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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Relationship And Relatedness Between the Elementary School as a System and its Violent Parts

THE BACKGROUND During a period of six months, from January to June 1997, I directed a workshop under the aegis of the Ministry of Education. I met once a week with a group of professionals, eight of them educational psychologists, and the other eight educational consultants. They represented 16 different schools from the central districts of Israel, mainly from areas of economic and cultural stress. The PRIMARY TASK was to explore phenomena of violence in schools,and to find new ways for dealing with them. THE WORKSHOP'S METHODOLOGY I worked using four dimensions for exploration and dialogue: (1) The process in the group Here and Now. (2) Presenting participants' reports on events from their work at the schools, in order to analyze the material in the group. (One event was presented in each meeting. The order of presenters was prearranged). (3) Using participants' drawings, in which they were asked to express their experiences when confronting violence at school. The group members were asked to share their associations by the drawings. (4) Using participants' dreams. In addition to the event, the participants had to report on a dream they had had during the week that preceded their presentation. The aim of the workshop was to find links among the dreams, the drawings and the events, in order to understand the unconscious processes that occur in the schools' systems. The working hypothesis was that unconscious processes that occurred at school had strongly effected the relationship between the school as a whole and the violent parts of the system. In the workshop we also tried to discover common denominators among the different schools, in order to reach deeper understanding of violent phenomena. The longer the workshop has continued, the more we discovered that dreams constitute a substantial reservoir for understanding processes in schools. The appearance of the dreams, and the ability to remember them, are connected with the fact that a dialogue was held at the workshop concerning each dream. These dialogues facilitated and contributed to the emergence of the following dreams. The idea to work with dreams was taken from Gordon Laurence. My method for working with dreams was also substantially influenced by Laurence's 'Social Dreaming Matrix'. His unique working method allowed me to find the relationship between the dream and the Institutional Insights. Laurence wrote: Social Dreaming starts from the premise that there are dreams in search of a dreamer in much the same way, as W.R. Bion postulated, that there are thoughts in search of a thinker. Dreams, therefore, are not just the private property of the individual but can exist to be shared with others. In so called 'primitive' societies people made use of their dreams to illuminate their waking life and to help them solve the problems of living as well as answering the spiritual puzzles with which they were faced. From past Social Dreaming Programs it has been learnt that dreams do illuminate contemporary life in institutions such as commercial companies, do make manifest that unconscious processes present in societies, do give indications of what may happen as dreams limn the 'shadow of the future care before', to borrow Bion's phrase and do shed fragments of transcendence. This lecture is based on four examples out of the 16 which came up at the workshop. I would like to introduce the connections I've established in each case between the dreams and the school as a system. Following these cases I'll discuss the common denominators in the ways in which the different schools confronted the different cases.