Organising Protest:

Where is our Systems Psychodynamic thinking on



Paper (parallel)


Thursday 8 Sep 2022


7.00 - 9.00 pm


time start

Mr Petros Oratis

Mr Petros Oratis

Co-founder and Organizational Consultant, The Lateral Space, the Netherlands

Petros Oratis is an organizational consultant, co-founder of The Lateral Space, visiting faculty of the systems-psychodynamic course “Inside Dynamics in Organizations” at the University of Utrecht and ISPSO and OPUS member. He has held membership and staff roles at Group Relations Conferences. He is passionate about the lateral societal dynamics, polarization and developing social dialogue. He has previously presented papers at OPUS and ISPSO. His doctoral research at the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust, titled “On The Lateral Axis: A systems-psychodynamic study of the lateral relations of collaboration amongst senior leaders in corporate organizations”, is submitted for examination in July 2022.


120 minutes

Taming the Beast: Exploring the lateral dynamics between the social movement and its opposition side and the need to shift from polarization to co-existence.

Social movements, that represent minority interests in society, often require an initiatory force to mobilize members, strengthen their voice and develop courage to stand their ground. This initiatory force must contain aggression, fueled by feelings of the anger and injustice. But as the social movement grows stronger in voice and presence, it also threatens the opposite side. Soon it will be attacked and become part of a strong polarizing dynamic. Its ideas will be caricatured and stereotyped and fought back with contra arguments “Black Lives Matter” will be responded with “All Lives Matter” or “Pro-choice” with “Pro-life”. Its members might find themselves tormented by even more intense feelings of injustice that originally.

The risks of staying trapped in this perpetuating dynamic are multiple: the social movement might act out the stereotypes projected on it proving opposition right; its members might remain tormented by injustice and hatred; the opposite side might grow even stronger, and the entire dynamic might get abused by the vertical axis, e.g. political leaders, to raise to power through “divide and conquer” tactics. How could the social movement abstain this seductive polarizing force of the Lateral Axis which is “feeding the beast”?

The paper uses concepts of lateral dynamics to explore the phenomenon of polarization between the social movement and its opposition. Through the psychoanalytic studies of siblings to explores how sibling envy, hatred and rivalry are necessary unavoidably initiatory stages of separation and individuation. In siblings those urges are then transformed to coexistence, through the vertical function. Mitchell’s concept of “law of the mother” (2003) proposes that the parental function is teaching siblings how individual needs can be met, without being experienced as antagonistic, and therefore social justice can be built on the premise of fairness, rather than equality.

Unfortunately, the social movement will experience parties seeking to sustain status-quo and political leaders sustaining rivalry and polarization, to gain popularity. The paper proposes that for a social movement to achieve sustainable impact, it requires two opposing operating functions: one is the mobilizing force of anger and opposition, that enables it to develop and sustain its potency. The other is the integrative function, that seeks to understand the needs, fears and desires of the opposing side, and ultimately put efforts to play with and educate it. To “tame the beast”, instead of “feeding” it, and imagining the possibility of co-existence instead of extermination.

Armstrong, D. (2007); The Dynamics of Lateral Relations in Changing Organizational Worlds; Organizational and Social Dynamics, 7(2), pp. 193-210.

de Gooijer, J. (2018); Doing business together: Lateral and vertical relations in the institutional partnering for a Group Relations conference; in Aram, E., Archer, C., Kelly, R., Strauss, G. and Triest, J. (eds.) Doing the Business of Group Relations Conferences: Routledge, pp. 43-59.

Halton, W. (2004); By what authority? Psychoanalytical reflections on creativity and change in relation to organizational life;, in Huffington, C., Armstrong, D., Halton, W., Hoyle, L. and Pooley, J. (eds.) Working Below the Surface : The Emotional Life of Contemporary Organizations. London: Routledge.

Long, S. (2008) The Perverse Organisation and its Deadly Sins. Taylor & Francis.
Mitchell, J. (2003) Siblings. Oxford, Polity, 2003.

Oratis, P. (2019); Polarization on the lateral axis and the breakdown of collaboration:
Where can containment and authorization be found in contemporary organizations?;, ISPSO AM2019 Perspectives on Polarties: Thinking Below The Surface, New York, June 24-30, 2019.

Stein, M. (2021); Lord of the flies: a psychoanalytic view of the gang and its processes;, Organisational and Social Dynamics, 21(1), pp. 11-27.








Session schedule




Paper presentation


Small group discussion; impressions of the paper and developing questions for the presenter


Discussion forum with the presenter; moderated for the speaker to elaborate their ideas


Discussion forum with the presenter; themes from the discussions




Whole symposium open reflection discussion

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Parallel Paper Presentations

The following are presenting at this time

Gilles Amado


The Anti-Vax Movement: A gateway to amalgams?

Mark Argent


“Organising protest”, in the light of Lacan’s perverse discourses

Margo Lockhart


“Why He Orders the Steak. An exploration of gender differences within the animal rights movement.”

Petros Oratis


Taming the Beast: Exploring the lateral dynamics between the social movement and its opposition side and the need to shift from polarization to co-existence.

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