Community Cohesiveness (VERY LONG POST)
From: allenbutcher (
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1999 21:19:41 -0500
On Fri, 23 Jul 1999 10:48:27 -0700 "Rob Sandelin (Exchange)"
<robsan [at]> writes:
>... in order to keep your community, or perhaps create more of a sense
>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:

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:
communal sharing
communal labor
regularized group contact
persecution experience

Mortification Mechanisms:
confession and mutual criticism
spiritual differentiation

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:

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

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.  


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
didn't seem to be willing to accept help, but just wanted to complain. 
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
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
meet regularly and like many other things, it seems to have fizzled a
        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
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
frustrated moment.  Tricky balance.  I feel as if people at Twin Oaks
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
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:

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 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
cooperative spirit
sense of humor, psychological equilibrium, regardless of situation
ability to lose gracefully
social charm maintenance

don't make up your mind about anything until you have all of the
learn to ask questions instead of reacting
challenge your own thinking and be willing to change your mind

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

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
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


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
group meetings may include time for taking care of business or reviewing 
purposes and goals.  

2.  Establish the acceptability of negative feelings.  If necessary,
processes to elicit fears, resentments, and sexual politics or tensions, 
and to make such discussions safe.  ("Heart Sharing" and other

3.  Make sure that dissenters are heard and responded to with
Their underlying message may be the key to the community's health.  How
the community treat dissenters, whether member or non-member?

4.  What kind of emotional climate exists?  Look at your own family
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
or rebeling).  In group functions, do you feel relaxed, accepted and
or does your body tighten and your defenses go on alert?  Do hugs and
of caring seem genuine or false?  Do members neglect their families,
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
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
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. 
is a virtue, but some situations require the uninvolved perspective of
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
scenarios.  How does the community repond to problems: with blame, or
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.

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
Behavior in American Society, Beacon Press, 1990.


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
psychological stereotyping as in an entire group manifesting a narrow
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

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
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 

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.


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

Denigration of Self:
The self must be rejected because it is fundamentally bad or wrong, and
be salvaged by God, the group or the church.

Discrediting of the World:
The group, church or "the word of God" is unchallengable and
and must even be protected from modernism or secularism.

Group Pressure and Thought Control:
True belief requires strict control of thoughts and information, and
immersion in the church.  Considering doubts about one's religion or 
questioning chruch doctrine as being a sin is a form of "thought
Redefining words in ways which support church or community doctrine
"love" defined as obedience, or "wisdom" as anything considered "God's
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
in God and Christ.")

From:  Marlene Winell, Leaving the Fold:  A Guide for Former
and Others Leaving Their Religion, New Harbinger Publications, 5674
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]     phone: 303-355-4501    fax: 303-388-0602
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