Thursday, December 6, 2012

I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille

In my society, people are not taught how to behave in groups except as a member of the audience or the person standing in front of the audience. We learn about romantic one-on-one relationships, we learn about friendships, also we learn how to sit quietly and pretend to pay attention. Some us learn how to lead a group, of course. But no one ever shows us how to behave as a full participant in any group situation in which there is no apparent leader or commander.

The thing about the speaker/audience (commander/troops, teacher/students) format for groups is that there really is only one participant, the speaker. Even at a concert, it is the musicians who channel most of the energy. Within the audience, there is applause, cheering, whistling, even singing along, jumping up and dancing around, but audience behavior never touches the energy that gathers on stage, except maybe at death metal concerts in the mosh pit.

What we know about group behavior comes from the dynamics of our families of origin, which accounts for why poorly facilitated gatherings and meetings of all kinds, no matter the purpose, tend to go very wrong. With no other model to rely on, when we aren't clear about who is in charge, we lapse into family of origin dynamics. Things go downhill from there, of course. Family dynamics are reflected in clubs, cliques and gangs of all kinds. If we knew we were role playing, we could learn so much. Alas.

I learned a lot about group behavior during my years with Reclaiming because allegedly we were non hierarchical and also allegedly used consensus in every group situation except public rituals. Consensus process is not a great way to make decisions. What it is, however, is creative. In Reclaiming meetings I witnessed every kind of acting out, also every kind of good behavior and always, bewilderment. We were dancing on completely unfamiliar territory. The energy in those meetings was unruly, but powerful. Sometimes it was fun, sometimes: frustrating as hell.

What I learned from the maddening years of Reclaiming meetings I endured is that, when given free rein, group behavior becomes a play, a sacred or not so sacred drama, a saga. The longer the meetings dragged on, the more developed the characters became, sort of like what happens in a TV show over time. 

The crazy behavior that takes place within families of origin is itself an epic myth cycle, as anyone who has ever been in psychotherapy can tell you. Every examined childhood memory reveals the role play that is part of every family. Who is the good child? The ornery one? The smartest? The black sheep? What about the parents - are they a unified team, the god and goddess of the myth cycle? Or are they pitted against one another, like God vs. the Devil? Every role that gets enacted is necessary in order to tell the family saga. Some roles are more fun to play than others, but all are a part of the drama.

I've been curious about how the group dynamics played themselves out during the Occupy movement. I read various complaints about the movement based on the fact that there was no central message and no group leader. I thought it was a fabulous moment of group dynamic evolution, though I'm guessing that it must have been confusing for those taking part. Did some people revert to the roles they played when growing up? I'd be willing to bet money some did.

In my family of origin, also during my years with Reclaiming, my role was to sit in the group until I couldn't stand it any longer, then lose my temper and stomp out of the room. That bit might sound "negative" (I never know what that means). But the truth is, my role served a beneficial purpose. Stomping out of the room in a huff inevitably broke up the stuck energy, enabling progress in the unfolding of the work at hand. 

If I were a member of Congress, right about now I would slam my fist on the lectern, snort with outrage and march out of the Capitol, slamming the door behind me. Maybe then the Fiscal Cliff negotiations could move forward.

Anyway, that's neither here nor there. The point of this post (glad to finally get to it!) is that during my trip to Kansas City next week I'm playing a very different role than I ever did in my family, or Reclaiming for that matter. I am coming into the drama, I am taking a central role in the saga, I am co-facilitating the unveiling of my mother's grave stone, which places me in the galactic center of this epic moment in the history of my family. 

I will be playing against type next week. It's a monumental rite of passage. I can't wait.

Shalom and happy Thursday. 


The Pollinatrix said...

I would LOVE to turn on the news one day to see you, as a member of Congress, stomping out of the Capitol. That would be awesome.

Hey, maybe we could just send Congress a death metal singing telegram?

I can sense how your impending trip really is a rite of passage for you; I can feel the energy of that - I'm excited for you!

Reya Mellicker said...

Death metal singing telegram? Whoa. Or should I say wow?

Susan will you hold me in your thoughts on the 14th? That's the day of the ritual. It would mean a lot. Just touch on thoughts of me. Ok?

The Pollinatrix said...

Absolutely. I would be honored to.

Reya Mellicker said...

Thank you!

ellen abbott said...

It will be interesting to see if you prevail in your new role or if you revert to type.

Reya Mellicker said...

It surely will.