04/19/2024, 15:20, Vienna  DEUTSCH / ENGLISH

Keep me logged in

Leading articles

THE VIENNA PSYCHOANALYST wants to give not only already internationally established psychoanalysts, but also still unknown psychoanalysts the opportunity to post a self-written and not yet published article on the FrontPage of our online magazine!

Our Users then can leave comments, ask questions or discuss the articles in our forum. Our aim is to provide an international platform where for the first time anyone interested in psychoanalysis can exchange ideas on certain topics.
Articles are welcome in German and/ or English.

If you are interested, please send your article to

(For reasons of readability, the male form is used with personal names, however the female form is also always intended.)


Author: Manfred F.R. Kets / Sabrina Zehetner (TVP)


In our interview series "in conversation with“, we will briefly present the authors of the leading articles. We want to give our users the opportunity to read the leading article from a different point of view.

This week we are very glad to welcome Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries from Paris, France:

Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries is a Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change at the INSEAD Business School for the World. He brings a different view to the much-studied subjects of leadership and the dynamics of individual and organizational change. Bringing to bear his knowledge and experience of economics (Econ. Drs., University of Amsterdam), management (ITP, M.B.A., and D.B.A., Harvard Business School), and psychoanalysis (Canadian Psychoanalytic Society and the International Psychoanalytic Association), he scrutinizes the interface between international management, psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, and dynamic psychiatry. His specific areas of interest are leadership development, top executive team building, organizational change and cross-cultural management.

What brought you to psychoanalysis?

Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries: Most people come to psychoanalysis because they want to know more about themselves, and to have some clarity about why they do what they do. In my case, when I was becoming a professor for organizational behavior at business school, a lot of attention has been given to structural factors in organizations, but very little attention was given to the people. I wanted to bring people back into organizations and I felt that psychoanalysis was second to none to really help understand people’s behavior in organizations. I was quite influenced at that time by my mentor at Harvard Business School, Abraham Zaleznik, who was one of the first people who tried to combine life and organizations with psychoanalysis, and that is something most psychoanalysts generally pay little attention to. What I see as one of my missions is to pay more attention to “Lieben und Arbeiten” (“love and work), which Freud also talked about, to include work life in psychoanalysis.

Was that one of the challenges you faced during your own analytic training?

Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries: No, I was very lucky because the Psychoanalytic Society in Montréal was not very religious. They didn’t have any ideological bias. Also, I was lucky with my own personal analyst, Maurice Dongier, who was the head of psychiatry at that time. I think some of my colleagues who tried to combine psychoanalysis and work had a tougher time because they were basically seen as stage animals.

If you had the opportunity to talk to Sigmund Freud, what would be the topic? Are there any specific questions?

Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries: I wish Freud would have paid more attention to work because it’s a big part of a person’s life. During my psychoanalytic training in Montréal, all the people in my class were psychiatrists or clinical psychologists, and there was little understanding of work life. The only ones who wrote about this were psychoanalysts who ran organizations, e.g. at the Tavistock Institute, where you have a number of people who work for organizations, or Elliot Jacques who is a major representative. Bion’s work on group was interesting, but he later became more difficult to understand.

Do you think psychoanalysis has a communication problem?

Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries: Yes, most psychoanalysts are terrible writers. Melanie Klein is a particularly terrible writer, Bion is also not a great writer. I try to communicate and translate a complex idea in a simple way and most psychoanalysts are unable to do so.

What about psychoanalytic empirical research?

Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries: This has always been an issue but they (psychoanalysts) have tried to ignore it. Of course, Freud had his case studies, but you have to do more than that. There are very few psychoanalysts who do conceptual work, most make some big generalization of one case. The psychoanalytic institutes separated themselves from mainstream science and it hasn’t been a good thing. Unfortunately, the best and the brightest don’t go into psychoanalysis and the psychoanalysts have only themselves to blame with their holier-than-thou approach, and they have no candidates. Many psychoanalysts could benefit from extending their horizon. I introduced the technology for group intervention and developed some psychoanalytic orientation, because the average person won’t attend a psychoanalytic session five times a week. Basically, I try to bring psychoanalysis to larger groups of people.

Fabric or leather couch?

Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries: Fabric, I find leather a bit chilly.

Bruno Bettelheim pointed out the importance of fairy tales in childhood. Will you tell us your favourite fairy tale?

Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries: I have written a book about fairytales myself. I sometimes ask people about “Little Red Riding Hood”, so maybe “Little Red Riding Hood” which is a story about a woman coming of age and fantasies about impregnation, fertility, etc. It’s a good moral lesson.

What do you find good or particularly good about psychoanalysis?

Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries: Psychoanalysis helps one to be better able to face the reality of life and respect it, and to be more accepting and philosophical about things. Einstein defines madness as a “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. I think the ability to act and reflect, and to have this reflective self that will help you in difficult situation, gives you an enormous source of strength. I met a training analyst from India once who always fell in love with narcissistic women. He said to me, “Listen, I always fall in love with narcissistic women, but I don’t marry them anymore.”

Do you have a favorite Freud quote?

Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” – I find that especially young analysts tend to overanalyze things. Of course, you can find symbolic meaning in anything, but it’s important to take things at face value.

Thank you very much
for this conversation, we are already looking forward to your leading article!

Contact information of the author:
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

Sigmund Freud Museum SFU Belvedere 21er haus stuhleck kunsthalle
warda network orange