Form vs Content
June 27, 2006
I really enjoyed the ISPSO Conference which took place in Haarlem, The Netherlands. As I mentioned before, the theme was “The Dark Side of Competition; Psaychoanalytic Insights” and all of the papers referenced the issue in one way or another. The great thing about psychodynamically orientated conferences is that there is always time for a group reflection at the end of the day where parallel processes and general issues are raised and explored – all with the intention of furthering learning.
One of the ongoing conversations over the course of the few days was about the tension between content and style. Some presenters were criticised for being too “showy” while others weren’t showy enough but were top heavy on dense content. There was some reflection on how these two issues are pitted against each other but underneath it all was the issue of confidence.
The particular presenter who was criticised for being too showy was, in fact, a very confident presenter and someone of considerable status in his area. Another presenter had very dense content but the presentation didn’t assist in the delivery of the message. In both cases the presenters used PowerPoint as an aid.
If we’re looking at the dark side of competition for a moment it was really interesting to me how content and form competed for attention. There was an underlying assumption that to be too showy meant that you might have something to hide and to be less showy meant that your work was more worthy of attention. One person, reflecting on the dilemma, wondered if we allow people to “shine” and of course there are key issues in all of this about leadership and what that looks like. My own wonderings led in the direection of what happens when a room is full of leaders? Is there any room for followers? Is the dark side of competition such that it disallows the latter and only provides for the former? I’m not sure…but it’s something I want to come back to and think about more thoroughly in relation to how I show and present my own work, how I follow the work of others and ultimately what constitutes the dark side of my own practice.