Re: Breakdown of Process in Cohousing
From: Martie Weatherly (
Date: Wed, 1 Jan 2003 09:15:07 -0700 (MST)
It might be good to go back before square one and find out how many
people in your community want a community where one person's concern
becomes the groups concern, and how many want a regular neighborhood,
solving issues by anger and legal actions.  

The one important requirement in living in community is the commitment
to work together as a community. If you don't have that, how can you
work on group process? It might be discouraging to find that, after over
two years, your group is not committed to community, but it is much
better to find that out now without putting more effort into community. 

Whether you are a lightning rod for problems remains for you to decide.

However, you could be a lightning rod for community. You are the one
writing for help. You may be the one to say 'I am going to be part of a
community that works together, who wants to join me?" 

You might end up with a small number of people operating as a community
inside a neighborhood.  Or you might find that everyone there wants
community and has been sure it won't work. It only takes one person to
change the world, in fact, that is all it ever takes (paraphrased from
Margaret Mead).

Good Luck.

Martie Weatherly
Liberty Village Cohousing
Libertytown, MD
martiew [at]
> DocArtemis [at] is the author of the message below.
> It was posted by Fred the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at] 
> because the message included HTML ;      PLEASE do not post HTML, see
> --------------------  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS --------------------
> I'm living in a cohousing project where there has been a critical breakdown
> of process.
> Our "community" has been living together for about two and a half years and
> we have suffered many disruptive social interactions and legal conflicts.
> We have had an affair, multiple thefts and destructive behavior by an
> unmanageable teenager who has severe psychological and biochemical and
> behavioral problems, vandalism by an adult who lost his temper, verbal
> assault, accusations and fears regarding "inappropriate touching of
> children," a private "confrontation" and shaming of a member who was
> suffering mental health problems and finally a pushing and shoving match that
> resulted in one member attaining a restraining order against the "other."
> The anger and fear has has gotten so virulent that one member has attempted
> to ruin another's career.
> I've heard about the phenomenon of the "lightning rod" member in some of the
> cohousing literature.  Tag... I'm it.
> I've been asking the board of directors
> for some direction in "process" issues (i.e., community dynamics) or to get
> some kind of professional mediation for the community.  The answer that I
> keep getting over and over again is "It isn't our job."
> The board sees itself as a "rubber stamp" structure to fulfill the
> requirements of the condominium association.  The "consensus is" that these
> issues are disputes between individual members of the community.  I am at a
> total loss in trying to explain that dynamics of this magnitude effect
> everyone, and to ignore them is only to allow the snowball to accelerate and
> are destructive to the well-being of the community.
> I am writing this to the cohousing list in order to gain some perspective.
> Have things like this happened in other cohousing communities?  Have there
> ever been failed communities?  Does the lightening rod personality finally
> give it up and move?  What happens after the lightening rod leaves? What
> happens if the lightening rod just decides to downgrade the community to a
> neighborhood and continues to live as though his/her community members are
> strangers?  How does one deal with passive aggressive and even aggressive
> dynamics in a neighborhood.
> Heady stuff for the New Year.  It breaks my heart.
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