Book: Second International Handbook of Educational Change
Paper: The Psychodynamics of Educational Change
Author: Chris James
An alternative to affective control is affective containment. Affective containment is the process of providing an environment that brings about effective and authentic receptiveness and reflection. The idea was first developed by Bion (1961) to describe the creation of the conditions during psychoanalysis under which the experience of feelings, especially anxiety, can be accommodated securely, articulated and reflected upon. A containing environment for emotions (feelings that are shown) contrasts with a controlling environment where feelings are restrained, hidden and not allowed to become apparent as emotions. In controlling environments, difficult feelings have to be managed in other ways. If those feelings are hard to bear, individuals and groups may attempt to protect themselves by adopting defensive behaviours. In addition, the sense of “being controlled” may itself be experienced as a threat, which may in turn generate unacceptable feelings. Environments that seek to bring about affective control may therefore create more problems than they solve.