Pleasure and suffering in labor relations: A psychoanalytical loo

The Psychoanalysisit is a method of researching neuroses, specifically a method of treatment, but with its development there has been an extension to other fields. For Celes and Bucher (1984), the mark on Freud is the doubt of what is there, beyond consciousness, beyond the manifest. This doubt has to be at the base of the researches that use psychoanalytic references. The work was based on a bibliographic review research, this as a key element for the development of scientific research. 

According to Lakatos and Marconi (2010), it is an indispensable tool for delimiting the problem in a research project and for obtaining a precise idea about the current state of knowledge on the subject, especially its gaps and about the contribution of research to development of knowledge. With the industrial development and the sharp division between conception and execution of work, the direct application of the Taylor principles brought serious damages to the physical and mental health of the workers, as a result of the long working hours, the fast pace of production, the physical fatigue and above all, automation and non-participation of the worker in the production process, which configures the division of tasks (MENDES, 1995). 

Pleasure in the psychic sense is the condition of balance and adaptation of the individual in adverse situations, without, however, suffering from psychological instability. It is the capacity for personal functioning in its entirety. In freedom, he expresses accomplishing what he wants as an individual and developing satisfactory relationships with others and with society.

  1. ntroduction

When talking about Psychoanalysis, one cannot forget its history, the influences that determined it and the circumstances in which it was created. For Freud (1913/1996; 1914/1996), Psychoanalysis is a method of researching neuroses, specifically a method of treatment, but with its development there was an extension to other fields. The discovery of child sexuality opens a perspective for Psychoanalysis to be a PLEASURE AND SUFFERING IN WORK RELATIONS: A psychoanalytical look. MOREIRA, Francisco Jadson Franco! ¹ ¹E-mail: way of looking at the psychic processes that can be measured by the value of their effect on affective elements, which is the specificity for changing the focus of the psychic life view.

For Celes and Bucher 1984 apud MENDES 2002, the mark on Freud is the doubt of what is there, beyond consciousness, beyond the manifest. This doubt has to be at the base of the researches that use psychoanalytic references. What is behind the behaviors? That is the question. It is necessary to first investigate the manifest behavior itself, as it constitutes a way to reveal latent behavior.

Therefore, using the psychoanalytical framework in research on organizations means taking their loan concepts to understand an object: the individual symbolic work-organization relationship and the dynamics in which that object is inserted. Therefore, it seeks the objectivity necessary to science, which does not mean the disregard of doubt as a place of the unconscious and the subjective construction of knowledge from the interpretation of the empirical.

The School of Work Psychology was built based on the research and ideas of French doctor Christophe Dejours, specialist in occupational medicine, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He conducted his studies based on different dynamics and work situations, which sometimes led individuals to pleasure, sometimes to suffering, describing how they could follow different developments, including those that culminated in mental or psychosomatic pathology (SILVA, 1994 apud RODRIGUES, 2015).

In the 1970s, Christophe Dejours had already published numerous psychosomatic studies related to health and work. The intellectual production of this author has broadened the innovative and integrative view of the new field chosen. Psychopathology of Work is presented in the literature as a description of the relationship and the interface of man with the organization; that is, the rigidity, the system of impositions and the restrictions imposed by it and, on the other hand, the psychic functioning, characterized by the freedom of imagination and expression of the worker’s unconscious desires (MENDES, 1995).

In 1987 the book with the title Madness of Work: Study of Psychopathology of Work was published in Brazil, by the author Christophe Dejours, a work that deals with the clinic of work, but precisely, the conflict between the organization of work and the functioning psychic (LANCMAN; SZNELWAR, 2004).

Workers did not show passivity in the face of organizational pressures, as they are able to protect themselves from the devastating effects on their mental health. This clinical work led Dejours to extend his studies to other perspectives, previously focused on the mental illnesses generated by work, now transferred to suffering and the defenses against that suffering. For this reason, this field of study came to be called “Psychodynamics of Work” (LANCMAN; SZNELWAR, 2004), which, for Mendes and Ferreira (2007), develops a sociopsychic analysis of work, having as its starting point the organization of this then, to understand the subjective experiences of pleasure, suffering, health process and mechanisms of defense and mediation of suffering.

In this context, this study sought to understand, from a literature review, the relationships between pleasure and suffering that permeate different work situations, which sometimes lead individuals to pleasure, sometimes to suffering, reflecting interventions from a psychoanalytic analysis.

  1. Methodology

The work was based on a bibliographic review research, this as a key element for the development of scientific research. According to Lakatos and Marconi (2010), it is an indispensable tool for delimiting the problem in a research project and for obtaining a precise idea about the current state of knowledge on the subject, especially its gaps and about the contribution of research to development of knowledge.

However, when performing a bibliographic search, it is essential that the researcher make a survey of the themes and types of approach already worked by other scholars, associating the concepts and deepening the aspects already published. In this sense, it is essential to collect and select knowledge already cataloged in libraries, publishers, Internet, video libraries etc. (Barros & Lehfeld, 2007). Thus, this research methodology can meet the objectives of the researcher in his academic trajectory, as it can awaken the construct of unpublished research from those who intend to review, reanalyze, interpret the collected data and criticize the theoretical constructions, paradigms or even elaborate new theories in the face of several areas of knowledge (BARROS AND LEHFELD, 2007).

For a better development of this research, it was necessary to point out some important procedures in the process of collecting collected data and compiling them when performing a bibliographic review.

When selecting the sources of references and making a general survey on the topic addressed, listing the main items, it is possible to organize the contents and draw a script to structure the bibliographic review, in view of the relevant points to develop the text of your abstract until the conclusion, so as not to lose focus on what is being studied.

  1. Results and discussion

3.1. Psychodynamics of work

With industrial development and the sharp division between conception and execution of work, the direct application of Taylorist principles has brought serious damage to the physical and mental health of workers, as a result of prolonged working hours, the fast pace of production, physical fatigue and above all, automation and non-participation of the worker in the production process, which configures the division of tasks (MENDES, 1995 apud RODRIGUES, 2015).

The psychodynamics of work is a scientific approach developed in France, in which Christophe Dejours had been researching psychic life at work for over thirty years, focusing on psychological suffering and defense strategies developed by workers for transformation and overcoming of work as a source of pleasure (DEJOURS, 2004).

The assumptions shared by the work psychodynamics approach are summarized in four points: interest in the work action; understanding of work; defense of a theory of the subject; and concern for the subject and the collective in situations of vulnerability at work (BENDASSOLI; SOBOLL, 2011).

Work is not only made up of work activity, it also encompasses several other dimensions, such as cultural and social: working is living together (BUENO; MACEDO, 2012). Martinez and Paraguay (2003) consider that work helps in the construction of the worker’s identity and subjectivity.

The psychodynamics of work, therefore, allows a contemporary understanding of the subjectivity of work and the way the individual positions himself in the social interaction required in the organization (ROIK; PILATTI, 2009 apud RODRIGUES, 2015). This approach brought a new look to the work sciences, by proposing the creation of discussion spaces in which the worker can express his voice, his feelings and the contradictions of the work context that account for most of the causes that generate pleasure and suffering (DEJOURS, 1992), in addition to being a new method, which undergoes improvement to consolidate more precise answers about mental health and work (MERLO, 2002).

3.2. Pleasure at work: beyond being

Pleasure in the psychic sense is the condition of balance and adaptation of the individual in adverse situations, without, however, suffering from psychological instability. It is the capacity for personal functioning in its entirety. In freedom, he expresses accomplishing what he wants as an individual and developing satisfactory relationships with others and with society (TOLEDO; GUERRA, 2009).

It can be said, then, that pleasure is related to personal achievement, this being one of the objectives pursued at work, which, when experienced, the subject makes sure that the activity developed by him is relevant to society and the organization ( HERNANDES; MACEDO, 2008).

Work has an important function in the construction of the subject’s identity, as it allows the worker to involve several subjects, each with their own reality, which, from a social point of view, allows the development of social relationships. For this reason, the influences experienced in this area can have positive or negative effects depending on the placement between the subject and the activity. Thus, the context in which work is developed allows the subject to evaluate the activity as significant or not and the meaning it represents for him, emerging from these experiences of pleasure or suffering (FERREIRA; MENDES, 2001).

Dejours (1993) approaches that the work is not carried out only for the financial survival, but it is a way for the individual to get involved socially, being the psychic and physical aspects interconnected. On the one hand, the suffering factor exposes the individual to the risk of becoming ill; on the other, the sense of pleasure generates balance and allows people to develop. Pleasure experiences are related to the individual’s physical conditions and the purpose of carrying out their activities.

The experiences of pleasure and suffering for Mendes and Tamayo (2001 apud RODRIGUES, 2015) are formalized in a single construct, interposed by three factors: appreciation, recognition and suffering. Valuation is characterized when the individual realizes that his work has meaning and value for itself, being important for the organization and for society. Recognition is verified when the individual is accepted and admired at work, has the freedom to express his individuality and performs the prescribed and real activities in a compatible manner, in addition to the flexibility of the organization to allow the subject to adjust to adverse situations, which enables experiences of pleasure (FERREIRA; MENDES, 2001). Suffering, on the other hand, is perceived when wear and tear occurs at work, reflecting the subject’s tiredness, discouragement and discontent.

The occurrences of pleasure can also be experienced when the subject has the opportunity to exercise his creativity and personal expression, which generates pride and admiration, together with the recognition of bosses and colleagues (MENDES; ABRAHÃO, 1996).

The appreciation and recognition of the worker allows him to feel gratified when he realizes that the activities developed by him are important for the organization and society. Still, when the individual has the opportunity to express in his work personal characteristics associated with admiration and pride for what he does, in parallel with recognition, this indicates that pleasure is experienced by the worker, implying the accomplishment of a significant and important task. The pleasure experienced from the perspective of appreciation and recognition is also defined by Ferreira and Mendes (2001) in two significant ways: appreciation as the awareness of meaning and the value that the work itself has; and recognition as identification by the individual of acceptance and admiration at work in the face of freedom of expression,

The experiences of pleasure can be experienced, as proposed by Hernandes and Macedo (2008), for the opportunity to enter the job market. When the individual is not excluded from this environment, he has the opportunity to be recognized by others and, in society, to build his social identity. In the psychodynamics of work, pleasure can be experienced, even in precarious conditions, when the organization of work allows the worker to develop actions to mobilize practical intelligence, the public space of speech and cooperation (MENDES; FERREIRA, 2007).

The organization, as stated by Lacaz (2000), when it deals with the worker’s health and prevents the occurrence of illness, provides them with quality of life and strives to improve their function. So, work can be a source of pleasure sources (CAVALCANTE, 2009), as learning also provides group interaction and produces a feeling of capacity in the subject when there is new learning (MARDEGAN; GODOY, 2009).

Motivation and satisfaction are other relevant feelings in the experience of pleasure in the context of organizations, given that it is possible for the individual to feel secure in carrying out activities and, consequently, to increase productivity, which will be beneficial for the organization and for him (BONFIM ; STEFANO; ANDRADE, 2010).

There are many factors that provide experiences of pleasure at work. However, what determines is the unfolding that the individual assumes in the face of the dynamic interactions between the organization and the subjective sense that it has to consolidate professional life in the context in which it is inserted (MENDES; FERREIRA, 2007).

3.3. Suffering at work: beyond doing

The term work, in its origin, comes from the Latin tripaliu, which, in essence, means “torture”. Until the Middle Ages, work was aimed at slaves and the poor. After the 14th century, the Industrial Revolution expanded its connotation in broad senses. Nowadays, it has different meanings in relation to market trends, in Brazil and in the world. In this context, it can be perceived from a negative perspective, associated with suffering and the absence of freedom (LOURENÇO; FERREIRA; BRITO, 2009).

For Freud (1974), suffering is the state of expectation in the face of danger and preparation for it, even if it is an unknown danger (anguish) or fear, when it is known; or fright when a subject encounters a danger without being prepared to face it. Suffering can also be an individual’s reaction to an insistent manifestation of an unfavorable environment.

Suffering is defined by the wear factor, which is the feeling of tiredness, discouragement and discontent in relation to work. It can be seen, then, that the discrepancy between the prescribed task and the actual activity, while triggering a psychological cost for the worker, has consequences for the organization of work in terms of the nature of the task itself and socio-professional relationships, when the subject puts them in a state of permanent effort to cope with reality, often incompatible with their psychological investments and personal limits, generating suffering (FERREIRA; MENDES, 2001).

Dejours, Abdoucheli and Jayet (1994) go beyond the exposures known to Brazilian and other labor legislation by revealing that wear and tear at work should not be reduced only to physical, chemical, biological or even psychosensory and cognitive pressures of the job post. usually studied. For them, it is essential to consider the organizational dimension at work, focused on the division of tasks and production relations, in contrast to the traditional concept of ergonomics, based on the analysis of working conditions.

The suffering experienced by the worker, according to Dejours (1992), in relation to his activities comes from the ways in which work organizations demand and tighten compliance with the rules, based on the division, the content of the task, the hierarchy, the command mode, power relations and responsibility issues.

The work, according to Dejours, Abdoucheli and Jayet (1994), consists of elements capable of influencing the formation of the worker’s self-image, which often causes suffering through experiences of fear and boredom, with symptoms such as anxiety and dissatisfaction. Suffering, in addition to originating in the mechanization and robotization of tasks, in the pressures and impositions of work organization and in adapting to culture or organizational ideology, presents itself in market pressures and in relations with customers and the public. It is also caused by the creation of incompetence, meaning that the worker feels unable to cope with conventional, unusual or wrong situations, when the information that destroys cooperation takes place.

Experiences of suffering, according to Ferreira and Mendes (2001), arise from the association of division and standardization of tasks with the underutilization of technical potential and creativity, hierarchical rigidity, with an excess of bureaucratic procedures, political interference, centralization of information, lack of participation in decisions, lack of recognition and little prospect of professional growth.

Among the aspects addressed about suffering at work, that of the work relationship has its inferences and is classified by Siqueira (1991) in categories: macrosocial, organizational and microsocial. The microsocial category is composed of: work organization, workforce management, working conditions and forms of conflict regulation. For the author, the definition of work organization considers ways of dividing and systematizing tasks and time in groups of workers, the resulting specialties and required qualifications, sequences, rhythms and cadences, standardization and autonomy, the participation of the worker in the programming and the locus of accomplishment of the tasks.

There are several conditions that can lead the individual to suffering at work, such as the occurrence of embarrassing situations, which can be understood as embarrassment words or behaviors that, due to their repetition, attack the individual’s psychic or physical part, promoting intimidation in the performance of the activities. activities and, consequently, deteriorate the working climate. Such a situation can occur between the boss and co-workers (SILVA, 2005).

Another condition that predisposes to the experience of suffering is the heavy physical effort, which leads the worker to suffering, which can generate physical and cognitive damage to the individual and, as a consequence, fatigue will emerge, which will reduce the pace of work, attention and speed of work. reasoning, making it less productive and more prone to errors and accidents (SILVA, 1999).

The work overload required by the organization goes beyond the conditions of the worker and distances him from his personal goals that he assumes in relation to the goals of the organization, which are increasingly higher, this being a factor that causes suffering and makes mediation difficult and, consequently , increases the risk of diseases (MENDES; FERREIRA, 2007).

When approached about the experiences of suffering, Mendes and Tampão (2001) affirm that suffering can be experienced and expressed in the form of wear in relation to work. It can be perceived by the feeling of tiredness, discouragement and discontent with work. For Ferreira and Mendes (2001), the experiences of suffering are associated with issues such as task, technical conditions, hierarchy, bureaucracies, concentration of information, lack of recognition and lack of perspective for professional advancement.

Each individual, however, manifests suffering in a different way, as stated by Brant and Minayo-Gomez (2004), due to the influence of family, culture and other issues. All of this makes each individual react to suffering differently when subjected to the same adverse environmental conditions. What is experienced as suffering by someone can be experienced as pleasure for another, and vice versa. An event at a given moment may mean suffering, but at another, satisfaction. Therefore, pleasure and pain can be understood as a mixture of suffering.

The individual, therefore, is not impartial in the face of suffering. Mendes and Ferreira (2007) state that some strategies are developed to mediate suffering, such as rationalization, passivity and individualism. These are strategies that help the individual to deal with feelings of frustration and suffering, perceiving rationalization as a way to justify and explain the reasons that cause suffering. While individualism appears as a reaction to impotence in the search for naturalization of problems that originate suffering, passivity appears as a strategy against boredom or even in the face of threats to the company’s stability.

3.4. Between being and doing: Defense strategies

In the mid-twentieth century, there was an attempt to create a mental illness clinic whose origin was work. However, the investigations of that time still strongly followed the characteristics of the “theoretical causal model”, which reinforce the “evidence between mental illness and work”, of a pathogenic nature anchored to the biological model (BRANT; MINAYO-GOMEZ, 2004, p. 218). Faced with the failure to demonstrate this correlation, the Dejourian studies focused on the strategies produced by workers to face the adversities experienced at work to avoid suffering and the evolution of diseases.

In this period, Dejours (1992) argued that suffering is a subjective experience that mediates “mental illness and comfort”. In this perspective, suffering implies a dispute between the subject and the forces of work, which leads to mental illness (BRANT; MINAYO-GOMEZ, 2004, p. 219). From that point on Dejours (1992) started to emphasize the workers’ listening to understand the meaning of suffering and the dimensions of the subject’s relationship in the health-work process. He found that workers try to control the disease in some way. Dejours (1992) implemented the idea of ​​defensive strategies as a social development whose aim is to promote the mastery and dilution of the experience of suffering and the maintenance of a healthy state.

Suffering is an intense and lasting experience, most of the time, unaware of painful experiences, such as anguish, fear and insecurity, arising from the conflict between the individual’s gratification needs and the restriction in the work environment. The suffering experiences originate from adverse situations arising from the dimensions of the organization, the conditions and the working relationships that structure the context of production of goods and services. They are indicators of malaise at work and are manifested through symptoms of anxiety, dissatisfaction, indignity, worthlessness, devaluation and wear and tear (FERREIRA; MENDES, 2007).

Faced with the difficulties and the numerous exposures experienced by the worker in his work context and in the organization, Mendes and Ferreira (2007) affirm that the individual elaborates strategies for the mediation of suffering in a subtle, ingenious, diverse and creative way, to resist the conditions adverse effects at work and, consequently, to minimize suffering and avoid illness. BRANT & MINAYO-GÓMEZ (2004) affirm that, according to the Dejourian theory, illness can occur when there is a containment of the drive energy generated by a work circumstance that blocks the adequate psychic discharge and when there is a weakening of the collective strategies of workers .

Defense strategies can have two strands of mobilization, one of a collective nature and another of an individual nature. The collective mobilization stands out for the willingness of the workers’ collective to modify the production context and, consequently, to minimize the human cost. Its most important object is the experiences of pleasure through the elaboration of a public space for the exposition of their ideas, based on a relationship of cooperation and mutual trust in the work environment. Individual defense strategies aim to minimize human cost and suffering experiences with the sign of denial and excessive domination, which “protect the ego, but lead to alienation when used excessively” (MENDES; BARROS, 2003, p. 66 ).

In this perspective, individual strategies minimize suffering, but do not transform the harmful aspects of suffering present, while collective mobilization strategies reduce or eliminate suffering and modify the work situation. Finally, while the individual defense mechanism is supported by the fact that the physical presence of the object is internalized, in the collective defense mechanism the worker depends on the presence of external conditions and is supported by the consensus of a specific group of workers (DEJOURS ; ABDOUCHELI; JAYET, 1994).

Among the defensive strategies highlighted by Dejours, Abdoucheli and Jayet (1994), the disproportionate investment that the individual makes to the family, the execution of extraprofessional activities, the constant search for tranquility, the rejection of conflicts and the denial of reality, in short, to avoid the awareness of unpleasant situations, presenteeism, defined with an exaggerated presence in the workplace after hours, the strong harmony of the teams, which transforms the act into values ​​and individualism, when carrying out autonomous tasks in the group itself, there are also disruptions in the group and dispersion of forms of coexistence, as well as excessive competition.

  1. Final considerations

It is impossible to write a conclusion on a subject that is current in contemporary society and is in the process of discoveries and possibilities.

This research was extremely significant as a researcher and student of Psychoanalysis, as it was possible to reflect the importance of academic production for the topic under debate while realizing how the contributions of psychoanalysis in this organizational environment are essential as in any other area of ​​activity, evidenced by importance of attentive professionals in understanding the subject.

Research in this direction, considering the timeliness of the discussion, would further instrumentalize the Psychoanalysis Professional within the scope of his practices and in the work processes, for having this professional all the necessary tools to act in this context in a responsible manner and with all the apparatus in the theories and techniques.


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