Having spent 13 years as a ManKind Project leader and Shadow Work® Group Facilitator, I have observed a certain phenomenon on many hundreds of occasions.
At a critical moment in an individual’s process, his or her emotional attention had a symbiotic relationship with the people circled around the carpet, including the facilitator team. The individual’s work permeated everyone witnessing.
If misunderstood, this group experience can incapacitate a facilitator, who withdraws from the facilitator team saying, “That is too close to my own stuff!” The people on the carpet supporting the process can become absorbed in their own emoting. The facilitation team and staff then scramble to contain the group’s reactions.
I’ve seen certain leaders, however, sense that the entire group or room is in process and skillfully entrain everyone into this defining moment of time. Witnessing these moments over the years, I have seen a pattern emerge, of group facilitation occurring at an entirely different level. When a facilitator can bring the group an awareness of this moment, the group can go beyond just emoting to an experience I call “Facilitating the Collective.”
A trained facilitator using this technique can skillfully sweep the entire group into grief, happiness, anger, resonance/perspective, or self-blessing. When the technique is accompanied by the corresponding teaching and learning, a deep group experience can be witnessed and shared by the entire container. The individual facilitation that follows is also much more safe and insightful.
In order to facilitate the collective, the facilitator must first have a basic understanding of the wounds that people carry and how their shadows show up in a group. By a wound, I mean something that happened to you in the past, usually something painful, sad, fearful, angry or rageful. By a shadow, I mean the way you adapted yourself unconsciously in order to carry the wound with you. For example, you might stop acting in certain ways and exaggerate your behavior in other ways — what we call repressing and inflating. In Shadow Work, we categorize wounds and shadows by the archetype involved, and the facilitation map we use is based on four archetypal energies: Lover, Warrior, Magician and Sovereign.
Recognizing an opportunity to facilitate the collective requires sensing which of these archetypes is arcing through the group. Recognition must often happen very quickly.
Second, the facilitator must know how to build the group container in the traditional sense. By container, I mean the intangible atmosphere in any space where people are gathered together. Collective facilitation complements the safety built into a container and, in fact, the opportunity to facilitate the collective only arises when safety and risk are in balance.
One requirement for safety in the group is the facilitator team’s focus on the person doing the work. The facilitator must give primary consideration to the person’s need for sufficient time on the carpet and respect for their space. Collective facilitation comes second to the individual’s emotional needs and should only occur when it adds to the individual’s process.
RECOGNIZING THE MOMENT
Chances to facilitate the collective come during every kind of work. When an entire room is spontaneously grieving a loss, watching a rebirth or cradle, working with their inner predator, bowing for blessing or encouraging a Warrior Run, the time is ripe.
When a person has run a gauntlet or come through a birth canal, and everyone is circled around crying, it is likely that everyone is entrained on the gift of being loved and supported. Collective facilitation can amp up this energy to bless and support everyone present, either by letting them be blessed or become the ones blessing. Effective use of cradles and hands-on loving can bring an entire carpet into entrainment with the blessing portion of any process.
As a facilitator, giving careful attention to the group’s energy will give you clear signals for when to draw the group in, when to amp it up, and once the energy has flagged, when to bring the collective and the process to a close.
USING YOUR RADAR
In order to recognize an opportunity for collective facilitation, the facilitator must make use of his or her own radar mechanisms.
The first and foremost of these is the facilitator’s ability to read his or her own inner resonance with the group’s energy. When facilitators are tuned into their own grief or sadness, it will begin to internally resonate when an archetype of grief or sadness is present in the room. The same is true when the energy turns to blessing, and the facilitator’s radar starts feeling empowerment and kindness. When facilitators know their own boundaries or anger, collective moments come when the entire container rejoices in the drawing of a line or crossing a line not yet breached. Facilitators reading their own manipulative or perpetrator energies can help everyone in a group feel their own manipulator or perpetrator in a safe, enjoyable way, just as energy for energy’s sake, all resonating in harmony.
In order to read your own grief, kindness, anger, and perpetrator, it is of the utmost importance to be aware, as a facilitator, of your own father wounds, Lover wounds, Warrior wounds, perpetrator (Magician) wounds, and support (Sovereign) wounds. We often say, “If you spot it, you got it,” and that cliché is overwhelmingly true with collective facilitation. You are also well advised to be aware of generic wounds shared by virtually everyone and how they differ from similar wounds in an individual. Most men and women have a picture of someone shaming, criticizing, or blaming them, and that is a generic wound. If someone was once bitten by a dog, that is more likely a specific wound and not generic to everyone present. In any group, “wounds of authority” are generic and may be aimed at you as the group’s leader.
Another kind of radar you have as a facilitator is similar to what Rupert Sheldrake describes as “morphic resonance” in Dogs Who Know When Their Masters are Coming Home. According to Sheldrake, once this “morphic energy” is recognized and sensed, it begins to build harmonically until it reaches a critical mass where everything in the morphic field is operating on that field’s frequency. It then begins to grow and spread exponentially throughout the entire planet, Sheldrake believes. The similarity here with collective facilitation is that an entire container is swept up into a process when a critical mass is reached in the container’s morphic field.
For a facilitator, one of the best reasons for doing your own work is learning to sense this morphic field. The metaphor, “You can’t be a Chevy salesman and drive a Ford,” is most appropriate here in understanding the identification of this moment. If you have no personal library of your own archetypes, it will be next to impossible for you to see them in others, let alone in an entire group of people in the container. In short, do your own work! There is no substitute here for working your own process to build your own internal database of sad, glad, mad, fear and blessing. From this knowledge, you will ultimately learn to see these wounds in others and then in the entire group, and your facilitation will go from ordinary to extraordinary in no time.
OUT OF THEIR MOUTHS
Your radar can also hear how the group is speaking. Once you have worked your own process around these energies, certain words or phrases will begin to resonate.
If, for example, a person is releasing a major piece of grief and, in a moment of tenderness, says, “All I ever wanted is love, and all I ever felt was sad and rejected,” and in that moment everyone takes a breath and becomes still, it is likely your radar is sensing a collective wound and resonance from the entire container.
If someone is working with their predator, and everyone in the circle is clapping their thighs and screaming, “Go! Go! Go!” it is likely that your radar is sensing a group experiencing its own predator.
LOVING LANGUAGE FOR THE COLLECTIVE
Lover and Sovereign wounds — wounds to our abilities to bond with others, feel, and support and bless ourselves — require the use of a very soft, kind voice to entrain the entire carpet to the inner child your words will be resonating with.
During a grieving process such as a Tombstone, for example, when you sense everyone is also grieving at the loss set out on the carpet, say at the end goodbye, “Everyone who has loved someone this deeply and lost that love somehow, reach in and send this person the loving energy for support.” If someone in the group wants to send support through the touch, be sure to have the participant’s permission to be touched.
When the person working has taken a new way of remembering the lost loved one, follow up with, “Anyone who loved this deeply and lost this love somehow, send it in, and feel what it’s like to love in this new way.” Be vigilant in noticing when this group energy is kicking in, as more participants begin emoting. Be conscious of when the energy has begun to flag and when it’s time to wind it up.
During a piece in which someone has asked for support, when you sense a collective entrainment from the group, say, “Everyone who wanted to be loved and supported like this man/woman had the courage to ask for, reach in, and take in the love.”
The spiritual concept of “longing” is relevant here, as this moment of group synergy is often the individual’s and the group’s longing to just be loved. Love, anger, fear, and blessing are all primary feelings that can be facilitated collectively. Primary to all four is the longing to be loved, which I believe is encompassed in the three other primary feelings. When someone is angry and moves through the anger, they typically shift to a loving, soft place at the end of their process. The same can be said when someone is working a perpetrator shadow; immediately after they run the wheels off their perpetration, a skilled core transformation always brings them to, “I just wanted to be loved.” Sovereign support transforms the depleted and exhausted “me” to an “us” willing to ask for help, support and unconditional love.
Collective facilitation opens the entire group to this love that is inherent in sadness, anger, fear, and the need for support.
WARRIOR AND TRUST LANGUAGE
Collective Warrior and Magician wounds are not as common or as deeply emotional, since these archetypes are more interested in individuality and power than in connection and feeling. They are, however, very powerful when they appear.
During Warrior work — gauntlets, racquet work, break-outs and most bio-energetic Guts processes — group members often begin to resonate with their own loss of power and marvel at the participant becoming congruent with his or hers. Bringing collective energy into the process will further empower the participant to finish it off. Encouraging everyone to “circle up” and “support this process” keeps the carpet energy up. If you begin to sense everyone shouting and deeply involved, then say in a strong voice, “He/She is doing this piece for everyone. Support this man/woman!”
Magician wounds bring up collective energy after a trust fall or during a perpetration process. When a person has fallen into a cradle from a trust fall, try saying to the participant and the group, “For a long time it has been too risky for you to trust, and I know you don’t want to come down. Somewhere below you there are people who love you and are waiting for you to come home.” Often those providing the cradle will be resonating with their own eternal inner fairy lost up in the clouds and will get their first glance at the love that awaits them if they “come back down.”
During a predator process, the container often becomes entrained with their own inner perpetrator. You can use this collective energy to encourage the participant by inviting the group members to slap their knees and shout, “Go, Go, Go”. Be aware of everyone accessing this energy.
TIMING AND INSTINCT
Once you have a sense that there is a collective wound, timing is critical to its facilitation, as it can be lost very quickly. Learning to trust your instinct is essential to not missing the opportunity.
However, once a group experiences their communal ability to process, each successive time is easier to bring on and facilitate as a collective experience.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- Know when to seize the moment with appropriate language and direction.
- Know the proper intonation of voice, along with inflections and word usage, to assist group participation.
- Each archetype has a different key to unlock the collective wave waiting to come forward. You can learn these keys by studying how the archetypes show up in yourself.
- Know when to be loud or soft with the carpet, and when to speak to the group vs. the person doing the work.
- Be aware of timing and technique to bring the container into and out of the wound being processed collectively.
- Having a keen sense of when this energy is initiating, when it is starting, peaking and waning, will provide a profound experience for everyone in the room.
- Once the process has been circled up and de-roled, be aware of the entire carpet. This extra layer of attention will assist you in discovering anyone still in the collective energy and in need of additional de-roling.
Martin Lassoff is a Certified Shadow Work® Group Facilitator living in Houston, Texas. Read more about Martin.
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