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Psychoanalytic Business Coaching

The “triad” of psychoanalytic business coaching – or how to break a personal knot

Many executives who come to us for coaching are very well-trained and work with great professional expertise. Although they do an excellent job in many areas and manage most of it effortlessly, at one point or another conflicts or problem areas arise that they are not able to deal with themselves. In this case psychoanalytical business coaching can help to understand the conflict and to find individual solutions. But which levels are important to “burst the knot”?

From the outside in

It is usually worthwhile to take a closer look at the levels from the outside in. In concrete terms, this means moving from the institutional level to the individual level – i.e. the individual contribution that someone makes to the current conflict – and then to the underlying unconscious dynamics. The best way to look at this is to use a fictional example:

An executive comes to coaching with the concern that he is working at his limit, the barrel is about to overflow, and he is worried about neglecting his personal life too much. In the exploration it becomes clear that his colleagues and employees dump everything on him. While he covers many times the work areas compared to his colleagues, the other two colleagues on the management floor are satisfied with far fewer work areas and tasks. This annoys the client, nevertheless he is not able to change anything about his situation. It does not even occur to him that the other managers could also participate in the division of labour and that his annoyance is valid. He feels rather shabby to even have such thoughts. Thus, he kept his annoyance inside for a long time and only realized that something was wrong because of how easy he got irritated and his partner’s worries about his health.

On closer inspection, it becomes clear that he reacts to situations in the company in which he has to assert himself, set boundaries and say no – in other words, wherever he would have to dare to “be the subject” – by avoiding his aggression, avoiding conflicts and willingly taking over all requests from colleagues and employees. The feeling of disappointing someone or even inflicting his anger on others is difficult for him to imagine. He is always concerned with what he thinks others expect of him and identifies with them to such an extent that he completely neglects his own wishes, needs and interests. It also seems to be a matter of course for him to fulfil the expectations of others. In doing so, however, he repeatedly puts himself in situations in which he does not want to be, but which he also helped to create. Since he does not know exactly what he actually wants and what he desires, he more quickly becomes the victim of people – i.e. his colleagues and employees – who notice this weakness and subsequently (sometimes unconsciously) take advantage of it.

It is not uncommon for our coaching clients to already know from their own history the behaviour they exhibit in the work context that causes them problems. The coaching client mentioned above could, for example, come from a large patchwork family in which the mother was restless, strict and rather pragmatic and worked a lot and the father was hardly available during the day due to his shift work, as he was mostly asleep when family life took place. Since the mother had her duties, the children tended to have to function in everyday life. In addition, she was always careful to make sure that the children were considerate and did not wake the father, who was otherwise ill-tempered. Even if this is only a rough sketch of a possible biography, the client had to adapt in this structure, to put aside his own desires and his aggressive impulses in order to get the attention and care he needed from his parents.

Understand and solve patterns

Even though this client has received a lot of equipment for his life and is able to cope well with a lot of things, this pattern, which served him at the time, now represents an area that causes him difficulties at one point or another. Even when he seeks out a psychoanalytic business coach, this pattern repeats itself. Once again, he shows himself to be very adapted, considerate and conflict-avoidant and speaks more of others than of himself. In a joint coaching process, this pattern can be understood against the background of his individual life story and the feelings that arise can be processed and classified. Even though the coach does not provide the coachee with “tools” in the classical sense, a space is created through which the coachee is supported in understanding himself better and perceiving his subjective experience as significant. Gradually, he succeeds in trying out new ways of behaving in everyday work, standing up for himself and his needs, and addressing conflicts more openly.


If you too have the wish to break your personal knot, we will be happy to help you. Please contact us here.

M.Sc. Julia Perlinger, Coach at dynaMIND