How does a group (2 or more people) move toward authenticity and safety, toward community?
~~~ (see About Community Building and Wiki)
“a group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to ‘rejoice together, mourn together,’ and to ‘delight in each other, make each others’ conditions [their] own.”
Scott Peck’s Stages in Community Building
- An initial state of “being nice”. Pseudocommunity is characterized by politeness, conflict avoidance, and denial of individual differences. Who among us can keep this up very long? Eventually someone speaks up, the dam breaks, and then what happens?
- In the stage of chaos, individual differences are aired, and the group tries to overcome them through misguided attempts to heal or to convert. Listening suffers, and emotions and frustration tend to run high. There are only two ways out of chaos: retreat into pseudocommunity (often through organization), or forward, through emptiness.
- Emptiness refers to the process of recognizing and releasing the barriers (expectations, prejudices, the need to control) that hold us back from authentic communication with others, from being emotionally available to hear the voices of those around us. This is a period of going within, of searching ourselves and sharing our truths with the group. This process of “dying to the self” can make way for something remarkable to emerge.
- “In my defenselessness, my safety lies.” In this stage, individuals accept others as they are, and are themselves accepted. Differences are no longer feared or ignored, but rather are celebrated. A deep sense of peace and joy characterizes the group.
What I’ve been noticing is that I have very little time for any group that doesn’t seem to have at least an intention of community. And ones who have tremendous potential don’t always have the will. Engaging the suffering is rich, rich, rich, though uncomfortable. Trying to avoiding the emotional suffering is understandable, but this suffering is simply a by-product of life. I think this one of the benefits of craniosacral work, what what makes it effective in “nervous disorder” … is that it allows us to re-connect with our own personal truth after we’ve cut ourselves off from it, for whatever reasons.
I’m in a funny group now. From my perspective, I see the leader asserting that the group is safe. Then I check inside myself and get the answer ‘no way is this safe’. There’s a lot of detail-level judgment and control. The leader controls and edits, approves and disapproves, of words. At times the leader sserts that people in the group have said things they actually said the opposite of. It’s a crazy-making atmosphere. What the leader says and does are quite noticeably different. Experientially, it’s night and day. So … what am I doing about it?
Well, I figure we’re on a tipping point. I’ve taken a role of “troublemaker” after I got nowhere with gentle “voicer”. What I observed was that those attempts in the group to speak or act more authentically were quickly snuffed. Trying to figure out what to do is when I chose the troublemaker hat. So, surprise of surprises (in a group used to striving for authenticity), tensions get first buried, then acted out. Using the model above, I guess I’d say we’re in chaos. This is my hope, anyway. In the beginning I imploded while watching/experiencing what was going on. Then I watched people around me explode. Then I developed the strategy that seems to be working well — selectively acting out. I clown. I confront. I interrupt the leader. I use “hot words” to get them out on the table and help others use them. I listen in the breaks as people process the disconnect. That seems to defuse the situation somewhat. But I don’t have the energy or will to do that very long if the dynamic doesn’t switch soon. I also undermine the leader if I do this without his explicit acceptance.
I’d rather give straight feedback than crooked feedback. Don’t really see how, though, since it seems not listened to and actively defended against and quickly re-worded. Sorry to admit, I strongly intervene in this leader’s process. I’d rather be in a group with safety rather than overt control. I’d rather actual safety than simply verbalized safety.
The dance of finding my place and contributing to where I actually am. Or being responsible for myself and going somewhere else. I just read Harrison Owen’s comments that I’ll tack on after I’m done talking about community sensu Peck.
Wiki’s M. Scott Peck page is lovely … and from it I paraphrase one paragraph, my intention for the day.
The core tool set that we require to solve life’s problems, says Peck, is Discipline.
In this set are 4 tools
(1) delaying gratification,
(2) assuming responsibility,
(3) dedication to the truth, and
(4) balancing. We suffer, yes. And yet it is how we engage in suffering that makes all the difference. The techniques engage suffering SO THAT we experience the pain of problems IN SUCH A WAY AS TO work through them and solve them successfully, learning and growing in the process. Wrestling with our problems is painful. We can be repelled by the pain and hide.
Yet, it is only in grappling with our problems that life has its meaning.
This from Harrison Owen:
In Open Space [Technology meetings] – we are an open space in which we and our fellows find meaning and purpose, or not.
For some of us that space may be
> very constricted, and those lives tend to look pretty much the same
> way – narrow and locked into set patterns and expectations, which may
> even become comfortable, like old shoes. Others seem to occupy a much
> more commodious space in which change and possibility are constant
> companions and experiencing that novelty is a real high. All of us
> have the potential to expand our space, or maybe more accurately, to
> recognize and acknowledge the larger possibilities which could be
> ours. I think what happens in an Open Space event is that we are
> invited to consider those possibilities and make them our own, if we
> so choose.
Just had a long talk with my mother where I told her about community and the importance of facing the struggle in creating authentic community. That was fun! She seemed to enjoy it, too. Now to brunch with husband, LC and her family.