You can’t collaborate, if you don’t want to.

Often collaboration has many benefits and if you don’t want to or someone else does not want to, there are several guidelines on how to do it or how to improve collaboration (1). The premise is to make collaboration desirable and also managable. As a result the option of whether collaboration is not wanted or should not happen is often not mentioned. Instead the benefits are mentioned, which on the other hand could be a form of gaslighting if it is not actually wanted. That is the manipulation of ones own reality towards a different one (2). For example, being convinced that a particular collaboration is suitable for a particular reason, whilst it might not be.

What is bad about convincing yourself in wanting to collaborate?

Often times it might not work out in the long term. An easy to understand example is going on a first date. The chemistry does not fit, but for the sakes of dating and the idea(l) of having a relationship (such as in most goals actively looked for in collaborations), one might start to think of benefits for this relationship to work, a bit like cherry-picking. As a result, one may twist themselves to appear more suitable and starts to accept and appreciate differences. This might go well for a bit, but after some time it won’t, because it is not true. The ending of the honey moon phase and the reality then presented is a good example. “Oh you don’t actually like this?” “yeah..sorry, I did that for you kind of.”

Why would anyone want to collaborate, while not actually wanting it?

There are different reasons, some may be concious and some may be unconcious. Let’s explore different thought processes and how they play out in practice.

  1. Modification of an object

Someone might not like the idea of collaboration firstly, which shows as a tiny thought, but then actively point out (sudden) collaborative benefits. However, unconciously a different thought process might happen, in which collaboration is continuesly not wanted. In psyche one of such mechanisms is referred to modification of an object (3). It is a mechanism that turns something not of liking into something of liking. The purpose of this mechansim in infants for example is protection of the self such as from harm or neglect. For example, if a caretaker is neglecting a baby, it would naturally dislike them and leave. Because it cannot do so it turns such disliking into liking.

In adults or in workplace cooperation this might look like needing to cooperate because it is essential for company survival or for example also an individual position. As a result – of modification of object – and present in concious argumentation one might find benefits in collaboration and believe so “oh this company is greatly positioned, this sounds like a cool vision, this person seems fantastic to work with. I like it, lets do it.” On the other hand one might unconciously think “I would not spend a dime on this.”

2. Sugar-coated belief system

At the same time you might have read and learned about all sorts of unconcious biases such as on racism and feel ready to avoid them. For example, you may believe that you actively share no racist trades, but when it comes to collaboration with a partner of a different skin color or accent, you may find yourself naming different reasons why the collaboration does not work. For example research (4) conducted on neuropolitics by Liya Yu, found that although “white people” claimed to be actively not racist, their brain regions showed signs of fear when seeing “black people.”As a result you may choose to collaborate with someone different, less suitable or you may choose to still collaborate, whilst you unconciously don’t want to and that shows for example by being or becoming avoident. Here it might be interesting to explore a few “Whys’?” Why being avoidant? What’s that feeling of discomfort telling me? And whatever it is, it’s okay. It is okay in that sense, that it can be be explored further.

Why is there a discrepancy between conciousness and unconciousness?

There are different reasons. Our brain develops bottom up and lays an unconcious foundation for our own survival; How to relate to another, what feels safe and unsafe. Depending on the latter, these traits become part of our unconciousness. For example there is no need to be concious about how to move your finger tips, when eating. And similiar patterns likely apply to our psyche and thereby our notions of survival. For example, if you grew up in a solely x-skin colored family environment, then this is what likely feels safe to you “your tribe with its habits and belief system”(5). However, suddenly you may find yourself with different people of different backgrounds (habits, skin color, religions, accents etc) and it does less. And I believe the larger the discrepancy from what you are used to; feel save with, the more likely your “concisouness” will shut down, and your primal instincts including what is unconcious but feels safe will be present or to some extend guide you, while not being aware of.

What does this say about effective collaboration?

Collaboration is great and it does hold many benefits if collaboration is true. For example, again if you go on a first date and the chemistry fits; values, or certain values shared align with each other, you truthfully complement each other, you don’t twist yourself to make yourself fit to the other, you can be honest, you lay out your cards. Whatever it is, I mean complementation can work so different, it fits and that’s okay. That’s great actually. For example, it’s okay wanting to collaborate with someone from your hometown, or the same cultrual background if that makes you feel safe and the collaboration too.

What if I don’t want to collaborate, but you know, I have to?

I believe you should not twist yourself for anyone or let anyone twist you. Secondly, in business model research, different business models are suitable for different market segments. I believe a similiar approach can be used for collaboration. If partner x is not suitable for project b, a different one can be found. At the same time, becoming aware about certain bias might help you to actively avoid collaboration, but at the same time it also gives you the chance to work on understanding them with the intent to encourage collaboration; Why do I hold certain bias? Where do they come form? What do I fear? as oppose to: I am aware of my bias or ignore it, let’s get it on with.

More to it? Let me know in the comments.


(1) Nevins, M. (2018). How to Collaborate with People You Don’t Like. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from:

(2) Thomas, L. (2018). “Gaslight and gaslighting”The Lancet. Psychiatry5 (2): 117–118. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30024-5PMID 29413137.

(3) Training Material from the International Society of Applied Psychoanalysis (Modification of Object)

(4) Yu, L. (2022). Vulnerable Minds: The Neuropolitics of Divided Societies. Columbia University Press.

(5) Van Vugt, M., & Schaller, M. (2008). Evolutionary approaches to group dynamics: An introductionGroup Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice12(1), 1.


Would we buy less, if the meaning of a product was better understood?

Although I work in the field of sustainability and specifcially sustainable consumption and production patterns, I still caught myself to buy new things occassionally. Sometimes that was when I felt I needed something new, when I felt “bored”, or in a bad mood, when I wanted distraction, or when I felt I deserved a little reward, etc.

What I came to realize is that most of these goods did not last long with me and they also did not make me happy. Products that indeed made me happy, where those products that I chose to buy over weeks or sometimes (in the case of a leather bag) for months.

How did I stop buying stuff I didn’t need?

It happened that I learned about the psychoanalyst “Gustav Carl Jung”, who used symbolism to interpret his patients unconcious motives or desires. Within symbolism, colours, forms, and various patterns can be analyzed to understand ones own feelings, but also meanings and their biases that either suppress or support a decision (un)conciously.

Because I was curious to understand my own buying motives, I tried to integrate a psychoanayltical persepctive into my buying decisions. Therefore, I followed four steps, when I was about to buy high-heels, that I didn’t need. In doing so, I dissolved the meaning of the high-heels and also learned that the meaning, these high-heels emboddied, had nothing to do with the heels themselves that day, but my own (un)concious challanges and mood. By thinking about these (un)concious motives now more often, I am drastically reducing my buying behaviour and focus on other challanges these goods unconciously represent for me.

1.Why do I need this product ?

[High heels make me taller, and I am not as tall as other people. However, sometimes I perceive taller people as more powerwful.]

2. Where does that perception come from?

[ I was often told that I am not tall enough for a German and when I was taller I felt this observations was less mentioned. Because of that being taller made me feel more powerful. ]

3. Why did being tall matter that day or in that moment?

[I realized that I didn’t share an idea in a meeting that day. Because I didn’t, I missed out a powerful opportunity, which my team but also I could have beneffitted from. ]

4. What does my own analysis mean to me?

[I must have unconciously thought that by buying something that makes me feel tall , I would feel more more powerful. However, there is no relation between these heels and my work situation, and instead of buying these heels, I will work on sharing my ideas more often to empower myself and my team. ].

How can external costs of consumption be equated with external costs of production? – An economic-psychoanalytical perspective

The traditional business model equates production costs with revenues and therefore measures success based on the profits created. In doing so, most business models neglect their external costs of production. These are costs that relate to pollution or other forms of destruction and are often not accounted for. Business models that do not account for these external costs of production, likely run risk of market failure in the long term. A consequence is that neither business, nor planet, nor consumer will benefit in the future.

Increases in production come at an expense of
resources and well-being that is worth
more than the products produced. It also
implies that an undesirable balance of
quantities known as utility and disutility
occur. Utility is the level of satisfaction of the population’s needs and wants. Disutility refers to the sacrifices made necessary by increasing production and consumption, such as labor, loss of leisure, depletion of resources, exposure to pollution (Daly, 1990)

External cost of consumption?

Climate change and also climate awarness have been increasing steadily, particular since Fridays for Future. “We must act now, our planet is on fire, system change is needed” are some of the phrases that cover media. While these phrases demand companies, governments to change systems, they externalize individual repsonsibility and hence individual and collective cost of consumption. These are cost produced because of a (subconcious) desire for consumption and lifestyle choices. Because of that system change as demanded now, misses a sustainable point of view. That is a view in which “external cost of consumption” need to be internalized by consumers.

How can external costs of production be internalized?

Businesses can transition towards more sustainable business models and because of that reduce their external costs of production. That can happen if unsustainable materials are swopped with more sustainable materials (think about a plastic straw being swapped with a bamboo straw), if a company promotes the re-use of products or offers recycling opportunities (and so much more). However, swopping one thing with the other, or continue producing at the same speed, does not necessarily lead to more sustainable business models. Instead current production problems shift to other production processes. Because of that, long term business sustainabiltiy might fail.

For sustainable business models to take place in the long term, the role of consumers, the way they engage, behave and hence, want to purchase or not and how needs to change as well.

What are external costs of consumption and how can they be internalized?

Humans aren’t static. Humans like other species evolve and adjust to changes. “Survival of the fittest” – in evolutionary terms. If adoption does not occur, the survival of a species is at risk. To adopt and to change, we adjust, we make ourselves appeal to others by creating images, to become part of a group, to subconciously influence our own survival. However, much of such behaviours , think about dressing a certain way, or looking a certain way to be accepted by a group, does not relate to survival anymore – it is instinctional and therefore (unconciously) culturally influenced. Such behaviours therefore stimulate external costs of consumption [Evolutionary desire for change and adaptation, while such a change and adaptation is not need but rather socially constructed path-dependent]

External costs of consumption can hence be internalized, if individual and collective awarness increases towards unconcious behaviour and lifestyles. Where does a constant desire for changes deprive from? What purpose does a change fullfill? Who is this change done for? Who does one desire to desire back and because of that adjust towards a certain lifestyle , look or behaviour and therefore changes? What meaning do changes in choices have? Where should subconcious evolutionary need for change and adoptation stop? Where is the point of maximum utility for happiness reached and hence, the possibility to create an equilibrium between internalized external costs of consumption and production?

Do we need hair dye to impress others? Do we need new phones to take better pictures? Do we need make up? For who? Who are we, when we don’t change who we are or appear to be?


Campbell, A. (2000). Cultural identity as a social construct. Intercultural Education11(1), 31-39.

Graham, C. (2005). The economics of happiness. World economics6(3), 41-55.

Harte, M. J. (1995). Ecology, sustainability, and environment as capital. Ecological economics15(2), 157-164.

Hedman, J., & Kalling, T. (2003). The business model concept: theoretical underpinnings and empirical illustrations. European journal of information systems12(1), 49-59.

Hollan, D. (2000). Constructivist models of mind, contemporary psychoanalysis, and the development of culture theory. American Anthropologist102(3), 538-550.

Lüdeke-Freund, F., Carroux, S., Joyce, A., Massa, L., & Breuer, H. (2018). The sustainable business model pattern taxonomy—45 patterns to support sustainability-oriented business model innovation. Sustainable Production and Consumption15, 145-162.

Thompson, S. A., & Loveland, J. M. (2015). Integrating identity and consumption: An identity investment theory. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice23(3), 235-253.