Who/What is there! LO1429

Tobin Quereau (quereau@austin.cc.tx.us)
Tue, 30 May 1995 09:17:02 -0500 (CDT)

On Fri, 26 May 1995, Jim Michmerhuizen wrote:

> Replying to LO1379 --

> Lately the image keeps coming of how many very tiny changes in the
> behavior of many people together can completely transform -- beyond all
> recognition, even -- the "structures" that we think we see in their
> interaction.

> How easily we attribute "mass" and "weight" to the social forms, when
> they are gossamer, transient, ghostly side-effects, emergent structures
> founded in the micro-interaction of thousands of individuals.
> It's like those 3d computer-generated thingies -- whatyacallits that
> started to show up a couple years ago. The social structures are the
> emergent 3d image, the existing individuals are what's "really there".

Your image, Jim, is fascinating. It brings to mind for me a point you may
not have been making, however. As a professional counselor for a number of
years, I have become more and more convinced that what is "really there"
bears some investigation. At an individual level, for example, I may be
talking in a session to a mature adult with many personal and
interpersonal skills. What I keep running into, though, is a whole family,
sometimes a "tradition" or "heritage" of several generations, who
are--like your "ghostly side-effects"--floating somewhere in the room
between my client and myself. (The same effect, of course, is applicable
to me as well as my client since I grew up in a family, too!) Our work in
therapy is often concentrated on exploring, learning about, learning from,
and coming to terms with these people and issues that are not "really
there" but are what add the "third dimension" to what we are doing
together in the present moment.

What it brought to mind is the number and substantial effect in
organizations of people and past events which--to an outside observer--are
not even there. To shift your metaphor a bit, I believe the full life
experiences, perceptions, wounds, strengths, etc. of each individual add
to who and what is "really there". In other words, in addition to the
"social structures" you mentioned in a work setting, I keep seeing the
impact of all of these other forces as well. It all goes to increase my
appreciation for the complexity of intervening at organizational levels.

I am _not_ suggesting that we have to address all of these issues and
forces in our organizational work!!! I agree with your comments and John
Warfield's examples of how powerful some subtle interventions can be to
shift what is going on in organizations. I _am_ implying that at times
what appears as "resistance" (here we go again!) is an unrecognized
"ghostly" presence that needs to be identified, acknowledged, exposed,
creatively challenged, artfully avoided, or gracefully retired. It may not
be "there" in the flesh, but it can certainly impact what is going on. I
guess this links up with the power of myths, legends, stories, rituals,
culture etc. in human endeavors.

Maybe what I am also saying is that it is possible to do "brief therapy"
with organizations by helping them find the tools to their own
transformation. We need not address all of the other "stuff", but I think
we are more effective when we acknowledge its impact and work with it
rather than ignore it. Besides, it can be more interesting when we do....

Tobin Quereau