Berlin was the setting for a symposium organised by the International Group Analytic Society (IGAS.) Over 600 people from 40 plus countries attended. This was my first time in Berlin, a place I had wanted to visit for a long time. When I saw the symposium was going to be based there, it made the event a “must do.”
As I had only recently returned from living in South Africa, it also created an opportunity to meet with colleagues from Johannesburg and Cape Town. The food and restaurants in Berlin are excellent, making the trip an enjoyable occasion, despite working from 8am to 8pm every day, attending events and running a small group each day as part of the programme.
The daily keynote speaker set the tone and topic for the day’s work. After the keynote speeches, everyone dispersed to events and seminars to digest and explore the topic of ‘Crossing Borders’ with all the relevant and multiple meanings of such a topic.
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Before lunch, small groups assembled to freely associate with the work of the morning and previous day’s work, making connection to the emotional and dynamic aspects of the experience. The experiential is central to understanding the impact of the material presented and its resonance for each individual attending the conference.
In groups, we focus on the individual in a matrix, a nodal point in a complex web of interactions. These can be present in the moment or contained within our cultural, social and family history, whereby patterns of relating are reenacted in the present. These patterns of relating are developed as a means of adapting to the environment; they may link to early trauma such as experiences of war or social exclusion or the multiple small traumas during childhood. It is the work of the members of the group and the group conductor to use the group time to search for meaning within the narrative of the group. The group is conducted in a process of un-layering through mirroring, transference, and parallel process towards transformation. It is through this process that change comes about.
It is all very well reading, studying and writing papers, but the business of the work is to connect and to be in relationship with the experience. This often involves getting in touch with painful memories of loss, suffering, loneliness and isolation. It is important to connect to the experience of early separation from parental care giving, reliving those moments of joy and connectedness with others.
Dorothea Beech is a UKCP-registered Group Analyst, full member of the Institute of Group Analysis and a Training Group Analyst.