Meeting 5-5
Focus: When it all craps out…

The basic structure of this meeting is the same as Meeting 1.1 - refer back for more information.

Some issues may have come up during check-in that the group may wish to spend more time on rather than moving straight into the 'focus'; or perhaps some issue is still to be dealt with from the previous week. When it is appropriate the leader moves the group into the main focus for this meeting.

5) The Big Bit in the middle - the leader announces the focus of the meeting

Focus: When it all craps out…

We've probably arrived at this point as the result of a conflict - opposing it all ideas being held by (usually) two men in the group. Either man may be feeling hurt or not heard. Each may be deeply invested in their individual point of view may have defended it energetically and be unwilling to 'move' consider/allow another perspective. Sometimes shaming or otherwise abusive things get said in the heat of the moment - we dig our trenches and say to ourselves: 'I'm not letting him get away with this…'.

Sometimes an opposing idea may be so 'wrong' from our point of view that we will not even consider it, and refuse to negotiate.

Sometimes another man's attitude will be so 'perverse' (as I judge it), as to be ludicrous - and yet why don't the others in the group see it that way? This can be particularly confusing… We look around for others to confront this attitude - yet I alone may be the only one ready to do 'this work' - ie of exploring this issue. Am I ready to take on this task - persuading the whole group?

In the heat of the moment even logical/rational thought processes may go out the window - men may flip flop - aggressively supporting one idea, and then the seemingly direct opposite in the next breath! Weird…- but it happens.

So what is really going on? Well you've reached a place of 'High Tension' -it's like standing on high voltage electricity cables - if you touch each other, sparks will fly and you may get an explosion. Two high tension cables can peacefully coexist side by side, but if they reach across - watch out! But in the group we are in the business of 'reaching across' - so what do we do?

Someone has to recognise and say:
"You guys are like high tension cables right now, one positive. one negative highly charged. But electricity is good and beneficial to mankind, electricity won't work without positive AND negative, we need both of you, and both of you are ok, even though you may not be able to see that right now. Positive electric current has no concept or understanding of negative electric current, and vice versa. All we have to do is turn down the voltage a little: are you ready to do that?"

Exercises

  1. Are you really ready to 'turn down the voltage'? - ie let go of the issue, for now, and step back to another place?
  2. If not - why not? This is the biggie - if you've been 'hurt', you may not want to reveal this to group and make yourself more vulnerable. This is understandable - and this is why we dig our 'defensive' trenches. Being 'wounded', feeling pain, wishing to avoid pain - these cause us to fight and be defensive.
  3. What will it take for you to be ready? What do you need to ask for to take care of yourself? (There is no paradox here - in a group context we take care of ourselves via group process - ie we are fully involved as individuals in setting up a group process that supports us).
    1. from yourself?
    2. from him?
    3. from the group?
  4. Is he ready to turn down the voltage?
    What's his issue?
    What is he asking for?
  5. What is being demanded?
    Is it reasonable - according to established group process/agreements?
  6. What roles are other group members playing?
    Where are they 'at' - what's going on for them?
    Are they willing to say? - or not want to be involved?
    Why? Do they see it as their issue?
  7. Are there any 'ultimatums'? From whom?
    Why? Are they fair? - reasonable?
  8. Have we moved to a new place - ie someone's unwritten rules being applied unilaterally - without discussion/agreement?
    Is this a reasonable group process?
    Is the group confronting this? If not, why not?
  9. In stepping down the voltage, is the group willing to go back to basics?
    • ie re-commit to using agreed to guidelines/rules? Or is someone holding out for 'own way'?
    • or agreeing in words but not actions ie being inconsistent…unfair? on purpose?
    (It may be a long process, but how else can we proceed except by agreements? - our agreements attempt to define healthy non-abusive interactions - they are the beginning and the end of what is possible for any group).
  10. Are we able to visualise the end of this conflict? What does that look like?
  11. Has trust been lost? Has someone broken their word?
    Has someone been hurt? - How? How can trust be restored?
    Will an amends/apology help to heal the wound?
    Is an apology appropriate? - forthcoming? - sincere? - believable? - or just a set-up?
  12. What is the basis of our continuance as a group?
    Did we start with good-will? Do we still have it?
    Or ill-will/resentment?
    How do we now proceed with any reasonable chance for 'progress' as a group?

Notes for Meeting 5-5

The above exercises are designed to explore the possibility of reconciliation. However we must also recognise that sometimes this will not be possible. Being vulnerable is an unpleasant place to be, especially in company of someone we don't trust, someone that may have 'hurt' us already. Even if we do have the courage to confront an issue, and possibly even the whole group, it can take an enormous amount of physical and emotional energy to do this work, and over time we may get worn down, in attempting to create a 'healthy' group process that the other men in the group may not want to move to. And yet the alternative may be something that we choose not to have to live with.

Ultimately we each define and create a minimum acceptable standard of 'group process', without which we are compromising our group experience, and presumably not getting our needs met. So we may go in with good intentions looking for a good group experience, but we must also recognise this may not happen, and need to walk away, at least, hopefully, understanding what it was all about.