Resumée of my impressions participating at The 9th conference in Group Analysis: "The Identity of the Group Analyst”.
Heribert Knott, Stuttgart
Preliminary remark It was a great pleasure to be invited at the 9th conference, St. Petersburg. The hospitality made it easy to get to know the way you deal group analytically. The diversity of people stemming from different parts of Russia and the former sovjet republics reminded me to my home institute, SGAZ in Zürich, where participants come from all over the German speaking countries. In this summary of my experience, of my view I do not describe the different presentations or enter in special details. However, I try to find the group dynamic as perceived by myself. As I knew next to nothing regarding the up-to-now development of the OGRA institute it may be useful for the institute to hear the view of an outsider colleague. In this respect my experience as a participant of the Zürich institute (SGAZ) experiencing 30 years ago a similar development seems to be useful as well. In Zürich the topic of identity is very particular, as the Swiss culture is different from any other European country like Germany or the UK. Swiss people and Swiss organizations are as they call it "basic democratic”. That means all decisions are done by the people, that is the general assembly of all the SGAZ members including the trainees. As a general, this culture makes it very difficult to decide any question, especially any question of identity. So, the question of identity has been very difficult for the colleagues from Switzerland, Austria, and Germany all trained by British group analysts travelling to Zürich from abroad. For the British it has been difficult as well, as their culture of Empire got in conflict with the basic democratic Swiss culture. In particular the British could hardly bear that they were not the "head” of any decision. However, a conference like in St. Petersburg was never done in Zürich. It would have been very useful for SGAZ to have had a conference like this one in St. Petersburg. – In Zürich/SGAZ questions of identity are dealt with high respect: on the one hand Swiss colleague admire the British group analytic tradition, on the other hand Swiss colleagues cannot accept any empire. So, especially questions of the vicissitudes of setting are dealt with high respect. They are decided not by a leader but by a very carefully controlled committee. Those questions use to be decided in detail long way before the conference takes place.
The conference "The Identity of the Group Analyst” As this conference has been planned by the institute OGRA in order to make a further step forward to establish its own identity the program was very useful to fulfill this purpose. Starting by the discussion movie with colleagues who experienced S.H. Foulkes personally was a very good introduction. The theoretical papers (as far as I could attend the conference) gave a strong support to deepen the overall theme. The technical problems during the performance of the Foulkes-discussion-movie could be seen group dynamically (from my Swiss socialized point of view) as an unconscious mise-en-scène of the difficulties of being a Foulkes-follower on the one hand and finding an individual style on the other hand. Group dynamically I experienced myself as a child, a child that has to learn about its family. I listened to a family that was to be left by its parents. The British colleagues told that they experienced themselves as parents leaving their children alone, the children being latchkey kids now. I do not really know how the Russians experienced themselves. In Zürich the British training colleagues are treated like staff members, employees, workers being on the payroll of the institute. They are not perceived as parents – except maybe in the self experience group due to the transference of the (small) group during the training. So, maybe this is a cultural difference between the St. Petersburg and the Zürich tradition. But on top of my St. Petersburg observation, I had a similar impression two weeks ago in Moscow attending the conference of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis together with the Moscow IPA institute. At this conference, the Russian colleagues acted like pupils or students, students performing good learning results as dedicated followers rather than being researcher, researcher on the unconscious of the relationship between themselves and the teachers, all being adult people. The interrelatedness being learning and at the same time being an experienced person was not pronouncedly problematized. Compared to this event the group analytic conference participants made me feel more at ease, more like a colleague, less like a student. As mentioned I felt like a colleague who could learn about the prevalent group dynamics in this new environment. I hope my reflections can be useful to digest the very touching experience of the conference. I look forward to deepen the contact with the St. Petersburg institute.