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Reiniger, I. (2016). A German Dilemma: Challenging Experiences at a Tavistock Conference in Poland: Part One: Introduction, Background, and Experiences. Organ. Soc. Dyn., 16(2):215-232.

(2016). Organizational and Social Dynamics, 16(2):215-232

A German Dilemma: Challenging Experiences at a Tavistock Conference in Poland: Part One: Introduction, Background, and Experiences

Isabelle Reiniger

“Forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past.”

Love Waits On Welcome … and Other Miracles,

Corinne Edwards after Jerry Jampolsky, 1994, p. 85


When the group asked Silke (names have been changed to protect confidentiality) about her headache and why she might be feeling tired and bored, she turned to me and said in her German accent, “I am tired of your shit!” And to Thorsten, the only man in the group, she uttered “And your shit as well! You both talk too much and I can't connect to it emotionally.” But to Bina, an Israeli who was also an active talker, she added: “Now you, I can relate to, so it is different!”

This and similarly charged moments occurred during a group relations conference I attended in 2014, which aroused upsetting feelings in me while also teaching me about group dynamics. In this paper, I examine these events more closely in an attempt to understand what was happening within me and within the various groups I participated in.

The conference, held in Poland, was titled “European Victims and Perpetrators, Now and Then.” Partners in Confronting Collective Atrocities (PCCA), a group formed by German and Israeli psychoanalysts in the early 1990s (Erlich et al., 2009), organised the conference. PCCA uses the Tavistock group relations model developed by Bion, Lewin, Rice, and others (Hayden & Molenkamp, 2004) to explore how feelings and projections rooted in the past can affect the present. The staff was comprised of psychoanalysts and/or organisational consultants trained in the group relations model and included names familiar among the global “tribe” of Tavistock consultants.

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