IPTAR: THE LJGOULD CENTER FOR SYSTEMS-PSYCHOANALYTIC STUDIES
Riding the Waves of a Changing World
A Facilitated Group Event
MARCH 16, 2017
IPTAR Conference Room
The Citizen Forum was an opportunity for group discussion and reflection on our roles as citizens of our interconnected, globalized world. While taking as our focal point the recent election and the reverberations and upheaval within us and our social institutions, it was our hope to explore the dynamics of these reverberations and consider more broadly how they might reflect experiences as citizens of the world. The format of large group and small group discussions and identification of underlying themes and less conscious threads is akin to the format used and known internationally in “Listening Posts.”
Andrea Greenman, PhD
Susan Berger, PsyD
Dahlia Radley-Kingsley, MBA, MA
Joseph Cancelmo, PsyD
On March 16, 2017 the Citizen Forum created an opportunity for participants to both discuss and experience phenomena generated by the current political climate. The Forum, structured to integrate both small and large group discussion, positioned itself as inhabiting a space in the interface between the political and the psychoanalytic. We hoped that as the discussion proceeded, group members would have an opportunity to experience and verbalize themes that had been previously unconscious and that these experiences would introduce themselves into the group either through some form of micro-enactment or as felt experience. The thought was that by virtue of engaging in this experience, internal confusion might be made available for conscious thought with the possibility that participants would leave the meeting with a greater sense of clarity and coherence.
In the introductory segment each of the19 participants, representing a wide range of ages and diverse cultural and professional backgrounds, including members of The LJGould Center Steering Committee, spoke briefly about their thoughts and feelings related to the current political situation. This was followed by small group discussions that identified themes to be explored in greater depth in the final segment.
One theme that emerged was the idea of who is “big” and who is “small” in the current climate. Many members of the Forum became aware, as the discussion developed, that they identified themselves with the progressive/liberal elite; what became more conscious for many was their identification with the ruling class. What was difficult to process was the extent to which it feels like the customary power structure seems up-ended, leaving many of us suddenly feeling powerless and persecuted. Forms of identity supporting structures (such as NPR, NEA, NIH, EPA) are being attacked and dismantled. We can now identify with the disempowered “other”–we are the disempowered other in Trump’s new world. And as such, do we still have a capacity for empathy with the other, or are we too busy protecting ourselves and fighting for survival. Is empathy a privilege of the powerful?
This led to a member’s reverie about an American landscape icon, familiar to us all, and a hopeful belief in the power of American democracy to endure. In an interesting movement, another member associated to the musical Annie, and in par ticular, the song “Tomorrow” where optimism and faith in the future were belied by the presence of the greedy, exploitative and abusive Daddy “WarBucks”.
As the discussion continued to deepen, a member of the group who comes from another country quoted sentiments from back home that “The US has historically talked like HIllary, but behaved like Trump”. Now there is more honesty–the US is talking like Trump and behaving like Trump. The true nature of the US is emerging, there is less hypocrisy. Now the true level of rapacious and voracious greed are obvious, without disguise. Suddenly, a faction of the group was now identified with the aggressor. Members voiced a sense of shame, and expressed the narcissistic injury of facing ourselves as a people being led by a leader like Trump.
What was fascinating to experience was the transformation in the group as it moved through the experience of feeling that we now are a disempowered “othered” group, who cannot protect itself from persecution, or indeed, annihilation, and later coming to an identification with the need to disrupt and change old structures. There was a sense in ending that we too need to tear down the old oppressive structures. –