The recognition of world conflicts, and the desire to address these problems, embraces a trend which is also being recognized by some Jungian analysts. Hillman comments (Hillman & Ventura, 1992, p.3), “We’ve had a hundred years of analysis, and people are getting more and more sensitive, and the world is getting worse and worse…but the psyche, the soul, is still only within and between people. We’re working on our relationships constantly, and our feelings and reflections, but look what’s left out. What’s left out is a deteriorating world.” Through Worldwork, Process Work has developed a practical form to address these social issues integrating the internal psychological focus of Jung and the interpsychic and world concerns of Hillman.
At the turn of the 20th Century, while depth psychology was developing, the behaviorist schools of psychology also emerged, embracing quite a different perspective. (Viney, 1993) The initial conditioning experiments were done by Pavlov, a scientist in Russia and supported by the studies and observations of Watson, a psychologist in the United States. Watson viewed behaviorism as an objective experimental branch of science with its goal being the prediction and control of behavior. The main contribution of these researchers was the introduction of learning through association, or what is known today as classical conditioning.
Arguably the most notable behaviorist from the 1940s to 1960s was B.F. Skinner. Skinner (1948) wrote a novel entitled Walden Two, describing an ideal society where people behaved according to a conditioned set of behavioral codes. For Skinner, all experience is conditioned and follows scientific and lawful reasoning. He believes that free will is counterproductive to both science and society at large. Through positive conditioning rather than aversive control and punishment, people can be conditioned to behave in a way that creates a beneficial and harmonious society. Skinner called this learning through reinforcement operant conditioning, as opposed to Pavlov’s learning through association or classical conditioning. In the years since the 1960s, learning therapists have taken conditioning further to include thinking and cognition as part of the learning process. In these approaches the clients’ thinking and belief systems are challenged (Rimm & Masters, 1979). In the behavioral model free will is not recognized as an effective means to a well-adapted and harmonious society. The focus is on developing socially well-adapted and ‘normal’ clients and groups. The cognitive model focuses on the thinking process of the client, challenging irrational thinking and belief systems. Although this process does facilitate greater awareness in the client of their cognitive processes, the determination of how the thinking processes will be addressed is made by the therapist. Hence, the emphasis is on the wisdom of the therapist to heal the client, as opposed to relying on and inviting out the client’s innate self wisdom and healing. In this sense, the cognitive models too are normative models, with an authority determining how the thinking processes ought to function and presenting to the client an idea and value of what it means to be normal.
The Humanistic school of psychology gained prominence as a third force of psychology in the 1960s. This school felt that the studies in psychology were too narrow and needed to include a broader focus which included suffering, wisdom, growth, joy, peak experiences and authenticity as well as the usual focus of fear, aggression and the changing of habits. (Viney, 1993) Jung’s work on teleology, the idea of an evolutionary and meaningful process innate within each person’s psychology, was a precursor to this wave of psychology. Humanistic psychology was critical of both the behavioristic and psychoanalytic schools of thought. It experienced them as too deterministic and not supportive of free will. Humanistic psychology emphasizes the human capacity to rise above restriction and operate at a metalevel of awareness, making it possible to overcome both behavioral conditioning as well as the unconscious forces of psychoanalysis. The focus of humanistic psychology is on the client, with a belief and value in the client’s experience.
Some of the more notable theorists are Abraham Maslow (1971) and Carl Rogers (1969). Maslow was one of the founding voices of the Humanistic school of psychology. He felt there is much to be gained in psychology by studying healthy people and that psychology needs to be broadened to include topics of play, love, mystical experiences, humor, etc. Maslow also felt that humans have the capacity for metalevel awareness, or meaningful self appraisal in the fostering growth of our personal goals, and that people are to be encouraged and trusted in this process. Rogers further advanced the Humanistic school. He opened individual therapy sessions to professional investigation, rejected psychiatric diagnosis due to the negative effects of labeling, and supported the phenomenological experience and journey of the client. The tools needed were unconditional positive regard that valued the intrinsic worth of the client, empathy, and a congruent and genuine therapist. He believed that there is a self drive towards actualization, and that we have the ability to choose to further this drive. Therapy provides a container for the nurturing of this process. Rogers expanded his individual focus to include small groups, education and large group conflict.
By the 1970s a further group of psychological therapies developed called Transpersonal psychology. They included not only the Humanistic views of a phenomenological belief and value in the person and their experience, but also recognized an essential spiritual component to each person. Transpersonal psychologists drew on Jung’s work, especially in the areas of the collective unconscious and archetypes, as well as Eastern and Western spiritual traditions.
Process Work holds many of the humanistic and transpersonal values, embracing a deep value and belief in the person and their ability for self awareness and reflection. In Process Work, we are not limited by the ideas of determinism and conditioning, for there is a belief like most schools of humanistic psychology that we can act in new ways, independent of our conditioning. Process Work recognizes the capacity for choice and free will, while also acknowledging some of the challenges faced in both the ability to recognize new possibilities as well as act on these. Process Work recognizes the importance of valuing and developing awareness and compassion for all parts of a person, irrespective of the momentary expression and patterns of behavior. The valuing of each person as unique and important results in a social condition where diversity of individuals, relationships and cultures is honored. It holds the belief that individual free will and an effective society can work together, and that the full expression of each person is indeed essential to a vital society.
Process Work is distinct from most forms of psychology as it has a fluid format, emphasizing awareness and following the process in therapy rather than trying to achieve a specific state or behavior. As a result, in one moment it can support a directive behavioral intervention in therapy and at another moment an empathic humanistic intervention, recognizing that each is a momentary state in an ongoing process. Whatever the behavior, the emphasis is on the unfolding process of both the therapist and client. Following this stream of awareness is the focus of therapy. In Process Work, any program, whether it is an empathic or a directive therapeutic program is limiting when the therapist is frozen in either of these forms. At this moment the process becomes stuck and is then limited by the therapist’s static orientation.
As Process Work follows a fluid format, it can be useful in understanding the differences in perspectives between models and investigating where each model can contribute to a body of knowledge, as well as where each model is limited. In addressing men’s issues, there is a diversity of attitudes and positions in exploring the predicament of men--what states men need to develop, whether men have power, and how this power might be used. The fluid nature of Process Work could be useful in contributing to a deeper understanding of this diversity within the men’s movements.
Development of Process Work
Process Work has been developing over the last 30 years by Dr. Arnold Mindell and his associates. Mindell initially trained as a physicist in the United States before travelling to Switzerland and undergoing training at the Jung Institute in Zurich as a Jungian analyst. During the 1960s and 1970s he explored the applications of Jungian psychology not only to dreams, but also to body symptoms and experiences. He discovered that body symptoms and experiences, once explored and unfolded, often reflect images found in dreams and active imagination. He concluded that the dreaming process appears not only to be an experience during the night, but that the body too is dreaming, and its dreams manifest as body sensations, experiences and illness. Mindell (1984) named the dreaming of the body through these manifestations, the Dreambody.
In further exploration Mindell began to study not only disturbing experiences in illness and body symptoms, but also other unintentional and spontaneous messages or signals that come in the form of personal difficulties, relationships, communication, life challenges and world issues. The dreaming process does not only manifest during the night, but also in our waking life through body symptoms, personal difficulties and more. We are always dreaming, through our unintentional signals, relationship challenges, body experiences and our relationship with the world around us.
An understanding of the dreaming body and the dreaming world is evident in the spiritual and mystical writings of many traditional cultures: the Australian Aboriginal dreamtime, East Indian philosophy of the subtle body, African witchdoctors’ healing of the body through dreaming, and Native American indigenous philosophy of nature being like a mother whispering secret knowledge of how the spirit works through the body, mind, emotions and spirit of the people. Mindell (1993) was also inspired by the relationship of indigenous people to others and to the Earth. For many indigenous people, the Earth is part of the dreaming process providing messages and important information about life, survival and spirituality. For many traditional healers, messages of healing can come from a synchronistic moment, the movement of an animal or bird, or even the conditions on the road on a visit to an ill person. For Mindell, these too comprise the dreaming process and need to be included and understood as being part of the invisible current of dreaming that lies just a moment away from the conventional experience of life.
Mindell noticed that following, that is observing and unfolding, the spontaneous dreaming process of nature brought greater creativity and solutions to his clients’ problems. He sought to follow this dreaming process as it manifested from moment to moment in his own life and with the people he worked. Mindell expanded the Process Work approach to include relationship difficulties and world conflicts and issues. He recognized that the dreaming process can manifest not only within the individual, where the focus would be on personal inner work, but also interpersonally with a focus on the relationship, and in the world where the focus would be on cultural issues and conflicts.
From the 1980s to today, a research society for ‘Process Work’ or ‘Process Oriented Psychology’ has developed to study the dreaming process as it appears through body experiences, movement, personal challenges, relationship troubles and world conflict situations. Process Work has been applied all over the world across various cultures and ethnic backgrounds. There are Process Work centers in many different countries, including the United States, Canada, Poland, England, Switzerland, Australia, Japan and New Zealand.
2.4 Taoism and Process Work
Taoism is an important root of Process Work. The Taoists are interested in observing and living according to the natural patterns and movements of nature. When one is in accord with the Tao, one follows the natural flow and fluxes of nature, which changes according to the universal spirit or ‘way’. Taoists were interested in adjusting themselves to this winding way and living in harmony with its movement, without questioning or trying to explain its manifestations. In Process Work one tries to follow the spontaneous arrangements of nature and assist the client, couple or group to adjust to this changing flow. Following nature means noticing the momentary perceptions, subjective experiences and signals expressed by oneself and others. There is no program as to how the client should be, or an attempt for the practitioner to follow a program, but rather the focus is on allowing nature to instruct them on the ‘way’. There is an assumption that everything that is needed is already present in the nature of the situation, and all that is required is to adjust and with awareness follow nature through its own winding path.
Mindell (1984, p.9) states that “Process Work is a natural science. A process-oriented psychologist studies and follows nature, while a therapist programs what he thinks should be happening. I don’t believe in therapy because I don’t know any more what is right for other people…I simply look to see exactly what happens to me while [the client] is reacting. I let the dreambody processes tell me what wants to happen and what to do next. That is the only pattern I follow. I do not press people. Their bodies and souls know better than I do.”
Process Work adapts to the changes of nature. It is mercurial, changing in its emphasis and focus depending on the momentary situation that occurs. The emphasis is on the flow of nature rather than on a specific or static state or situation. Mindell (1985) uses the image of a train to describe process- as opposed to state-oriented psychology. A train travels from one city to another through various landscapes, stopping at one place and then another. Each city can be seen as a state or situation we experience, whilst the ongoing travelling or flow of the train from city to city is the process. Like Taoism, the focus in Process Work is on the flow of experience from one state to another, rather than a focus on a particular state. According to Process Work, a problem occurs when a process is frozen into a particular state and no movement is possible. One is then unable to adapt to the flux of nature and the changes that might be necessary in this new situation. From this frozen state difficulties arise.
The work of the Process Worker is to encourage the continuous movement of life. An example might be useful here. A client entered my office complaining of being depressed and apathetic. He was in a specific experience or train station we could label as depression. His flow of experience was focused on this specific state. He was frozen in this state, unable to express in any way except through his experience of depression. Getting back onto the train occurred by encouraging the experience to unfold further. When we followed his body experience of depression he first felt the feeling of depression in his body. He then began to represent it by curling up tightly, pulling his shoulders up to his neck and clenching his hands into fists. In following the fist he began to push back at the cramping of his depression. He became angry and furious about both his work situation and his relationship. The train had moved on into anger. As we stayed with the anger it moved further into a feeling of personal power, and then into a feeling and discussion about taking a direction in his life. Following the process was to unfold his body experience from the frozen state, which in this example was depression, through fury and anger, and into empowerment. All of this occurred through following the natural flow of experience.
Process Work is interested in the flow of experience from one state to another. It is also interested in the factors that stop the flow, including our beliefs, values and judgements. These beliefs and judgements often arise from conventional or familiar attitudes that are learned and adopted from the culture and others around us. They can also arise from physical limitations as well as places in our lives where we are growing into new experiences and behaviors. When these values are internalized they divide our experience into more acceptable and less acceptable ways of behaving and experiencing. Often behaviors that could be useful for us are viewed as unacceptable by our values and beliefs. When these behaviors are needed we might get frozen in a state, unable to move and follow the process due to these disavowed expressions.
Mindell wanted to create a neutral language to describe the flow of process from one state to another and the difficulties that might arise at any given moment. He used communication theory to best serve this need to develop a process science. Mindell (1995) defined process as the ongoing flow of signals through various perceptual channels. Channels are the ways in which we experience ourselves, others and the world around us. The channels which arise most frequently are the visual channel, auditory channel, proprioceptive channel (referring to inner-body feeling experiences), the kinesthetic or movement channel, relationship channel (where we experience the process occurring in relationship) and the world channel (when the process is happening in relationship to the world around us). Other channels include the smell, taste and spiritual channels.
The place where one transitions from a familiar experience into a less familiar experience is called the edge. The edge divides our experience into separate identities. The more familiar identity is called the primary identity, and the less familiar and potentially emerging identity is called the secondary identity. The edge is the barrier between these two identities. At the edge resides many beliefs, values and judgements which act as a support of the primary identity, preventing a fluid transition into new and unknown experiences. These attributes are called the edge figures and are responsible for limiting our range of expression and holding us in states from which it is difficult to emerge. Following the flow of expression from moment to moment requires the ability to be fluid between those states which are primary and those which are secondary for us.
The example of the client who was depressed might assist in clarifying this theory. When the client arrived in therapy he was frozen in a state that he called depression. This was his primary identity. I asked him to explore this more deeply by following the experience of his depression. This was done by my client feeling the depression within his body (proprioceptive channel). When we explored this more deeply he became aware of his feeling of wanting to curl up and clench his fists (movement channel). This helped him to feel his anger, which was followed by a feeling of his power to change his work and relationships (world and relationship channels). This was his secondary identity. In his life he had an edge against moving into his power. When we explored his edge more deeply he mentioned his family situation where he felt constantly oppressed by his father who was angry and verbally abusive. He had internalized a belief that anger was unacceptable, and so had repressed this expression in his life. This was a belief which had served him well but now froze him in situations where his anger and unfolding from this anger, his power to make changes was needed.
Not only are individuals frozen into certain identities and held by edge figures and beliefs, but cultures can also be held by these frozen identities. An example of this is evident in the men’s movement. Prior to the 1970s men were culturally encouraged to be tough and unfeeling in the ‘John Wayne’ image. This might be called the primary identity of men at this time. In the early 1970s the anti-sexist men’s movement emerged, encouraging men to open to more feelings and relatedness. The focus on deeper sensitivity and feeling was beyond the current experience of men, and was clearly over the edge of acceptable male identity. This was an emerging secondary identity for many men. However, some men left behind the power and strength of their initial identity. In the 1990s the focus of many in the men’s movement has been to encourage men to reclaim their power. There was a return to toughness, but in doing so it was important to not again neglect their sensitive side. At times, supporting the development of one aspect of a personality is valuable. However, at another moment other aspects which have been neglected in this support will again need to emerge. In men’s work, both the feeling side and the tough side of men are important and strive for expression.
Process Work and Metaskills
The term “metaskills” was developed by Dr. Amy Mindell to describe the awareness and conscious use of the background values, beliefs and attitudes of the therapist. These feeling attitudes of the therapist are difficult to describe in words, but create an important effect in therapy. They reflect the therapist’s own personal development, values and attitudes. Amy Mindell (1995, p.20) writes that “I was fascinated by the way that the process-oriented therapist’s feeling attitudes such as fluidity, compassion, humor, playfulness, and shamanism allowed these basic beliefs (the values of Process Work such as following nature) to come to life in practice. I elevated these feeling attitudes to the level of a skill appreciating and cultivating them with as much love and depth as ordinary techniques. The concept of metaskills implies a new art form or discipline that can be fostered or studied.”
The importance of metaskills is demonstrated by an experience I had with Arnold Mindell in working with a dream I had of a client who had died a few weeks before. On the very night she had died, I dreamed that she was in the Bardo, the Tibetan reference to the place to which one goes after one dies but before one moves onto the next life. In the dream I was trying to get her to the ‘light’, a numinous experience ahead of us. This dream repeated the whole night, with me unsuccessfully trying to assist her to reach the light. For two weeks after I had had the dream, I tried to work on it. I felt my client was still with me in the Bardo, trying to get to this numinous light. In working with the dream Arny recommended that I go to the light myself, which I did promptly and with much relief. Emerging from the light I attempted to address my client’s dilemma of being stuck and unable to move. Even radiating with this numinous light myself I could not help her to move. I then noticed Arny’s patience in the interaction. He seemed detached and open to waiting forever. I realized that one of the qualities of being in the light was that there was nowhere to go and an openness to each moment. I embraced this metaskill which Arny was embodying and immediately felt free and detached from the whole situation. I felt my client suddenly too become free and able to move into the light. Arny had helped me with this dream through his embodiment of the metaskill of detachment.
Process Work and Teleology
An important concept in Process Work is the idea of teleology. This concept was first formulated by Aristotle (Wolff, 1966) and adopted by C.G. Jung in his work. This perspective views events as meaningful and purposeful and striving towards an end goal, the vision of which is already evident in the onset of the original situation. Aristotle used the image of an acorn in explaining teleology. The acorn is a small seed which grows into an oak tree. Its evolutionary process is already set in a meaningful and purposeful way within its original situation as an acorn. Aristotle believed that all of nature reflects this evolutionary tendency inherently built within the original impulse.
Jung based his form of analytical psychology on teleological principles such as individuation, or the innate tendency of individuals to grow into their own wholeness. Jung attempted to demonstrate teleology in his work through the documentation of hundreds of dreams of patients. Jung argued that the dreams evidenced a developmental or evolutionary structure which held the possibility of guiding the person in their development.
Teleology looks ahead, exploring meaning in where things are heading rather than where they come from. Process Work applies teleology in a similar way, viewing experience and difficulties as meaningful, purposeful and striving towards an end goal. Focusing on the cause of an event might be important, but following the teleological process to the outcome which is strived for might well be more satisfying and sustainable in the longer term, providing unexpected meaning and understanding of difficult and challenging conditions. From this perspective, difficulties and challenges are viewed as significant and important in their ability to transform ourselves and the world around us.
Applications of Process Work
Process Work has developed in its application over the years. In following his Jungian training, Mindell initially focused on the dreaming process and how it might be of benefit to those in individual therapy. However, as Process Work developed Mindell also began to explore the dreaming process in his work with dying people, those in a coma, and those in extreme states. Mindell also began to apply Process theory to relationships, conflict situations, small groups and large group situations. As the applications of Process Work developed, so has the theory to meet these applications.
Since 1991, the Process Work community has experimented with large group events where participants from diverse backgrounds, countries, ethnic groups, religions, classes, races, sexual orientations and ages have met together to work on world conflict issues such as sexism, racism, classism, homophobia and war. Process Work calls this Worldwork. Process Work has expanded the individual therapy paradigm to include relationships and groups. The model states that processes are interrelated, and thus individual work is intrinsically connected to relationships, environmental work and political work in the world.
Process Work with Groups
Mindell’s initial training in physics has contributed to the development of Process Work. An important concept in trying to understand process in a group situation is the idea of the field. Fields create patterns, and everything within this pattern is part of the field. A field is “the atmosphere or climate of any community, including its physical, environmental and emotional surroundings.” (Mindell, 1995, p.42) Mindell states that “fields are natural phenomena that include everyone, are omnipresent, and exert forces upon things in their midst.” (1992, p.15) Fields spontaneously organize people into groups which have particular patterns and agreements on specific values and identities. These norms, beliefs and values are evident within the field and are constellated in different individuals and groups within this field. In Process Work we describe these subgroup constellations in the field as roles. An example might be helpful here: South Africa during my early years was a field with a particular climate and atmosphere of oppression and authority. The roles in this field included the police and others in authority, those oppressed by the police, those who were frightened and withdrawn, those who reacted and were hostile to the police, etc. With changes in South Africa, the roles and field began to change. Fields and roles are not static but rather are in flux, like the Tao, ever changing, evolving and transforming.
Fields have an essential wisdom. They strive for awakening and expression, which comes about through participants’ interaction and awareness of the field’s polarities and process. Fields form polarities and conflicts, creating diversity and differences in members’ perspectives and ideas. Fields also bring people together, creating a sense of community and care. The field can be imagined as an Anthropos figure in Greek mythology, which creates the world by using its own body parts to form the basic elements of the universe. The different people, animals and groups in the world are made from its body. This world Anthropos has a mind of its own, and is striving towards its own awareness and learning through the interaction of its various parts within itself. Through the conflict between its parts, it awakens into consciousness and awareness.
In Process Work, group work and Worldwork, when we become conscious of our feelings and perceptions and express these in the collective interaction of the group, we enable the group to consciously explore and evolve through the interaction of the different roles within the group’s field. With awareness, edges (or growing places in the roles) emerge, and the interaction between the roles unfolds. Once developed, roles, edges, and dialogue allow the group to evolve and unfold together into new ways of relating and expressing. At another moment different roles will again constellate creating opportunities for new issues to emerge and be worked on.
Roles and Timespirits
At times in his writing Mindell uses the concepts of roles and timespirits interchangeably. A timespirit is a role or spirit manifesting at a given moment in time. The focus on roles as timespirits allows for a greater recognition that roles manifest in a particular time and place and are constantly in flux, appearing and disappearing depending on the needs of each moment. Mindell (1995, p.42) states that roles and timespirits “change rapidly because they are a function of the moment and locality. Roles in groups are not fixed but fluid. They are filled by different individuals and parties over time, keeping the roles in a constant state of flux.”
Mindell (1992) views the roles we play in a group as analogous to the poles of a magnet, where if one role manifests, another arises to balance it. Tension in a field is often created by these polarities, which often manifest as conflicts or disagreement within the group. These polarities press us to know ourselves and one another, and create both division between positions as well as a sense of community within a group. The tension between individuals in a group is a result of polarized timespirits which are manifesting. Tension between the roles is natural. This tension assists in clarifying the identities of the roles, and encourages the development of greater awareness and depth in the roles. Consciously exploring the tension also assists the roles in understanding each other more deeply, and in changing due to learning from each other. From this deepening, the polarities between the roles might dissolve and the group often feels a greater sense of well-being, closeness and communion. Although these moments are relieving and at times even ecstatic, the Process Work model recognizes that these are only moments in an ongoing flow of expression and evolution. At the next moment, different timespirits will emerge also desiring greater awareness and consciousness.
An important focus in Process Work is to recognize that roles are not personal to any given individual or group. At one moment a person in a group might feel aligned with a particular role and then change and feel entirely different at another moment. The message is aligned with the role, and thus is not necessarily attached to the person carrying the message. Our ability to listen to the message rather than attempt to criticize or destroy the messenger is important. The field yearns for the message to be heard and will manifest this role through various people in order for its message to be heard. In order to become awake and whole the Anthropos needs all of its roles to be expressed, listened to and interacted with. These roles not only reside in the Anthropos, but in each person as well. In this sense Process Work views each individual as a holographic image of the whole, with all the roles and parts held within the Anthropos or global dreambody, as well as held within each person in the individual dreambody.
Process Work and Deep Democracy
Deep democracy is a collective attitude where one recognizes that all the roles and aspects are not only necessary in a field, but need to be acknowledged, respected and interacted with for the wisdom and wholeness of the field to emerge. The focus is on awareness rather than force, recognizing that useful and meaningful solutions occur when there is a genuine interaction between the different roles. These roles need to be free to evolve in dialogue with each other and open to express what is genuinely occurring for each of them.
The implications of deep democracy for groups are profound and address some of the fundamentals of our cultural systems of communication and government. The current practice of democracy is based on a majority rules system. In Process Work terms, the more popular role in the field dominates other roles and creates the environment whereby the whole group operates. Although this might work well for those who are in the mainstream or majority roles of the field, it marginalizes the minority roles in the system. Individuals within such a group will not feel cared for and will feel resentful of the decisions made. The less representation the marginalized group has, the more dissatisfied the members will feel and the more likely they will be to disrupt the majority group whenever possible. The majority group will experience the marginalized group as disturbing and create structures to control this group, which further escalates the conflict and polarization.
An example of mainstream attitudes and the repression of the marginalized group was evident in a discussion I had with an Australian man a few years ago. We were discussing the racial problems in South Africa. He mentioned that since the black Africans had ‘taken over’ South Africa, the economy and country had ‘become a mess’. The racism in this message was hurtful to me. I noticed that he was viewing the problem solely from the White mainstream viewpoint. I commented to him that for the black people in South Africa they might feel a considerable improvement from the institutional racism of less than a decade ago. In the discussion he was only able to view the problem from what had been for many years the dominant ‘white, racist’ position in South Africa.
The attitudes of deep democracy, which are also more specifically expressed at times in diversity and multiculturalism, provide potential solutions to this escalating conflict. The wisdom that all sides of a conflict or polarity are to be honored allows for a true dialogue to occur between all the parts so that a deeper understanding might develop. In the above example, an openness of the white man in Australia to the feedback of black people might well provide him with new ways of viewing and improving his relationships with others. Similarly, at another moment black leaders in South Africa might want to listen to the feedback of the white people in helping to develop a cohesive nation in South Africa. The ability to honor all sides and create a condition of genuine interaction is important.
Deep democracy is based on consensus where all the parties involved consent to a focus, decision or theme of discussion. It requires a dialogue and interaction to ensure that all sides are well represented. Consensus does not mean that the parties agree to the issue or resolution, but that there is consent by all to follow a certain path for the moment with the recognition that there are differences along this path or even that other paths would be preferable to some people.
A challenge to consensus and deep democracy occurs at times when it might be difficult for a role to be expressed in a group. This might be due to the role being unacceptable to the more mainstream part of the group and therefore repressed. It is also possible that this role has trouble emerging as those members who are experiencing this role have been previously abused and are unable to express their positions. The role then becomes a ghost. At these moments the group will feel the tension of the ghost role, and will have difficulty giving this role a voice and expression. Taking time to find the ghosts in the group and address them are important to prevent deeper resentment and further conflict.
For deep democracy to be effective, it is important to recognize when a group is repressing a role that is disturbing to the group identity. When communities abandon difficult issues, they choose unconscious methods of bypassing edges surrounding these issues, and miss out on essential aspects of the group and its development. Frequently these issues recycle, creating background tension and conflict in the group.
Recently I was asked to assist in working with an intentional community on racism. The community had developed twenty years ago as an offspring of the church to which it was affiliated. A background value of the community was love and care for each other. Whenever problems occurred members were asked to forgive each other and create a loving environment. This system of love worked well on the whole, but essential conflicts of community life were not worked out. At times over the years people would leave the community unhappy with the conditions and unable to create change apart from the norms of love and care. One of these conflicts was the relationship of people of color to white people in the community. Some African American members complained of racism and had left. At one moment an African American couple insisted on addressing these issues. The community was now in crisis. The previous ways of working on conflict no longer worked and the community was now required to address new forms of growing and living together.
Being the disturber to a mainstream role is difficult. It requires courage, conviction of purpose and a commitment to ones ideas in a challenging environment. Its expression is frequently not supported by the mainstream voice. Process Work is aware of this and will consciously look for this ghost role in a group and help support its emergence. Even with support, however, it can be difficult to express these roles. Frequently when people have been abused or hurt for their expressions they will find it difficult to express these views again. At times it can even be dangerous to express one’s truth. In order to not repeat abuse, it is important to create a condition where the oppressed voice can be heard and cared for. The caring in the group however goes further, not only towards those disturbing voices, but also to everyone in the group itself. This also asks the disturber to be self aware. Often those issues we are upset about in others are also part of who we are as people, and the disturber needs also to be aware of their own desire for revenge and their own marginalized voices within. To create a democratic condition where people are able to participate freely is challenging but deeply enriching. When all the roles in the field are able to be valued and expressed, there is greater freedom for all.
Process Work is interested not only in individual work but also in the development of groups, cultures, societies and the world. At times working on an individual level is important. For example, the withdrawing of projections onto others can significantly enrich both the individual and others around them. But at another moment addressing the tension on a systemic level is important. At this moment the field itself, whether it is a small group or the world at large, wants to know itself; evolving this self awareness is valuable. Process Work provides a model where personal issues, relationship difficulties, as well as difficult world conflicts can be explored and addressed.
Creating a Map: Process Work Structure of Group Process
Every group process has its own feeling quality, and the stages a group goes through vary a great deal. Sometimes it might appear that a group of people are just spending some easy and calm time together chatting; other times the process becomes quite emotional and dramatic. Sometimes the process is logical and linear, at other times it is very feeling. And still at other times, it becomes quite wild and chaotic with a lot of expression, often in unfamiliar channels such as movement. Group process has no absolute linear form, nor are any definitive directions given by the facilitators of the group process as to how the group ought to proceed. The process can change at any moment into any of a number of different directions and possibilities, depending on the group and timespirits that emerge through the contributions of group members. However, most group processes tend to take a specific form, the outline of which might be useful to know in following that particular group process. In the following sections, I will trace a familiar pattern through group process. As each step in the group process is described, I will present useful facilitation methods for unfolding the process.
Sensing the Atmosphere
When a group gets together, it brings with it a certain atmosphere depending on the timespirits that need expression in the field. These timespirits will manifest through the quality of feelings, tensions and issues that are present for the group members. Like the Tibetan Shaman who takes into account the environment in diagnosing and even prognosing a patient’s illness, the Process Work facilitator needs to be aware of the atmosphere they enter upon working with a group. From the feelings, background tensions and history of the group, the facilitator can determine potential issues that can emerge in the group. The facilitator will already be aware of the unexpected and surprising moments that might quickly emerge and then dissipate in the group, tracking these for possible information about future processes.
Sorting is the process used to assist a group in determining the possible topics it would like to focus on. Sometimes a group gets together to address a specific topic or concern. At these moments the sorting process is unnecessary, as the group already knows which issue it would like to focus on. At other times there may be many topics which members would like to be addressed. At these moments, it is important for the facilitator to keep track of the various issues which are on the table and at a later moment present to the group these issues so that the group can make a decision about the direction in which to go. At times this might be a linear process where a list is formed about which the group can make a decision. At other times a decision will be made due to the heat, emotional or situational strength of the topic. During the sorting process the facilitator needs to ensure that the topics that emerge from the field are clearly stated and understood by the group. The facilitator can also assist the group in the awareness of what topics might be present but difficult to introduce, and encourage their emergence.
Once a number of topics have emerged, the group will begin to go deeper into one or many of these topics. Several group members will desire to discuss or address a topic more deeply. The facilitator will need to check with the group to determine if it is time to choose a topic to work on. At this moment and all other moments of a group process, it is up to the group to determine what direction it chooses to move in. The facilitator acts to increase the group’s awareness of the choices it has and can make. The choice of a topic is a momentary agreement by the members of the group to address a particular topic. Some members might well desire to focus on another topic but are prepared to forgo this desire for the time being. When the group is in agreement about focusing on a topic, a consensus is reached and the group can further explore the agreed on issue. Reaching a consensus will tend to prevent a marginalized group or timespirit which desires a different direction from disturbing the agreed on focus of the group. By including these timespirits the process and encouraging their expression and viewpoints, it is more likely that they will not become disturbers during the discussion of the agreed on topic. As discussed in the section on deep democracy, Process Work views these disturbers as often having important viewpoints and insights that enhance and enrich the group field.
At times the group might have difficulty in reaching a consensus. This might be due to any of a number of issues. The most frequent reason is that the very process of that group is oriented toward not to reaching consensus, but rather for many people to talk and introduce the issues and feelings that are close to their hearts. This form of expression then becomes the consensus. The facilitator needs to be skillful in introducing the possibility of coming to consensus at the right moment, as the timing is important. Coming to consensus too early might result in the inadvertent oppression of some voices. Coming to consensus too late might mean the group can become immersed in an issue without the full consensus of the group, potentially resulting in the less represented ideas emerging again to disturb the group at an inopportune moment. Once an agreement has been made, the facilitator needs to embrace the skill of holding the focus on this particular topic for exploration and noting to the group if other topics are reintroduced.
The Exploration of the Roles
Once the group has decided on the issue, an exploration of the content of the issue emerges. With most issues there are at least two sides or viewpoints. Frequently one of these sides is more evident and the other is often more hidden. The more hidden role or position is called the ghost role. It is often an attitude that is talked about or hinted at in the group but has difficulty in being directly represented. The facilitator’s role is to help in bringing out the different sides and viewpoints in the group. At times role-playing a particular ghost or attitude might assist the group in clarifying this viewpoint.
The Alchemical Pot: The Interaction of the Roles
Once the roles emerge, interaction is possible between the various positions. Different individuals will be drawn to articulate and support different positions in the interactions. At this moment there is a tangible feeling in the interaction of the different sides heating up. The facilitator needs to stay aware and able to support the interaction of the various roles and to begin to encourage realness in the acting out of the roles. The facilitator also needs to be aware of not being too personally involved at this moment in the development of the roles, but rather hold a meta position or overview of the interaction of the positions.
Edges and Hot Spots
As the heat of the issue emerges, the group can move into very intense moments or hot spots. These moments are important to stay with, although the tendency will be to shy away from these and focus on a less heated moment. Hot spots tend to escalate later if they are not focused on when they first emerge. They are an invitation to go more deeply into the issues and often bring out disavowed feelings and thoughts which bring further understanding and enrichment to the group. However, these moments can be difficult and also bring out new, less comfortable and challenging aspects of the group. These hot spots frequently indicate that the group is at an edge to new expressions and development. Edges might also arise at other moments in the group. Edges are also important to stay with. If the group avoids these challenging moments, the energy of the group often decreases and the group might recycle back around the issue. Throughout this process the facilitator keeps awareness of the overall group process. If an edge or hot spot is reached the facilitator encourages the group to stay with this issue and unfold it further. The facilitator strives to keep aware of all the parts of the group, caring for all the roles and individuals, recognizing that all are needed for the whole to be expressed.
As the edges and hot spots are addressed, feeling, connection and understanding occur between the different sides of the process. The level of intimacy varies depending on the issue and the development of the sides. At times there can be a deep sense of unity and connection achieved throughout the group and the different positions drop away. At other moments there can be a greater understanding and appreciation of the opposing roles. At these momentary states of resolution, there is a change of feeling in the group. The members become closer, conflicting signals deescalate, and there are often moments of silence and deep appreciation for the diversity and intensity of being human. At these moments the facilitator might comment on the feeling change or momentary resolution of the group. Soon after these moments, new issues which desire to be known will again emerge, asking for attention, interaction and knowledge. The group again will need to gain consensus to focus on the next issue.
Process Work and Research on Men and Power
Process Work is a dynamic and fluid approach to following and studying the subjective and intersubjective experience of individuals, relationships and groups. It has a complex yet systematic set of tools with which to study communication signals, relationship dynamics and group process in an in-vivo setting. It is easily adaptable to many conditions and has been effective cross-culturally in many settings around the world. Its language is a common one, of fully following and mapping the process of learning and discovery. Because of the fluidity of its nature, it is a useful model to study subjects with many divergent views, such as the men’s movements.
Process Work is a new model of working with individuals and groups. There is a small, growing body of research on the effectiveness of Process Work in a range of applications, including work with illness, prisons, mediation, etc. Worldwork provides an ideal structure to investigate social issues such as sexism and the changes in expectations and power that men are experiencing. However, there has been no research exploring the effectiveness of Process Work in addressing men’s issues or those of men and power. This research is therefore an important addition to the body of knowledge of Process Work.
Before investigating the issues of men and how men use power, it is important to introduce the reader to the issues of power. In the next chapter, I explore how power is defined, the various approaches to understanding power, how power ought to be used and the effects of the use and misuse of power.