Lost in Familiar Places

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Creating New Connections Between the Individual and Society

Edward Shapiro and A. Wesley Carr

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We live in a world of accelerating change, marked by the decline of traditional forms of family, community, and professional life. Both within families and in work-places individuals feel increasingly lost, unsure of the roles required of them. In this book a psychoanalyst and an Anglican priest, using a combination of psychoanalysis and social systems theory, offer tools that allow people to create meaningful connections with one another and with the institutions within which they work and live.


The authors begin by discussing how life in a family prefigures and prepares the individual to participate in groups, offering detailed case studies of families in therapy as illustrations. They then turn to organizations, describing how their consultations with an academic conference, a mental hospital, a law firm, and a church parish helped members of these institutions to relate to one another by becoming aware of wider contexts for their experiences. All the people within a group have their own subjectively felt perceptions of the environment. According to Shapiro and Carr, when individuals can negotiate a shared interpretation of the experience and of the purposes for which the group exists, they can further their own development and that of their organizations. The authors suggest how this can be accomplished. They conclude with some broad speculations about the continuing importance of institutions for connecting the individual and society.

"A unique synthesis of psychoanalytic theory and organizational thinking. There are many important ideas in this book and it will be of considerable interest to people involved in applied psychoanalysis, organizational behavior and organizational psychology, family systems theory, and the sociology of work."—James Krantz, Yale University School of Management

"Shapiro and Carr argue [that their] interpretation is useful for understanding larger corporate structures, and they use their research/consultative experiences in a mental hospital and law firm for evidence. Fascinating."—Choice

"This work is aided by a solid theoretical framework and superb case material. . . . in addition to serving as a valuable source of theory and research about how individuals, groups, and organizations get caught in dysfunctional patterns of work and interaction. Lost in Familiar Places may also offer some clues-if we are willing and able to detect them-about the nature of our field itself."—William A. Kahn, Academy of Management Review

"In this superb new contribution, two authors apply the thinking derived from the group relations conferences to institutional life and to society at large. . . . I highly recommend the book to all mental health professionals and to psychologically minded lay readers who work in organizations and are interested in understanding them more fully."—Glen O. Gabbard, MD Bulletin of the Mennenger Clinic

"The book tells us things so well, and with such deceptive simplicity, that we are guided through the maze of defenses, fantasies, and projective identifications that so often lead to incorrect judgments of reality within groups. The book itself is a model of consultation, making the best use, in a sensitive way, of psychoanalytic theory and language so that it is clear and accessible even to readers outside the discipline of psychoanalysis. It enlarges our view of the interrelationships among individual, family, small group, organization, institution, society, culture, and civilization. . . . It evokes much thought and paves the way for gaining deeper insights."—Rina Bar-Lev Elieli, Psychiatry

"Rich and rewarding."—Jane Sobel, Berkshire Mental Health Review

"A model of consultation, making the best use, in a sensitive way, of psychoanalytic theory and language."—Rina Bar-Lev Elieli, Psychiatry

ISBN: 9780300057874
Publication Date: July 28, 1993
208 pages, x