"Long Night“ of Psychoanalysis in Berlin

To be able to appreciate the novelty of the event we are about to share, let us first give a rough sketch of the special situation in Berlin. There are quite a number of psychoanalytic societies with their respective institutes, among them the one founded in Freud’s time with its changeful history, others founded after World War Two or fairly recently after the fall of the iron curtain: Jungian, Adlerian Institutes, those for the training of Analytic Child- and Adolescent Psychotherapists or Group Analysts - so, the whole variety of theoretical and historical backgrounds, consignees, settings. And there is the International Psychoanalytic University (IPU), dialogue partner in the politically urgent question as to where to anchor the training of becoming analysts - in the universities or in the psychoanalytic institutes, how to merge academic knowledge with learning from experience.

This situation meets with the now almost ten year old tradition of the so called „Long Night of Sciences“ when every year on a saturday till about midnight university institutes and laboratories open their doors to the public to show problems and findings of modern research in experiments, short lectures and demonstrations.

So why not with psychoanalysis? was the the idea, though nothing neatly „pops or smolders“ in our workshops, as a joke went. But would the institutes with their history of confinements and exclusion, of observing long standing traditions and opening up to new theoretical and societal impulses, in a city where schisms even became stone and still continue to have their painful effects - would they manage to build a common ground in order to present an interesting, sincere and attractive psychoanalysis to an open public?

This was the start of an - in our city - unprecedented group experience. Agents of eight institutes, always in close consultation with their respective executive boards, gathered around the common task: discussed, set aside dominance or unduly rivalry, argued, found agreement, learned to know others’ talents and wit, laid down suspicion and reservation, came to rely on each other’s respect and solidarity. Not one institute was to be in focus, but side by side all were to present their way of understanding and practicing psychoanalysis. In a way that meant renunciation on all sides.That it „worked“, as the group in the end contentedly summarized, was an accomplishment that will certainly have its effects on the stand of psychoanalysts in the difficult political debate about how training should be organized.

It is not a bad sign in a group when they banter with one another rather than biting with criticism and this became the basis and the drive of a very successful „Night of Psychoanalysis“ within the Berlin „Long Night of Sciences“. The International Psychoanalytic University (IPU) generously provided all its rooms and facilities, including the highly motivated facility manager and his student crew, and participated separately with an own program. Under the guiding headline „Curing-Training-Research“  a multiplicity of psychoanalytic subjects were presented and the format „Freud’s Bar“ was designed to invite the public to share ideas, to ask questions and to reflect on. Alongside with this the program contained more expanded lectures, workshops, films, a lengthy radio contribution and experiments to take part in. Conversely the contributors were obliged to present their psychoanalytic subject  in due sophistication concisely but adjusted to a wide range of audience. In order to make the invitation to communicate „tangible“ we set up a „bar“ (small  groups of easy chairs to facilitate colloquies), a room with a „real“ couch  and one where visitors could get an impression of  how „the couch“ (so to say) in child and adolescent therapy looks like. In a separate room visitors could watch and discuss films, i.e. on the history of psychoanalysis in Berlin or a portrait of C.G. Jung and his work.

The contributions covered of course a whole range of subjects: illustrations of fundamental psychoanalytic terms and settings, how to understand newborns and their families or dealing with the aging, group work with adults or adolescents and their parents, what happens on or behind the couch and between the two protagonists, what do psychoanalysts think about the digitalization of our everyday life, interpretation of figures in art, about violence in our society, about the conflict in Near East - to name a few.

After all this work and preparation and the nervousness of this „first time“, it was an overwhelming experience to see the public surge in. They filled the hallways and the lecture rooms, sat on the floor or window sills if it was too crowded, listened, discussed eagerly, asked disarming questions and stayed to move from room to room for another taste of psychoanalytic thinking. Many students of all universities, especially of the (socio)psychological and cultural sciences came, some in groups, some colleagues, also from related disciplines, but mostly a mixed ordinary public of interested and curious people of all ages. The crowdedness seemed to mediate an atmosphere of anticipation and high concentration, curiosity and fun.

All in all the „Long Night“ contained 50 contributions (including the ones presented by the IPU) and about 1.400 visitors were officially counted. Recordings of all presentations  were produced which the local radio is now interested to broadcast in connection with a series on psychoanalytic subjects. One of the societies (DPG) will put them subsequently on its website. And by the way: this long night culminated in a nightly milonga in the dimmed hallway, where under gentle guidance one could experience and understand the connection between tango (the tangible) and regression (emotion). At the same time it seemed for all those, who had worked hard for the success of this event, a more than suitable ending.

Barbara Strehlow
Paola F. Acquarone

For more details about the program and the organization of the „Long Night“, please check: http://www.berlinerpsychoanalytischeinstitute.de