The reflexive process introduced in Reflexive Team Supervision is distinguished from a systemic shadow consulting process as formulated by Peter Hawkins. What is this difference?
The shadow consulting process sets up a relation to the consultant’s primary process (aka relation to basic assumptions) that parallels that arising within the consulting relationship with the client. This enables the counter-transferential dynamics arising within the shadow process to be worked with, providing the consultant with insights into the work with the client:
The secondary process of workgroup activity, whether in the shadow process or in the client relationship, is the context within which the primary process is made manifest. The role of the shadow consultant is to enable the consultant to prevent primary processes in the consulting team getting in the way of effective intervention.
In the paper on reflexive process, this model of the consulting relationship is extended to take a more complex view of the secondary process:
In this case the secondary process takes place within a context defined by the organizing assumptions of a Sponsoring System that shapes the way the consultant’s Client System is itself able to act within its context defined by what-is-going-on (wigo). The thick line between the consultant and the rest of the figure represents the fact that this is the consultant’s reading, it not being possible for the consultant to know the rest of the system directly. The thick line below wigo represents the fact that more is always going on than can be known by this system (itself indirectly known by the consultant), the particular form taken by this relationship to a ‘more‘ being within the context of the interests of the Sponsoring System, and symptomatic of what is left out or ‘beyond its ken’. Thus wigo has a dual role:
- It is experienced by the consultant in terms of their primary process of (Kleinian) object relationships; and
- It is experienced as the particular form of its relationship to a Lacanian ‘more’ that is symptomatic of the interests of the sponsoring system – organisation as symptom in the sense of Freud’s third identification.
If we refer to this ‘more’ relationship as a relationship to what is Really going on (wiRgo) in the sense of a relationship to the Lacanian ‘Real’ beyond the Kleinian object relationships underpinning wigo, then a reflexive process is one that seeks to make this relationship to wiRgo accessible to the consulting process.
What then is the difference? Parallel process is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a reflexive process. Parallel process surfaces the Kleinian objects of primary process implicit in the way the consulting intervention unfolds. Reflexive process aims to build on this by accessing the symptomatic nature of the relationship to a Lacanian ‘more’ implicit in the organising assumptions of the sponsoring system, in order to inform the direction of the consulting intervention itself. The wigo/wiRgo difference between object and symptom is thus a yang/yin difference.
 French and Simpson describe this approach to effective workgroup mentality in their more recent paper on redressing the balance in Bion’s Experiences in Groups.
 This relation to a Lacanian ‘more’ is implicit in the different treatment of the subject’s relation to primary phantasy by Klein and Freud, discussed in an earlier blog on the Kleinian vs Freudian theorisation of organisation.