The Relevance of Buber in Today’s Israeli Society: I and Thou. The Buberian Dialog in Therapy and Education

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Martin Buber at the Leo Baeck Institute:

The Relevance of Buber in Today’s Israeli Society

I and Thou. The Buberian Dialog in Therapy and Education

                                    Discussants: Prof. Tamar Kron and Dr. Asher Levy

                                Chair: Emilia Feroni

 

Prof. Tamar Kron:

 I shall address the question of whether the “thou” has disappeared from our lives during the time of Corona, arguing that the “I – thou” position has been and still is a beacon of light in the darkness, both in our everyday lives and in particular in the field of psychotherapy.

The Covid epidemic raises ethical issues in everyday life and all the more so in psychotherapy. It has revealed the shadow – the projection of fears and the search for a scapegoat, but it has also reinforced our recognition of responsibility toward the other and toward the world.

My fundamental responsibility as a person is toward the other, in the sense of my response or answer to their call to me. Presence, “the person’s entire being,[1] underlies the I-thou bond.

During the time of Corona we ask ourselves a fundamental question that arouses anxiety: has the Thou disappeared behind the masks or into the mask? How can an I-thou encounter take place when we are compelled to keep our distance? When the thou’s face is mediated by the instrument – is this the face of the thou?

In my view, these restrictions imposed on the encounter, which were introduced to our lives with the onset of the epidemic and the lockdown imposed in its wake, do not stand in the way of the I-thou bond. The emotional condition that facilitates receptiveness toward the I-thou bond is one of modesty. It encompasses a profound understanding of our relative place in the world, in the face of death. This is one of the meanings of the Corona – it presents us with a mission – to bring along our presence in every circumstance, also in an encounter that is not face to face.

To me, the question is not whether distance therapy compromises the principles of this or that theory of depth psychology, but rather – whether “circumvention,” as Buber described it, can happen in a therapeutic encounter that takes place over Zoom or in a video conference? My reply to these questions, based on my own experiences of therapeutic encounters over Zoom or in video conferencing, is a resounding yes.

[1] Buber, I and Thou, p.3.

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