron curtain” times, that even if the borders open people will not be able to afford travel due to expensive flights and stricter rules. Russian Internet is full of articles about how beautiful Russia is and there is no need to go to other countries. 

• Role of the leaders in both organisations and government becoming more significant: who will lead and where? Employees and people are hoping to be led by strong figure as it was in the past. Corporates set up the new plans, they call it ‘Reaching the Space, Going beyond Achievements’ to mobilize employees for actions and planning, not really leaving much space for reflections and discussions.

• Having official long holidays for around 4 weeks, where in a way some people stopped looking for a job, considering it to be a real holiday, being locked at home and separated with others, loosing energy slowly – all this takes people away from critical thinking and gives others more power. We could observe here the appearance of new laws and rules, which limit the rights of citizens.

• People are following the rules but one can feel more fear and aggression in the air.

• Would we be strong and honest enough to look at our own hearts and values or will we be
influenced by the power? There is a space now, as there was in the empty Red Square, on Victory Day: to have a deeper look. There is still a choice to lead or be led (or both) and maybe the most important – how and what will be driving this leadership?

Ryhmädynamiikka pandemian keskellä

Atso Juote 9.5.2020

Koronan saapuessa maailman ja Suomen valtasi hätätila. Poikkeusoloilla on taipumus kaivaa meistä esiin alkukantaisia tapoja puolustautua. 

Ryhmädynamiikka on yhden määritelmän mukaan ryhmissä ja laajemminkin yhteisöissä ilmenevien puolustusmekanismien tutkimusta. Nopeissa tilanteissa reagoimme salamannopeasti, ja reagointiin liittyy yleensä tarve suojautua ja varmistella. Yksilötason reaktiot eivät välttämättä eroa ryhmätason reaktioista. Ryhmissä ja yhteisöissä vaikutukset kuitenkin kertautuvat ja voivat olla mittakaavaltaan huikeita. Puolustusmekanismi pitää tässäkin yhteydessä ymmärtää laajasti lajille ja kulttuurille tyypillisinä sisäistyneinä toiminnan muotoina, jotka mahdollistavat nopean sovittautumisen muuttuviin tilanteisiin. Puolustautumisesta ei äkkiä tule mieleen liittyminen, pyrkimys olla arvostettu ryhmän jäsen, rooleissa kasvaminen, kilpailu ja kateus. Ryhmäilmiöitä ne kuitenkin ovat.

Korona-ajan ensimmäisten viikkojen aikana törmäsin joka paikassa asioiden polarisoitumiseen ja kysymysten näyttäytymiseen joko-tai -asetelmina. Toiminta loppuu heti. Kaikkien on mentävä etätöihin. Asiakkaita ei saa tavata. Vähitellen nopeasti tehdyt ehdottamat päätökset ovat törmänneet omaan mahdottomuuteensa ja sekä-että -ajattelu on taas saanut sijaa. Ravintolat ovat kiinni, mutta ne myyvät ruokaa ulos. Perhetyön asiakkaita ei tavata heidän kodeissaan, mutta etäyhteyksiä käytetään ja hiekkalaatikkotapaamisia järjestetään. Työnohjaukset ja neuvottelut ovat siirtyneet videoneuvotteluihin.

Kuten alkukantaiseen suojautumiseen kuuluu, pandemia on saanut monet käpertymään ja vetäytymään kuoreensa. Käpertymisen seurauksena organisaatioiden ja ryhmien reunoilla olevat ovat pudonneet yhteisön tuen ulottumattomiin. Ryhmien, yhteisöjen ja valtioidenkin rajat ovat menneet kiinni.

Minulla on ollut mahdollisuus verrata havaintojani kansainvälisen ryhmädynamiikkaverkoston kollegoiden havaintoihin. Raadollisella tavalla ne ovat yhteneviä. Ainoastaan reaktioiden voima vaihtelee.

Kansainvälisessä tarkastelussa yksi koronaviruksen seurauksia on heimoutuminen. Vertailemme omaa ryhmää muihin ja pelkäämme vierasta. Kun uusmaalaiset saivat kokea eristämisen riemua, somen vääräleuat kaivoivat esiin jo unohtuneen Uusmaalaisten laulun tehden siitä kansallislaulun. Kun eristys päättyi, samat tahot muistelivat Uudenmaan itsenäisyyden aikaa. Huumori on mainio keino helpottaa eristyksen aiheuttamaa ahdistusta. Samalla siinä on aina totta toinen puoli.

Kateus näyttää olevan olennainen osa suomalaista identiteettiä. Yrityksille jaettujen tukien epäoikeudenmukaiseksi koettu jako aiheutti joukkoraivoa. Huomiosta elävä media on ruokkinut kateutta omien ansioiden kasvattamisen toivossa. Tästä raivosta Saska Saarikoski on kirjoittanut mainiosti blogissaan (https://www.hs.fi/kuukausiliite/art-2000006485918.html). Hän selittää kateuden ja vihan dynamiikkaa surutyön prosessilla. Ensin tulee pelästyminen, sitten kieltäminen, viha, masennus ja hyväksyminen. Omassa ympäristössäni tunnistan pelästyksen, kieltämisen ja vihan. Viimeksi huomasin raivon tarttuneet itseeni. En ollut vihainen tukia saaneille vaan heidän kimppuunsa käyneille. Yhtä kaikki menin ryhmäilmiön ansaan ja annoin itseni samaistua joukkojen tunnetilaan.

Hätä kaventaa ajattelua. Kyky ajatella tulevaisuutta häviää. Terveeksi osoittautunut toimintakulttuuri rajautuu, kun keskitymme selviämään tässä ja nyt. Näin toimintakulttuuri rapautuu. Juuri nyt yhteisöillä näyttää olevan suuria vaikeuksia suunnitella kesälomia tai ensi syksyn toimintaa. Voi olla, että edellä kuvaamani laumaraivo liittyy kadonneisiin tulevaisuuden kuviin. Mieli ei riitä pohtimaan, mitä meneillään olevasta voi seurata puolen vuoden, vuoden tai pidemmällä aika välillä. Milloin nyt tekemättä jääneet työt tulevat tehtäviksi. Milloin voimme ottaa uusia töitä, kun odottamassa olevien töiden ruuhka odottaa purkamista? Miten talouden lamaantuminen vaikuttaa ylipäätään kaikkeen ja minuun. Mitä jos raha ei liiku, kukaan ei maksa ja mitään ei osteta?

Pandemiaan liittyy myös paljon positiivista ja yllättävää. Liikenteen väheneminen vähentää kasvihuonekaasuja? Ehkä polttomoottoriautojen transformaatio saa koronasta vauhtia, kun ihmiset huomaavat, että autoja ei tarvitakaan niin paljon. Hitaasti edennyt digiloikka on oikeasti tapahtunut. Paljon piilossa ollutta osaamista on tullut esille. Monet niistä, jotka eivät koskaan ole tehneet etätöitä, ovat rakastuneet mahdollisuuteen tehdä töitä kesämökiltään käsin. Vielä ennen koronaa etätöiden yhteydessä puhuttiin kontrollista ja epäiltiin ihmisten lintsaavan. Nyt kontrolli on unohtunut ja ollaan kiinnostuneita tuloksista. Ja sitä paitsi työpaikkaa ja työyhteisöä on alettu kaipaamaan. Fyysisen työpaikan arvo on tullut mitatuksi uudella tavalla.

Koronavirus ja organisaatiodynamiikka

This is a set of reflections about how Group Relations thinking can assist people and systems to explore the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not intended to be complete, but is a snapshot of a moment in time from a group of systems-psychoanalytically informed people. 

The contributors are members of a group which has been meeting on Zoom following onfrom a tri-annual meeting that took place in Belgirate, Italy in November 2018. The Group has been exploring the hypothesis “Are we Better Together?” – can we as group relations practitioners, theorists and advocates live and work through, the dynamics that we invite members to encounter in a Group Relations Conference. As a result of COVID- 19 the question of being “better together” is now one for us all, as we “Social Distance”. 

We hope that this set of reflections may assist in your own sense-making of the impact of the COVID-19 in your part of the world.

How we hold the whole in mind, whilst living in our “part”, as a fractal of the whole, is an element of the gift of the Group Relations learning modality.

The Patchwork that follows, invites you to engage with the eye of an artist. The offerings are rooted in institutions and geographies but are the vistas of the authors. 

There will be another set of reflections to share in approximately 6 weeks.


The process of making this patchwork quilt has been interesting. The brief for every member of the group was 250 words on COVID-19 in their context and what a group relations perspective could add. Our job was then to (attempt to) sew it together, to metabolise. Quilting is a very traditional technique, and uses scraps, which can be very disparate, but still work together to create something interesting. Quilting is also about being frugal, ‘make do and mend’; in this time of quarantine people are taking up hobbies untouched since childhood, baking bread, growing vegetables. 

One might ask on reading this, which countries are missing from our GR collective? There are many. And who out of this group didn’t manage to contribute – the members from Germany, Taiwan, Spain and Switzerland. Of course the members of our collective do not really ‘represent’ the countries themselves, though in our minds/in phantasy, they may do. 

This starts with thoughts on reading all the contributions… though that privileges one response to the source material… but in a sense this can’t really be an overview, we each can only speak from our place in the patchwork, in this case as a Londoner, who works in the NHS. I did discuss these ideas with other London GRC colleagues, but all of us were I think looking through quite a similar lens. 

The patchwork of contributions which then follows has been somewhat edited, at times for clarity, but also the pace of change meant that statistics seemed pointless and out of date already. There is a notable variation in the balance of Personal vs Organizational vs National viewpoints. There is also a degree of similarity in experience, some issues may ebb and flow more, for example trauma seems more pronounced in Israel and Russia, but also there is so much shared experience. 


One could say there has been a collapse of omnipotence. In the West particularly we have previously felt our place on this planet unassailable, even in the face of a threat like global warming. Societal fault lines have deepened in all cultures: Privilege vs poverty, Basic assumption Fight Flight vs Basic assumption Dependency. Several people spoke to a difficulty with appropriate dependency on leadership, due to ‘fake news’ and distrust or suspicion.

We notice in the news a relative inattention to issues of privilege and bias and how that interplays with Covid-19. It was mentioned in the patchwork; interestingly India was where it was particularly located. We are seeing that class, ethnicity, gender have significant relationships with mortality and morbidity, but it seems hard for this to be talked about and then attended to. Attempts to bring this up by people of ethnic minorities have not gained traction. Who has the authority and right to speak and be listened to? 

Past trauma seems like another underlying factor – the Holocaust, communist regimes, 9/11. This now is also a shared global trauma, how will we respond post C19, what will be needed for national healthy psychological functioning and how do we care, or not, for the traumatised ‘heroes’? What going forward, will they symbolise? History suggests they are often forgotten or neglected.

So many unknowns are causing fear. We can’t really assess risk, so we can’t be reassured. The global nature of the threat means there is no safe place. This creates primal infantile fears and means that splitting and projection don’t work as mechanisms to locate the problems elsewhere. If there’s ‘no safe shore’ then there can be no effective boundaries. There is a difficulty in thinking, at a personal level, which was owned in some of the accounts, but also what we are witnessing in the seemingly mindless activity of individuals and leaders/governments. The USA health system may be collapsing in plain sight. Doctors are doing things that should work, but don’t. 

At the same time people seem to be seeking comfort in tribalism and judgemental, competitive defences… some countries are labelled ‘bad’ or ‘incompetent’, even our friends and neighbours can be ‘othered’ and reported to the police for minor infringements. Othering seems a shared significant issue: countries and individuals, from China to the sweaty jogger! What will be the implications for individual and global relationships the other side of the pandemic?

The issue of ‘othering’ seems very important, and maybe where this wasn’t mentioned was significant. The US leadership in particular, but not exclusively, has really been hammering home a xenophobic narrative – in an attempt to deflect blame, and bring the in-group together more? Is there a more generalised failure of authority or leadership? Like an Inter-group event – leaderless groups in search of authority but unable to find it even where it should be, eg WHO. Thinking about authority and the paranoia that we see in GRC events when members don’t feel contained by leadership, also feels very pertinent. The idealisation and vilification that occurs in an attempt to manage anxiety; and those splits are really apparent. 

There seems to be a wish for purity or cleanliness or uncontaminatedness. This may link also to a longed for oceanic feeling, (a feeling of ”being one with the external world as a whole). Freud deemed this a fragmentary vestige of a kind of consciousness possessed by an infant who has not yet differentiated himself or herself from other people and things.

 The above patchwork stitching was authored on behalf of the group by TAVISTOCK & PORTMAN NHS TRUST: UK 



Here in Italy, a deep social fear of death, the contagion of fear, people are used to doing what they want in this wonderful country and world, now they’re in closed in houses.

We tend to think of the human species as having conquered nature, and even the universe. The helplessness in the face of a contagion like this is, in part, a collapse of omnipotence that may be exacerbated by the problem of the planet warming up which we think is due to us…It seems like a time when humans have to be aware we are a part of nature and not the conqueror of it and that we’ve got limits. 

Pascal says “our nature consists in motion; complete rest is death” we live with the impossibility to move now, we’re in house arrest and there is abundance of restlessness: it seems impossible to rest and now we’re forced to rest and hopefully to reflect on what’s going on and learn from this traumatic experience.
The title of our next GRC is an antenna of what’s happening: subjection and subjectivity: crisis of institutional containers and identity despair. 

We’ve need to reimagine human relations taking time to pause, sense, and connect and then act better together. 


Since our Zoom meeting the world has further changed, what was here at the beginning of looming threat, became an unfolding lived reality.
Our whereabouts, location, work situation, family situation, habits – much of what defines us is being challenged as the number of sick and dead people is climbing, Societal fault lines have deepened. 

Specificities of Covid-19 in Israel: 

  1. Alert button: The Israeli society has an ”alert button”, mobilized in response to wars or threat of wars. Leading to a state of being with specific societal rituals, a switch to survival mode. In this sense the Israeli society may be more resilient than countries that were not threatened since WW2. Convid-19 has pushed this button.
  2. Democracy at risk: In parallel to the Covid-19 pandemic a political crisis is unfolding as a result to a post- election bind. The pandemic is used as a shield/weapon to introduce political changes. Under the pretext of caring for the population civil rights are compromised. Policy decisions of the leadership are suspicious of being political self-serving. 
  3. Politics and societal divide: due to political considerations (minister of health being an ultra-religious person) restrictions were postponed for the religious community. The contagion is the highest in these communities. 
  4. Holocaust and the pandemic: Holocaust associations are very close to the surface in Israeli collective mentality, the situation in which doctors will have to select whom to let die is terrifying everywhere, but has an unbearable feeling here. The image of ”Selection” has an echo to the ”there and then” of the Holocaust, tragically so when some of the ”disposable” older generation are Holocaust survivors. 
  5. The similar but different event in our life time is the ”Gulf war” (1990). Israel was under threat of a nerve agent missiles attack. Gas masks and other kind of protection, discovered later as fake protection, was the order of the day. The terror was similar, the main difference was that the enemy was outside, ”Social closeness” was the comfort. Now the Other may be the source of danger. ”Social isolation” is the guiding principle. The Israeli culture is one of social coherence and reaching out to help, this is unfolding now in many forms, as the situation is worsening. 

More similar than different 

6. The flood of virtual meetings: family, professional, social. To counteract the ”social isolation”. Social defense at work. 

7. The generational divide: ”high risk” older population becoming the sacrificial lamb to the wrath of Nature carried by Covid-19. 

I try to keep the situation as an uncanny reality against the temptation of adapting too fast. 

Like all over the Globe, very quickly we found ourselves gathering in small zoom windows: large groups, small groups, trying hard to think, to make sense of our experiences. It is so difficult to think, to make sense, to plan the upcoming future. Everything is vague. Like there is no view from the zoom window… but we are all together trying hard to keep being in contact with each other, to be in contact with our past, with our future, in order to be.


There hasn’t been a time since World War II where globally citizens wake up with the thought of impending danger to life. COVID 19 is not just about the spread of the virus. Equally potent is the spread of fear; of a sense of vulnerability from the familiar being, perhaps irrevocably, disrupted.
It is true that COVID 19 does not discriminate. But that it has primarily spread to the rest of the world via international travellers, disproportionately affecting celebrities & politicians; and impacted and locked down many countries in the global north, has had a huge role to play in how the media and elite-middle class nexus has chosen to report and respond to this. 

While in other countries COVID 19 has exacerbated feelings of xenophobia and the dangerous other, in India it has primarily deepened the well-entrenched fault lines of hierarchies and privileges. Social distancing is not new to Indians, with caste being a marker of it for centuries! The disruption COVID has caused in the minds of people is because it does not recognise or respect the known boundaries set by the powerful (in the hierarchy of caste, class, gender, or religion) to determine the privilege of who’s safe and unsafe, thus leading to a sense of confusion, anxiety, unease, and even anomie. Now that the rules they set are in disarray, the elite and middle classes have taken recourse to the privilege of claiming victimhood, instead of being also rooted in the reality of the devastating and disproportionate economic and social impact on the poor and the marginalised. There is much evidence of baM at play. 

The biggest threat that COVID 19 poses is to our notion of self-sufficiency, built on the edifice of privilege. To sustain the baM culture that has lured us for the last 50 years, we’re falling back on baD: our fantasy being that an omnipotent leader / government that will somehow restore life to what we knew as.
This is evident from public narratives in mainstream and social media, as well as in statements and choices of those in leadership1. What is pandered to is the craving in us for The Strongman, who exhorts us to sacrifice for the nation, who reassures us that if only we listen to him, all will be well, instead of preparing citizens, the political establishment, and industry to face reality and take timely, bold and appropriate measures. 

The more pervasive virus of entitlement and narcissism has been around for centuries. It has been nurtured more in the recent past by unfettered capitalism and the idealizing of consumerism. Its vaccine: a moral compass based on spirituality, ethics, compassion, generosity, equity, and sustainability, has been out of fashion for long. COVID 19 is an opportunity to focus on the vaccine instead of the virus; a moment of time in history that behoves us to find the courage to let go of our sense of entitlement to privilege.


‘We are not hoarding, but I know people who are’ 

As Australians, we like to think of themselves as self-reliant and self-directed. Likeable mavericks. Not particularly worried about formal authority. But we do like to be able to trust each other for support and honesty in times of need. This was genuinely evident during the recent bushfires and floods. It is under stress now as an emergent tension between the common good and self-interest. 

National identity, if there is such a thing in Australia, is in flux. Many people are now making their own plans for self- protective isolation. This, of course, increases fear and mistrust in the community as whole. It becomes a positive feedback loop. 

Fear + mistrust + ‘Australian’ self-reliance = ‘Fight- flight’ / withdrawal and self-interest
This seems to be leading to a panicked splitting of who is being responsible and socially distant in everyone’s interest and who is not and regarded by the former as stupid, or irresponsible. 

‘We are all in this together’ vs Mistrust of Government 

There are many instances of people looking out for each other; offering common courtesy, practical support and establishing new virtual relationships. Many employers are continuing to employ staff even though the organisation has little work. Many landlords are waiving rent. This is very heart warming. 

But the impact of the virus has also exposed the weaknesses in health, welfare and housing programs after 20 years of progressive defunding of public programs under a conservative / ideological push for ‘smaller government’, lower taxes and self-reliance. Health systems in particular are fearful of not being able to cope when the full strength of the pandemic hits Australia – as we have seen in Italy and expecting in the UK and the USA. 

So we are all in this together, but that means ‘flattening the curve’ of the infection rate so that our health system can cope and that sick people don’t die needlessly. This requires that we all consider other people we will never meet. This shared understanding and humanity is being driven by the general population and many health experts and some commentators, despite confused messaging from government. So the ‘we’ is seen as separate or ‘split off’ from government. Appropriate dependency on Government now seems very difficult. 

GRA has initiated a Listening Post for members. Members and their guests fully subscribed this event within 72 hours of it being advertised. This clearly reflects a wish / need for a shared, thoughtful, hopefully less panicked discourse. 

Personal fears and moral dilemmas 

Crises like this are a once in a lifetime experiences. I find that trying to marshal my own capabilities in this set of circumstances is very difficult. All sorts of decisions present new and ‘wicked’ practical, intellectual and personal ethical problems. How do we feel about sharing our house with friends, with grown, adult family – for example. Umm? Arghh. 

And today, for the first time I felt frightened. 


A question:
In the Nordic culture, there is a high value laid on control and self-control. We have an image of ourselves as good organizers, inherited from the Vikings.
The Vikings were boat builders, which made it possible to travel far away to plunder and conquer, but, on the way, also to learn from others and import things and customs to our country. To be able to row a longboat, you must be able to adapt to one rhythm and one force, otherwise there will be chaos and the boat will only turn around its own axis; hence the need for control, consensus and adaptation.
So, when the Corona virus hit us, the foremost fear was of losing control. Since we stand in front of the unknown, our ordinary means and ways to control have disappeared. Sweden is one of the few countries that is hit hard by the virus, and that has not yet closed the schools. Denial or a sense of being reasonable, of not overreacting? 

A reflection:
This ‘being better together’ movement is a strong support in these strange times. The GRC/Institutional Transformation world can help counteract panic, through our connection and interest in the invisible processes in groups, organizations and institutions. 

A here-and-now snapshot:
Our yearly Conference on the theme of creativity, “Transformation: Organization, Leadership and Creativity 2020 ” was hit by bad news; the Conference hotel had gone bankrupt, because of Corona virus cancellations. The future needs to be invented, and is unclear… 


The main process we are experiencing in society is the lack and inconsistency of information and uncertainty, anxiety, fears. It is clear from what people are saying that the virus was in Russia since December as some people were experiencing the same symptoms as corona virus, so there is also a disappointment and distrust with the information flow (again). 

Also at some level the virus is considered to be a relief from the pre-revolution/ political crisis mood, which was in the air the last few months or the year. So the tension is channeled into the fears and survival actions now.
It is a reminder of the previous “soviet“ dynamics – basic goods disappearing from the shops, there are some restrictions, police coming with doctors to homes, etc. We are back to the Regime, which probably we never really left. 

And also some fantasies people are creating about the present, based on the past. For example you are allowed now to come out to shop for food, for short walk etc, but people are sitting at homes being afraid to be stopped by police and put in the jail.
The oldest generation has a connection to WW2, Stalin’s repressions, genocide of Jews, the mid generation – to the socialist bloom and cold war, the youngest to ethnic conflicts (with massive murders) and post Soviet union territory wars (eg Chechen conflict) and 90s gangsterism and corruption. The last two (but not only) also influenced the psychological systems and behaviors of current Russian leaders. Unmentioned cross-generational traumas like the 1905 and 1917 revolutions, total nationalization of land, property, estate, art etc. All these memories and (unconscious) associations are popping up now on all levels.

Also the financial crisis we were already having here (drop of local currency, massive bankruptcy of local, small and midsize businesses) is influencing people. We experience instability and a lot of anxiety and loss. The topic of privilege comes to the surface again. Those who have more money or connections have more chance of surviving or even being tested for corona virus. That causes envy, anger, frustration and weakness in society. 

From a group relations perspective the main thoughts/processes we have now are:
Bringing the awareness in society of inner psychological processes such a frustration, loss of control, other losses (usual way of life, connections, lives), weakness (or impotency), narcissism (we are not that grandiose), sexual energy, importance of physical (body), massive regression both individual and collective (“good” as it is easier to explore the roots of behavior, “not that good” as it should be worked out and contained somehow) , meeting inner self.
Looking for tools and instruments to work with that: both maternal (embracing, nurturing, healing) and paternal (structured, straight forward, with clear boundaries).
We are organising zoom meetings with consultants, psychoanalysts, GRC professionals, to continue to explore our thoughts, feelings and unconscious processes to inside society. Because it looks like it will be changing with weeks. So – creating the space to express and explore. And create something new. 

PS: Moscow is under the snow since day before yesterday. People are joking that finally we got classical Russian Christmas (which we missed due to absence of snow in Dec and Jan).
That makes me think again about the connection between deep inner traditional purity (the white and untouched snowy empty streets) and, somewhere around, the shadows. 


From my perspective the prevailing and somewhat competitive narratives in the US news are:
How can we keep the economy going and how can we take care of the sick and prevent the spread of the virus? Both seem to be very much about numbers and predictions, statistics, but also about comparison and competition. In this narrative division become more obvious: president versus medical expert, country to country, state to state, old versus young, rich versus poor, the sick and the healthy, the compliant versus the non-compliant, the digital divide etc.
It seems to me that many are focused on “solutions” that fix the presenting problem (seen as health and economy) and very few are focused on the underlying dynamic that got us here. 

I believe we are invited to not just live with but become intimate with “not-knowing” (including death) and not being in control. It appears people are terrified of it. Can we hold the not-knowing as creative and fertile space from which new things will emerge? Are we invited to think about the relationship between globalization and localization, perhaps also particularly relevant to GGRLC? Can we allow an economy of love and kindness to flourish more than an economy of money (and there are some hopeful signs in this emergency situation)? 

Inspired by our conversation GRI launched a virtual Facebook event: “Making sense of what is going on in the world.” We are writing about the experience and we are offering “Spiritual Path Explorations.” 


When it burst out at the end of 2019, I could not believe it at the beginning, or I think it will disappear soon.
Then I heard lots of news, and saw lots of videos, some I believe, some I thought untrue, some I thought were politically manipulated.
Later, one of my friend phoned me to buy food at least for two weeks, I still could not believe, I thought it won’t be so terrible. But I went downstairs and bought some food. 

Later, I fell into strong anxiety, and began to do something, so began the program of “Anti-COVID-19 Group Service Program”.
I can still remember the death, anxiety and loneliness during those days, I wanted to talk with my friends everyday, I spent lots of time talking with others. I felt lonely, very lonely, and scared by COVID-19. The connections with other people helped me at that moment. 

Now, COVID-19 is under control, people in China begin to work and still wear masks. I noticed myself begin to feel the depression, lack of motivation, lack of happiness, and still worry that I will get sick. 


Everything has made me lose my language. When I saw Denmark put the image of the virus on the five yellow stars of the Chinese flag, it was clear to me that this was not anti-chinese people, but an authoritarian party system with privileges. This is what the Chinese people are up against too, and we know it. 

However, with the development of the epidemic, almost all countries are in emergency. The dictatorial party and the system were in line, and won the first round in a strict and rigid defence in China. At this moment, I can’t make my voice heard. It harmed people? It seemed yes. It saved people? It seemed yes.
The daily rising death toll was painful to me, and I didn’t know whether the hand of nature was punishing human arrogance, or whether it was a leak of human biological weapons developed in the laboratory, a technical error. What is the truth, and who has the final proof, or is there only an indefinite uncertainty? These make me not know what to say; my heart is heavy. 

We have a hypothesis that ”it’s better to be together,” as if it were the only certainty; When we came together, we didn’t know what our mission was, and when we asked, there was an outbreak, city after city, country after country; We cut each other off to quarantine to stop the spread of the virus, we pause our busy bodies in all kinds of flying stories, in all kinds of fear mongering… I hope, my mind can be quiet, and in the heartache of the cold, that I can see clearly the truth: this is my prayer from the bottom of my heart. 


I sit at the intersection between China and the US in my role as a co-director of the China-America Society for the Study of Groups and Organizations (CASSGO). In addition to being a director of group relations conferences in Chicago and China, I am also an addiction psychiatrist and group psychotherapist; these roles have also affected my experience of the epidemic.
I have consulted to a group of Chinese group psychotherapists, whom I met through our work in group relations conferences, for two years every week using Zoom. We had a break in our meetings for two weeks prior to the Chinese New Year, and when we met again the epidemic had become visible in China. One member of the group who works as an academic in Beijing was visiting his family for the New Year celebration in Hubei province, where Wuhan is the capital. He has been in quarantine there since that time, so I had first hand reports from both the epicenter of the epidemic as well as from areas distant from Wuhan, including Beijing and Yunnan.

A central piece of my learning from conference work in the US and China relates to the tension between maintaining the autonomy of the individual while protecting the safety of the community. While my Chinese colleagues were initially disturbed both by the delay in their government’s response to the epidemic and simultaneously by the restrictions imposed by the quarantine and sheltering in place, I believe that we now have enough information from the experience of other countries that the model in China of protecting the safety of the community, has much to recommend it. Our Western attitudes and behaviors, including my own, may have contributed to life-threatening denial that we have not seen the end of.

Our American Group Psychotherapy Association went blissfully into New York City with more than one thousand members from March 2-8 just as the virus was beginning its exponential contagion there. While we bemoaned the inability of our Chinese colleagues to attend our conference because of our governments blocking their entry into the US, we fancied ourselves invulnerable to infection. Our denial broke in the weeks following the conference, as our organization’s list serve multiplied exponentially with hundreds of messages daily including new cases of infection among those in attendance at the conference.

As I went into sheltering in place, I contacted my patients to let them know I would be working virtually for the foreseeable future until the crisis resolves. I also opened myself to a more radical dive into the work of online relationships including meetings with colleagues and mutual support meetings, in addition to meetings with my patients. My experience of our western means of protecting the safety of the community has been enhanced by my exposure to the Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. Their first tradition states: “Our common welfare should come first; personal progress depends upon AA unity.” I have been awestruck at the rapidity with which the Twelve Step fellowships have moved from face to face to virtual meetings to offer seamless support to its many members.

I maintain hope that our colleagues invested in group relations conference work may learn a lesson that I believe that this epidemic offers to teach us. Not only may we be better by cooperating and working with each other; our very survival may depend on it. This cooperation may entail physical distance among us; this physical distance need not impair our ability to maintain a strong commitment to an ongoing working relationship. 


  1. Polarisation: As reactions toward corona virus we seem to create “either or ” solutions, but missing “both and” solutions. 
  2. Panic and omnipotence: People are dividing themselves to those who are scared and those who don’t seem to care. This is creating splits and anger between people. One kind of split is between those who don’t want work in any possible danger and those who believe in duty and want to be heroes at work. 
  3. Female and male leadership: Since Finland has a strong young female cabinet with five parties all having a woman chair; it creates male opposition from the Right. For some people it’s almost unbearable that women are capable of creating safe, strong and clear leadership. Corona virus is also calling out some yearning toward more authoritarian leadership. This creates tension with constitutional basic rights and more liberal views. 
  4. Tensions in working life: People are worried about their personal economy, which is impacting to overall economy. Our social security takes care of most of people up to two years, but those who are employing them self can be in trouble. 
  5. Digital jump: In Finland we have had discussion about digital jump especially in education but also in working life. Now the digital jump was made in two days after government declared standby laws. There has been much more hidden capacity than expected. 
  6. Shaping up primary task: As ways to work are fast changing, there is a need to shape the primary task. New methods, new tools and changing enviroment create new meanings to work and unaccepted consequences. 
  7. Uneven workload and envy: Since some are able to work in home and some hate meet danger of corona there is some difficulties to organize workloads. There is also envy between those who earn money by being heroes of work or those who can be in safe at remote work. 
  8. Asocial habits and need for connections. Fins do have reputation as unsocial and lonely people. Corona virus and remote work has created new social habits, need for contacts and responsibility for neighbours. Since gyms etc are closed and city centres are empty, fins have been found walking in nature, as they would have found again long lost relation. 
  9. Saturation about Corona discussion: There are many who are tired of news about corona. This ilinks with the ongoing fight with official information and rumours and false news in social media. 
  10. Fear for othet countries and areas. To some extent there is fear of places like Italy, US, Spain, German etc, where corona virus seems to be loose. I am personally worried the fear also comes between the Helsinki area (at the moment 60% of corona infections) and the rest of the country. 


The Leicester Conference 2020 Task Authority Organisation has the sub theme: 4C’s C-Change.
The world has been brought to a complete stop: planes are not flying, people are advised to stay at home, governments are preparing for 1000’s of deaths, and “social distancing” is a global slogan to prevent the spread of the virus.
Cancellation and postponement of everything from sport to work are changing the social order, and simultaneously virtual communications are bringing us closer together. Can we deliver a whole GRC online? 

If COVID-19 were a member of a group relations conference, we would be curious about how and when it shows up, where it goes. We would try and explore what that might tell us about the state of the conference as a system in its context.
We might ask: 

  • what does COVID-19 represent and why does it appear now, and why in these locations? 
  • How are the social systems responding to the virus? What do their reactions tell us about possible fantasies they are holding? 
  • What does it mean to be infected? Where are we contaminated in our thinking and behaviour? 
  • What role is the media playing on behalf of us all in mobilising fear – is it laying the ground for compliance and conformity OR creativity and connection? 
  • What is being split off and located in COVID-19 on behalf of the system as a whole? 

There are broader issues of equity and equality embedded in the narratives of prevention. Many have talked about overpopulation and the resource implications if the whole planet chooses to live by the USA/UK model of “the good life”. 

  • How to keep 6ft away from any other human being in Bangladesh or Tokyo? 
  • Possibility of washing hands in running water for 20 seconds in a rural village in Sudan? 

The key concept of Authority is on the table. Could this be the heralding of legitimacy to the UN System to create a global government (as the EU project faces Brexit). Perhaps there is a change so broad and fundamental to the nature of Authority that we cannot conceive it? 


The level of anxiety is very high. This unknown, unpredictable situation generates lots of anxiety in me. Anxiety is paralyzing, blocking my thinking. I find it very difficult to concentrate my thoughts and writing. Writing is very important part of my job. It seems that I have perfect conditions for writing now, but my thoughts are clumsy, foggy, distracted, unfocused… I worry not about myself but about my beloved ones.

There are signs of defenses against the anxiety: denial and ignorance of the reality. Some people behave as if they are immortal or have fatalistic view on life and death. For the older generation who are highest risk it is the most difficult to adjust to working on the Internet and technologies, and they keep going to offices, riding on public transport ignoring the risk. Some employers force employees to come to offices without real necessity, denying the risks and trying to control uncontrollable. 

Technologies of course provide conditions for connections and continuation of the work, but at the same time they give opportunities for this never-ending communication, which becomes a noise: disturbing, distracting noise. There is lots of splitting in the society, authorities are blamed for incompetence, and decisions are sabotaged and made to look bad. Isolated people are claiming their freedoms, threatening to take the authorities to court for isolating and violating their freedom, ignoring the fact that their freedoms can violate the rights of other people to be healthy… 

Government cannot provide full protection and satisfy all needs for services because of the lack of human resources as well as medical supplies. On the other hand, there are many examples of initiatives from citizens, who are taking care of elderly neighbors, and donating money. There were more than 700 000 euro raised for supplies by businesses and citizens. There are at least two nationally operating networks of volunteers providing free services through call centers. 

It is difficult for all of us to understand that our task has changed. We all have the same task for the pandemic period – to prevent the spread of the virus and to ensure health. But negotiations between individual and collective needs are not easy. There are competing values in this arena: human vs business, health vs money, freedom vs survival etc. We all know there will be loses and it is difficult. 


Terttu Malo 9.4.2020

Kriisitilanteiden johtaminen edellyttää näkyvää johtajuutta ja valmiutta vallan käyttöön. Akuutissa kriisissä ei ole tilaa tai aikaa keskusteluun, pohdintaan tai mielipiteiden vaihtoon.  Vallankäyttäjä ja johtaja tuntee tilanteen, tietää asian ja osaa ohjata etenemistä kohti oikeita ratkaisuja. Kriisitilanne otetaan haltuun ja taitavalla johtamisella selvitään. 

Jokainen johtaja on omalla kohdallaan kokenut koronakriisin vaikutukset ja haasteet ja joutunut ottamaan mittaa aivan ensimmäiseksi itsestään. Johtajan puoleen käännytään, häneltä odotetaan ohjeita ja ratkaisuja, keinoja ulospääsyyn. Häneen turvaudutaan ja luotetaan, pyydetään apua ja tukea. Johtajan halutaan onnistuvan ja pelätään epäonnistuvan. 

Aivan ilmeistä on, että tässä kriisissä kompleksinen toimintaympäristö haastaa myös kriisijohtamisen mallit. Ongelmat ovat pirullisia, monitulkintaisia, erilaisia elementtejä ja ilmiöitä yhteen kietovia. Ongelmia, joiden kanssa eteneminen tuottaa peruuttamattomia vaikutuksia ja uusia haasteita. Tarvitaan eri tahojen osaamista, moniäänistä puntarointia ja vuoropuhelua. Johtajien ja vallankäyttäjien suuri haaste on olla harhautumatta tilannekuvan yksinkertaistamiseen, olla asettumatta yksinomaan akuutin kriisin ohjeita antavaksi johtajaksi. Kompleksinen toimintaympäristö ei antaudu yhden johtajan tahdon alle. Se itseorganisoituu, leviää, hajoaa ja tuottaa uusia pulpahtelevia ongelmia täysin ennakoimattomasti. 

Johtajien rinnalla johdettavien toimintaa haastaa se, kuinka säilyttää oma ajattelu, osallistua tilannekuvan muodostamiseen, arvioida tehtyä ja hakea korjaavia toimenpiteitä yhdessä. Erittäin hieno esimerkki tästä ovat koulujen käynnistämät ruokajakelut etäopiskeleville koululaisille. 

Yhdessä tästä selvitään.


Helena Ihala 15.1.2020

Tuore kirjallisuuden nobelisti Olga Tokarczuk on sanonut, että meiltä puuttuvat uudet tavat kertoa maailman tarina. ”In a word, we lack new ways of telling the story of the world”, hän kirjoittaa. Tokarczuk sanoo haluavansa kertoa tarinoita, joissa maailma on elävä, yhtenäinen, jatkuvasti muotoutuva ja me ihmiset vain pieni mutta samalla voimallinen osa sitä. 

Arvostuksemme rakentuvat kertomissamme tarinoissa. Missä arvo, siellä tarina. Siksi tarinat eivät ole viattomia. Organisaatiodramaturgian kursseillani keskustelu draamasta alkaa usein pohdinnalla draaman kaaresta. Draamallisen muutoksen kuvaukseen kaari on sekä hyvä että huono sana. Mistä kaari syntyy? Yksi mielikuva voi olla: jousen ja nuolen jännitteestä. Jännite, suspence, on draaman keskeisimpiä käsitteitä. Mutta jos draamaa etsiessämme tähyämme vain ehjiä korkeita kaaria, ollaan hakoteillä. Draamallinen dynamiikka voi tapahtua monin tavoin, usein yllättävästi. Chaplin synnytti draaman ’kaarensa’ kokeillen. Hänen ikoninen kulkurinsa syntyi, kun hahmon karaktääri löytyi rekvisiittaa etsiessä. ”Kaiken piti olla toisen vastakohta: leveät pussihousut ja kireä takki, pieni hattu ja isot kengät”, Chaplin muistelee elämäkerrassaan. Klassikkohahmo ja klassikkoelokuvat, lähtemätön anti ihmiskunnan kollektiiviseen kokemukseen ja ymmärrykseen syntyivät näistä jännitteistä. 

Vuoden aluksi Metanoia-instituutti järjesti jälleen yhteisöllisen Listening Post -tapahtuman. Esiin nousivat kuvat ihmisestä myötätuntoisena petona ja mietittiin, miten kaikella on aikansa, purkamisella ja rakentamisella, etsimisellä ja kadottamisella, VT:n Saarnaajan kirjan mukaisesti. Kysyttiin, elämmekö huippuaikaa vai huiputuksen. Keskeiseksi teemaksi nousivat aikamme jyrkkenevät vastakkainasettelut ja havainnot lisääntyvästä kyvyttömyydestä jännitteiden kanssa elämiseen. Amerikkalainen psykologi James Hillman on puhunut viattomuuden myytistä, jopa kultista, millä hän viittaa tietämättömyyden tilassa vapaaehtoisesti pysymiseen, kaipuuseen paratiisilliseen tilaan, jossa ei joudu sietämään jännitteitä. Yritys ratkaista jännitteet nopeasti saa meissä aikaan hallinnan tunnetta, mutta samalla se siirtää meidät ulkopuolelle, eristää elämisen tapahtumisesta, yhteydestä. Prosessifilosofiaan perehtynyt teologi ja organisaatioanalyytikko Timo Totro toi kuuntelupaikalla esiin tulevaisuuden avoimuuden, sen jännittymisen tunnetun ja tuntemattoman, identiteetin muutoksen ja löytämisen välille, jatkuvaan tulemisen tilaan.

Dramaturgisen ajattelun erityisluonnetta ei ole helppo tiivistää lyhyesti, siihen itseensä kuuluu draaman jännite. Se on toisaalta eläytymistä ja toisaalta etäännyttämistä. Se on dramaturgi Ilja Lehtisen sanoin myös ”tavanomaisen puheen, ajattelun ja mielipiteenmuodostuksen seisauttamista”. Ja samalla kohti tuntematonta kulkemista, uudelle ja toisenlaiselle tilan tekemistä. Metanoia-instituutin viime syksyn Organisoitumisen ajattelumallit -konferenssissa Hermanni Hyytiälä puhui organisaatioiden hahmotusvääristymistä. Sidoksissa tiettyihin ajatusmalleihin, ja samalla niihin kytkeytyviin tarinoihin, emme kykene havaitsemaan toisenlaista. Tämä koskee myös sitä, mitä ajattelemme organisaatioista, millaisia ja mitä organisaatiot ovat. ”Teemme asioita entistä paremmin, mutta teemmekö parempia asioita?”, kysyi Hyytiälä.

Hahmotusvääristymän riski kasvaa siirtymätilanteissa, uuden ja vanhan välissä. Myyteissä ja saduissa tällaista systeemistä siirtymää kuvaavat kertomukset vanhan kuninkaan kuolemasta ja uuden syntymästä. Vanha hallitsija edustaa vallitsevia arvoja ja tarinoita uusien, vaihtoehtoisten vasta muotoutuessa. Työelämämme peruskertomukset juontavat juurensa pitkälle historiaan, edelleen monin osin 1800-luvun teollistumisen aikaan. Nyt ilmastonmuutos muovaa kaikkia kertomuksia uudelleen, myös ja erityisesti työelämään liittyviä. Metanoian taannoin järjestämässä työelämää ja ilmastonmuutosta käsittelevässä Vaikutus tuntematon -seminaarissa BIOS-tutkimusyksikön tutkijat kysyivät työelämän murrokseen liittyen: miten aidosti inhimillistä ja ei-inhimillistä luontoa arvostava, hoivaava ja kehittävä työ voisi kukoistaa? Hyvinvointimme taustalla olevat edistyksen ja kehittymisen tarinat joutuvat ajassamme uudelleenarvioinnin kohteeksi. Jo neljännesvuosisata sitten emeritusprofessori Johannes Lehtonen toi On the Psychology of Oil-Dependence –kirjoituksessaan esiin vaaran todellisuuskuvamme joutuessa kriisiin suurissa muutostilanteissa: ”Todellisuudentajuumme kohdistuva uhka on psykologisesti kaikkein vakavimpia uhkia, joita ihminen voi joutua kohtaamaan. Sen edessä puolustaudutaan tarvittaessa kaikin keinoin, koska tappio tässä tilanteessa näyttää johtavan todellisuuden pirstoutumiseen, ei kehitykseen eikä muutokseen.” Olennaista hänen mukaansa on se, seuraako illuusion romahtamista tuhoava pettymys vai paremman todellisuuskuvan rakentaminen. 

Tragedian peruskysymys on samankaltainen. Tragediassa ei kohtaloita ratkaista vaan kerrotaan, mitä sokeaan viattomuuden tilaan jäämisestä seuraa. Se on tietoiseksi tulemisen draamallistamista. Hahmotusvääristymä on tragedian hamartian, kohtalokkaan erehdyksen, sukulainen. Draamassa henkilöhahmot todentavat hahmotusharhassa elämisen ehtoja. Törmäävät järjen varjoon. Maailma on aina isompi ja oudompi kuin järkeilevät, elämänsä hallintaan pyrkivät henkilöt ymmärtävät. He ilmentävät ihmisen osaan kuuluvaa mahdottomuutta täysin ymmärtää olosuhteita ja elämää kokonaisuudessaan. Draamassa harha, hairahdus, on omien rajojen ja oman tilanteen tunnistamisen väline.

Antautuminen hallinnan tuolle puolen sisältää mahdollisuuden sekä kaaokseen että yhteyteen. Todellisuuskuvan muutos tapahtuu yhteisöllisesti. Voimme kertoa uudenlaisia tarinoita työn merkityksestä ja mielekkyydestä. Tokarczukin sanoin olisi ”lopetettava maailman esineellistäminen, sen mieltäminen paloiteltavaksi ja kulutettavaksi esineeksi ja kertoa se uudelleen eläväksi”. Tämä voi tapahtua palauttamalla maailman lumous. Teatteri ei mielestäni ole ensi sijassa tarinoiden kertomisen vaan niiden seisauttamisen paikka. Se on kiinnostunut siitä, miten tarinat muodostuvat ja mitä seuraa, jos niistä päästetään irti. Se antaa mahdollisuuden maailman kertomiselle uudelleen. 

Tragedian taju voi mahdollistaa parempien asioiden tekemisen elämän hämärillä umpikujilla. Chaplinin kulkurin selviytymiskeinojen loppumaton repertuaari syntyy ainaisesta pulassa olemisesta, poliisia tai isoa miestä pakoon juostessa, kylmän ja nälän välissä. Mutta juuri siinä välissä uusia mahdollisuuksia ja välillä myös rakkauden löytäen. Harhoista koettelemusten kautta vapautuneena mutta lumoutumisen kyvyn säilyttäneenä. 

Organisaatiodramaturgian perusteet & Case Workshop -koulutus 15.2.–23.5.2020

Dramaturgi ja työnohjaaja Helena Ihala on järjestänyt koulutuksia Organisaatiodramaturgiasta Metanoiassa vuodesta 2014 lähtien.