Erikson Institute

International Dialogue Initiative

A project initiated by Senior Erikson Scholar Vamik Volkan based on his decades of international work, the International Dialogue Initiative examines large group differences - and the emotionally charged perception of those differences - in an attempt to understand the effect of past trauma on present concerns and the contribution of large group identity anxieties to divisiveness and conflict.  The Initiative is aimed at facilitating a process of deepening discussion between representatives from various cultures for the purpose of learning together about these differences in perspective. Topics discussed include:

  • The Arab Spring 
  • Governance structures in Iran
  • The United States after 9/11
  • Women and child development in the Arab world
  • Israeli-Palestinian relations

IDI meetings bring together a small group of experts and scholars from diverse disciplines and countries.  The methodology begins with first-hand information about the two or three central foci of the meeting, followed by a lengthy discussion, which deepens the understanding of the issues, explores the key stories surrounding a given incident from a psychodynamic point of view, and takes note of our own group process for the ways in which it might represent larger dynamics.  

IDI meetings have three broad outcomes.  First, they develop psychological insights, concepts, and narrative understandings that are useful in making sense of the emotional dynamics of international relationships and events.  Second, the group develops a common language between psychologically trained participants and those who are diplomats, politicians or from other disciplines. This provides a model for transferring psychological insights in understandable ways to those who are actually responsible for diplomatic communications.  Finally, the IDI functions as a conceptual sounding board and support group for those members of the group currently engaged in consulting to governments and other societal groups.  The current president of the IDI is Gerard Fromm, PhD, Senior Consultant to the Erikson Institute. 

International Dialogue Initiative