Rezension zu Fed with Tears - Poisoned with Milk

Metapsychology book review

Rezension von E. James Liebermann

This small but powerful book relates the story and outcome of the Group Relations Conferences (GIC) of German and Israeli psychoanalysts and psychotherapists who met to confront issues shared by descendants of both victims and perpetrators of the Holocaust. There were four GICs, mostly in English, between 1994 and 2000.
The GIC structure follows the well-known Tavistock group relations model, combining psychoanalytic ideas with systems theory. The authors are supervising and training analysts, the first two from Israel, the third from Germany. The book has many contributors, including 16 of the 65 German and 6 of the 32 Israeli participants. They express themselves vividly at different stages of the working group in a »collage«. Those who contribute had in common a positive experience, albeit with some criticism and disappointment. This book is a collage, reporting experiences, ideas and feelings of participants in a »collage«.

»This is my little victory over what happened there. Destruction does not win in a place where people fight to find the human in the other, and who can be more ›other‹ than Germans and Jews.« (Yoram Hazan, p. 54.)
»... the Israeli members had a clear and strong sense of identity, which gave them a vitality in communicating who they were, what they were and their strong loyalty with their parents/grandparents and families as victims which the Germans in the group lacked. (Most) Germans seemed unable to find a narrative about who they were, who their parents were, how they lived, felt, thought ... I felt this acutely myself, and it is a typical feeling I have as a German meeting others in the international community.« (Hella Ehlers, p. 61).

In this group project there were, of course, differences within as well as between groups. Unlike therapy, the group provided an »other« who is not neutral, but »the actual counterpart of ones suffering and pain and one’s burden of guilt and shame.« Working through is not done »with« the other but »in the presence of the other,« and in the here-and-now. (p. 176). A problematic part of the German identity is that of guilty perpetrator; for the Israeli it is that of outsider victim. In the process of identity transformation those inherited burdens proved painfully hard to give up. Therapists know that change means taking risks, e.g., better the devil you know ...

There is resistance to all learning that involves change, and that very resistance may be a portal to the unconscious. Here the fear of betrayal loomed large. Risking ties to clan or culture is dangerous. The conferences open a path to constructive engagement where sustained intergroup hostility blocks the way. Dialogue cannot suffice and may trivialize the real conflict. In this experiment the goal was not »talking things out,« but acting and experiencing in the presence of the other.
Like strong medicine, this concentrated work is best taken in small doses, making the collage more palatable. To their great credit the organizers and staff met these challenges well: the groups continued - with some changes of membership - and a vital experience emerged, captured here in a publication probably unique in group dynamics, applied psychoanalysis and Holocaust studies.

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