WCGM: (In a clear, somewhat calm voice) What several people have been saying speaks to this. It’s something about whether or not WJHM2 (and others) feels something in this room. It’s about whether the white man begins to feel something, about the world, about living in the world. Not something at computer school. This isn't about making a space for someone to feel rage. It’s about making a space for the definition that there are things that are legitimately sources of rage and terror in the world. And if you can live them in your life everyday then you will be changed in the way that I think is beyond the pain. It isn't about white privilege, it isn't about packing it in and saying, 'What do you want me to do here, what do you want me to do in this room? What do you want me to do?' That’s not it. I am a white man and a gay man. I am a white man when I say my experience in being gay is mad at my feelings and I hold out the hope, the white man in me lures me on with this hope, that if I keep working on myself, I can manage my feelings and get by in the world. I can speak from it, the world is so much bigger than me. That’s how I marginalize the gay man. This is so much more comfortable with the matter of me being with my feelings, than this place, this is the world I live in, we all live in. As a gay man I almost can't stand to be here. (Stronger and more upset)
Facilitator WJHM: You have a lot of feelings there.
WCGM: It’s so much more comfortable. And now I even get to complain. What do you want me to feel? I feel enough. It's not even the issue! This is the world, I and you and we all live in. It’s a terrible place in some way, it’s a beautiful place also. (change to a more feeling tone) Horrible!....Cruel...... Unjust!.... Terrifying! The world we live in when we leave here. Everyday, all of us. I am so aware of the subtle marginalizing or trivializing which says 'make me feel something here'.
Facilitation comment: This gay white man shares deeply his pain at living in the world. He recognizes that feeling comfortable in the world means marginalizing the gay man within him and some of the deeper feelings and pain he has in living in the world. The work for him is in feeling all of his reactions to the world, even if they might be painful and difficult to address.
Additional comment: The various combinations of rank are sometimes difficult to hold. We might experience a range of feeling at times due to rank in one area, such as being a white man in the above example, and less rank in another area, such as being gay. Previous white men in the group have had similar variations in rank. The white Jewish man has white skin and is assumed to have constant high rank, and yet he is Jewish and financially struggling, both signs of less social rank. In a Worldwork seminar in 1996, three Indian people came forward into the center of the group. Two were women from a high caste in the Indian ranking system (although I don’t recall their exact rank, I believe they were of the Brahmin caste), the other was a man from the Untouchable caste, which is the lowest caste in India. The women challenged the man who indicated he suffered greatly due to his caste status, indicating that he was a man and benefitted greatly from this gender position. However, as the two women listened to his experience as an Untouchable man they began to recognize the suffering and low rank condition he was in, irrespective of his gender. He told them how he needed to enter their houses from the rear door, his difficulty in attaining jobs appropriate to his skill, and how he was expected to answer to the demand of those with higher caste status at any moment. The women’s caste rank had allowed a certain comfort which at times, like all rank, becomes unconscious, reducing the awareness of others’ relative privilege.
WCHW2: There is a risk, in this case on race, the white person will in fact pay, that they will not be seen as a person, but they will be blamed for everything. That is a real risk. It is. It’s true. And because of the privilege we have, whether we want it or not, we are trained about taking that risk. But it is a real risk, I might get dumped on, I might get blamed. It’s important to deal with this on its own terms and not say 'but I don’t deserve that'! Of course I don’t deserve that, and neither does anybody else deserve their burdens. My privilege is that I can put it aside, the risk. And when I am not privileged, say as a woman, I can't put it aside. I just take the risk day after day after day of getting dumped on. It becomes, for anyone in a non-privileged position, it’s not whether you got dumped on today, it’s knowing you could be. Anytime, anywhere. So if I am going to do anything, it seems to me, I have to be willing to take that risk, that it will all go to a can of worms, it will just be awful. It will be messy, I will get hurt, big bad things will happen. Because if I don’t take that risk, I honestly don't see how I am going to do any good. Except as a most minor act, well I happen to smile at somebody today, say some nice thing, and that’s great. But if I can't take the risk, I am not going to do anything more successful and it doesn't matter. Nobody is going to be able to assure me that I won't get dumped on. That I am going to be seen. You can't do it. You can't tell me that if I am going to go out there and do some right thing, as a white person that I am going to be patted on the back, appreciated or anything else. So I am not going to ask anybody for this.
Facilitation comment: The group is becoming aware of privilege and how using rank well challenges some of our existing patterns. Rank is often used to support those who have it to stay comfortable. It takes significant courage to use it well. Mindell in the interview says, “These are incredibly wise thoughts from people who are teaching all of us what it means to be a human being. It’s very touching and I’m just listening and learning and enjoying the whole thing. At the moment though they are not speaking personally to each other, they are still speaking generally.” There is a further edge in the group to talking personally. Mindell in the interview comments that the facilitators might ask, ‘What does it mean to take a risk now in this moment?’ She is saying here that she would like that support, but is afraid of asking because she knows nobody is going to give it to her. So as a facilitator I would say, ‘Nobody’s going to pat you on the back, but I will. You can’t expect the other side to be happy with it, but I am’.”
Additional comment: This white woman recognizes that she will not necessarily attain external support for the risk and care she invests in the world. The support and courage she finds in following herself is inner, and that she might well not feel supported in the world for following what’s right for her. Many inspiring leaders such as Mahatma Ghandi, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela have had the qualities of inner directedness in addressing their values in the world. At Mandela’s trial for treason in 1963 in South Africa, he defended himself through the trial documenting his actions and the reasons for these actions. He concluded that he acted according to his integrity and that, if necessary, for this he was prepared to die. Although some people are able to follow a path of personal integrity without external validation and support from the mainstream position, many of us need this support in our lives. Mindell recommends that the facilitators model this support.
WCHW1: I have a lot of questions still. If it weren’t then, what might have been. What might my life had been like had this whole thing not happened. How would my life be different if I had personal power? The enormity of what life might have been. And yet thinking about it, thinking...
Facilitator WJHW: Sorry to cut you off. I was so touched by what happened when WCGM (the gay man) and WCHW2 (the white woman) spoke, somehow acknowledging all levels is a very feeling thing for me. There was a very feeling change in the group at that point. I thought it might be a moment to honor that.
Facilitation comment: The facilitator enters now as the last few speakers have been speaking from their heart and there has been a feeling change in the group. The whole group is deeply listening to each speaker. By acknowledging the feeling space in the group the facilitator hopes to hold the group at this place, even though it means cutting off a more intellectual style. Facilitator WJHM: We have been dealing with a lot of issues at the same time. Different forms of rank, different forms of power, different forms of suffering and oppression. I understand the difficulty as those who look like they have power also feel oppressed, internally and externally. As soon as the confrontation happens, it’s easy to feel the oppression. I am not sure how we deal with this. I know this is the spot where we are. There are also a lot of other issues. There is a lot of hopelessness and striving for hope. A sense that some want to go further than the recognition of privilege and power. There are a lot of questions and a lot of pain. I feel a lot of sadness. I feel a lot of pain. I don't know where to go from here?
Facilitation comment: Mindell comments that the facilitator holds the edge down here. Facilitator WJHW: I would recommend we end the group process and go on with this on other levels and other ways.
Facilitation comment: The group has been focused for a few hours at this point and it might well be time for a break before resuming this process in the afternoon. HLW: I just want to admit, fess up to something. When the last person (WCHW1) was talking, I really did check out. I’m wondering why I wanted to block out what you were saying. I wondered why I don’t want to hear it. I really know what it feels like to be not listened to. It does feel like I am trying not to get you.
Facilitation comment: This participant focuses on the issue of numbness and not feeling, by opening to her own tendency to block others out. Mindell in the interview comments that this woman recognizes that she is using her rank to become blank and numb. Although she does not use the words of privilege or rank, she recognizes how listening to others respects the other person. Here a woman from a marginalized position is able to recognize and challenge herself to use the rank she has well. Mindell comments that this is very touching. WJHM1: We are focusing on the whiteness and not the maleness. For me, as a man it is incredibly…actually frightening and terrorizing to let myself feel what is going on inside. I want to thank you. You have helped me break this. The inability to let myself be vulnerable and to feel is a much bigger issue for me than my whiteness.
Facilitation comment: Mindell in the interview states that “he is able to say this as the role of privilege has been gradually picked up by others [more recently the Hawaiian woman]. This has been happening slowly for a while. They [the African American, Hawaiian and white people] have not called it privilege, but they have been doing it in feeling and psychological ways. And this makes change. So now this guy can come out with all these feelings.”
WJHM1: (continues) Not that it is not there, but this is a piece that is here for me. Until I can find a way to work through my own numbness and hopelessness. It is happened to me right at this moment. To me it’s as much a sexism issue as much as a racism issue.
Facilitation comment: Naming issues where others are marginalized is complex and inadvertently hurtful. However, Mindell in the interview notes that as he is so humble at the moment, the group allows him to do this. WJHM1: (continues) No one taught me to how to feel, if anything I was taught how not to feel. And this has allowed me to stay in an angry place, it has allowed me to stay in a rigid place. (sadness) That’s where I hurt people and that’s why I block out people and that’s why I don’t have to hear them.
Facilitation comment: This participant connects to his feeling side and the importance of feeling as part of his identity as a white man. He recognizes that marginalizing parts of himself, in this case some of his feelings, results directly in him misusing his privilege in relationship to others of less rank. In this way, he has connected his own privilege and use of rank to the marginalized sides of himself that he then projects on the other. This is an important learning in the use of rank. Facilitator WJHM: What are you feeling inside now.
Facilitation comment: The facilitator encourages immediacy of experience so as to present the learning of the white man in this moment in the group and in relationship to others. WJHM1: (Crying) I am feeling sad. I learned from my dad, if you make yourself a target you are going to get killed. He was Jewish and he was living in Europe, and that’s where he got the idea. He said don't get involved. (sobbing) If you make yourself a target you are going to get killed. I feel part of me just wants to split off and not look. I have to take care of everybody now...that’s the old part. I have to keep myself just vulnerable. (the atmosphere of the whole group softens and feels vulnerable.)
Facilitation comment: This white man fully enters in a feeling way into both the group and his personal pain. He shares deeply with the group about how he represses the side that wants to get involved in order to keep safe as a Jewish man. He recognizes that the old part of himself which needs to only keep safe, no longer serves him well. In this moment, he answers the group’s struggle of why those with privilege stay numb. Behind the numbness is a fear and terror which is marginalized and will at times be projected onto others who have less rank. This numbness is a suffering that not only has consequences for others, but disallows him too from becoming fully himself and having the freedom to feel deeply and act from this feeling, in any moment. No longer is he talking about what he might do, but he lives it directly in his expression of the moment.
The deep feeling expression by a white man, a Jewish white man, addresses the challenge of the group. The call to the white Jewish man early on in the process, was answered by another white Jewish man who took up this role and shared the deep feelings and concerns he has not only as a white man, but as a Jewish man. The recognition of his Jewish identity has addressed the unconscious anti-Semitism that was in the background of the group earlier in the process. The group has changed. There is a deep feeling tone in all the members. The members are now silent. The group fire has momentarily been tempered. Arnold Mindell refers to the heat of a process as ‘sitting in the fire’. The fire has been hot and from this has emerged a deeper understanding and connection between many members of the group. At this moment the facilitator now enters. Facilitator WJHM: I am also Jewish. When you said, 'If you make yourself a target you are going to get killed,' I thought, how do I pull out? Everyone's been complaining today about passivity. I know that’s true for me too. I do things in the world, but I could do more. The question is why do I split off. I realize I am terrified. I am terrified. In South Africa, what happened (sadly) I have never connected this before. I must have been about 15 years old (crying). There was a fight next door between two black guys. And a guy stabbed the other guy. And he was howling, he was crying for help. And I heard him and called an ambulance to come and care for him. I wanted to go out and help him. But my mother stood at the door and wouldn't let me go. She said it’s not safe. The guys are drunk and you might get hurt, the ambulance will come, you can't go. She wouldn't let me go. I was besides myself. And so I stayed passive and safe. Listening to this man’s howling in pain. (sobbing) It wasn't safe to be involve, but I wanted to go! This is how at times now I stay passive too.
Facilitation comment: The facilitator shares deeply of his own story of numbness and the conditions where he was taught to stay frozen and not get involved in life. The danger of privilege is that it can afford one to be separate. Here he shares his own feelings and recognizes how he too can use his privilege in a more complete way. After this contribution the whole group sits quietly together and feels. A sense of community through wrestling with difficult and challenging issues is emerging. Facilitator WJHW: It’s been a very deep and touching morning. I notice it might be time to take a break. Let’s break for a while and then come back together.
The facilitators conclude the morning session.
Throughout the group process there has been an intense dialogue on rank and privilege. At moments the dialogue cycled with little conscious recognition of rank. At other moments, members of the group wrestled with their own rank, recognizing their privilege and challenging themselves to use it better both in this group and in the world. One such moment was when an African American woman recognized that not only was it up to the white Jewish man to recognize his rank, but that each of us including herself needs to recognize and use their rank well. This deepened the process and supported group members to explore their rank and how they might use it well. The process concluded with two white Jewish men sharing deeply their pain and experience of becoming passive and numb. The dialogue presents practical information through the interaction on how those who have power can recognize and acknowledge their rank and privilege. Further, how those who are affected by this rank can assist in this process, recognizing that they too are part of the ranking system and also have many ranges of rank apart from the gender-based social rank of men. And finally, how we all might use rank for the benefit of ourselves and all of us who live together on this planet.
In the general comments I expanded on this dialogue through introducing the experiences of different group processes, therapy contexts and my own personal experiences as a man. This has created a plethora of rich information, experiences and understandings of the issues of men and power. The facilitation comments have attempted to guide the reader through this process, presenting the process-oriented analysis of myself as facilitator, as well as those of Dr. Arnold Mindell. Facilitators need to continue to develop their skills, as well as do their own inner work, to become more effective in their interventions. In Appendix E, I present a brief dialogue with Dr. Mindell regarding a moment in my own development as a result of this group process. In this dialogue Mindell discusses my personal experience of being passive and not intervening as a young man in South Africa, and how this might well contribute to a passive pattern in my facilitation of diverse groups. Mindell encourages me to intervene more in group process and recommends that as a facilitator I address this in the group by introducing myself as a white person who might feel shy to intervene when issues of diversity arise.
The learnings and questions of this chapter need to be understood in terms of the broader context of the theories of men and power. However, before this integration, I will present a further chapter of research going deeper into the Process Work contributions to men and power. In the following chapter I interview Arnold Mindell on some of the existing theories of men and power, as well as contributions Process Work makes to this field of study.
Chapter 7: Interview with Dr. Arnold Mindell
The following is an interview with Dr. Arnold Mindell, the founder of Process Work, on the issues of men and power. I have chosen to present the interview with minimal editing, providing the reader with a candid and accurate process both of the material and the interaction between myself and Arnold Mindell.
Stephen: Thank you for doing the interview. In this interview I want to discuss with you the Process Work contributions to men and power. I would love to also hear your own personal experiences as a man, those of being a therapist, in Worldwork and anything else you feel would be relevant. I want to ask you more on the concept of rank. You wrote about it in Sitting in the Fire in 1995. Why do you use the word ‘rank’ at the moment rather than ‘power’? Also, how your thoughts might have developed around the applications of rank?
Arnold: The word power sounds like an absolute, like a fact. Rank is more subtle, and rank is relative to given people in given situations. Rank is the experience of power or powerlessness, rather than the fact of power. Like for example, a mainstream man may have more social power, but actually he may have very little psychological rank in the sense of very little psychological centeredness. So he needs at one time to understand that he is in a powerful position. He needs to know the meaning of that power and how it effects others and at the same time, it needs to be understood that that particular man may not have as much power totally. So rank is a total concept that depends upon the summation of various ranks. It isn’t just a single specific thing.
S: Do you think that some people have more rank in summation than others?
S: If some people have more rank, for example socially, is there a tendency to have say less psychological rank?
A: No. You could have a lot of social rank and simultaneously be very conscious about it, and also be centered and spiritually connected. You see people like the Dalai Lama for example, he has an immense social rank, he’s also got a lot of spiritual rank. He is also psychologically fairly well centered, although not as centered as he could be.
S: How about Bill Clinton?
A: He has very little psychological rank. Here is somebody who has a lot of social rank and so he acts cool all the time. The total sum of his rank is very large, yet in given areas he is not very strong at all.
S: And that is why he might fall into vulnerable places, for example when he jumps into bed with an intern?
A: The whole sexual thing would itself indicate somewhere that his different ranks aren’t connected. I don’t know whether he has a problem in that area or not as a whole, but the way he dealt with it showed almost zero psychological rank.
S: Can you say more about how he might have demonstrated more psychological rank?
A: If he had more psychological rank he would have said to himself, ‘I have got a problem here. I’m a human being. Since I’m simultaneously a political figure, maybe I’m a role in the field. Maybe what I’m learning could be used for the whole country. Maybe the whole world.’ And he could have said, ‘Let me handle this at different levels, let me tell people about my inner work. I notice that there is a part of me which is needing love and doesn’t know what to do about it.’ And being happy with it and saying, ‘I know you won’t vote for me again if I tell you these things, but I feel like the world could learn from this.’ That would be amazing.
S: There is a tendency for male leaders to fall into these kind of situations--spiritual leaders that are suddenly caught by some sexual scene that they haven’t dealt with. I’m thinking of so many spiritual teachers who have been accused of having sexual relations with their students in a way which takes advantage of their rank.
A: They are psychologically naïve, unconscious of rank and its use. The spiritual person in her or his own community has social rank too as a result of that. And doesn’t know about the effects of that rank and is unconscious because of it.