Re: Breakdown of Process in Cohousing
From: LOU & Joan BURRELL (
Date: Wed, 1 Jan 2003 10:06:02 -0700 (MST)
Happy New Year to All,

The most helpful and dynamic model we've found for use in our community is
the Non-Violent Communication model developed by Marshall Rosenberg. If
possible, have one of the NVC trainers in your area come out to your
community to do an overview session so that all members begin to "learn the
language" of non-violent communication. If that is not possible, buy
Rosenberg's book NONVIOLENT COMMUNICATION A Language of Compassion and use
it in for discussion at meetings. It will immediately raise the level of
consciousness in the whole group, and help members realize how poorly we've
all been taught to "negotiate" our differences in the past. It takes lots of
practice, but if everyone is aware of the model, we can help one another
remember to use it.  Here in Manzanita Village we've found it has given
deeper understanding to our communication, both in meetings and between
individuals, whether we have conflict or not.

For more information on NVC, go to

This has changed our lives. We hope it will impact yours as well.

Joan Burrell
Manzanita Village Cohousing
Prescott AZ
bljoan [at]
----- Original Message -----
From: "Juva DuBoise" <juvad [at]>
To: <cohousing-l [at]>
Sent: Wednesday, January 01, 2003 7:33 AM
Subject: Re: [C-L]_Breakdown of Process in Cohousing

> DocArtemis - No simple answer to your situation.  Some thoughts for what
> they are worth   1) When the lightening rod moves out of any community -
> another will be found...the unconscious wants to be conscious! 2) Being
> someone who is often the lightening rod I have learned that the personal
> work (growth as painful as it is) involved in staying conscious about what
> is my reaction and what is the groups is tremendous.  Don't drop out, get
> support!  If you can't find someone with in the community to help you
> process this (so you don't react out of anger when trying to get clarity
> from the community) get help outside.  A therapist, friend, anyone who can
> listen with an objective ear and heart.    I don't mean to imply that this
> is your personal problem...but group growth is a joint effort.  If you are
> the lightening rod now...then it is your time to be clear..3) The group
> not be ready to deal head on with this...getting help for the group is a
> really good idea but if you are asking and the answer is "no" from the
> of directors because it isn't their is the job of the
> community you have community meetings?  Annual or (more often)
> meetings where all members attend?  This sounds (with my little knowledge
> your community and the specific dynamic's) like a group it
> a group issue...not just a few.  Being a "board member" of a community
> these issues can't be easy...I can understand the hesitancy to take this
> with out the skills....heck they would become the lightening rod.
> So the question to the group isn't...lets deal with this...that could
> unsafe!  How to address it is the to discuss the feelings
> needs of the community as whole and the individuals involved?   Personally
> and with in our community we have committed to using the Non-violent
> communication process (spoken of before on this can get more
> infor at the web site...NonViolent Communication -I can't remember the
> address but a search for this will come up with the page)....There are
> "professionals" available to help...I am sure you will get some other
> suggestions...
> Just don't give is open to it!
> Juva - CoHo in Corvallis Oregon - Forming -seeking land..
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Fred H Olson" <fholson [at]>
> To: "-cohousing-L mailing list" <cohousing-l [at]>
> Sent: January 01, 2003 5:46 AM
> Subject: [C-L]_Breakdown of Process in Cohousing
> >
> > 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
> >
> > 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
> > 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 like the metaphor of the lightning rod because it is very descriptive
> > the phenomenon as I experience it.  I "pick up" the static of
> dysfunctional,
> > harmful social interactions and then respond with anger and outrage that
> is
> > circulating in the subterfuge of the collective unconscious.  Have there
> been
> > other cohousing neighborhoods where people act out their unconscious
> > conflicts with one another
> >
> > I have been both the victim (multiple thefts by a youth who is out of
> control
> > and the restraining order) and I must also take responsibility for
> > contributed towards this conflict.  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
> > 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
> 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
> >
> > Have things like this happened in other cohousing communities?  Have
> > ever been failed communities?  Does the lightening rod personality
> > 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
> > neighborhood and continues to live as though his/her community members
> > strangers?  How does one deal with passive aggressive and even
> > dynamics in a neighborhood.
> >
> > Heady stuff for the New Year.  It breaks my heart.
> >
> > I will finish this inquiry with two quotations from two sages from the
> > Buddhist and Jewish traditions:
> >
> > Anger
> >
> > When the community was discussing ethics after Zazen one evening Black
> Bear
> > remarked, "I have been having a hard time dealing with my anger."
> > Raven said, "Check it out afterward."
> > Black Bear said, "What good will that do?"
> > Raven said, "It might have been Great Bear's anger."
> >
> > Robert Aitken from Zen Master Raven
> >
> > "God created human beings because he likes good stories"
> > Isaac Basheval Singer
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
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