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2011 Programs

A Socio-Analytic Program for Professional Development and Training

"Exploring the Power of Consultant Presence: Consulting in the Now"

16– 18 February 2011

64 Carlton Street, Carlton, Victoria 3053


“Outcomes” as a Defence against the Anxiety of the Present. A Reflection by Alastair Bain, Program Consultant.

As Consultants we are familiar with being asked “Well what are the outcomes?” or if engaged on a project the Consultant is there “to deliver the outcomes”. Somehow the intermediate step from the present to the future is missing, as is the uncertainty of any human endeavour. The future is “magically” brought into the present and it’s the Consultant’s responsibility to deliver. Note the word deliver – it’s as though you already have it in your hands – there’s no need for any experience, just the outcomes please!

In this vignette which is a day to day experience of consultants and managers the present moment is denied and replaced with a magical wish for a present moment in the future which is overflowing with outcomes. How does one get there?

I am not sure one does. There is nowhere to get to, for actually all we have is the present. A projected future in the form of desired “outcomes” is supposedly better than the present or one wouldn’t want them. But what is the present like? What actually is going on at the moment for the people who would be involved in the outcomes? Is it so bad that we have to leap to the future and the outcomes for fear of exploring the present? What is so frightening about the present?

Part of the fear, I think, is the dimly perceived anxiety that to work in the present is to be open to transformation, and uncertainty as to what that will bring. The “certainty” of the outcomes, however much fantasy, is preferred.

As Consultants we are seduced into an acceptance of the outcomes approach. A worry about losing work is behind some of it, but I think more fundamentally there is a collusion of our own time valencies to work in the past or the future with the Client’ s fantasies about a known desired future.

Raison d’être

The Workshop explores how to establish a practice based in the present or now and the powerful opportunities for growth and transformation available to individuals, teams and whole organisations when we do so. Participants will experience what happens when we focus on what is occurring in the moment in a group and why it is difficult to stay in the here and now, what we fear and what new insight emerges when we do stay focused on the present rather than fleeing to the past or future. It will explore opportunities for using one’s own reactions and feelings – how one is being made to feel as a consultant in the moment – as a powerful source of insight and understanding of the dynamics of what is happening “in the moment” with an individual or group.

The Workshop draws on ideas and experiences from Group Relations work where groups and a Consultant often have the task: “To study the behaviour of the group in the here and now”. The anxiety that is aroused through an invitation to work in the present in a study group, and the defences against this anxiety, are explored in propositions at the end of this note. Group Relations Conferences are frequently regarded as transformational by participants and this is perhaps due to establishing a culture of being in the present, which is embodied in the presence of the Consultant.

Wilfred Bion, whose studies of group behaviour led to this way of studying groups and Group Relations Conferences devoted to this, later wrote in “Attention and Interpretation” about the need for the psychoanalyst to eschew memory (past), desire (future), and be “O” which is the present (and which he identified with Ultimate Reality).

The transformational power of being that arises from a flow of awareness in the present, the Now as Eckhart Tolle puts it, is fundamental to the mystic side of most religions: Advaita Vedanta, Zen Buddhism, Christianity, and Sufism.

The Workshop is based on the hypothesis that the consultant, through abiding in the present creates a field of awareness and energy that is potentially transforming for his client or group (and self). The potentiality becomes actuality through consultant and client, or group, continuing to abide in the present in the work they do.

Workshop Primary Task

To establish a practice – consultancy, managerial, or professional – based in the present.


Most managers and professionals have a consultancy aspect to their roles. The Program is for consultants, managers, and professionals e.g. accountants, doctors, teachers, lawyers, HR specialists who wish to strengthen their capacity to work in the present.

While some members may wish to have training in socio-analysis, and use this learning in their practice, we are assuming there are others who don’t wish to train as socio-analysts but who wish for professional development to complement their professional knowledge. This Program is for both groups.

It is limited to 10 members.

Click here to download brochure and application form


“Authority, Leadership and Role” Workshop

16-18 March 2011

64 Carlton Street, Carlton 3053

In our work roles we are required to take up authority and leadership appropriate for task. But what does this “taking up authority and leadership” mean? And what is authority? Where does it derive from – position in a hierarchy, knowledge, capacity, group, community? And what is leadership and how does it relate to groups?

The socio-analytic study of authority, leadership and group dynamics has its origins in the two Northfield Experiments during the Second World War. The first Experiment was carried out by Bion and Rickman, and the second is associated with the pioneering work of Main and Bridger. Further studies of group dynamics were carried out by Bion at the Tavistock Clinic after the War, and these ideas were incorporated in the first Tavistock “Leicester” Conference in 1957 with its explicit focus on the experiential study of authority, leadership and group dynamics.

Since 1957 the experiential study of authority, leadership and group dynamics has been taken up in Europe, the United States, South America, India, Israel, South Africa, and Australia,

This Workshop is located within this tradition. The first 3 day Workshop of this kind was run by the Centre for Socio-Analysis, 1 -3 September, 2009.We were encouraged by the learning that was gained, and the interest from people who were not able to take part to offer this Workshop in February, 2010.

The Workshop

The Workshop will provide opportunities to explore critical aspects of authority and leadership in one’s role at work, and through the roles one takes up in the Workshop Events. The mode of learning is experiential and didactic, combining as it does explorations of authority and leadership as they arise in a Study Group, in Work Role Drawings and Role Consultation Groups, with more didactic learning from a Seminar on Authority and Leadership, and Plenaries.

Members will have the opportunity to explore how experiences in their Family of Origin and at School influence the templates of authority they act out of in their adult work role, and how personal Time Valencies for the Past, Present and Future affect the leadership one can offer.

There is also space for Personal and Group Reflection.


  1. To explore how I take up authority and leadership in my role at work and in the Workshop.
  2. To explore group issues that arise when authority and leadership are taken up within the group.

Click here to download brochure and application form


Online Bion Reading Group and Dreaming Matrix

Wonder and Reaility

10 sessions

Wednesdays, 5.00 – 7.30pm

March 23, 30 April 6, 13, 20, 27
May 4, 11, 18, 25

64 Carlton Street, Carlton 3053

The Text: "Attention and Interpretation: A scientific approach to insight in psycho-analysis and groups".

"Attention and Interpretation" is perhaps Bion's greatest work. It was published in 1970 and represents a culmination of experience and thinking concerning psycho-analysis and groups. In the book Bion explores topics such as the nature of sensuous reality and psychic reality; the Mystic and the Group; Container and Contained; Ultimate Reality 'O'; the psycho-analyst's need to eschew memory, desire and understanding in the practice of analysis and be O; lies, truth and the thinker; Negative Capability and Achievement. But many people find that it is a different book each time they read it. Somehow Bion's preoccupations tap into one's own mental evolution and questions about wonder and reality.

Aim of Program

To explore the interplay of wonder and reality as they emerge in a Dream Matrix, through reading Bion, in one's practice at work, and in one's life.

Program Reading

During this Reading Group we will focus on "Attention and Interpretation". Each week we will read a Chapter(s) for discussion the following week. While people may gain a deeper understanding of Bion's work from the Reading Group, the purpose is not "knowledge accumulation", but rather mobilizing our own wonder and understanding in relationship to what he is talking about, and using our associative capacities including dreams, in our exploration. There will also be other reading exploring the relationship of wonder and reality, e.g. Alastair Bain and Joshua Bain "A Note on Primary Spirit". Some of the Tavistock Seminars in 1978 were videoed and are now posted on the Centre for Socio-Analysis Website.

The Reading discussions begin from our common reading during the week – what questions, thoughts, and ideas have been stimulated? It moves on to application to one's work, and more broadly to our thoughts, political, cultural and spiritual lives.

There are 60 minutes for these sessions.

Dreaming Matrix

The idea of the Dreaming Matrix is to provide a space for Members of the Reading Group to share dreams (night time), to make associations to one's own, and others' dreams, and to make connections between dreams. The focus is not on the meaning of the dream for the dreamer (that is up to each individual), but using the dreams as a currency to develop shared meanings and connectedness among the Group. The Reading Group is a container for the dreaming. The word "Matrix" is used deliberately as it comes from Latin meaning "uterus". What may be grown in the Dreaming Matrix? This question is explored after each Dreaming Matrix session.

There are 10 Dream Matrix sessions of 50 minutes during the Program. These sessions are followed by 10 minutes exploration of emerging themes.

The Task of the Dreaming Matrix is "To offer dreams, make associations to the dreams, and to make connections between the dreams".

Click here to download brochure and application form




© Centre for Socio-Analysis 2007