Depth Consultation

In this paper I propose a marriage between Jungian analysis and organizational consultation. The purpose of the pairing is to develop a depth collective psychology and consulting process in order to help collectives. by which I mean groups. organizations. and other forms of human association, to individuate.* The need is clear. For two decades depth psychologies have focused theory and method on individual development without a complementary emphasis on development in the collective. Rather than focusing on the ways in which groups and organizations may affirm individual development or the way individual growth may contribute to organizational development, I will take as my subject collective development per se, including broadening the concept of individuation, currently applied only to individuals, to include individuation in the collective as well. In particular, I am interested in exploring how concepts and methods from analytic psychology used to help individuals in analysis might also be applied to help collectives through consultation.

I will address two groups of readers: Jungian analysts and other practitioners and students of analytic psychology who with the important exception of typology theory, often know little about organizational consultation (and have by and large acted as if they have little to contribute toward its study); and organizational consultants and organizational leaders who in general know little of Jung's depth psychology and have little sense of its potential in their work. For the past twenty years. I have had the good fortune to keep one foot in each camp. I am a Jungian analyst working primarily with individuals and also an organizational consultant trained in the tradition of Tavistock group relations and now practicing what I call depth consultation with a variety of client organizations from the business, education, political, and mental health fields (Colman and Bexton 1975, Colman and Geller 1985). I find that the way I fill each role is powerfully informed and energized by the other; both of these activities draw their wellspring from a common source, an appreciation of the impact of the collective unconscious on individual and collective systems. Unfortunately, I have few colleagues who share my interest, and even fewer who have experience in both fields. I am writing this paper, in part, in the hopes of interesting more of my colleagues from both disciplines to explore this new area.

At the heart of Jung's theory is the individuation process, which he defines as a polarity between the individual and collective. His classic statement is this:

Individuation is the development of the psychological individual as a being, distinct from the general collective psychology. Individuation therefore is a process of differentiation having for its goal the development of the individual personality. (Jung 1921, par. 757)

Individual development is everything here; the individual is the diamond to be liberated from the collective “rough.” For Jung, adaptation to the collective psychology is a paradoxical and preliminary step to embarking on the individuation process which requires separating one's own values out of the compromising group matrix (Jung 1921, par. 761). Once the individuation path is taken, the group is left behind. Although passing reference is made to the individual's duty to create “value” for the society, Jung's major focus was always on the development of the individual apart from the collective and apart from the development of the collective (Jung 1916, par. 1096).

Many practitioners of depth psychology have continued this perspective. For example, I once posed this question to a revered analyst and revered teacher: “How does individuation serve the collective?” and received the following apocryphal answer from her: “If I walk alone on the beach intent on my own individuation, then and only then do I truly serve others. Service to others begins and ends in my own development!”

Undoubtedly if enough people took her perspective to heart, our society would be greatly improved, if just for the presence of so many developed individuals in our midst. Yet groups are not simply the sum of their individual members nor are individuals ever really separate from their significant groups. Sometimes the individual walking on the beach is on a journey that will benefit self and others, too, and sometimes he or she will be unwittingly caught in a group archetype; that is, those heroic solitary walks may serve the group needs to exclude or scapegoat, even as the individual is seeking integration.

Long-term separation from the collective can rarely ever be the aim of individuation; that would deny our humanity, our sentience as human beings. Rather it is one of the temporary paths some people use to learn more about themselves away from the influence of others. Nor can individuation of the individual proceed without a concomitant developmental process in the collective. From an ethical point of view, individuation defined outside of its collective context is a travesty, because it separates individual development from the suffering of others. From a psychological point of view, individuation separate from the collective is flawed, because it leaves the shadow out of the process by allowing the projection of personal shadow into the collective scapegoat and then turning one's back on that scapegoat and calling it, as Jung does, a product of a “lower level of consciousness” or “mass mind” (Jung 1950, par. 225).

The collective, after all, is no more or less than ourselves in relationship. However we may twist and turn to assert our separateness, there is no escape from the reality of each individual's involvement in the darkest behaviors of our human collective. In group relations theory, there is a concept known as “group in the mind” which expresses the ever-present group consciousness of individuals even and especially when they are most isolated and functioning most separately from others. This ongoing “group in the mind” or group consciousness seems to me as much an aspect of human consciousness as is awareness of our individual consciousness.

The “mass mind” is us; we are as much collective as individual entities; surely both parts of us must develop for us to live full lives. It is no accident, then, that the great models of individuated men and women have devoted themselves to helping the poor, the homeless, the diseased, the suffering—our collective victims.

Individuation theory has had and continues to have a powerful impact on depth therapy. I believe that individuation theory expanded to include collective process, including unconscious collective process, also has the potential to make an important contribution to organizational development and the individual/organizational development interphase. It is a perspective little tried, for although there are many disciplines that deal directly with the psychology of the collective, with a few important exceptions, these disciplines, and their practitioners, both academic and pragmatic, do not relate their work to the unconscious collective, to origins, myths, complexes, and the ways these elements manifest in organizational structure and process. Neither a culture of collective exploration nor a consulting methodology to assist such an exploration has yet developed parallel to the ethos that fuels individual exploration in depth therapies. To achieve this, we need a perspective which assumes that the collective unconscious operates in and through groups and organizations as well as in and through individuals and that the two are connected.

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How would such a perspective operate through the consultation process? When I consult with these principles in mind, I start off with the same assumption that informs my exploration of an individual seeking help in analysis. I assume that the organization has integrity beyond its individual members, much as the individual has integrity beyond the ego or dominant complex that claims first voice in the analytic process. I also assume that every organization is capable of consciously and unconsciously developing in order to manifest its deepest identity, what could be called its organizational self.

The organizational self, like the individual self, is what that organization seeks to become, the unfolding of its potential, its inexorable movement toward integration and wholeness. Like the individual self, it is anchored in its birth process, reality and myth. The early enfolding of the organizational self is always filtered through the task system which defines its identity and survival. Erik Erickson wisely pointed out that identity formation is always as much a function of who one is not as who one is (Erickson 1972). An organization develops, much like a child, by fashioning a provisional identity that excludes and represses those parts which are troublesome and dystonic. Early in most organizations' lives, there is a need for a quality of cohesion that denies the complexity and confusion inherent in origin and task. Projection and repression is used in the service of furthering this cohesion; the price is exclusion of dissident elements and a loss of wholeness. In the individual, these excluded elements are coalesced and personified in what Jung called the shadow, that part of us that is deeply unacceptable to the ego. Confronting and reintegrating the shadow is, from the point of view of Jungian analysis, the sine qua non of individuation. So, too, with organizations, whose excluded parts hold the creative and change-producing elements without which stagnation is all but inevitable. Like the adult who must reclaim and acknowledge these discarded and repressed parts in order to feel whole and real, the mature organization must also struggle to include what has been left out, pushed out, denied, and ignored, in order to function at the highest level. Thus, from the point of view of the collective's as well as the individual's development, the shadow—individual and collective—must be acknowledged and reclaimed for the self to operate fully and transformatively.

In depth consultation, then, as in analysis, I assume that the client's path of development will include confrontation with the scapegoated parts of the organization. This approach differs from most kinds of consultation in focusing attention on these excluded parts as a critical element in the general aim of exploring unconscious collective process. From this perspective, my central task as consultant is to define these scapegoated elements as well as the scapegoating process and give meaning to both as they manifest in the functions and goals of the organization. The consulting contract includes client acceptance of this perspective and a willingness to join with me in this exploration—no matter where it leads.

This consultation contract is much like the contract between individual patient and analyst, an agreed exploration of shadow and other unconscious elements to enhance meaning and self definition. For example, organizations, like individuals or nations, are often unconsciously driven by their myth of origin. During my work with the client organization, I might explore their particular myth of origin, their birth or rebirth history, parental images, utopian visions, etc., in order to bring the meaning of these elements into the organization's consciousness, much as an analyst might explore origin and other unconscious motifs with his or her analysand for the same reasons. My experiences of doing this kind of work as either depth consultant or analyst are remarkably alike in basic ways. Of course, there are technical differences, e.g., differences in pace and timing. For example, organizational consulting tends to be less leisurely than analysis and may require more aggressive interpretation. Still, similarities outweigh differences. In individual work, the analyst elicits history, dreams, fantasy, relationship, and transference material to help the analysand explore his or her unconscious world of complexes and processes; the organizational consultant elicits similar material from individuals, subgroups, and intergroups within the organization in order to develop a map of the client's unconscious world. Individual analytic work proceeds on an inner psychic stage across which the figures of the unconscious play out the hoped-for psychic transformation; the analyst stands, one foot on that stage and one foot in the wings, anchoring the developmental process. In depth consultation, the consultant takes up the same boundary and anchoring position except that the players are real members of the organization and the consulting work is helping to sort through these patterns until the central myths are clarified and their meaning for the organization better understood.

From the analyst's and consultant's points of view, working with individual or organization is like working with siblings who share the same parent. The collective pattern of behavior in the organization, the dream of an individual, the outward play of an organizational myth, the inward play of an individual myth, all have common roots in the collective unconscious. Individual analysts or organizational consultants who are committed to depth exploration locate themselves at the border of the imaginal space of either system, listening, exploring, and interpreting the stuff of the unconscious, be it dream, fantasy, ritual patterns, myth, inter-personal drama, interorganizational rivalry—all elements of the deepening search for meaning and transformation.

And always, in both systems, there is the missing element, the excluded part, the personal shadow, the collective scapegoat, both standing in the way of that search and containing its central meaning. In organizational life, the scapegoat holds the hidden corruption, the unspeakable scandals, the dark side, much as the shadow constellates those elements in the individual. The scapegoat and the scapegoating process often hold the unconscious problem of the organization, that which must be confronted and reintegrated if change is to occur.

All organizations work hard, consciously and unconsciously, to protect both the scapegoating process and their chosen scapegoats. This is in the nature of the archetype of the scapegoat, “the one who has been made to take the blame for others and suffer in their place.” An organization will not easily give up a well-worn pattern of projecting its most unacceptable parts onto an available victim. Part of the art of consultation is how to ferret out the manifestation of this scapegoat archetype without losing one's client! Consultants and “whistleblowers” know too well the great danger of meddling with an entrenched scapegoating system. In the Bible story of the scapegoat, the man who takes the scapegoat into the wilderness is in great danger:

And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes and bathe his flesh in water and afterwards come into the camp. (Lev. 16:21)

In practice, the man who speaks the truth about the scapegoat often shares its fate.

In my experience, the most common reason for developing a dynamic of scapegoating in an organization is fear of confronting real and imagined difference in the collective (Colman 1989). If the challenge of diversity becomes great enough to threaten what is seen as the cohesion, unity, and, ultimately, the survival of the group, the group will defend itself by invoking the scapegoating process. Or, put another way, groups, like individuals, are always in pursuit of wholeness and, like individuals who reject shadow elements of themselves by projecting them out into the environment the group will create victims rather than face dealing with diversity and difference.

Typically, consultation requests usually carry within them this scapegoat issue although almost always defined from the victimizer's point of view. Thus, there is a defined “problem,” “without whom” all would be well (or at least better). For example, on one occasion, I was asked by the literature department of a large midwestern university to consult around a “difficult” assistant professor who was denied tenure despite obvious academic excellence. The denial related to a particular “impropriety” in his behavior, an alleged slanderous remark toward one of his fellow tenure seekers. The department was afraid that he might protest the department's action. On another occasion, I was asked to consult to upper management of a governmental agency whose esprit de corps was being “undermined” by the agency's clients, “misguided” citizens who “misapprehended” the agency's policies and now were threatening to sue the agency. On a third occasion, I was asked to consult to a small business because one of the partners, who had a particularly important technical skill, was acting in a way that jeopardized the whole operation yet refused to change his behavior. In all these examples, the organization as a whole is faced with a challenge from an important constituent part—junior faculty, consumer citizens, and a powerful partner. In each case, the leadership perceives threat to its wholeness and its authority. Consultation has been requested because the scapegoating hasn't worked; the scapegoating process, developed to rid the organization of its dissidents, has aborted and the bloody remains are still in evidence and threaten the organization with infection. From the excluding subsystem's point of view, the dissident individual (group, department, or even nation) is seen as a pathological entity, the isolated problem. A trial without argument ensues; the verdict is already in. The tenure candidate is a loser but could make trouble; the consumers are misguided but could undermine policy and funding; the partner is acting inappropriately but could break up the company. All that is required is a consultant who, as an outside authority, will sanction the exclusion and recommend what is needed—reeducation, treatment, or even annihilation—the final solution. The man needs therapy for his aggression; the citizens are misguided and need further education; the partner is pigheaded and must learn to give in to the needs of others or get out.

In practice, the individual is rarely an innocent in the organizational process. Groups choose their victims well, and most victims have a way of volunteering for the job. The consultant brought into a scapegoating situation is inevitably asked to accept the organization's point of view and divert attention from the system's problem to the “disturbed” individual. It is quite a temptation, since the organization, not the scapegoat, is paying the consultant's bill! But whatever the balance between individual and organization, the individual who has been selected for victimhood will rarely be able to hold his or her own. The power of the organization or majority culture to create victims for its own psychological purposes is the power of the many over the few. Only very courageous or foolhardy individuals or subgroups can stand up to a powerful victim-creating process. To help an organization, the consultant must refocus attention on how the need for a scapegoat and the choice of victim is a diversion from the deeper collective issues.

The tactical problem for the consultant is how to gain sufficient trust within the organization to redefine the scapegoating system as a part of the organization's troubled process rather than its cause. The consultant faces a problem similar to the analyst with a patient who defines his or her symptom—anxiety, nightmares, a compulsive affair—as the problem without which there would be no problem. In individuals, where symptoms are part of a larger problem, shadow elements are breaking through the ego's defensive edifice, an attenuated structure based on an incomplete view of itself. But often it is easier to embrace mendacity and medication than to consider the symptom as pointing to a larger problem. The analytic, explorative mode depends on a willingness to search for meaning in the excluding and isolating patterns. Then the symptoms are useful; they forcefully pose the problem of false integrity and point to what has been defensively excluded and what now must be redeemed.

Depth consultation requires the same mutual willingness to search for meaning in the excluding, scapegoating pattern. For the organization, the presence of a noncompliant scapegoat is like anxiety to the individual; the dynamic of scapegoating in organizations is a particularly efficient “medication,” a “final solution”; for when it works, the unwanted parts can be permanently expunged and, like the biblical scapegoat, exiled to the wilderness never to return. That is the hope at least, but as the Israelites found in their sojourn in the wilderness, the excluding ritual had to be repeated yearly to have even minimal cathartic effect on the collective. And, as Saul found when he tried to extrude a dissident David from his ranks, scapegoats have a way of turning up with large armies (or a bevy of lawyers) in pursuit of their definitions of justice.

I want now to turn to two consultations in which the dynamics of exclusion and scapegoating are prominent.

Consultation # 1

I consulted to a top California management group—sixteen men and women—of a government agency concerned with conservation. The agency was embattled by a well-organized citizen's group who were opposed to the way government leadership carried out its mandate and made policy. I was asked by the agency director to help develop more successful approaches to the problem than the management group had thus far been able to devise.

I met with the entire group for a weekend retreat. I soon discovered that the director was convinced of the “goodness” of the way he and his management were performing. He said esprit was high and performance had improved in response to the current stress. He felt policy was well thought out and relevant to task. He was sure the agency was capable of changing its ideas and process if needed; that was not a problem, witness the successful incorporation of affirmative action hiring policies amply demonstrated by the women and minority present in the room. “This group,” the director proudly told me, with affirming nods from the people in the room, “is like a good American family. We care about our own, and we take care of our own. And we have tried-and-true family ways of changing things when they need changing.”

Obviously, a great deal was being left out. I have learned over many consulting efforts that whenever family metaphors are used to describe organizations, it is likely that the exclusion dynamic is particularly insidious. Hallowed family platitudes often hide a multitude of family sins, including incest, sexism, and “black sheep” victimizations, to mention a few. Organizations are not families, and those that claim to be are usually profoundly afraid of their secrets and their differences. I listened sympathetically for a long time, considering how to intervene and discarding every intervention that came to mind. My silence was irritating to the group. They were not paying me a good fee to be a noncontributor. They continued to speak about their cohesion and shared values, their ability to integrate one and all into their “family.” When and whether I would join was the unspoken question of the group.

When it was finally made overt by one of the leaders, I made my move. “If everything is so good,” I chided gently, “then who are the public that seem to disagree with your policies? Why don't they feel part of your family? Who might they represent here? Is anybody feeling left out of the family here and now in this room, the way those citizens feel left out of your decision-making process and your decisions?”

At first, there was polite but hostile silence to my remark. This was followed by even more fervent demonstrations of harmony and familyhood. But as I persisted in asking the same series of questions in a variety of ways, the group turned on me with more open anger. Apparently, they had gotten the wrong consultant. I obviously didn't understand, either, any more than the citizen's group and other detractors understood. Perhaps only family members could get it right. “Well, if that's true,” I said, “then where does that leave those of us who aren't family—like the citizen's groups who aren't family, perhaps don't want to be family, but still want to get some of their needs met. Doesn't anyone here identify with them rather than this family?”

No one did, which led to more rancor with me, diluted only by the congenial surroundings and good food. My questions and their patience were wearing thin. Some kind of breakthrough had to occur soon or I would be out of a job and the agency would be even more isolated than before. Searching for a chink in the armor, I asked the women present if they really felt part of the family (which seemed to me to be increasingly defined as an “old boy” network). “Yes indeed,” one exclaimed, “we are just that and proud of it.” There was a chorus of assent from most of the women, who went on to explain that those women who had made it in the agency were indeed daughters and wives of men who worked or I had worked in the agency! “It is a big, happy family,” they chided I back. Didn't I see that now?

When I wondered about what such a kinship hiring pattern meant in a government agency—was only “family” to be trusted?—the group again defended itself. It obviously made sense to hire people who knew the job and were blood-loyal, as one put it. But the silence that followed this rejoinder was less smug than before. Something was wrong; everyone could feel it. There was a piece missing, and attempts to get on with other business fell flat.

“Is everybody here really a part of this wonderful family?” I asked, more cynically than I wished. “Am I the only one who has another family to go home to at night?” I looked significantly at each person in turn and then shut up. This was the moment of truth, the one on which the consultation would probably turn.

To my great relief, a black woman stood up and faced the group. “Hell no,” she exclaimed, “I'm not a part of this family. I've got my own family. I'm working here because the money is good. I'm also here to do what I can to stop the rest of you from stealing the public land for yourselves and your fat, white ‘families.’ And there's no way you're going to get rid of me for saying this. You need me and you know it. And this consultant is my witness, even if he is a honkie.”

After a stunned silence, a young white man with longish hair stood up. “This isn't my family either. No way. I want to change things, bring in some new-age values. The citizen's group is right about some things. It's going to change around here whether you guys like it or not.”

Gradually others in the group followed their lead in speaking up, some still identifying with the family, others opposing it in one way or another. There was a lot of mourning the loss of the “good old days,” which, as so often is the case, turned out to be less halcyon than legend claimed.

The rest of the weekend was a long amplification of the theme of the need to learn how to let in difference, change, new people, and new ways. While the exclusionary dynamic continued to emerge at times of greatest disagreement, I could now consult to it and find some joining voices. While I had no illusions that the organization as a whole would drastically change its view toward outside criticism, a small inroad had been made, including some, understanding of the problem, and more consultation was likely. The seed for future change had definitely been planted.

My interventions were based on the hypothesis that the excluded or scapegoated elements of an organizational system carry its individuating potential much as the shadow carries that potential in the individual. This agency's reaction to criticism from the citizen's group was to exclude their views and create an even more paranoid island called “family.” Certainly this response was counterproductive to their task. It seemed likely to me that the outside group struck important unidentified views and feelings within the agency itself, whose “family romance” effectively excluded criticism and difference in its members, let alone those it served—the public. The citizen's group could not be negotiated with effectively until this undercover dynamic inside the agency was brought to light. In the intense atmosphere of a weekend group retreat, exploring what different views from a citizen's group might symbolize and mirror in the management group was potentially explosive. Once the challenge to the family fantasy was out in the open, once the “black sheep” were brought to light, the agency leadership would have a better chance to develop its leadership on more realistic grounds and find a new myth that better fit its present and future.

Consultation #2

I was asked to consult to a large organization that provides many highly valued services in health, education, and business within its target community, a multinational group, composed of first-generation immigrants and first-generation U.S. citizens. It is typical of similar organizations which serve immigrants from a geographical area such as the Pacific Rim, Central America, or the Middle East, in which internecine struggle is a fact of life. During the past ten years, many of the homeland countries have been at war in serious conflict with one another; many people have died in these wars. Many of the staff and clients are refugees from these wars. In effect, this background ensures that staff subgroups feel like enemies; in some cases, only their transplanted geography prevents them from being in a live war. And yet, within the United States, as has happened to so many immigrant groups before them, these virtual enemies are lumped together into a single organization and client system. In particular, funding is dependent on a racist assumption that lumps people together on the basis of skin color or facial characteristics. They are treated by government as if they are homogeneous, a single ethnic entity whose members can identify with and serve one another, when in fact their diversity is extreme and saturated in intergroup violence. Thus the scapegoating dynamic is already present in the relationship with the larger culture. One could predict that the leadership of such an organization would have an impossible and intolerable task, that any functional system which represented integration in the face of such violent opposition would come under attack.

The stated problem for which consultation was requested was recurrent instability in the organization's leadership. Two previous directors, both highly qualified and acceptable to staff at their hiring, had been fired or resigned in the past two years. The current director, L., was equally well qualified but he was also now being pressured to leave after only six months on the job.

When I first met with L. to consider our consultation contract, he suggested intensive work with the staff group. In view of the inflammatory nature of the problem, I proposed a careful diagnostic program through a series of meetings with key personnel, to be followed by meetings with various subgroups of staff before dealing with the staff as a whole. But the next day there was another major leadership crisis; the entire staff demanded a meeting with the director in the presence of a consultant. L. told me about this request, and he confirmed that he was being asked to resign. It was not the ideal way to begin a consulting job.

The meeting began with a dissection of L.'s personal and leadership characteristics, emphasizing his authoritarianism and his incompetence. Some of the group began to infer that he was also clinically paranoid and thereby unfit to lead. All these accusations found few “hooks” in the face of L.'s competent and judicious behavior during his short tenure as leader. L. pointed out that similar defamations had also been leveled at the previous directors. This defense was met with redoubled attacks; at one point, the group asked me, now labeled as a psychiatrist rather than organizational consultant, to “certify” L. as insane. When I demurred, suggesting that such a pronouncement was beyond my role, the fight leadership in the group seemed to give up all rational pretense. One of the informal leaders of the staff group put it bluntly: “Even if L. is mentally fit,” he said, “and even if L. is a decent leader, he still has to be sacrificed. There is just too much tension with him around. He must resign.”

My authority to consult to this meeting was extremely limited. I was a stranger in the group and had developed little reservoir of trust from either director or staff. Still, I needed to speak to the issue; I would probably not get another chance. So I consulted directly to the scapegoating process by interpreting what seemed to me to be the most overt politic of the group, that the leader was being used as a convenient lightning rod to project anger more appropriately focused on the intergroup and international conflicts within the staff group, as well as the racism implicit in their funding sources.

There was little discussion of my point; it was a premature interpretation born of impotence rather than ripeness. I knew that the intergroup rivalry was so acute that even focusing on the outside bureaucracy, the universal scapegoat in industrialized society, was unlikely to be heard. They were afraid of agreement on anything, thereby risking violation of profound ethnic and national loyalties. The only acceptable common target was the leader himself, who symbolized their taboo interconnections. He was available as the unifying scapegoat because getting rid of him, as they had gotten rid of leaders before him, would perpetuate the chaos. They epitomized, in microcosm, the social structure of denial, the use of real and symbolic human sacrifice, and the victimization of the innocent to circumvent responsible confrontation with extremely difficult realities.

The process I was observing was indeed archetypal. L. as leader/scapegoat, had become an enormously useful vehicle for the collective shadow of this group, uniting the various warring subgroups in ritual murder. Guilt would come later, but for now, the scapegoat archetype and the ancient dynamic of human sacrifice left no room for reason and rationality. The scapegoat holds the pain and suffering for the group, the pain and suffering which the group can no longer handle within its own boundaries but must project and expel from its midst. The scapegoating process must be swift and merciless; the humanity of the victim must be denied. Anything less would elicit sympathy and support and the possibility of more-explicit examination of the conflicts between member and member, subgroup and subgroup, which in this organization would move quickly into ancient and modern blood feud. These issues were indeed explosive and would have to be approached with great care. The staff was not ready to do this and so the leader/scapegoat had to go.

All the staff seemed united in this process except or one man. M. was a business student interning with the organization. Like L., he was more identified with the organization as a whole than the internecine struggles of the subgroups. Soon after my comments, M. spoke out forcefully in the group. He said he agreed with what I had said; he, too, felt scapegoated in this organization whenever he openly identified with the organization as more than a collection of ethnic subgroups. After his speech, the staff turned on M. with a fury almost equal to its attack on L., but he countered by repeating his interpretation and suggested that the irrational fury of the attack was more evidence of what he was saying. Eventually, the group turned from him to the more-satisfying massacre of L.

In a previous paper, I discussed the general issue of scapegoating in organizations by amplifying a short story by Ursula LeGuin entitled, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (Colman 1989, LeGuin 1975). Omelas was a town that paid for its utopian life-style by consciously structuring the scapegoat dynamic into its politic; one child was kept in misery all the time as a receptacle for the collective shadow. The system worked well for most citizens; there were only a few “walkaways” who could not live in such a victimizing system and had to leave despite Omelas's material, aesthetic, and spiritual advantages. In LeGuin's story, these “walkaways” lived out the classic hero's journey, leaving their homeland to search for a better place where they could live their lives with more integrity.

There is another kind of walkaway, however, a kind of individual, not represented in LeGuin's story or in most other heroic plots, who rejects the system but acts in a different way toward it. These individuals, who I call “interpretors,” do not leave; instead, they live on the boundary of such systems. They speak out against the system's injustice while taking responsibility for their part in its perpetuation. Individuals like this, the best of our artists, prophets, and healers, neither accept a comfortable place in the system nor put themselves beyond the human need that creates it. They locate themselves on the boundary of the scapegoating society which is every society, one foot in the wilderness and the other in the town square. The interpretor stance is dangerous to the individual who assumes it, particularly if there is no institutionalized acceptance of the role. As reformers and “truth-sayers” have learned throughout the ages, those who protect the scapegoat, those who speak out against injustice, run the risk of accepting the scapegoat's place. Students, because of their liminality and their youth, have often been able to speak from that place of truth—many societies use students that way—although the tragedies of Kent State and Tiananmen Square suggest no absolute immunity. M., an interpretor type by nature, was able to talk directly to the difficult issue confronting the group; he had less to lose than the paid employees and knew he could count on the support of his university and its teachers. Still, in the throes of an active scapegoating process, it takes great courage to speak out against the group norm and risk the danger of deadly contagion.

Neither my comments nor those of M., however, made a significant difference. The scapegoating forces were already too strong. When the meeting ended. L. was all but excommunicated. But with the last shreds of his authority, he did authorize and pay for a consultation report. L. was fired a week after the meeting.

I heard nothing from the organization for five years, until I received a phone call from M. He introduced himself as the new director, the third since L. had been fired. While going through the papers of his predecessor, M. came upon my report gathering dust in a file cabinet. He was interested in my elaboration of the scapegoating phenomena and wanted to learn more about the model I was using and also what I might suggest to ensure some longevity to his leadership. Could we talk in my office? Emphasis his!

This request began a five-year bimonthly consulting relationship that, by all ordinary measures, has been a great success. The organization is now known nationally as a model for working efficiently in a multiracial, multilingual setting. The greatest danger to M. is the parade of headhunters that pursue him.

What has changed? In our initial strategy session, M. said that the scapegoating system was still intact. He was sure it would destroy him if not held in check. My consultation report had given him an intellectual understanding of the powerful dynamic and also some hope for the future. We wondered aloud together about growth and creativity, if the organization did not have to divert so much of its energy for the costly and painful biyearly crucifixion and could concentrate on the reality tasks of development and service instead. But how to change that? Another direct interpretive assault on the scapegoating dynamic seemed doomed. Instead, we decided to work indirectly to weaken the collective need for fragmentation that underlay the continual transformation of leader into scapegoat. We outlined possible targets for this effort: developing staff skills and organization-wide esprit through in-house and external educational interventions; formulating new hiring policies which would seek out individuals committed to strengthening the organization at its center; restructuring the organization in ways that both took into account the need for some functional separations of dissident subgroups but also emphasized new tasks and systems which united and integrated these sub-groups, i.e., projects which required nationality and language integration. We wanted to recognize the implications of the profound intergroup differences present in the staff, and we also agreed to add connecting elements which would decrease the threat of increasing integration. In essence, M. and I filtered all organizational change with an eye to weakening the collective scapegoating dynamic.

Five years earlier, M. had shown that he had the courage to risk saying the unsayable; now he also had the position of leadership to effect organizational change in a patient and noninflammatory fashion. He understood that staying in his job almost certainly required these changes and, unlike his many predecessors, he had the advantage of a concept to explain the leadership scapegoating behavior and a consultant who would work beside him and support him. This last element turned out to be critical and not just because of the information and perspective I could provide. Something more insidious happened, which was to remake our consultation in an unexpected way.

Let me describe what I mean. M. and I met in my spacious office in Sausalito, an affluent suburb near San Francisco. In contrast, M.'s organization was located in an impoverished area; its offices were plain and cramped. My consultation fee was high compared to his own and his staff's salaries, as well as the salaries of most of the organization's clients; staff was aware of these fiduciary contrasts. On occasion, we had held retreats in my offices. At these times, although I was treated with great deference, there were always veiled references to luxury, money, status, and racial differences between the consultant and the organization's staff.

From time to time, I felt vaguely uncomfortable about these fiscal and spatial arrangements. However, I did not decrease my fee nor even hold down regular increases. On three occasions in the five years of consultation, I insisted on coming to the agency site itself to see the staff in their own habitat. Twice the appointment was canceled, and on the third, much of the staff was mysteriously absent. Neither was I ever able to attend the banquets, fund raisers, or other organizational events that have been used to celebrate its growth and success. Perhaps most important, I continued to be always the only ethnic outsider employed by the organization.

In the course of several years, it became clear to M. and me that part of the reason for the success of our work together and its effects on his tenure as leader was the way our consultant pair had become the new scapegoat for the increasingly successful organization. Despite our gradual changes in personnel and structure, the inter-ethnic antagonisms continued to be fierce, even escalating, fueled by worsening international relations. Nor had there been internal “insight” work within the organization that might have buffered this ever-present disruptive dynamic. The scapegoat was still an essential requirement for this organization to cohere, much as the scapechild had been an essential requirement of life in LeGuin's city of Omelas. In effect, the staff group accepted M.'s leadership even when his policies moved the organization toward integration of differences, but they did this by projecting their negative feelings onto the “outside” consultant and the consultative relationship. Together we were viewed as a leadership pair split into good and bad. He was the brilliant, rational, risk-taking hero while I was the dark, mysterious, greedy, shadowy overlord, the white devil, as M. once heard a person refer to me in the bathroom. M. was viewed as strong enough to handle my potentially corrupting influence; his ability to do so probably added to his charisma. With M.'s tacit support, I established the valence for my “enemy status” quite unwittingly through choice of site, money arrangements, the secrecy of our work, my isolation from others, and the lack of other Caucasians.

In this organization, the pressure to find a victim has not altered but the identity of the victim has changed. The consultancy process had become a scapegoat-in-the-mind for staff, much as fired leaders and institutional chaos had been the scapegoat-in-fact five years before.

What is wrong with this outcome? Don't such projections go with the territory of consulting much as transference goes with the territory of therapy? Who, after all, was harmed by such an arrangement, especially since the organization and its leader were evidentially thriving? The transfer of the negative projections away from the leader had allowed M. to survive as he carried out policies of integration. Without the consultancy as lightning rod, his job would have been continually in jeopardy.

Moreover, the scapegoat-in-the-mind is quite different from the scapegoat-in-fact. The consultancy system was much like scapegoating in families or small groups in which the victim is more “incast” than outcast. Families rarely expel their problems—the prodigal son is allowed to return—as are other black sheep or victims, because they are needed to maintain the psychological equilibrium as well as fill other family roles and functions. There was no overt damage to me or to M. similar to what happened to the five fired leaders before him. On the contrary, as individuals, each of us has gained greatly from the consultation process, and the organization has benefited from the improved leadership skills of its director. But there were costs that are not obvious. There was considerable cost to M., who learned little about dealing with the negative part of the authority vested in his role and so may not have been fully creative in his leadership. There was a similar creative cost to the organization as a whole and to some subgroups by continuing to deal through mechanisms of projection rather than exploration. In fact, M. had consulted with me about the way several of his best staff, out-spoken and risk-taking individuals, were isolated and ostracized when they offered ideas and programs that required inter-ethnic group cooperation. Scapegoating is never without cost. The effect of leaving out any element of a system always has repercussions in parallel process throughout the rest of the system; M. felt muzzled, and his best personnel were constrained from acting in venturesome ways. Moreover, the consultancy, while serving a “helpful” symbolic function as alter-scapegoat, was thereby limited from providing information or interpretations that could well be used by the organization.

Perhaps this arrangement was the most that could be attempted with such an embattled organization. These and other costs may seem part and parcel of my role and small compared to providing a vessel to contain the chaos and destructiveness that existed before M., I, and his organization began our dance together. It is very hard to imagine not having a scapegoat in this tension-filled system. The utopia of Omelas or this consultation always depends on its scapegoat, just like the “utopian” vision of a “perfected” man or woman depends on the projected shadow.

I believe that all consultants who work in depth will inevitably be contaminated by the scapegoat/scapegoater archetype. No matter how carefully they work, and at what pace, they are outsiders who say the unsayable, who speak the truth. They shame those who know; they anger those who don't. They are like the proverbial messengers who bring bad news and are punished for it. Even if their work and information improves the situation, their presence is an embarrassment. Consultants will need to contain this group anger, usually at some personal and professional cost. This may mean limiting what they will accept as their goals. It will also mean making peace with liminality in the system, much as the analyst must accept a similar separation from the most important living systems in which patients are embedded.

Unfortunately, once M. and I had uncovered and analyzed the scapegoat role we were inadvertently playing in the organization, the consultation itself was altered and could not go on as before. New insights create new dynamics which create new insights. The next steps in the organization's individuation process often ride on what is done with this expanding awareness; when critical organizational insights cannot find new mechanisms of expression, development stagnates.

In this case, the risk focused in M. and his role. What M. knew about the consultation (which he valued a great deal) became more and more frustrating to him personally and stultifying to his leadership role. M. began to complain to me of a lack of challenge in his job; he felt less creative as a leader and less creative as a man. He became more aware of the degree of stagnation that was accepted by his staff in their programs, their unwillingness to take chances and risk change. M. now felt he should have brought the scapegoating dynamic back to the staff at various times in the past, but he was unwilling or unable to take the risk now. He was afraid of reversion to the too familiar “kill the leader” posture. He did not want to endanger the organization's progress or risk his future career. And he was no longer the rebellious student hero. He talked about his new child and the house he planned to buy in a prestigious neighborhood. Perhaps he had reached his own personal limit as a leader in this phase of his life, but he was unable to face his limitations in our weekly conversations. Eventually, he accepted an offer to leave his position for another leadership job with better pay and a less-volatile staff group. The organization hired his assistant to take his place; she is far less able than he and will also be less threatening as a change agent. I was not asked to continue my consultation.

In individual work, the shadow, including that part of the shadow constellated by the scapegoat, must be integrated by the person, or individuation will be limited. So, too, with collective work. Individuation within a collective requires a willingness to take responsibility for exploring the meanings of its collective shadow—its scapegoats and scapegoating process. A mechanism must be established to minimize and interpret the individual and collective shadow projections that feed the scapegoating process. M. and I took the first steps to contain what had been a profoundly dysfunctional pattern of scapegoating all leadership. But the interpretor function, a mechanism for truth-speaking about the intergroup rivalries and their effect on the organization, was never adequately developed. Despite M.'s leadership position, the consultancy did not really alter the intergroup scapegoating dynamic that had destroyed five past leaders. The first part of the consultation clarified the problem and also readied the organization for change through education and restructuring. But the insight function remained split off in M. and I; it never penetrated into his staff, his board of directors, his secretaries. Organizations often hire their consultants as leaders to take this next step. Others find a person or persons—the internal interpretor—to continue this vital work. M.'s organization may yet take this step but had not done so when he and I left.

In individual analytic work, the most personally meaningful and conflictual parts of the psyche are projected into the analytic container to be worked on and, when possible, transformed. The analyst's office, his or her personage, and the dyadic amalgam are gradually brought into the psyche of the patient and transformed into figures which have archetypal and personal meaning. These figures, such as wise old man, witch, shaman, totem animal, or a special familiar mentor or teacher, present themselves in dreams, fantasy, and imagination and may be called forth at critical times for conscious and unconscious internal dialogue. In organizational consultation, a similar internalization of the process occurs and may lead a person or subgroup within the organization to take up the consultative function. Sometimes it is a wise and experienced person who is outside the chain of command and who becomes an informal advisor to the chief executive; or the staff may use one department or another to provide internal consultation; or management may learn to use periodic retreats to move deeper into their creative process. Formal consultation externalizes this meaning-generating function when the organization needs to give it special prominence, especially in times of transition and crisis. Organizations under stress that have developed a pattern of excluding and denying their dissident elements rather than including them as part of the developmental process may need an outsider to loosen the boundaries and provide face-saving potential. But eventually the consultative function, with new knowledge of scapegoats and scapegoating, must be reabsorbed into the body of the organization as an ongoing source of guidance.

Partially as a result of this experience, I have made it a priority in my work with organizations to try to develop this internal interpretor function as the consultation unfolds. A first step is to develop a consultation relationship with the organization which models the kind of internal work required of its members and the organization as a whole. Working with important groups within the organization rather than just with the leader or other key personnel is particularly helpful. It is surprising how often an interpretor emerges from the membership, someone like M. who is able to speak from a perspective of the collective. Education about unconscious collective process, such as that provided by Tavistock group relations conferences and workshops about group archetypes which I have recently developed, are useful in developing individuals and a collective culture that values exploration and inquiry into its own process. Hopefully, with time, the impact of consultation and education is enough to develop internal autonomous interpretor systems which will provide an ongoing, valued, and self-perpetuating interpretive function for the organization.


It is my impression that depth consultation, consultation which deals with organizational development and organizational individuation through exploration of unconscious collective processes, is becoming more and more acceptable to modern organizations struggling to deal with greater diversity; complexity and a more-competitive marketplace. For example, I have recently taken part in planning sessions for leadership training programs in California in which the reality of ethnic diversity (in ten years whites will be an equal minority with Asians, Latinos, and Blacks) is the main concern. Few of the consultants and trainers present believed that anything less than providing upcoming leadership with tools that move toward transcending differences. holding opposites and polarities, and dealing with group, intergroup, and inter-ethnic processes in depth would be useful in dealing with the new multicentered, multi-ethnic California. In a similar vein, many professional and business gatherings are asking for process facilitation as part of the program. I was recently asked to provide such a function by organizers of an international political conference containing legislative representatives from the Soviet Union and the United States. They wanted here-and-now, on-site depth consultation to help participants gain knowledge of the unconscious and covert intergroup complexes as they develop. Most political leaders now realize that complexity, diversity, and the greater risks of war increase the risks of ignoring or excluding any nation in the international collectives. Perhaps soon they, too, will be more willing to accept a broader definition of consultation than simply providing facts and tactics. Is it possible that in the near future, political bodies will want access to their unconscious collective as part of their decision-making process? I believe so, if we can learn to provide it.

Despite these hints of new developments, most organizations in trouble are still unwilling to undertake a depth exploration of the difficulties. Usually, rather than deal with potentially explosive conflicts and complexes, organizations, even more readily than individuals, resort to exporting their problems through firings, mergers, splits, and other structural changes which deny and obfuscate threatening shadow processes at work. Consultation, when allowed, is usually more like behavioral therapy than analysis. Strangely, “psychological” organizations, i.e. mental health clinics and therapy training institutes, which focus on individual development, are often less willing to accept consultation when they are in trouble than organizations such as businesses which are ostensibly less psychologically oriented. Perhaps the former are more aware of the danger of unconscious life. Receiving help requires the same humility and acceptance of woundedness as giving help. Organizations that are afraid to receive help to learn about themselves in all their parts including those parts that are excluded and victimized, are in trouble, just as individuals with the same constrictions in sharing and receiving help are in trouble. In my experience, outside consultation is usually the best way to begin exploring the collective roots of systemic problems in organizations. However. organizations can be remarkably self-protective even when their competence, even their survival, is at stake. After all, wars have been fought rather than submit to the scrutiny of an outsider. Alternative internal approaches must be tried and may be useful when resistance is too great.

If one is a part of a collective that scapegoats and is afraid to look for help outside itself, learning more about collective process in general may be of some help. In such cultures of denial, and this can occur in even the most enlightened collection of individuals, members can also try to develop self-study groups, internal interpretive systems whose input may be less threatening than an out-side voice. This difficult process is analogous perhaps to the kind of self-analysis that both Freud and Jung carried out on themselves (with such mixed results).

For example, one organization that I belong to has been beset by scapegoating issues since its formation. Most members appreciate the problem but for reasons of unity and self-protection are afraid to bring in an outsider to help explore the issues. In this context, some of us have begun two projects with the long-term goal of increasing the individuation potential in the collective.

First, and least threatening, we developed an internal publication, called Connected Works, whose editorial policy is to accept all contributions from members with minimal editing. These “individual contributions” are then conceptualized as “collective associations” about the organization as a whole. Much can be learned from such a projective instrument. For example, one of the most important regular contributors remains anonymous despite the fact that our organization prides itself on openness and on taking personal responsibility for behavior. There was a move within the membership to stop “anonymous” contributions as if one could erase the condition that makes a signed contribution too dangerous. By holding to the editorial policy, an interpretation to the collective was effectively made. The membership was forced to confront the anonymous interpretor figure and ponder our censorship of “truth speaking” and tolerance of scapegoating as a way to solve its difficulties.

Connected Works functions pragmatically as a listening and communication post for the membership. But it is also an interpretor of the unconscious collective process of our institute. It is always a constant source of amazement to the editorial board how individual contributions are also group utterances, how contributions fit together, how common themes develop unbidden which reflect the organizational unconscious and the collective mind.

More recently, we have built on this process by forming an organization-wide study group whose task is to study the collective unconscious of our organization. This more-direct approach to our collective problems is far more controversial and threatening than a more-abstracted publication, although in form it is similar to other internal learning structures, such as “corporate universities,” which function as internal consultants to their own parent organizations (Hampden-Turner 1990). The mere presence of such structures has a potent impact on a community. In my organization, the study group challenges the entire membership to give more than lip service to the concept of a collective unconscious which it espouses, as something in which we all take part, not some “mystical” synchronistic entity beyond our ken but a flesh-and-blood unit with coherence and identity. The study group has needed to develop a language and an analytic method to explore specific events as manifestations of this unconscious collective. We have begun by looking to our myths of origin, our group dreams and fantasies, as well as our internal process, as manifestations of the larger collective we represent and mirror. As might be expected, there have been some attempts by the organization to “sabotage” the group's work through unconscious scheduling slips and other classic resistances. However, thus far there is also a great deal of general support and interest in developing a richer perspective on who we are to each other and what we are enacting in and for the larger collective.

It is too early to know how well these “experiments in progress” will serve our organization and whether they will develop in other organizations as an alternative to the more-threatening “outsider” aspects of a consultant. It is clear that they serve a different function from the usual problem-solving committees, task forces, and the like, because they are committed to exploration and a search for meaning in collective behavior rather than geared to improvements and solutions. I hope that new forms of “depth” consultative approaches will develop to serve specific needs of organizations much as depth therapy forms have developed to fill individual needs. Most important to me is a renewed commitment to the psychological development of the collective, its individuation, for surely that is where our individual futures, as members of the human collective and the planet's collective, must lie. Perhaps it is in that commitment to help others, valuing others who share our cosmic home as much as ourselves, that Jung's concept of “equivalent value” will find its greatest meaning.

* The paradoxical use of "individuate" to describe a collective process is at the heart of the rest of this paper.


Copyright © Arthur C. Colman