Minutes in‭: ‬Learning from experience in the presence of the other‭-‬ Opportunities and obstacles

Minutes in‭: ‬Learning from experience in the presence of the other‭-‬

Opportunities and obstacles

80‭ ‬years later‭- ‬will history repeat itself‭? ‬PCCA 2019‭ ‬Conference‭ ‬

Our airplane lands in Larnaca airport after a short flight from Israel‭. ‬Four people‭, ‬all of us psychoanalysts‭, ‬were on that Wednesday morning flight‭. ‬Three women and one man‭. ‬One couple‭. ‬For the three of us‭, ‬it was the third time participating in a PCCA conference‭. ‬For one woman‭, ‬it was the first time‭. ‬The local driver waited for us in an almost empty hall‭. ‬He was very enthusiastic‭ ‬in doing his job‭. ‬The conference organizers took care ahead of time for the transportation to the hotel‭. ‬It was a long trip to‭ ‬the mountains‭. ‬

This nice hotel in Platres village surrounded by old pine is very proud of historical visits‭. ‬Two more participants joined us in‭ ‬the airport‭. ‬It was easy to meet‭, ‬as there were few people in the hall‭. ‬The woman was a psychoanalyst from Brussels‭. ‬A Jew‭. ‬The‭ ‬man was a German Psychoanalyst‭. ‬For her‭, ‬it was the first conference‭. ‬He did not miss any of the 12‭ ‬conferences since the beginning‭. ‬

Even though there was a lot of room in the minibus‭, ‬it felt we are pressed together‭. ‬There was no room for legs‭. ‬Bad ergonomics‭?‬‭ ‬Something else‭?     ‬The driver took the role of a leader‭. ‬Following our request‭, ‬we stopped for a coffee break at a local coffee shop near a fruit market‭. ‬We bought some grapes‭, ‬dates plums and set together for drinking a local black coffee‭ (‬Cyprus coffee‭, ‬not Turkish coffee‭).‬


What is your name‭? ‬I asked the German colleague‭.‬

Josef‭. ‬He answered‭. ‬However‭, ‬you can call me Richard‭. ‬Some people find it easier to call me Richard‭. ‬It is fine with me‭.‬

Josef‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬Josef Mengele‮…‬‭.‬Josef Breuer‮…‬I think for myself‭. ‬The Nazi Doctor from Auschwitz or the physician who worked with Freud‮…‬‭ ‬Richard is a name for a British king‭.‬

A flash of a memory‭: ‬I remember this person‭! ‬We had met in the past‭. ‬This man is having a big issue with Nazism‭. ‬He is a tall person with blue eyes‭. ‬A very typical Ari Type‭, ‬I think to myself‭.               

The parents of the two women who came for the first time are Holocaust survivals‭. ‬They survived the Nazi concentration camps‭. ‬Josef’s mother was an active Nazi party member‭. ‬

We talk about coffee and fruits‭.‬


What kind of learning are we going to do in the conference‭? ‬Are we going to repeat ourselves‭, ‬coming here for the third time‭? ‬


The closing plenary‭. ‬Six working days later‭, ‬the end of the conference‭.‬

An Israeli participant is telling us that his family emigrated from a Middle East country to Israel‭. ‬He does not know of a family connection to the atrocities in Europe during the war‭: ” ‬I was afraid to come to this kind of conference‭, ‬but after I listened‭ ‬to the German members‭’ ‬suffering and coming‭  ‬to know them personally‭ – ‬I now can forgive you‭’.             

Whom do we forgive‭? ‬Why do we forgive‭?  

I Felt uneasy‭. ‬Is this a good reason to come here‭? ‬For me‭, ‬this statement of forgiveness represents the obstacles we could meet‭ ‬in learning from experience‭, ‬sharing the same environment‭; ‬expose ourselves to the suffering of the other‭.  ‬The enemy‭? ‬


The work in the small study group started by an Israeli woman‭. ‬She came a day before the conference started‭. ‬She is an artist‭. “‬I saw a cockroach in my hotel room‭. ‬I was thinking about how to respond‭. ‬Usually I have a hysteric reaction‭. ‬Will I kill it‭? ‬Should I call the room service‭?‬

I decided to befriend with it‭. ‬to share my room with it‭”. ‬

Josef was also a member in my small study group‭. ‬The artist is approaching him‭. ‬She is interested to hear his story‭. ‬He complies‭. ‬His mother used to be a young senior secretary‭, ‬in the SS special staff during WWII‭. ‬A very active enthusiastic member in the‭ ‬Nazi party‭. ‬As a child he admired her‭. ‬He shares with us a memory from his childhood‭: ‬he was not allowed to play with some kids‭ ‬in the neighborhood because they were not‭ “‬cultured enough‭”. “‬I like to belong to an upper class‭. ‬I like group work‭, ‬as we do here‭. ‬I am a proud active member in a party who believe we had better keep our boundaries close for immigrants‭”.‬

The other German participants in the group are furious‭. ‬They want to dissociate from him‭.‬


I am sharing my review and application group with the artist woman‭.  ‬We are all Israelis in this group‭. ‬She is proud of herself‭.‬‭ ‬For the first time in her life she is listening to someone who does not belong to her milieu‭. ‬Someone whom she would not talk to in any other circumstances‭. ‬She came from an aristocratic family in Tel Aviv‭. ‬In our RAG group‭, ‬there is another woman‭. ‬She knows the artist‭. ‬A single child to holocaust survivors from a poor family‭, ‬always felt to belong to an inferior class‭. ‬She remembers herself admiring the artist family‭. ‬

The artist repeats her‭ ‘‬cockroach story‭’, ‬she mentions Kafka’s story‭: ‬Metamorphosis‭. ‬

A man from our Israeli RAG group says‭: ‬I understand I have to strengthen myself‭. ‬I hope I could stand by myself‭- ‬without a party‭ ‬or theory to support me‭.                             

Did Josef help us to befriend the cockroach parts of ourselves‭? ‬Do we understand better the world we live in‭?‬

What did Josef take from the group‭? ‬Josef likes group work‭ – ‬Josef likes his party very much‭. ‬He needs to belong to the party‭. ‬He needs the group to reinforce himself‭. ‬


‭ ‬

Every day starts with a Social Dreaming Matrix‭. ‬Staff and members are invited to attend the matrix‭. ‬One morning a member shared‭ ‬a story about a present he got from his brother‭. ‬The brother gave him three fancy knives their father left him‭. ‬It was the father’s legacy‭. ‬On one of them he found a swastika engraved on it‭. ‬He was very excited to get the knives but could not decide what to do with the swastika‭: ‬should he blur it‭? ‬Someone else in the room is talking about admiring power‭. ‬A third man is sharing a secret meeting he had with his neighbor‭. ‬She showed him a box she hides opened in it a picture of Hitler petting her father’s head‭. ‬He was a little child‭. ‬The man was very excited telling his wife the story‭. ‬His wife thought he was very confused‭, ‬admiring the power of a leader‭. ‬This man is a Muslim living in Germany‭. ‬

Are you confused‭? ‬So am I‭. ‬Is it dangerous to live near a neighbor who secretly admires Hitler‭?  ‬How easy is it to identify with‭ ‬the Other when you get close to him‭.