The 14th Meeting

The 14th Meeting

Berlin, Germany - December 02 2016 - December 04 2016

The Fourteenth Meeting of the International Dialogue Initiative (IDI) was held in Berlin from December 2 to December 4, 2016.  The IDI was hosted in the Kreuzberg neighbourhood by BAU International Berlin, a campus of the Bahçeşehir University Global Network.  The IDI has previously been hosted at Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul.  This was the IDI’s first meeting in Berlin.  It took place shortly before the tragedy at the Christmas Market near the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

The IDI’s 14th Meeting occurred at a time of deep international anxiety, shortly after the Brexit vote in Great Britain, the coup attempt in Turkey and the United States presidential election won by Donald Trump.  Members devoted considerable time to each of these developments and their significance in context.  The group also took up the issues of psychological attributes of refugees and asylum seekers, current prospects for dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians and the rise of populism, nationalism and totalitarianism in world politics, among other topics.  The IDI hosted several presenters and observers, as well as two Volkan Scholars.

The following report includes discussion themes, key observations and some process moments.  

REPORT

Day One

  • Introductions

The IDI began its Fourteenth Meeting in its customary form, with members updating each other on their personal and professional activities over the preceding months.  Members discussed conflict interventions, conferences and professional activities, both past and upcoming.  A total of nineteen members were present, including new IDI member Donna M. Elmendorf, an American psychologist practicing at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  One member was unable to attend.

The IDI was joined at its Fourteenth Meeting by Stephan Alder and Omar Shehabi.  Dr. Alder is a German psychoanalyst, group analyst and psychiatrist working in private practice in Potsdam.  Mr. Shehabi is a Palestinian-American attorney and current legal advisor to the UNDP Palestinian Negotiations Support Program.  Dr. Alder and Mr. Shehabi attended the meeting as the first Volkan Scholars, an award that recognizes work in the area of the psychological study of societal conflict and introduces the IDI’s work to those practitioners.  Volkan Scholars attend an IDI meeting, all expenses paid, present their current projects, consult with the group and have the IDI network available to them for their continued work.

  • Opening Thoughts on World Dynamics

Day One continued with a round of discussion on world affairs post-Brexit and after the election of Donald Trump.  One member began by offering a quote from the playwright Arthur Miller: “An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted.”  He thus introduced into the discussion the concept of illusion, which is also a psychoanalytic concept having to do with how a person maintains a sense of agency and hopefulness while trying to integrate disparate inner and outer realities.  To this member and to others, the concern was that an era of liberal democratic progress was faltering and an era of nationalism, illiberal democracies and authoritarianism was dawning.  This sense was echoed by many members, but left us with the question of the nature of the illusions that might now be exhausted?

Another member spoke of Turkey’s “importing problems” from both Europe and the Middle East, problems that fostered an atmosphere in which a powerful leader could amass even more power.  Another member wondered where the Palestinian issue resided, both for her and for the world; a complete stalemate at the local level and a series of eclipsing global events seemed to augur a period of unproductive and (ironically) unstable stasis.  Other members lamented “a troubling year at every level,” the result of an EU going badly for a long time and a Western progressive desire to see a fantasy version of the world rather than the more complicated reality.  Brexit could be understood, as both an event and a metaphor, as both the destruction of the EU project and an effort to survive that project.  Progress would depend on the ability to address the world as it is rather than as we wish it to be.

A member spoke of what he described as “the humanization of political life” in Russia, ironically in a context where people feel they are living without a state, or at least one that relates to the people in any way other than providing a form of security.  From this member’s point of view, liberal politics has failed to take into account the psychology of real people.  Such failure notwithstanding, this member spoke of a “return to ethics” in Russian life, with ethics standing as a bulwark against political corruption and broader moral corrosion.

Another member spoke of the “annihilation anxiety” she felt in both Israeli and global politics and the seductive power of such anxieties – especially among populations who feel left out of the process.  Their desire to belong – and not to be humiliated and treated as expendable – can lead them, especially under certain kinds of leadership, to embrace self-righteousness and aggression.  Another member observed the incorporation of the media into a distrusted “establishment” in his country and the perceived failure of international and national institutions to solve the big problems.  From his perspective, a politics of fear is deployed for political purposes, but also the fear is real, not only at the economic level but also at the cultural one.  People want to hand over to their children the culture and values that meant so much to them.  One “illusion” that may have been at least challenged in recent events is that a progressive agenda about “rights” may have failed to take into account the depth of this cultural dimension.  A recent book by Dr. Volkan is titled Gods Don’t Negotiate.  The title may capture the “fundamentalisms” on both sides that close off what one member called the space and time to “digest” major change.

Speaking about the situation in the United States, a member wondered about the vast parts of the country feeling “left behind” by the coasts and suggested that “damaged narcissism” – leading to a demand for recognition and respect sometimes at the expense of others – was at play in the presidential election, and indeed in other parts of the world.  Mr. Trump famously claimed that “Only I” can solve the country’s problems, and Mr. Erdogan has said that “I am the shepherd” of his country.  Leaders of many countries today can be seen as trying to deal with their people’s injured narcissism or devalued sense of self by mirroring a restorative image of their greatness.   In this effort, insult is not to be tolerated; hence the shocking – to Western ears – effort to de-legitimize and punish criticism, something that the U.S. President-Elect is now doing.  Complicating this kind of leadership further, especially in the U.S., is the dimension of celebrity, in a sense the construction of what might be called an “imaginary order”, in which objective facts matter less than emotional ones.  President Obama’s appeal to ideals held within the American identity – “That’s not who we are!” – may feel like a luxury to those many people who feel both damaged and disrespected by national and world dynamics.

The other leadership theme in the discussion had to do with situations, for example, in Palestine among a number of other places, where leadership is felt to have no relationship whatsoever to the led, creating a sense of “alienation, inertia and no renewal” at all.  Something similar seems to be going on in relation to large institutions and corporations who are felt to control the destiny of so many people.  These entities are not only distant from people but are so often described as “faceless,” a dimension that has developmental resonance.  The shift in power dynamics we are witnessing could be described as from faceless managers to mirroring leaders.   

In response to this, people are, as one member put it, “pulling up the drawbridge,” prioritizing boundaries over connection.  The U.S. election, as with the 9/11 World Trade Center bombings, is another moment of “Welcome to the world” for the U.S.  Another “illusion” potentially exhausted is that of “American exceptionalism”, as the U.S. finds itself no longer immune to the same rage and disillusionment manifested widely in the rest of the world.  Understanding this disillusionment may require acknowledging that it is in reality already here, and acknowledging as well the systemic erosion of foundations many people have felt for generations to be meaningful, “the roots of our humanity,” located in religious, cultural and social institutions.

  • The Trialogue Conference

After a short break, members heard from Volkan Scholar Stephan Alder, who discussed his work in group dynamics at a May 2015 conference of German, Ukrainian and Russian participants, work he described as a “trialogue.”  Dr. Alder, whose own family had been divided by the partitioning of Berlin and who had been compelled to learn Russian as a young man, approached this work from a deeply personal place.  He described participants at his conference realizing that their grandparents might have fought against each other, indeed might have killed each other, a realization that, surprisingly, created a deep bond between the participants.  He described members working through waves of fear and shame, of one German woman, raped by a Russian in 1945, describing the event to a Russian participant, whose intense shame for this historical act manifested as a near inability to speak.  

Did the conference succeed in its transgenerational task of changing its participants’ inner landscapes and interrelatedness with the “other”?  Dr. Alder described the Russian participant’s ability to tolerate the displaced humiliation and how participants were able to move beyond the shame of the historical act and process it within the secure framework of the conference’s large group.   Dr. Alder’s work led him, and other IDI members, to ask where other “secure frameworks” might exist.  What other structures could hold the emotional, psychological and/or transgenerational work undertaken by the participants?  One member brought the question to another level: How do we transfer the powerful healing work of a conference like this to the wider world?  This became a theme in the meeting: can essentially clinical intervention have a broader effect?  How does it relate to the political arena?

Another theme was how one generation can take on an identification in place of learning the actual stories of their forebears, and how, conversely, parents can “bury” their histories inside their children (in the process of naming, for example, as had been illustrated in one of Dr. Alder’s vignettes), thereby leading to the unintentional or at least unconscious transmission of trauma.  In this way, children may live out their parents’ unacknowledged histories without fully understanding why.  Discovering those histories risks a kind of betrayal or disloyalty to the parents, but it also may free the next generation to develop better relations with others, especially with those formerly considered to be the “other.”  Dr. Alder joined this observation, noting the projective need for an “other” as a representation of one’s own unacknowledged inner landscape.  This kind of dialogue, among other things, brings people in contact with aspects of themselves formerly unrealized, leading to a more whole sense of self.

  • Mental Health Issues for Refugees in Germany

After a break for lunch, which saw members tracing the nearby path of the former Berlin Wall, IDI members Regine Scholz and Vamik Volkan, respectively, moderated discussions following presentations by two invited guests – psychotherapist Elise Bittenbinder, Chair of the European Network of Rehabilitation Centres for Survivors of Torture and Berlin psychoanalyst Annette Streeck-Fischer.

Dr. Bittenbinder presented on mental health issues among refugees and asylum seekers, especially those arriving in Germany from Syria and Iraq.  She noted that refugees often present with three distinct trauma events – the underlying conditions giving rise to the need for migration, traumas associated with the process of migration, and insecurity/destabilization experienced upon relocation.  She described the demographics of recent waves of migrants, their immediate needs for security and stabilization, and the horror stories those migrants are able to share only after some form of stabilization.  She described the physical and emotional exhaustion displayed by migrants and their fears of rejection.  The treatment approach she and her group take does not focus narrowly on trauma, but invites a broader understanding of the traumatic contexts, both past and present.  One IDI member spoke of a recent conference on trauma, which emphasized that testimony, given the right relational context, could be seen as a form of therapy.

Other IDI members noted that these traumatized first-generation migrants enter situations in which they may feel tantalized by the promise of being invited into a new life, and then betrayed when, for various reasons, this does not come to pass.  For example, former qualifications, such as medical licenses or professional credentials, which might assist such migrants in stabilization, are often not recognized in the host country, leading to loss of role, poverty and shame.  Often it is the second generation of migrants who take up the mantle of violence, in part as a response to their parents’ humiliation.  Dr. Bittenbinder noted that the application process for asylum could take up to eight years, during which the applicants languish in instability.  In a bitter irony, those refugees approved for asylum after the application process often break down when presented with the breadth of post-asylum freedoms.  

One member suggested that the structure of the bureaucracy that manages refugee needs might, in analytic terms, be communicating an accepting maternal yes (One German newspaper put Angela Merkel in a veil and called her Mother Angela) and a boundary-establishing paternal no, simultaneously generating feelings of confusion, entitlement and restriction in refugees.  Another member, reflecting on the sense of “walls going up across Europe,” posited that issues of cultural congruence – both real and imagined on both sides – if not appreciated and addressed, might have unanticipated consequences that might compromise successful treatment and integration of refugees.  An example might be the New Year’s Eve “sexual groping” by young refugee men of young German women in Cologne.    While this did occur to a lesser degree than reported, the refugee men were encouraged to do this by a local gang, hoping to use it as a cover for picking the pockets of revellers.  Yet the event fed into a larger narrative about refugees and changed the mood of the country significantly.  Finally, an IDI member asked whether there was such a thing as an “ex-refugee,” or whether the status of refugee was one that, at least psychologically, stayed with the individual forever, with the next generation forced to somehow transcend this status.

Dr. Annette Streeck-Fischer, a Berlin psychoanalyst who also studies and works with refugees, delivered a presentation focusing on various types of childhood trauma she witnessed among refugee children and the psychological connection between individual and group dynamics.  Dr. Volkan made introductory remarks highlighting the importance of understanding the “border psychology” of the host country, its historically-derived images and feelings about its boundaries.  He too mentioned that trauma includes the internal world of the refugee, the troubled world they are leaving behind, and the nature of the world they are entering.

Dr. Streeck-Fischer noted that adolescent refugees are engaged in a “double” journey, the actual refugee transition and a developmental transition.  She described how the old or the new country can be seen as either all good or all bad, which wards off the grief they might otherwise feel and the mourning essential to moving forward.  Related to this, she described the “ancestors’ curse” and “deposited identifications” through which the adolescent lives out an ancestral history they are unaware of.   Members discussed the potentially useful treatment implications of this latter dynamic as well as the way that, for adolescents, ideology, often a militant ideology, can “fill gaps” between an adolescent’s disillusionment with his parents and uncertainty/depression about his own future prospects.  One member put this in terms of the inclination to embrace a “negative identity,” rather than to face being an unaccepted nobody in the new country.  Other members asked about the relation between group pathology and individual treatment, and how we might understand children and adolescents as messengers (from the ancestral or home group) as well as individual patients with their own troubles.

Dr. Streek-Fischer noted that she often heard refugee parents remarking to their children, “I want you to live for me.”  This can be a complicated message if the children, especially as adolescents forging their own identity, feel they may not live for themselves but must carry out something for their parents.  An IDI member noted that the capacity to differentiate between “me” and “not me” was a developmental milestone, which could be lost.  Failing to achieve such a milestone individually and collectively can lead to a psychological need to defensively strengthen boundaries between self and an “other” seen as alien, both for the disturbed individual and the disturbed society.  A member observed this phenomenon in Russia, “a state full of its historical memory, where past is present, where the state is the civilization.”

The question of boundaries led to a brief discussion about the Berlin Wall, which, for all of the trauma associated with it, also naturally led to a psychological splitting of good and bad, the other side being always available as the “other” into whom all negatives – and sometimes all positives – could be projected.  When the Wall came down, there was a difficult societal phase of “identity diffusion” – who are we now, who are they now, what is real about ourselves and about them? – to be worked through.  A more invisible wall exists between many refugee groups and their host country, with many refugees wanting to live in the freedom of the host country but, for various reasons including complications of mourning, not wanting to or having the ability to join it.

Day Two

  • Brexit and the U.S. Election

Day Two began with opening comments by IDI member John Alderdice, framing a discussion about Brexit and the U.S. presidential elections.  The IDI was joined for Day Two by four observers who had expressed interest in the IDI’s work.  These observers included: Anna Zajenkowska, an adjunct professor at the Institute of Applied Psychology, Maria Grzegorzewska University, Warsaw; Angar Verma and Mirjam Blumenthal, lawyers and doctoral candidates at the Institute for International Peace and Security Law, University of Cologne; and Sasha Pusenkoff, a recently graduated psychologist living in Germany.

Lord Alderdice began the discussion of Brexit and the U.S. presidential elections by asking how the IDI, in light of its purpose and development, could make a contribution towards resolving societal conflict.  He noted that the IDI was formed to promote dialogue with “the other,” and asked where in the group “the other” was located.  If the IDI is to make a contribution, it must re-engage with “the other,” both inside and outside of the group.

Failing to anticipate Brexit, Lord Alderdice said, was in part a failure to pay attention.  The U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) had been growing for years, while the governing Labour Party was being run by people with very little connection to the “labour” movement and the citizens who belonged to it.  Dams, he said, do not burst gradually.  Pressure builds gradually but the burst comes all at once.  In Britain, most established institutions – churches, business leaders, government organizations – urged a vote to remain with the EU, but the citizens who voted, voted to leave.  Some of those citizens were working class white men, whose masculine identity – especially whose identity as being able to make things – has been steadily eroded for many years  We are not at the edge of something, Lord Alderdice said, but rather already in it.  Given certain characteristic of this process and its world-wide breadth, he wondered if this is what it felt like in 1939 or in 1915?  We are seeing a breakdown of norms and of institutions, a shift in the entire structure of global governance, not fully attributable to the growth of communication through technology, since a similar phenomenon occurred in Europe in 1848.

One IDI member noted that an economic model of globalization was failing and a return to nationalist economies was ascendant.  Another noted that the growing multi-polarity of the world represented a stark change from both Cold War and post-Cold War frameworks.  A third noted that the Brexit/Trump phenomena reflected a disaffection with political elites – Trump representing a promise to “break” something, whereas Clinton a promise to maintain something.  Voters opted for the candidate offering “leadership” in the form of sweeping and potentially reckless action, and for the promise to break a system felt to be out of touch, aloof, unjust and profoundly unrepresentative.  The degree to which liberal forces may bear responsibility for the erosion of containing systems – e.g., of church and community – was an ironic and, for some, difficult to accept theme.

An IDI member closed the discussion by remarking that, as a citizen of a country that had faced its own demagoguery in the past and would have descended into civil war were it not for a stabilizing form of a strong regional government, there was indeed reason for concern.  This member saw no obvious stabilizing structure at hand.  As post-war citizens, this member lamented, it might be hard to remember what people can do to other people.

  • The Recent Coup Attempt in Turkey

After a short break, IDI member Deniz Ulke Aribogan moderated a discussion on the recent coup attempt in Turkey.  She reviewed five factors that, in recent history, predict successful coup attempts.   She noted divisions in Turkish society, similar to those in other contemporary societies, between urban and rural, and religious and secular.  The dynamics of the political situation in Turkey include sharply different perceptions of its two current adversaries: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AKP and the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.  The former is perceived as being a politician with religious beliefs whereas the latter is perceived as a cleric with political ambitions.  Thus, when the coup attempt occurred, the military resisted it, seeing it as an anti-democratic plot, and the population rallied to defend the government.  Indeed, within this anxious post-coup-attempt country, there is a strong wish for recognition from the President as a father figure and a corresponding fear of his disapproval.

One IDI member wondered about the potential a division between a nationalistic large-group identity and a religious large-group identity in Turkey.  Another noted that religion is a dangerous tool because one typically can’t argue with it or dispute its tenets.  Yet in the case of the coup attempt, the nationalist large-group identity may be seen as having prevailed.  Another IDI member remarked that when groups of people come under existential threat, the syntax of their thinking changes and makes complex thought more difficult.  They attach to sacred values, and any attempt to understand group thought under stress that fails to take into account such sacred values is doomed to failure.  This member looked for President Erdogan to unite nationalistic and Islamist/religious identities in order to consolidate power.  

As the conversation proceeded to include members personal experiences, different perceptions of the situation seemed to emerge, both between generations within the IDI’s membership and between genders.  We struggled with how to understand this.  We also noted that stories about important women had emerged, which perhaps paradoxically had to do with the power they exercised through their apparently powerless integrity.  An IDI member who had suffered at the hands of official power spoke about a “soul awakening” and the importance of governing oneself.

  • Israel and Palestine

After a break for lunch, IDI member Robi Friedman moderated a discussion following three short presentations on Israeli and Palestinian issues from IDI member Amb. (Ret.) Reuven Merhav, Volkan Scholar Omar Shehabi and himself.  Mr. Shehabi spoke from a legal perspective about current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and the lack of movement surrounding them.  International law, he said, remains Palestinians’ strongest hope for preserving a negotiated settlement.  Mr. Shehabi noted that President-Elect Trump’s narrative doesn’t include Palestinians and focuses instead on placating Israelis while simultaneously playing coy with white supremacists and American nationalists.  He noted that 10% of the Israeli population now live in settlements, making the settlement issue even more intractable.  He noted that Mr. Trump may seek to placate Israel by offering some sort of inducement, such as moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem (which is in fact what Mr. Trump’s nominee to the post of Ambassador to Israel proposed shortly after his nomination).  He also noted that hopes remain among Palestinians for action during President Obama’s lame duck period, and further noted that both Israelis and Palestinians would need the U.S. to broker and manage – to provide a stabilizing structure for – any Middle Eastern peace initiatives.

Dr. Friedman then presented on his work with large groups in conflict and the “Sandwich Model” structure he has used with success in these conferences.  He noted that while small groups naturally take on the dynamics of a family, large groups do not – “society,” he said, “comes in.”  He described a typical “Sandwich Model” conference as featuring an introduction, then a small-group session before a large group session, then another small group session, followed by a closing session.  He noted that the large group work in this model is the centerpiece and has the capacity to be transformative because, unlike the small group, it does not promise acceptance, but rather engages the larger society’s issues and requires meeting and learning about the “other”.

Ambassador Merhav then presented ideas about shared needs for resources that might incentivize cooperation and dialogue in the Middle East.  An obvious example is the shared need for water.  Could something like this become the basis for cooperation between current antagonists as well as more neutral others?  Amb. Merhav expressed optimism about the strength of Israel’s democracy and its commitment to peace in the Middle East.  He urged the IDI to continue to be hopeful and to take up specific tasks and projects to further its goal of learning about and intervening with societal conflict.

A robust discussion ensued around various aspects of these three presentations.  One IDI member opened up the possibility that Palestinians might drop the two-state solution and require Israel to acknowledge and provide for them as citizens.  The implications of this idea for Israel’s ability to be both a Jewish and a democratic state are enormous, even in the near-term.  Another suggested that failures at the Palestinian leadership level have enabled issues like ongoing settlement projects to erode the state to which Palestinians claim rights.  A third noted that while Israel has said it wants “political bilateral negotiations” toward peace, Israel has not acted in that direction, and Palestinian fragmentation has undermined the ability of Palestinians to present a unified position with which Israel might negotiate.

Another member noted a sort of time-collapse phenomenon within the discussion of Israeli-Palestinian issues: not so much a trauma-induced collapse of the present into the past, but a collapse of the future into the failed present.  It looks like the issue now is not “one” or “two” or even “state”; it’s “solution.”  In other words, Israel’s de facto policy seems to be a kind of endless temporizing, a limbo existence, which acts as if nothing will ever change. This denial creates a sense of “nothing”-ness in the Palestinian population, which we heard about in the meeting and which risks the danger that people will turn to violence as both an expression of despair and as an effort to feel alive.  We also noted the process within this session: three men of three different generations had presented three interesting but unintegrated ideas.  Certainly there were practical reasons for this: a lack of preparation time and the illness of a female colleague.  Nevertheless was this process further data about the generational and gender hypothesis noted earlier?

  • Iranian Elections and Russian Attitudes

After a break, the IDI closed Day Two with a discussion about the situation in Iran, especially as elections are on the horizon.  The key point had to do with a country’s core values and how the pace of change comes up against those values.  A country’s population, especially perhaps its less urban and educated segments, may feel left behind by the pace of change in other parts of the country and need both time and dialogic vehicles to “digest” what is happening.  Though we were talking about Iran, we could just as easily have been talking about the U.S. and a number of other countries.   

IDI members Sasha Obolonsky and Tolya Golubovsky continued on this theme with a statistical look at Russian and Turkish opinions on political and social issues.  Public opinion in the two countries varied significantly on a range of issues, depending on whether the State was seen as the guarantor of rights or of security.   The former supports democracy and the latter is vulnerable to authoritarian rule.

This session’s presentations prompted a discussion about the idea of rights and the difficulty of negotiating issues perceived as impacting rights.  It also touched on the distinction between the way people may think things ought to be and the way they actually are.  If the reasons for the latter are not engaged in a serious way, it’s less likely that the former can be accomplished.  To the degree that the claim of “rights” can’t be talked about because it is seen as a moral claim – which paradoxically may make this progressive movement a form of fundamentalism – the societal changes implied in those rights have no space to be “digested.”  Trump’s revelling in his political incorrectness may speak to a societal need, not necessarily to suppress rights – though that could be true too – but to be free to talk about the issues without condemnation.  

On a different theme, a member noted that polls and surveys were complicated instruments to interpret as they often present the status quo, rather than the potential for growth and change.  They were also susceptible to “semantic inflation”, the notion that words and concepts that mean something specific may accrue more emotional meanings as changes occur in the historical or material context.  Thus words like “hunger” and “democracy” have both an inflated fantasy meaning and a real material meaning, and bridging those two meanings is necessary for constructive dialogue.

Day Three

  • General Discussion and Review

On Day Three, the IDI gathered in a half-day session to discuss the work of the first two days and make plans for the future.  We struggled to process the degree of emotional disturbance (including troubling dreams) within the meeting itself, the sense that some of us were “sitting shiva” for a lost future and the way that that sense of loss may hamper our broader vision and understanding of what is happening worldwide.  We also struggled with what felt like our own identity disturbance, a “who are we now?” feeling about our methodology and attitudes.  Noah’s Ark emerged as a metaphor, which had to do with taking care of ourselves during the storm and continually sending out “doves” to see where our work might land; but that metaphor also implicitly referred to procreative pairings, the conflict-ridden absence of which was a theme in some of the discussions.  Another metaphor that emerged was the North Star.  What orients us now in our outside roles (for example, for some it was the Law), and what orients the IDI?  Members spoke with feeling about the importance of the IDI as a reflective space, as an experiential dialogue, as a sustaining source of hope, as a platform for ideas and real intervention, and as a hedge against narrow, “narcissistic” perspectives on world events.

Two other themes emerged in the first part of this discussion.  One had to do with the way that the societal regression we were seeing might be “psychotic” in nature.  Besides the anxiety-driven chaos implied by that term, “psychotic” might also describe a group’s inability to successfully carry out, and/or its disinterest in, the task of reality testing.  The notion of “post-truth” politics and the degree of willingness to believe dis-information support this hypothesis.  The second theme had to do with the German example of painfully but deliberately facing its past, building in structures for mourning and carrying the lessons of its history forward as it attempts to fashion a new identity as definitively not de-humanizing the “other.”  Interestingly, this last conversation led one member to realize his own failure of memory: specifically that in his home country the “other” had been of enormous help to his group in a recent crisis.

We also discussed the design of this meeting, its leadership and the inclusion of Volkan Scholars, presenters and observers, each of whom provided valuable substantive and process input but also represented a new factor, which needed to be incorporated within the group’s dialogue efforts.  Members discussed possible shared future engagements and how to continue communications with the individuals who attended the Berlin meeting.  One Volkan Scholar spoke of an “insight” he had during the meeting, which could be described as finding, with some heartbreak, the deep link between the cause and the personal relationships on which taking up the cause was based.  This led to a conversation about dignity, recognition and the pain their being ignored can bring.  We experienced this personal story – which came as a bookend to the personal story of our other Volkan Scholar at the beginning of the meeting – as a moving closing to a powerful meeting.

During the Day Three break, the IDI welcomed Mr. Enver Yücel, Founder and Chairman of BAU Global and Bahçeşehir Ugur Educational Institutions.  Mr. Yücel, one of Turkey’s leading educational experts, extended a warm welcome to the IDI and an invitation to affiliate with BAU Global in the future.  The IDI is grateful to Mr. Yücel and BAU Global for their hospitality and generosity.

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NEXT IDI MEETING:

The 15th Meeting of the IDI will take place at a time and location to be decided after Board consultation.