Newsletter 3-2019

Letter of Chairperson

Dorothee C. von Tippelskirch-Eissing

Since the last Newsletter from March 2018, PCCA has had two important events:

We have organized another PCCA conference, directed by Louisa D. Brunner in Den Dolder in the Netherlands, August 30th – September 3rd 2018 under the title:

“Exclusion, Resentment and the Return of the Repressed. Europe in a Globalized World.”

It was the 11th conference in the series of the so-called Nazareth conferences that PCCA has organized since 1994. In this newsletter, you can read the director’s report, that Louisa Brunner has written after the conference.

Secondly, we had our annual meeting of the board of PCCA in November 2018 in Berlin. We could welcome in Berlin the following board members of PCCA: Louisa D. Brunner, Mira Erlich-Ginor, H. Shmuel Erlich, Christoph Freytag. Oren Kaplan and Nadine Tchelebi. Unfortunately, we had two cancellations in the last moment, from our colleagues M. Fakhry Davids and Jona Rosenfeld, both who could not travel to be with us. We missed them in our work and are looking forward to seeing them in our next board meeting, which we will hold in November 2019.

Maybe the most important outcome of this past board meeting has been the decision to dare changing for the time being the rhythm of our conferences.

In the past, those who have followed us know that we have been organizing a conference in this series every two years, with only two exceptions, one in the beginning after the first two conferences in Nazareth (1994 and 1996) – the other one after the conference in 2000. The death of one of our founders, Rafael Moses, and of the first director of the conferences, Eric Miller, called for a longer phase in order to develop a new orientation for our work. This was eventually found in 2004 with the new director Anton Obholzer at a new venue in Cyprus.

Now we have decided to have the next conference already this year, in 2019, that is 80 years after the onset of World War II, and 25 years after the first conference. It will take place again in Cyprus, under the directorate of Mira Erlich-Ginor and her associate director Olya Khaleelee, from Sept 11th – 16th 2019, with the title:

80 years later: Will history repeat itself? The Fallout of the Holocaust over Those Affected. Looking Back, Moving Forward.

You will find more information about the conference on the website created specifically for this conference: http://pcca2019.org.

At the same time, we have decided to continue the project started in 2018 with the conference in the Netherlands. This project will also continue to take place in 2020. Louisa Brunner will be the Conference Director. We shall inform you about further developments in the future.

As the core of our work in both projects we have discussed intensively: “Society and Trauma”, which we see actually at work in so many Societies in Europe and beyond. Maybe the fact that at this moment, we propose a conference every year reflects our worries and the fact that it is urgent to create a space for a better understanding of our societal developments in so many countries.

It has not been decided yet whether we might continue in this rhythm! But we wish to take seriously the experiential character of the work that PCCA is calling for and proposing to everybody who wishes to join our work.

Another aspect of our engagement will be the change in our way to keep you informed through our Newsletter. Nadine Tchelebi, the editor of the newsletter, has proposed a structure, and we will be sending out the Newsletter in a new format three times a year, in March, July and November.

Concerning the group of Supporters of PCCA, we have chosen to experiment and to invite more people to join us. We do have a steering group in Berlin, consisting of Ekkehard Raehmer and Bettina Jesberg and the chairperson of PCCA. We would like to create a network of supporters in the different countries from where we have already received members for our conferences. But in principle, everybody who wishes to support our work, to promote it through various ways (papers, lectures, talking about it, recommending it to others and / or financial contributions, donations), is welcome.

Please have a look at the letter of Bettina Jesberg and Ekkehard Raehmer in this Newsletter.

As you might know, PCCA has been registered as a charity. Therefore, all financial contributions are tax deductible. We might contact you in situations where we do have a specific project on the way and will be grateful for financial support in order to be able to do our work.

If you have the impression of some new energy and freshness, you are right. I think we have been working intensively for a while on our transgenerational transition, involving younger colleagues in the work of the board of PCCA, and at the same time trying to enlarge the broad spectrum of where we come from in different ways, personally and professionally.

We felt very content all together about this new energy, the fact that people were sitting around the table who reacted in surprising ways, so that we would not know in advance what the contribution might be. We enjoyed these aspects. And at the same time, we understand that this transition needs to be understood and worked with. Thus, we have been working on issues like trust and mistrust. We think that it is on one side an issue for our working group, but at the same time, we discussed this issue in relation to our European situation, the societies and even globally.

We need to manage more differences also among us, which we consider a relevant part of our work.

In this sense, we invite you to join us in our learning, inviting you to register for our upcoming conference in Cyprus.

We will be happy to see you there for a new experience of learning about our societal reality and conflicts 80 years after the onset of World War II, where we are still dealing with the fallout of the Holocaust potentially afflicting individuals and nations, determining anxieties, modes of coping, interpersonal relationships, as well as national and international dynamics.

Berlin, March 2019

Dorothee von Tippelskirch-Eissing

Chairperson of PCCA e.V.

Director’s Report

This conference was the 11th conference in the so–called Nazareth series of the Past in the
Present
and the 7
th conference since PCCA was established in 2007. This project started nearly 25 years ago.

This conference was built on the previous ones and especially on the last three in Poland, in the sense of continuing to focus on Europe. The title was Exclusion, Resentment and the Return of the Repressed. Europe in a Globalized World. The idea was to capture what is going on in Europe and in the World at a time of great change and turmoil. As suggested in the brochure, shadows are gathering across the face of Europe once again. The European Union was built in the aftermath of the Holocaust and the Second World War partly to avoid a repetition of past tragedies. As exemplified by Brexit or the new populist government in Italy, today the European Union is beset by disintegrative forces mostly powered by and manifested in the rise of reactionary nationalist movements in virtually every European nation. In many cases this is seen as the return of the repressed of different unaddressed historical dramas. For example, anti-Semitism, kept under the carpet for a long time, is again more openly expressed and spreading.

The Primary Task of the conference was “to provide a space for participants to explore how feelings of inclusion and exclusion fuel resentment. How the return of the repressed influences personal and cultural identities and relations within and between individuals and groups in the Conference and how this in turn illuminates wider cultural and political processes in Europe in a globalized world. And finally, through the awareness of these dynamics, to enable political and social action and a more active and responsible citizenship.”

The Conference was designed one day shorter than the previous ones. We thought that time is precious in our contemporary life and it is always more complicated for people to take time off from family and work. The PCCA Board decided to change the venue and to hold the Conference in Western Europe. The choice of the Netherlands came up quite early, in consideration of the history of the Netherlands in terms of the events of WWII and its role in Europe. The Ernst Sillem Hoeve in Den Dolder that we found thanks to Martijn van der Spek, the Conference Administrator, provided a good venue i in a beautiful wooden landscape in the Dutch country side. This venue is owned by the YMCA, it has a non-profit culture, the profits go to YMCA’s social projects, therefore, it is coherent with PCCA’s social engagement.

It was the first time after the foundation of PCCA that we had several members coming from the country of the venue and we realized how difficult it is to host this type of Conference in one’s own country. It was a heavy load, it made people more responsible and they were deeply confronted with their national history.

Following my appointment as Director (Italy), Paul Hoggett (United Kingdom) was invited as the Associate Director. As mentioned above, the Conference Administrator was Martijn van der Spek (The Netherlands) and the Conference Associate Administrator was Lili Valko (Hungary), but she was not able to attend the Conference, her baby was due soon. The consultants were Fakhry Davids (United Kingdom), Mira Erlich Ginor (Israel), András Gelei (Hungary), Veronika Grueneisen (Germany), Marina Mojović (Serbia), Joan Roma i Vergés (Barcellona) and Dorothee von Tippleskirch-Eissing (Germany).

Due to higher numbers of registration than expected and since Lili Valko could not attend the Conference, András Gelei (Hungary) joined the staff in the last months before the Conference. The staff group was versatile in terms of age, personal and professional background and approaches, as well as institutional affiliations, citizenship and nationality and group relations experience.

We continued to work with the office of Geber & Reusch, which handled all the pre- and post-conference administration regarding the hotel and the participants. Martijn van der Spek and Lili Valko, in their role of Conference Administrator and Conference Associate Administrator, liaised nearly for a year with Geber & Reusch, coordinating the work. Their dedicated work made the Conference Administration smooth and efficient.

As in the past we are grateful to DPV, DPG and IPS for their financial sponsorship. We also had NPAV, IPA, OFEK, OPUS as friendly supporters.

Considerable effort went again into recruiting members. First of all, through the PCCA mailing list by sending a conference flyer and then the brochure. These materials were also mailed to many distribution lists: OFEK, Israel Association of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, AMCHA, Tavistock Institute, OPUS, ISPSO, Il Nodo Group, Utrecht University, the DPV, DPG, IPS, NPAV, IPA web event calendar and many others. A special conference website, listing all the materials and online and offline registration form, was edited and advertised. PCCA members and the Conference staff engaged in personal recruitment. We were active on Facebook for many months.

We changed the fee structure and introduced an early bird fee of € 1.400,00, available up to three months before the Conference. The full fee was € 1.500,00. Since our intention was to attract East Europeans, Palestinians and students, we offered this target group a fee of € 700,00. Fees could be further reduced in the case of double room occupancy and many members took advantage of this possibility.

This Conference was supported by the three psychoanalytic sponsoring societies (DPV, DPG, IPS). For the first time, we posted our conference on the crowd funding website. Furthermore, a member donated. We are grateful for all this financial support which was used for bursaries. We had 17 requests for bursaries. Due to the high recruitment numbers at the bursaries’ application deadline, we were in the position to fulfill the requests. Funds were allocated based on a written application, as well as a number of pertinent factors (e.g. supporting young people, students and novice professionals and the stark economic realities). Another way of supporting members was offering them to share the rooms in a double occupancy. We prioritized the possibility of giving the bursaries against other expenses, but as a consequence, we operated with a very tight budget also in terms of what we could offer the staff as a fee.

Until the last week before the conference we had 66 registered members, unfortunately 4 persons had to withdraw at the last moment, for health or work reasons. So, we had 62 members which represented a wide range of categories: 49 women and 13 men; 34 in the age range of 27 to 55, and 28 aged 55 to 75. 15 members had already attended a PCCA Conference and for 47 it was a first-time attendance. There were 15 countries present, Bosnia and Herzegovina (1) Germany (16), Hungary (1), Israel (4), Poland (2), Russia (1), Serbia (7), Slovenia (6), South Africa (1), Spain (4) Switzerland (2), Turkey (1), United Kingdom (4) and the United States (1).

In terms of professional affiliation, members were psychologists, psychoanalysts, consultants, scholars and business people.

The program consisted of the following events:

Small Study Groups (SSG) – 4 sessions, 6 groups, 8-12 members with a consultant.

Large Study Group (LSG) – 4 sessions, all members and 4 consultants.

Social Dreaming Matrix (SDM) – 4 sessions, all participants and 3 staff hosts.

European Event (EE) – 8 sessions, staff as management and offering consultancy.

Review and Application Groups (RAG) – 4 sessions, 8 groups, 5-9 members with a consultant.

Plenaries – Two plenaries: An Opening Plenary at the beginning and a Closing Plenary at the end of the conference.

The Social Dreaming Matrix took place every morning after breakfast for one hour. Based on learning from the previous conferences, the group met as a whole, i.e. all members and three staff members who served as “hosts”. Two of the staff hosts were from the LSG team and one of the SSG team. Social Dreaming was valuable¸ serving as a channel for creativity and emerging unconscious themes. The SDM was followed by the SSG and then the LSG, with an alternation of small and large group configurations.

An EE was introduced for the first time, building on the previous experience of the Systems Event. The choice of calling it EE came from the desire to emphasize the context and to define the field of observation in Lewin’s terms. We provided two consultants for the plenary opening and others to some of the territories for the first sessions, as well as territories without consultants. The Event Directors’ Group (EDG) and the Event Consultants Group (ECG) were assigned to two different territories and each had a different task. The EDG had to keep a special eye on the learning process while the ECG concentrated on the dynamic process of the experience of the “here and now”. Members formed six groups. The themes around which the groups coalesced were focused on different aspects of Europe and the European Union. In this sense they were coherent with the Primary Task of the event, although it could be seen as a counter- dependency dynamic in terms of complying with the staff guidelines, which mirrored in this an external dynamic in terms of the relationship of the different states with the European Commission.

In my view the approach, the strategy, the design and the implementation of Group Relations methodology in the Conference depend on and reflect the Director’s epistemology, ideas, experience, identity, personal and professional background and style. Every Director interprets Group Relations in a different way. A Conference can be seen as a transitional space in Winnicottian terms where participants ideally should arrive in a without-memory-nor-desire state of mind so as to be able to experience new learning from their different roles. My main strategic ideas included learning from the past, a balance between tradition and innovation, deep trust in the method and a mind-set that we describe in Italian as ‘perfection does not belong to this world’.

The first concern, also in consideration of the intensity and depth that a PCCA Conference can lead to, is always to provide the necessary containment, with regard to structure (through the design) and content (in terms of food for thought and working hypotheses). Therefore, traditional Group Relations concepts of boundaries, role, time, territory and task are the way to implement this containment, for both staff and members. My feeling was that this was the case in the Conference and contributed to the task of learning. Like any Group Relations Conference, also the PCCA one is a very complex event and each member has her/his own learning experience. However, some common issues emerged that were specific to this Conference and made it worthwhile.

  • A discrepancy between the European Union as an idea/dream and the European Union in reality.
  • The European Union was initially built by the so-called Old as a defense against war and the traumas of the first part of the XX century and, as a staff member said, “to eliminate or control the bad side of our human-ness’.
  • The European Union was a top-down decision with the assumption that differences, nations, cultures can be integrated with a magic wand.
  • The energy is located in nations which joined the European Union recently. The élites of Old Europe seem like bureaucrats without heart and passion and, as a staff member suggested, they split emotions. The dynamic was one of dependence, counter-dependence and the need to comply with real or imagined task guidelines.
  • It was also observed and hypothesized in the European Event that passion was not so manifest in this Conference or it was a bit sanitized. There could have been a collective defense and fear of a potential explosive destructiveness. A staff member suggested that it is “more difficult to get in contact with today’s tensions, traumas, fights and aggressions in Turkey, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Bosnia, Ukraine, etc.” than with old ones.
  • There are still mental “Iron curtain(s) in (the) European Union “or type A nations (the first 12 EU countries) and type B nations (the new entries).
  • There was the acknowledgment of a lack of historical knowledge about the local and national histories (for example the Balkans or Catalonia), but also an absence of curiosity to explore the history further. Each person tends to stay in her/his comfort zone of her/his small world and community.
  • There was quite a bit of evidence that Brexit is too frightening to talk about openly from an exclusion/inclusion perspective both for the Brits and for the Europeans.
  • The racial dynamic was present and manifest in a slimy way. The exclusion –
  • inclusion dynamic was mostly projected openly on the racial dimension, in this way freeing up people from other potential exclusion experiences with all the pain and humiliation connected to such emotions.
  • The return of the repressed, as a staff member suggested, haunted the Conference, but could not be addressed nor really ‘return’; it was too threatening. For example, the Holocaust was there but mainly referred to in relation to past conferences.
  • The perpetrator – victim – bystander dynamic emerged, on the one hand, as a polarization or in competition about victimhood. There was the danger of a “perverse victimhood” so present today.
  • Pain was more openly discussed in the small group configurations and less in the whole system moments, but it was acted out throughout the Conference also in different ways with some manic moments.
  • It was a Tower of Babel of overlapping contrasting languages, with a strong emphasis on the new emergent so-called language of action, the language of the populists and the nationalists.
  • In the conference, many aspects were unpacked. It was a ‘contained’ Conference with an overall ‘working group mentality’ culture or in ‘a depressive position’ state of mind, obviously also with moments of strong regression.
  • The staff managed to work well together as a team, integrating their differences, and this was openly acknowledged by all. This was also probably mirrored in the sophisticated membership attending the Conference. The dilemma remains about how much this prevented deeper work on conflicts, destructiveness and pain (in sanitizing them) or if it was the most appropriate culture for the task of the Conference and members’ learning.
  • In terms of the theme of the Conference we experienced that Europe is a very complex entity, with many layers in the past and in the present, which are very difficult to contain and address all at the same time. I am aware that the word complexity is quite abused today, and this can seem banal, but the ‘lived emotional experience’ of the ‘here and now’, within the Conference dynamic, was greatly confronting, at moments nearly emotionally and cognitively unbearable and uncontainable in the mind, all at once. You continuously had the feeling that you could not get it all at the same time, there was always some layer that could not come to light.

First of all, I would like to thank the PCCA Board for the trust shown in authorizing me to direct this Conference. I am truly grateful to my colleagues of the Conference Management, to all the staff for their very generous dedication, contribution, availability, insights and for supporting me in this journey and to all the members who accepted our invitation to join the Conference, making it so rich and powerful. My main hope now is that this Conference has been a learning experience for the members, even though with different degrees for different people, because this is the raison d’être of this kind of work and what gives running a Conference meaning.

 Louisa Diana Brunner – PCCA 2018 Conference Director

Letter to former Participants of the Nazareth-conferences and the conferences Europe in a globalized world

Dear former participant of the above mentioned conferences which were organized by PCCA,

we write this letter to you in order to encourage you to become a supporting member of PCCA.

“We” are  a group of already existing supporting members of PCCA, who are convinced that the work done by PCCA and during their conferences is a necessity to be done constantly. We find this particularly important under the current circumstances,where democracy is being tested and put into question in many parts of the world.

We understand PCCA conferences in the sense of the Tavistock method of group relations work as an extremely valuable possibility to become aware of, examine, and work through half-conscious and unconscious conflicts in groups, that are in a way existential and thus may lead to heavy splitting and hateful controversies or even ruptures among groups, societies and nations. We are aware that these dynamics have roots in the past of all of us and weigh heavily through the existential aspect for all of us.

As you have yourself experienced this work, we thought that you might be interested inbecoming a supporter yourself.

What does it mean to become a supporter?

It means first of all, being somebody who is convinced of the value of PCCA’s conference work and being able to imagine becoming active in spreading information about it, or maybe work scientifically on it, or take the information into organisations that might need consultation, report on PCCA conferences– certainly there could be other ideas still…

Last but not least, it also means receiving a 5% reduction on the next conference fees. Though of course, if you would like to show your support by means of financial contributions or donations, this is very welcome, too.

Please let us know what you think, and feel free to get in touch with us!

All the best

Ekkehard Rähmer (dr.eraehmer@t-online.de) and Bettina Jesberg (tjesberg@t-online.de)

An enactment of discrimination against people with disabilities

Accompanying a Special Exhibition – Registered, persecuted, annihilated: The Sick and Disabled under National Socialism, the Jewish Holocaust Centre of Melbourne, convened a workshop on the 9th December 2018 on the theme “Registered, Persecuted, Annihilated: The legacy of the Nazi persecution of people with disabilities”.

This theme corresponded well with the title of the 2019 PCCA Conference, ‘80 Years Later, will history repeat itself? The fallout of the Holocaust over those affected: looking back, moving forward’.

Nine panellists offered their thoughts on this topic, ranging across psychiatry, equity law, disability policy, developmental disability and other areas.

The role I was invited to take up was as discussant, drawing together the threads and themes of all the presentations.

A very powerful incident occurred – an enactment really. Despite the benevolence which characterised the event, provision had not been made for a key speaker – an academic in a wheel-chair, with severe physical disabilities – to get up onto the small podium.  The organisers and the audience of ‘bystanders” – all with goodwill – seemed unable to repair the situation and ended up leaving her presenting at floor level, with no table to hold her papers and struggling simultaneously to manage a hand-held microphone.

An atmosphere of anxiety prevailed but she was left floundering and trying to make her presentation. When, at the end, I offered my observations about the whole workshop I decided to take a risk and, focussing on this incident, to make an interpretation about what had happened.

I thought this was a powerful piece of evidence about unconscious group dynamics related to the topic of persecution of or discrimination against people with disabilities. I decided to make this interpretation in my discussion and the audience was somewhat shocked – and confronted – to discover this dynamic and particularly, how they had unconsciously been complicit in and guilty of creating and sustaining an experience of discrimination: even – or especially – as bystanders whose passivity maintained the discrimination.

While it was not immediately clear how my comment affected the audience beyond this, a number of people did approach me to thank me afterwards – suggesting that they had appreciated their part in the group dynamic. Of note were the inquiries a few people made about the 2019 PCCA conference.

It was a powerful learning moment and one which emerged particularly from my appreciation and understanding of group dynamics. This is the kind of discovery, realisation and enlightenment that can be made accessible through learning from group relations conferences. The forthcoming 2019 PCCA conference is one such opportunity. These experiences can help members of groups to reflect on and manage their feelings and actions.

Dr Allan Shafer

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist & Socioanalyst, Melbourne.

By |2019-03-19T14:34:12+00:00March 19th, 2019|Categories: All Articles, Newletters, Newsletter 2019|0 Comments

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