|Community Cohesiveness (VERY LONG POST)||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: allenbutcher (allenbutcherjuno.com)|
|Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1999 21:19:41 -0500|
On Fri, 23 Jul 1999 10:48:27 -0700 "Rob Sandelin (Exchange)" <robsan [at] Exchange.Microsoft.com> writes: >... in order to keep your community, or perhaps create more of a sense of >community, what are the activities that you can do? Share your ideas. >that's what this list is for. > >Rob Sandelin Okay, here is my contribution: I have been working on this topic as I recognize its importance, but have not actually gotten a paper done on it yet. I'm still in the information gathering stage, yet I'd be happy to share what I have. (This provides for me a good exercise for getting my ideas organized--most of the following is in outline form.) Specific work needs to be done on this topic related to cohousing communities, and since I don't live in cohousing I'm not the one to do it, yet I can contribute some general material. I hope to see work on the topic done by others who are in cohousing community. First thing to note is that this same issue (call it: loss-of-intent dissolution dynamic) is present in all intentional communities (one more way that cohousing is a form of intentional community). People change. Families change. Times change. Consciousnesses change. Cultures change. And communities are just like any other kind of social organization, all of which need periodic renewal, whether businesses, churches, nationstates, whatever. Excellent work on this topic is found in various works on organizational theory. In the intentional communites movement we have been aware of this dynamic, and it is discussed in academic circles. With respect to historic communities, see: "Developmental Communalism: An Alternative Apporach to Communal Studies," Donald Pitzer, Ph.D., Center for Communal Studies. (History Department, University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, Indiana). Dr. Pitzer essentially looks at the dynamics of origin of the community, its forming, transitions and demise. His orientation is to why and how groups assume forms of community organization and then eventually give it up. The interesting thing, of course, is that in every age and every generation, people go through the same or similar cycles. Many people get pilosophical about this yearning for community, how we always striving for the unattainable. Cohousing can be seen as the most recent model, but what is lacking is a succinct statement of just what specifically it is that we are trying to achieve by building community (cohousing or any other). Rob's post suggests that it might generally be called: "close relationships among a group of people." If this is it, then we have to first define 'close relationships' as meaning not just physical proximity but affinity, affective or emotional closeness as well. We then have to acknowledge that cohousing provides for physical closeness through architectural design and land use planning, and provides through participatory government a form of effective communication for maintaining that design, yet the cohousing model stops short of actually addressing emotional closeness. I will assume that this is what we are talking about, and will address this specifically. I think that the issue needs to be addressed from basic psychological and sociological perspectives. Since my background is with the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, inspired by B.F. Skinners' work with behavioral psychology, my orientation comes from the question of what motivates people to look for, build and maintain community (i.e., emotional closeness). I'll get to this presently, but first must pay hommage to an important work on the topic. The classic analysis of our question is in the book, "Committment and Community: Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective," by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, 1972, Harvard University Press. (Kanter was and may still be editor of the Harvard Business Review.) Kanter illuminates a number of different "commitment mechanisms," in her study of 19th Century intentional communities, although she does include a section on Twin Oaks Community, as of 1972. Note also that she is discussing communal intentional community, not collective intentional community such as cohousing, so it's good to review this, but to then move on as only a few relate to cohousing. (For more on this see "The Shadow Side" later in this post.) Kanter's committment mechanisms: Sarcifice Mechanisms: abstinence austerity Investment Mechanisms: physical participation financial investment irreversibility of investment Renunciation Mechanisms: insulation (including geographic isolation) crossboundary control (contact with outside) renunciation of couple/family Communion Mechanisms: homogeneity communal sharing communal labor regularized group contact ritual persecution experience Mortification Mechanisms: confession and mutual criticism sanctions spiritual differentiation deindividuation Transcendence Mechanisms: institutionalized awe (ideology) institutionalized awe (power and authority) guidance (personal conduct rules) ideological conversion tradition (of prior organization) In my work in classifying different forms of intentional community (see: "Classifications of Communitarianism: Sharing, Privacy and the Ownership and Control of Wealth," 1991 and later works) I've identified the following continua presenting different issues with regard to communitarian cohesiveness: SOCIOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATIONS social bonds: primary vs. secondary external relationships: isolationist to activist cultural change: from open society to closed society social stratification: class society to egalitarian society PSYCHOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATIONS individuality: suppressed vs. expressed labor and management systems: participatory vs. authoritarian interpersonal relationships: open & changing vs. rigid & stable (incl. forms of group process) As cohousing communities, as a general class of intentional community, usually fall into a particular range on these continua, consider especially the issues of social bonds and of interpersonal relationships. The material that I have to share focuses upon forms of group process that moves a community toward the ideal of individuals relating to each other on the level of primary social bonds. I think that this is what we are talking about. Some people don't want this, and this is not what cohousing was designed for, yet without understanding these dynamics, and making use of some aspect of them, we have the problem of the "loss-of-intent dissolution dynamic." The cohousing model affirms that the family is the primary social bond and the community the secondary social bond. The trouble is that the latter tends to be forsaken entirely. What I feel is that people want to strenghen that secondary social bond, without actually expanding the idea of the primary social bond to include the community as family. The latter is what communal community is designed to do, and polyamory and group marriage communities have done the most to develop this concept of community as primary social bond. However, some aspects of communal process and polyamory community can be used to support the goal of developing community as secondary social bond. Exactly what can be used from communal and polyamory community depends on what people are willing to do. Each cohousing community, or subgroup of a cohousing group, will have to decide what they want to do. The following is material that I have been putting together to be included under the working title: "Light and Shadows: Ways of Being to be Encouraged and Avoided." I have a lot of detail in this, assembled from various sources, so can only outline it here. I have three general aspects of the question of building primary social bonds among people in community: **community systems, **group process, and **individual behavior code. In agregate these elements may comprise a social contract in a community. Eventually I'll write more about all of this. THE LIGHT OF COMMUNITY As darkness is the absence of light, so evil may be the absence of good. If in nature, where big fish eat little fish, there is no good or evil, it may be our place to transcend ignorance and affirm the awareness of right and wrong. Building intentional community is to transcend the law of the jungle and the economy of market circumstance, to create a social-political-economic tradition based upon love, caring, sharing, cooperation and other positive values. *******Community Systems: collective setting of managerships, projects, goals and labor targets labor systems - quota and anti-quota systems participatory decision-making processes conflict resolution processes mental health service, including co-counseling and other forms of counseling as appropriate document and make available the history of the community, what issues it has dealt with and how resolved ******Group Process: social planning process - identifying the entire range of social issues in the community and how the community wants to address them, requiring long-term series of meetings on different aspects of the topic (all those presented here and others omitted) mutual appreciation for service to the community - ways for the community and for individuals to acknowledge, honor and encourage people working for the good of the group (Alfie Kohen has a book on this topic, but I don't have the title at hand, something about how money is not the primary motivator ...) essentially, avoid the cult of the personality, but recognize individual contributions through non-material rewards including spontaneous acknowledgements and planned awards ceremonies: one-to-one appreciations (learn to give and receive positive feedback), mutual validations (you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours), collective recognitions (formal acknowledgements of service). Communication Process - there are a number of different forms of this. I have two to present: Trapeze and Heart Sharing The first is from Twin Oaks Community, called Trapeze (the idea is that the individual is on the trapeze and the group is the safety net). This process is based on the model of "feedback learning" developed at Ganas Community on Statin Island, which like Twin Oaks, is part of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. Ganas process is done at least once a day, every evening during/after the group meal, sometimes in the morning before going to work. This is generally more intense than Trapeze. It is the foundation of their community, not an experiment in group process as is Trapeze at Twin Oaks. TRAPEZE From: Joan Mazza ... The group listened as everyone checked in--sometimes as many as thirty attendees, and then time was allotted to help people in the most distress or with a time-sensitive problem. I was impressed with how respectful and attentive the group was, even when the content or the person didn't seem to be willing to accept help, but just wanted to complain. The group often had possible strategies and solutions that made a difference--and remarkably rapidly. All those good minds together with a mutual goal of helping someone see themselves more clearly as well as seeing their situation in other ways. The group spoke in ordinary language, expressed their own feelings and frustrations, and any confrontive statements were made with real compassion. In the last couple of years, people seem less interested in having this group. It takes a core group of dedicated participants to make it work and meet regularly and like many other things, it seems to have fizzled a bit. In some ways, this is also about the whole issue of emotional control-- how to be emotionally controlled in a way that's mature and responsible, but still be honest, candid, and real (authentic) with other people. And I see the (seeming) profusion of violence among young people as being evidence of kids who don't know their feelings or don't know what to do with them. I wonder how to teach children a way to say what they feel without having to act it out. How do you manage in your adult relationships? I want people I can be honest with, but who won't use our agreed honesty to be abusive in a frustrated moment. Tricky balance. I feel as if people at Twin Oaks know something of this balance. HEART SHARING This is a variation of the "talking-totem council" designed for small groups. This particular outline was created by the people who later brought us "Your Money or Your Life" now used in the voluntary simplicity movement. This was the UV Family, a polyamory group. They did this nightly for a number of years. This and similar processes works well to bring out people's true thoughts, feelings and emotions. Therefore, the group has to be ready and willing to deal with those sharings and take care of each other, whatever results. This process can not be taken lightly, as it is designed to bring out to the group each person's inner self. What is presented in Heart Sharing is not to be discussed with others outside of the group unless agreed by all. No interruption, quiet, water only, no food during the sharing. Comfortable seating in a circle, dim lighting. Begin with silent meditation, prayer, quiet time, circle handholding or other "attunement" process. No body contact during sharing unless requested (hugs, handholding, etc.) Each participant announces their beginning of sharing, holding the floor until announcing "end." Intent listening without judgment, with love. No interruptions, comments, manipulative fidgeting, yawning, breathcatching, etc. No time limit on sharing. Acknowledgement of each person's sharing ("thankyou") regardless of content. NO FEEDBACK unless requested, then only in most respectfull way. 10 minutes silence for those who "have nothing to say" Second and third times to talk okay. Between turns, quiet, gentile conversation. After each person has a turn, perhaps short break with refreshments, remaining in circle. End the session with a quiet, gentle, loving spirit, cherishing the gift of knowing other's inner selves. **********Individual Behavior Code: There is a huge amount in this, I can only present a few items. The idea is for a group to talk about these issues and make them overtly discussed or discussable. Formally agree to them and print them up, and reinforce people for adhering to them. See behavioral engineering for reinforcement and other ways to encourage positive behavior, and extinction and other processes for ending negative behavior. Sources for this material are: Donna Twin Oaks, Valerie Stuart: Love Light Community Proposal, Kerista Community: Gestalt-O-Rama. FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES equality - shared leadership & appreciation of differences verbality - conversation as an art, including active listening social responsibility-seek to use one's energy to improve situations economic self-responsibility SOCIAL CONVIVIALITY social tolerance - absence of prejudice, fundamental differences of opinion can be discussed cheerful disposition and sociable attitude (e.g., no rudeness, etc.) graceful distancing - disengagement from any association without ill will good manners and common courtesy cleanliness cooperative spirit sense of humor, psychological equilibrium, regardless of situation ability to lose gracefully social charm maintenance RATIONAL METHODOLOGY don't make up your mind about anything until you have all of the information learn to ask questions instead of reacting challenge your own thinking and be willing to change your mind LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT shared leadership - task and morale functions learn and practice giving and receiving positive feedback and constructive criticism learn group process and meeting facilitation practice, write and teach what you learn be accountable assertiveness INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS - EMOTIONAL LITERACY and PROCESSING giving must be voluntary - be available to others, yet recognize and communicate your limits learn and practice being curious and interested (instead of defensive) about how others see you clearness - complete communication as to intentions and reactions transparency - open sharing of internal dynamics in-so-far-as-we-desire (thoughts, fears, desires, fantasies, judgements, dreams, emotions, ideas, etc. -- see Heart Sharing) mirroring - compassionate sharing of behaviors and patterns we see in others, some of which they may be blind to or in denial of healing - ability to transcend emotional problems or conflicts (if you can't transcend it, deal with it on appropriate level for you), help others with their issues without disempowering them deep emotional work - reparenting the inner child, repairing damages manifestation work - finding and releasing blocks to good coming into our lives anger or rage work - acknowledge, express feelings in a supportive, nondangerous method of outlet you are always at choice - get in touch with your true needs and desires, challenge limitations create your own reality - help create the experiences you want (or with others, as in building community) honor your own and others boundaries - verbalize or request verbal statement of boundaries, be attentive to nonverbal signals be present with each other - be supportive, congratulatory, sensitive, celebratory, as appropriate THE SHADOW SIDE OF COMMUNITY Every person and group has a shadow, just as the full moon possesses a dark side. The secret to becoming whole is in acknowledging the shadow and integrating it into conscious awareness. The following are issues to be considered, and steps toward maintaining balance, avoiding "cult" behavior, and integrating the shadow: 1. How well do you balance task and process? Consider having separate meetings for business and for personal sharing, but keep elements of each in both. Business meetings can start with a personal sharing, called a "check-in," "tune-up," or "getting present." Similarly, process or support group meetings may include time for taking care of business or reviewing purposes and goals. 2. Establish the acceptability of negative feelings. If necessary, develop processes to elicit fears, resentments, and sexual politics or tensions, and to make such discussions safe. ("Heart Sharing" and other processes.) 3. Make sure that dissenters are heard and responded to with understanding. Their underlying message may be the key to the community's health. How does the community treat dissenters, whether member or non-member? 4. What kind of emotional climate exists? Look at your own family history to understand what positive and negative patterns you are carrying into community (father/supporter or patriarch, mother/nurturer or martyr, child/learning or avoiding responsibility, teen/affirming community values or rebeling). In group functions, do you feel relaxed, accepted and welcome or does your body tighten and your defenses go on alert? Do hugs and expressions of caring seem genuine or false? Do members neglect their families, personal lives, and their health to serve the community? 5. Try wearing the other hat: practice focusing upon process and vision as much as tasks and the bottom line, and vice versa. 6. How aware is the group of its factions, cliques or other power balances with regard to information, money, decision-making, or spokesperson role? Does the group examine imbalances and agree to accept or modify them? If you are taking too much responsibility, pass some on to others. If you are not taking a fair share or what you can manage, ask for more. 7. Ask for help when you need it; personally and as a group. Self-reliance is a virtue, but some situations require the uninvolved perspective of mediators and facilitators to restablish the balance of group vs. individual, vision vs. reality, task vs. process. 8. While holding the vision and trusting in miracles, plan for worst-case scenarios. How does the community repond to problems: with blame, or avoidance, or with a strategy and process meeting? 9. Plan regular times to review the group's vision, accomplishments, and internal dynamics, and to play and celebrate together. Adapted from: Carolyn Shaffer & Kristin Anundsen, Creating Community Anywhere, Tarcher Press, 1993, pages 228, 244, 245. FOUR PROBLEMS OF SOCIAL ORGANIZATION These are found in families, schools, churches, governments, corporations, and the media, as well as in intentional communities. 1. Unquestioning compliance with the group. 2. Dependence upon a leader. 3. Devaluing the outsider. 4. Avoiding dissent. From: Arthur J. Deikman, The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society, Beacon Press, 1990. WARNING SIGNS OF SPIRITUAL BLIGHT Taboo Topics and Secrets: Information is suppressed, and members are discouraged from asking questions or sharing doubts. Spiritual Clones: The minor form is stereotypic behavior, as in people walking, talking, eating or dressing like their leader; or more seriously, psychological stereotyping as in an entire group manifesting a narrow range of feeling in any situation, as in always happy, pious, sardonic, or reducing everything to a single explanation (also called "unifocal understanding") as in both positive and negative events being "Guru's Grace." Group Think: A party line that overrides how individuals actually feel, and the process of imposing conformity of belief and expression. The Elect: A shared delusion of grandeur that there is no way but this one. The corollary is that you're lost if you leave the group. Members never leave or "graduate" from the group. Assembly Lines: Everyone is treated identically, no matter what their differences. Loyalty Tests: Members are asked to prove loyalty to the group by doing something that violates their personal ethics. Duplicity: The group's public face misrepresents its true nature. Humorlessness: No irreverence or laughing at sacred cows is permitted. Finding humor in one's devotions can be a sign of spiritual health. From: Daniel Goleman, Early Warning Signs for the Detection of Spiritual Blight, Yoga Journal, July/August 1985. RECOGNIZING MANIPULATIONS The techniques of mind control are not always intentionally manipulative, and some people collude with the system because they want to believe. Understanding how mind control mechanisms work is about reclaiming your power to make your own intelligent choices. Fear Manipulations: Eternal Damnation, Apocalypse, Isolation and Vulnerability, Shame. Guilt Manipulations: Christ's Death (for your sins). You are responsible for other's spiritual destiny as an inducement to "witness" or proselytize. Mystical Manipulations: Altered states (fasting, chanting, sleep deprivation). Interpretation of personal experience in a way that makes it proof of the religion. Symbols, ritual, ceremony and miracles are sited as sacred things, and used to transfer spiritual authority to the groups' or religion's doctrines. Denigration of Self: The self must be rejected because it is fundamentally bad or wrong, and must be salvaged by God, the group or the church. Discrediting of the World: The group, church or "the word of God" is unchallengable and unchangeable, and must even be protected from modernism or secularism. Group Pressure and Thought Control: True belief requires strict control of thoughts and information, and complete immersion in the church. Considering doubts about one's religion or questioning chruch doctrine as being a sin is a form of "thought stopping." Redefining words in ways which support church or community doctrine (e.g., "love" defined as obedience, or "wisdom" as anything considered "God's word" with human understanding being foolishness or misguidance). Closed System of Logic: A religious doctrine may be rationalized by its own logical system or by circular reasoning (e.g., "God is love. You can only know love if you believe in God and Christ.") From: Marlene Winell, Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion, New Harbinger Publications, 5674 Shattuck Ave., Oakland, CA 94609, 1993. ********************************************************* A. Allen Butcher, Fourth World Services Providing information for a lifestyle balancing our personal needs with those of society and nature. PO Box 1666, Denver, CO 80201-1666 allenbutcher [at] juno.com phone: 303-355-4501 fax: 303-388-0602
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