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The Deep Democracy of Open Forums

The Deep Democracy of Open Forums: Practical Steps to Conflict Prevention and Resolution for the Family, Workplace, and World by Arnold Mindell

Some of my favourite excerpts…

Therefore, in this book, I look forward to sharing  with you and describing

How to recognize and explore conflict, instead of conflicting with  conflict and repressing it

Ways to enjoy and know your deepest self during group meetings

How to use inner experience in organizations

How to put deep democracy into practice when complex feelings  and diversity issues are at stake

How to apply deep democracy to create “preventative medicine” in  organization meetings such as Open Forums, in all sorts of  communities, at any time, and especially during crisis periods

How to work with the surface issues that trouble our organizations,  and explore the deepest feelings, dreams, and stories that create   communities

How the mysterious background that hovers around each of us  and our organizations contains the power of change
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My point is that considering the “dictators” or the system to be the  problem is superficial. The deeper problem lies with the manner in  which all of us do or do not use our awareness of the roles and “ghosts”  (that is, third parties who are spoken about but not directly represented)   in community. Each time we ignore our own hurtful signals and the  signals of others, each time we ignore ghosts, we co-create a terrifying  world, and destroy our own organizations.

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In process work, awareness is the key. As in Taoism’s view, the necessary   next steps to relationships are found in the momentary situation.  The job of conflict managers is not only to reorganize people, but also  to help people recognize how their own communication signals and  dreams, the hidden signals and feelings, the hidden Tao, so to speak, of

a given situation reorganize organizations. These vital signals and  dreams bring people back into step with one another. The point is to  train our awareness to notice the necessary next steps hidden in what I  will later define as “body signals” and “organizational ghosts.”  Awareness inevitably reveals the new steps that can transform even  intractable conflict.

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The point is that democracy furthers power, not awareness.  Therefore, no one intervenes when a person or group exerts its psychological   power and “rules” others. Today’s democracy is like an old  dance. We need a new dance, a deeper democracy, based on awareness  of what is happening inside ourselves and others.

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The point of the story is that democratic procedures such as  Robert’s Rules of Order work best only when they have been preceded  by awareness of the deepest inner experiences of the group’s members.  Democracy as an outer form has great value, but without precise  awareness of inner states, it can unwittingly propagate abuse and denigration   by supporting power over people.

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If you want more information on process-oriented methods of helping organizations solve apparently  intractable problems, see my Year One for an overview of conflict work.  The Leader as Martial Artist gives you a general background to the methods, and my Sitting in the Fire addresses large-group work with  highly emotional issues around war, race, and gender.

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Gossip is important; it tells us that there is a kind of dreaming going on; things  are happening in the group, under the surface.

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The facilitator must point out  that ageism-favoring one age group of people over another age group-is a moment-to-moment process as well as a social problem.

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process-oriented  worldwork is really a continuum with at least three formats: business-styled   negotiation and community-making procedures, Open Forum  work, and large-group emotional work. These formats overlap and can  be combined,

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In this book, I focus mainly on the Open Forum because of its wide  application and preventative value: If it is used regularly, many (perhaps  all) of the more extreme situations may be avoided. The semilinear  process of Open Forums is progressive: There is a beginning, a conflict,  and, often, an end or resolution. For example, a problem is stated and  methods of dealing with that problem are explored. Then, dialogue that

allows unpredictable emotional interchange can emerge. Finally, this  interchange is followed by proposals gained from insights into existing  diversity factors and prior experiences with the current tension.

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The most helpful idea I know of for clearing out your mind and  preparing for the Open Forum is to consider that the Open Forum you  want to facilitate is entirely within yourself. Take a moment and try the  following suggestions for innerwork.

1. Imagine the coming (or a possible) Open Forum. If you are not  preparing for one in the moment, imagine one, think of an issue  important to you that you would like to see processed in an  Open Forum. What issue comes to mind just now?

2. Imagine two speakers who come forward to dialogue about the  issue at stake. Give these two people names, Ms. You and Mr.  Other. Now imagine the Open Forum and these two speakers.  Let’s say that each speaker talks for one minute. Listen quietly  to what each has to say. Let each side speak deeply about her  or his point of view. (Make notes.) Let each side speak about  what is essential to him or her. What are the basic points each  side is trying to make?

Ms. You:

Mr. Other:

3. Now ask yourself: “How do the two sides represent different  aspects of my own thinking, behavior, and deep-seated feelings?   Which side or view would I like to be more conscious of  in the future? How can I be open to and understand this side of  myself?” Does your imaginary Open Forum reflect inner problems   you have recently been thinking about? Open Forums can  be a powerful method of discovering what is happening deep  within yourself.

4. Also ask yourself how the imaginary Open Forum reflects relationship   issues you have been thinking about. What side have  you been on inside yourself, and how does your one-sidedness  help to create problems? What would you like to change, if anything,   in your own life as a result of this innerwork, in this next  few minutes and in the coming week?

The point of this exercise is to get clear in yourself about who you  are and how you are the world. If you

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When  awareness is present, the spontaneous behavior of everyone is awakened   and unpredictable processes emerge that are what’s best for all. In  the example of the Open Forum in Ireland, I spoke about the body gestures   of the man with lethal blood pressure, and how noticing those  gestures led to the common ground between opposing parties.

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If you are not clear about the subsidiary issues under the umbrella  topic, you may find yourself sideswiped. You begin the Open Forum by  focusing on the stated issue, then someone representing a group or  issue that you forgot comes forward and attacks you for marginalizing  them. Then, in spite of your good intentions, there you are, being  attacked and looking embarrassed. Instead of being the helpful facilitator   you wanted to be, you have suddenly become a victim of the very  people you were hoping to empower!

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The moral of the story is “Know what’s under the umbrella” ahead  of time, and when a subsidiary issue arises, frame it. For example, in the  forum on sexism, one woman complained that she was not compensated   equally with men for her job. At this very moment, another participant   raised her hand to speak and seemed to change the subject,  discussing how much worse things were for older women regarded as  “over the hill.” You might then say, “Oh, here is the topic of ageism,”  and so forth.

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The people you speak to can help you do the necessary outreach  before the forum. Ask them who to contact, whom they would like to see there, what magazines and papers they read; ask about websites,  and the like. Follow your intuition; call the top rank as well as those lower down in your city, business, or school hierarchy. (Amanda: good insights on invitation)

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What do you look like to other people? Finding  this out could be a big shock to you!

How are you seen in terms of your …

Gender

Race

Age

Health

Social rank

Education

Profession

Sexual orientation

Religion

Language

You should first answer these questions yourself, then ask others as  well. You need to know how you are perceived and discuss those perceptions   with others so that you are less surprised by participants’ reactions. 

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The following   innerwork is designed to make you feel as able as possible to use the  abilities at your disposal.

1. Consider an issue you would like to see addressed in an Open  Forum. What is the topic at hand? What are some of the possible   subsidiary issues that might arise? Who are your teammates? 

2. Can you imagine the circumstances under which you might feel  the shyest in the Open Forum you are imaging? Can you imagine   the type of person at the Open Forum who might make you  feel the shyest or most fearful? What are the key elements and  attributes? Confrontation? Humiliation? Sorrow? Guilt?

3. Now imagine what that person might say and how she might  behave. This can be difficult to do, but try it anyhow. Listen to  her viewpoint. What is it? Does she say or imply that you know  too little, are insignificant, are out of place, etc.?

4. When you are ready, imagine being that person, thinking her  thoughts and even gesturing the way she gestures. Now, in  your innerwork, make faces and gestures like she might make.  Sit like she sits; speak to yourself as that person. Note the feeling   of being that person. What does this feel like? As that person,   what is your central message? Write it out.

5. Now let’s go back to your position, and if you can, appreciate  your viewpoint as well. Be as kind as you can be, and think  about what you might say in return. Take your own side lovingly   and listen to your message. Speak back; speak about your  viewpoint. Write it out.

6. Imagine something or someone that can help you and your  opponent come closer together. Let your unconscious mind create   a resolution, something simple and immediate. Take a  moment with this. Notice how this coming closer happens, and  write down this resolution. Is it someone who appreciates and  loves both sides? Is it someone standing on one side or another?

7. Recognize how the roles you just played (namely, that of yourself   and your opponent) might be parts of a larger group  process. Imagine the whole group processing these roles; perhaps   two figures come forward to process these roles as others   look on. Play them out in your imagination, even write out  some of the statements made by both sides, and get to know  these roles and the positions.

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Even if only one person in one hundred is aware of what is happening, the group will feel safe, and respected.

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Choose speakers from the most extreme positions you can find  on the issue, to avoid the “hovering ghosts” phenomenon.

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An optimistic,  happy-go-lucky facilitator walking into an area where there has been  much bloodshed is not appropriate or effective. If you ignore the trauma  and history there, people will not trust you. They will give you a chance  if you acknowledge that it is difficult to begin a discussion on such a  painful issue. Make sure people realize that you empathize with them.

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I think limiting the invited speakers to five minutes is helpful.

“Experts,” politicians, and social activists may want to go on forever,  inadvertently dominating others by speaking on and on.

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Don’t worry  about cutting them short. Such speakers may not feel hurt if you tell  them the time limitation ahead of the event, then, at a given moment  during their presentation, smile and say, “Your time is about up!”

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In large Open Forums, holding folks down to about two minutes  each by saying, “Your two minutes are up,” allows others to speak as  well. You can frame your request positively by saying, “Yours is an  important point, now sum it up, please, because others are waiting to  make points as well.”

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The more you communicate awareness of  processes, the safer people will feel. For example, if a person or a group  threatens another group or individual, instead of only tolerating a  silence, you might say, “In the moment, someone has spoken strongly,  and someone else in the room might be too scared to speak back.”

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I have spoken of “weather reporting,” that is, noticing and  announcing the atmosphere in the room. Keep your eye on body signals,   such as the smiles, postures, and gestures that do not make immediate   sense to you.

Notice roles (the momentary players, such as the “oppressor,” the  “oppressed,” “terrorists,” “leaders,” etc.-each group has its own  names for these roles).

You will need to become aware of “ghost roles”-that is, people and  events that are mentioned but not present or represented. (Examples of  ghost roles abound: folks who have been spoken about but who have  died, the trees spoken of in a discussion about the environment but not  represented, or the president of a country mentioned who is not present.)

Notice communication barriers or “edges”-the sudden inability of  individuals to speak or complete what they are saying.

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Hot spots are especially important in the Open Forum. A hot spot  is a moment during a group process where something flickers in the  group’s attention but is dropped because it is too scary, too emotional.

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There is no one fixed definition of a hot spot, since it is a matter of  opinion as to what is “hot.” For example, if someone mentions sex and  everyone giggles, that could be a hot spot. If someone insinuates that  the community has a problem that is difficult to speak about, then  everyone is silent, that could be a hot spot. If men’s rights at home are  mentioned in Japan and everyone laughs, that is a hot spot. Facilitators  of Open Forums need to develop awareness of hot spots.

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In principle, hot spots contain core, essential feelings and are good  energy in which to “cook” community issues. However, these hot spots  are often so hot, at first, that the issues are avoided. Eventually you  must explore them, because they are the places where fires and earthquakes   can break out later. In geology, hot spots are places in the upper  crust of the Earth where hot stuff from below touches the surface. They  are spots where volcanic eruptions originate later.

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In any case, after the first speakers have introduced the various  sides of the topic to be discussed, use your awareness to notice roles,  ghost roles, edges, and hot spots. Hot spots are important because they  contain deep issues. If you miss a hot spot, it returns-and when it

returns, it usually is in an escalated fashion. Most violence occurs  because hot spots were never addressed in the first place.

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In Open Forums, give gentle attention to hot spots. Sometimes all  you need to say is “Oops, that was a very big topic. Do we want to stay  with it or move on?”

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Awareness insights about such ghost roles and hot spots serve as  powerful interventions and are best delivered with gentleness.  Remember that awareness itself can be used as a power tactic over others.   Mention what you notice; call it simply a viewpoint, not a fact. For  example, say something like “It seems to me as if the government might  be an unrepresented figure.”

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For example, instead of using the term “hot spot,” you might say,  “That was an emotional moment, shall we return to it?” Instead of  “ghost role,” you might say, “That government is part of us right now  in our attitudes.”

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I remember working with a group in a mental health center that  was having trouble with their “boss.” They said that the boss was a  “real dictator” who had no feeling for others. Since the boss did not  show up at the meeting arranged to settle the problem, the boss  became a ghost role. Seeing that, Amy suggested that everyone play  the boss. Suddenly, all the participants became more direct and  straightforward; they became distant instead of behaving as usual-feeling   and relating to one another. Gradually, each gleaned a different  view of the boss and everyone laughed. The boss’s style was just what  was needed. In this case, the mainstream power, the boss, was a  ghost-and one that was needed!

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If you use a semilinear style, try, after someone  from one side of the issue has spoken, to help someone from the other  side speak as well and not just cower in the background in fear. In a  tense situation, even if no one’s hand from the “other side” is raised,  you might ask, “Would someone from the other side like to say anything?”   If no one chooses to speak, you can leave your role as facilitator   and say, “I will just take this role temporarily, since otherwise it will  be left out.”

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Call the two imaginary positions in conflict A and B. Imagine position   A says, “Woof, woof, woof!” and position B responds with  “Meeeooowww!” Let’s say A and B, dog and cat, are really stuck. No  one is budging. Things are getting louder and louder and beginning to  scare everyone. Violence is imminent. What next? Run for the hills?

No, sit in the fire! One way of working with this escalation is to  walk over to B, stand next to that person, and try saying something  like, “Indeed, our position is truly Meeeoow, but some of us also see the  point of the Woof!” Move back to A and say, “Woof is for us the only  way to go, but then, after hearing from you, some of us will admit that  Meeoooww is not entirely foreign to us!”

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As the facilitator,   you can go from one side to the other and say, “Yes, some of us over  here do hear a little bit of what you are saying, though the majority of  us in this position do not agree with you.” This increases the fluidity of  the process because you give people a model for going over an edge.  They don’t want to admit that they agree, but in their hearts, they really   do agree. Sometimes participants will not show agreement with the other side because they fear being perceived by their own side as a traitor.

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Imagine a confrontation between these two parties. Listen closely  in your innerwork to what people are saying. First, what are the leaders   saying?

Leaders:

(For example, the leaders might be saying, “We are doing a good  job, we mean well, and are fed up with constantly being attacked.”)

What are the opponents (or the activists) suggesting?

Opponents:

(For example, “You people want all the power and have no real  interest in the life situations of people you have marginalized!”)

Now look at these two statements and try to find the core, the  essence, of each of the messages. What is the essence of the leaders’  idea? Of the opponents’ position?

Essence of the leaders’ message:

(For example, “We are good people, stop hurting us.”)

Essence of the opponents’ message:

(For example, “We are protecting ourselves from you. We hate to be  so tough, and might relax if you respected and valued us more.”)

Why does each side have to become so dramatic? Can you feel that  reason? The reason the leaders have become so dramatic is that:

(For example, they are afraid that the organization will fail.)

The activists are dramatic because:

(For example, they feel ignored as people.)

Now let me ask you a truly inner-directed question about yourself.  How are you leading your life in such a manner as to sometimes marginalize   important parts of yourself? In what manner have you been  marginalizing one of your own deepest aspects-which has therefore  become more dramatic in its communication to you, than you care to  admit?

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After doing this work, you may feel able to understand the various  sides of your community or organization well enough to stand for them.  In this way, during the forum, you can help the marginalized group  make its points heard and enable changes to be made. You are more  likely to feel compassion for those in power and enable them to take a  stand and, at the same time, remain open enough to the issues about  privileges and powers to create possible solutions. (Amanda: why inner work like The Work is important to do before hosting)

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This makes big news. The crook,  thief, criminal, and liar were caught! Every day, new oppressors are identified   and jailed! Hurrah! Nevertheless, their number is inexhaustible,  in part because so few of us are aware of the oppressor as a ghost role  present in everyone’s behavior.

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Any given topic has at least three levels of consciousness associated   with it. Let me summarize these levels:

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Everyday reality, or consensus reality: This is the world people identify   as being the real one. In an Open Forum, everyday reality is  the world of people and events, figures and facts. You have the  mainstream and marginalized sections of the population.  Statistics and numbers are everyday reality. Systemic change  occurs when people begin to discuss changes in the organization’s  structure or rules-its expression of consensus reality.

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Dreamland: This is the world of body signals and of ghosts and  roles that people rarely see as themselves, but project outside into  the world as parties (which are, or are not present). Dreamland is  a reality too, but not a consensual one. For example, an oppressive  style of communication can be a ghost role, part of Dreamland  projected onto oppressive individuals or groups. Heartfulness,  even God, or the Earth can be roles to be played out in  Dreamland. Game-playing is a crucial aspect of Dreamland that  every organization needs to experience at one point or another.

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Essence or common ground: This consists of basic energetic tendencies,   deep, common universal principles and experiences-such   as the striving for life, death, and immortality-that all  human beings in this universe may likely share at one time or  another. Essence consciousness is especially important for those  who feel marginalized, because they are not interested in the  polarizations of everyday life.

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The reason for understanding and defining these levels is that if  there is an unsolvable conflict at one level, you can always turn to  another to find the resolution. If everyone is a victim in everyday reality,   the oppressor can always be found in Dreamland-that is, in the  body signals and unidentified and disowned behavior.

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If you find yourself under attack,  admitting your one-sidedness can create a quick and satisfactory solution.   However, some attackers are not satisfied with quick solutions  and you may be inadvertently pulled into a debate. What then?

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However, as facilitator, be acutely aware of the delicacy of such  moments; they are usually hot spots. The other side that is being put  down by clapping will eventually seek revenge. In my experience, people   who are put down remain quiet for an average of twenty minutes.  Then comes their retaliation against the whole Open Forum: “This is  a horrible place and nothing good was accomplished.”

Therefore, when folks clap, frame it, saying, “While many appreciate   what has just been said, I still remember the other side.” Then you  model awareness of all sides.

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Specific semilinear methods for working with the small groups after  an Open Forum might be modeled after the World Cafe concept or  Open Space technology. World Cafe might be good for small forums,  where people sit at tables for four with a piece of paper for a tablecloth.  After twenty minutes, three of the four switch to another table, sharing   what they learned, and make more notes. After several switches,  put the papers together and you have a record of discoveries. Open  Space technology is similar. People create interest groups around the  main theme. They then brainstorm on the topic of that interest group  and collect their discoveries and resolutions on paper, collecting the  papers afterward (Atlee 2001).

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People appreciate the sun, but they feel that nature did the work,  or that the community did the work. If they think that they did the  work, be happy. Your work was successful in the Taoist view of things.  In a larger sense, no one “does” anything, and no one needs to he  thanked; the power of life itself is at work and in need of recognition.

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The following innerwork may be helpful.

1. Recall someone or some group from the Open Forum that  amazed or upset you the most, for whatever reason. Let’s focus  on one such person that upset you. Choose one. Recall what  she looked like and how she behaved. Make a note about her  behavior. Was she too aggressive, loud, insensitive, etc.?

2. At least for a minute or two, imitate her, sit like her, act like her,  and finally be her. Sit the way she might sit, and speak to yourself   the way she might speak. Try to feel your way into her feelings,   just a little bit. Try seeing things from her viewpoint, then  take on her viewpoint.

3. What is meaningful and accurate about her viewpoint, her way  of thinking? Don’t you also sometimes think or feel this way,  even a little, on rare occasions? Try to identify such occasions.

4. What are that person’s gender, race, sexual orientation, age,  health, nationality, economic class, and educational background?   In what way do these social characteristics or designations   play a role in the feelings you might have about her, and  about this side of yourself that she represents? You need to ask  yourself these questions, because some of your feelings and projections   are linked to social issues. What social power and privileges   does she have (or not have) that you do not have (or have)?

5. How might you use that behavior of hers, and that power of  yours that you have projected on her? Perhaps you can even  use that power represented by her in a new or better manner  than she is using it. Make a note about how you would like to  use this power in yourself.

6. Now imagine meeting this real person again and notice any  changes in your feelings toward her, if any. Consider and imagine   in what manner your relationship with her will now change.  Will it be more direct, softer, have more understanding?

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1. Ten minutes before the end, say: “We have ten minutes left,  and we are just beginning to discover various aspects of this  organization. What has to happen next? Who has not spoken?  Who will do what? Where and when will we do it?”

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My point, however, is that teammates working

together can frame certain views as reflections of diversity in personality   and culture and unblock potentially deadly conflicts that arise  between people with seemingly irreconcilable styles who cannot comprehend   one another.

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For example, any answer that is given to “Why don’t you know  more about us?” will be wrong. The question is a kind of trap; it is not  really a question at all. Rather, it is an indirect expression of agony and  frustration. The resolution is to allow the agony and frustration behind  the question to emerge. The basic message the activist is giving the  speakers is “I dislike you because you are hurting me directly and indirectly   in the following ways …”

Alternatively, you might say to the speakers: “Others insist that  your way of speaking he more reasonable. I hear the essence of what  you are telling us; we are socially shaming you and that must stop.” Go  for the essence of a situation that lies behind the message. Anger is  important, but it is not the crucial element; people get angry if the  essence is ignored.

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Taking the role of the activist, you might say, “Some of us activists are  talking about outer politics and the harm incurred by the unconsciousness   of patriarchal and insensitive leadership.” At another point,  when resistance to the activist arises, you might say, “As activists we  have been talking mainly about outer realities. Now some of us are  interested in the dreaming government, that is the `enemy within,’  patriarchal behavior that goes unnoticed, for example, in speaking  styles.”

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Since you and others   listen mainly to the correct content of what she is saying, you cannot   figure out why you no longer want to listen. The answer is simple.  Again, the old ghost of the repressor is present in the communication  style, which is completely lacking in relatedness and fellowship.

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Process work is part of a new, possibly more inclusive, movement  that encompasses the fair distribution of wealth and material goods,  but also addresses issues of power, rank, and fellowship in communication.   The reason for this new movement is simple: fair distribution of  material things inhibits but does not stop the abuses of racism, sexism,  and homophobia.

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While the social activist says, “Stop the bad guys out there,”  the psychosocial activist says: “Let’s begin a second revolution; let’s  notice those bad guys in our dreaming as well. Notice how we relate to  one another, right here and now.” Pushy styles are always ghosts, powers   used unwittingly against people, instead of for relationship.

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The psychosocial activist manifests in her personal life what she  wants to see happen politically. I think of Gandhi, who said, “Model the  world you are wishing for.” Today, he would say, “Model, in the moment,  the world you are suggesting.” If you want others to become conscious of  their misuse of power, be conscious of the power you are using in the style  of communication you choose to use in this present moment.

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In the second revolution, people who do a lot of innerwork can be  our guides. They notice the abuser in themselves-how they put themselves   down, and how their communication style can put others down.  I remember once watching a woman arguing in favor of lesbian power,  suddenly switch her position to protect a homophobic man who could  not understand why people of the same gender had to have relationships.   He said, “I cannot understand why any of this unusual relationship   stuff has to go on.” Others attacked him.

She saw him freezing up, and recognized that he was being marginalized.   She said that she did not want him to suffer like that. After all,  she had had enough inner experience putting herself down, and did  not want the same to happen to him, although the situation was  reversed. She said that she did not want this person to suffer, because  she already knew what that feels like from the inside. The man stuttered   and almost cried.

I have always dreamed of such moments, but until then, had never  seen one happen in public. The awareness, “We don’t agree, and at the  same time we are one another,” was actually lived out and fully  expressed. She used her own innerwork on her sense of oppression as  a model for caring-even for her erstwhile opponent. She said, “I know  what it is like inside of me to be put down and therefore I do not want  you to have to feel that way.” That is the psychosocial activist.

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There is always a conflict in style between emotional and intellectual   roles. Framing the situation by explaining that these are  different approaches is usually helpful.

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Ask the participants what they imagine being the reason for the  person’s departure. If they think the person left out of fear, then  fear is a ghost.

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The question I posed  was “In relation to your community, what do you feel your rank is in  the areas of gender, race, sexual orientation, age, health, spiritual connectedness,   economics, education, social status in the given community,   psychological well-being, and linguistic ability?” I did not define  these attributes but let the people do so for themselves.

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Portland class found that if you had a cumulative rank of less  than nineteen, you would not speak up! I would bet that if you have a  score of less than twenty-one, it is hard for you to speak up in a given  situation. If you scored above twenty-one, you probably feel confident  in your group. In another group or context, you will have more or less  rank, depending on the moment and the situation.

Thus, rank is cumulative and relative to a particular group and  theme. The bottom line is that facilitators need to be sensitive to and  aware of the effects of rank and power on themselves and the participants.   Rank and power are ghosts; they never show themselves directly.   However, you can surely feel them in your body!

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Moreover, I should have sensed, knowing myself, that activists  rarely work well with one another, each feeling her or his liberal position   “is the best and only.” I could have said: “Your position is important;   you are an elder in this city. Thank you for your work.” Then I  might have also added: “My position is different. I want to listen to the  most disturbing voices here, so that they feel heard and are not forced  to resort to guns elsewhere.” Open Forums may reduce violence in the  workplace and in the city, but only if all voices are heard.

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Dialogue does not make money; it is beyond complex and simple and requires subtle awareness of changes in feeling. We cannot measure   the results of such dialogue; it meanders in a more circuitous, nonlinear   manner. All this takes patience. The purpose of the forum is not  to solve the world’s problems, but to reawaken participants to their  diversity-both as individuals and as a large group-so that the process of community can begin.

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But please don’t forget another question about success: “Did the  community learn about itself?” To this question, the answer is  “Always.” Open Forums are 100 percent successful in revealing more  parts of the community to its members.

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We need to change our minds about anger and  realize it is not difficult to work with. Most anger arises in response to  not being heard, respected, or trusted. Therefore, listening, respecting,  and trusting are the keys-and they are cost-free.

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We all need more rank awareness and consciousness of our own inner states of revenge and retaliation. My book Sitting in the Fire contains   more tips for working on these topics.

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To see the  whole picture, however, we need to consider all theories simultaneously.   We cannot separate one issue or approach from another. For example,   while working on nationality factors that contribute to violence,  we must remember economics. While working on economics, we must  remember race and gender. While working on sexism we have to  remember health issues. While working on health issues we have to  remember sexual orientation. While working on sexual orientation we  have to remember racism.

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Violence is an extreme state. Trying to cajole people experiencing  hatred, anger, and violence into a more tractable, normal state of consciousness   by suggesting good-heartedness or nonviolence rarely works for  long. Recall the forum in Dublin I mentioned earlier in this book. Telling  the combatants to cool down did not help; what did help was awareness.

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When this growing process begins, the side that has been marginalized   begins to remember long-forgotten and painful memories about  war. That pain, which everyone wanted to forget, rises out of the past  like the spirit of the dead. As a facilitator, you need to hear and grieve  that history, present now. Go into the history, not around it. There  you find the hope for a better future. Even ask the dead what kind of  world they would create today.

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The exception is if you are  working in an area where violence or war has just abated. In that case,  people may even need help avoiding such subjects in an Open Forum,  where gentleness and patience are needed.

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In the past, theater acted out our cultural problems and had healing   effects on a community. Theater is important. It gives us a chance  to see our issues enacted.

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Today I understand that the real world of ours that is full of peace  and conflict is a monastery. I love the peacefulness and beauty of identified   monasteries, but I also realize that peace is a state of mind that  can be found anywhere we go. At that time, I needed more of a sense  of detachment in my self and my work, the detachment I projected  onto the Roshi. My koan was “Forget the facilitator and become one.”  That is, “Become an elder.” Or said differently, “Let things happen!”

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After training yourself and learning as much as you can, it is time  to let the facilitator go, let her die, let her move aside for nature to take  her place. The facilitator’s symbolic death is a paradoxical moment in  which you are both dead and alive at the same time. When the facilitator   is forgotten, the elder arises, and things happen on their own. At  that moment, the Open Forum, social dialogue, and organizational  development become nature’s artwork. When the facilitator becomes  an elder, the Open Forum transforms into a monastery in which our  interactions become nature’s painting.

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Today you may look crazy. Tomorrow, it could be me.  Therefore, “You today and me tomorrow” is my motto. It could  also be “Me today and you tomorrow.”

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Choose speakers from the most extreme positions you can  find on the issue to avoid the “hovering ghosts” phenomenon.

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Awareness work means noticing the weather (the momentary   atmosphere reigning in a group); roles (the momentary  players, such as “oppressor,” “oppressed,” “terrorists,” “leaders,”  etc. Each group has its own names for these roles); ghost roles  (roles mentioned but not occupied by anyone present); edges  (communication breaks); and hot spots (apparently forbidden  topics). Be gentle in conveying your awareness; let the people  and their processes show you how to proceed. Remember that  everyone has all roles inside.

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Suggest an awareness intervention only three times. If it is  not picked up, recognize it is not yet “time” for the community  as a whole. Take your awareness, then, as a suggestion to yourself.   Tell the folks, “Whoops, that’s my process, I’ll work on it at  home.”

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