Inbal Freund works at The Jewish Agency. She is also co-founder and co-director of "Unmasked Comics," a venture telling Social Change stories via comics.
About ten years ago, as a social psychology student, I participated in a Tavistock course entitled "Working with Differences in a Culture of Fear." I was the youngest participant, and one of the only two non-Americans, who were all psychologists and psychiatrists; the other foreigner was a Palestinian woman, who was the head of the UNRA psychology department. All 90 of us were seated in a big spiral. Tavistockian theory analyzes the power relations within groups based on their physical standing in a room. I was the last one to walk into the room and the only chair that was left for me was the center chair, right in the middle of the spiral. Thus began the first two days of this 5 day retreat with the claim that Israelis always take the center and that we have to make peace with the Palestinians. The whole group tried encouraging Yoad, the Palestinian woman, and myself to talk about what was separating us from making peace. After two very intense days, when the group discovered that they were using us to mask their own issues—including gender relations, blacks and whites, etc.—they left us alone. Yoad and I forged a very strong friendship. When it was time to go home, it was very hard because we knew that it would be very hard to maintain this new friendship.
I left the conference shaken. The whole workshop experience shook me to my core. It was a very deep group psychoanalytical process that left me with many things to think about. I felt that people who did not experience this with me were different. It was hard to explain to the outside world what just happened. As a student of social psychology I studied group work in depth, but nothing prepared me for the strong experience of going through it myself.
None of my other life experiences resembled the depth of what happened at that conference, until I entered the plenary room at the Yehudah Hotel two weeks ago, to attend the Reut and ROI Adaptive Leadership Course. It was definitely one of the best courses I took in the last ten years. Being part of an intense group dynamic was like revealing something lost from the past, but it was also a way of taking these past experiences to the next level and focusing on the one skill that I have chosen to focus on: leadership. This ROI conference was a highly advanced course in leadership, bringing thought processes to their more advanced stages. I learned a lot about patience, reminding me of how to watch the dynamics between people, and not to act too fast; how to define a problem and work slowly toward a solution which includes others.
It has been two weeks since we finished the course. In this time, I acquired partners to this new way of thinking. I've started analyzing issues in life and at work according to this new framework.