to change is a given in most groups we work with. After all, if
resistance didn't exist, the change probably would have already
happened. As facilitators, we have the opportunity to work with
this resistance in positive ways. But this is sometimes a challenge
due to our own relationship to resistance and how we manage it.
This weeks article, "Honoring the Risk Manager," was authored
by my friend Alyce Barry, a
Certified Shadow Work Group Facilitator and Coach. Here, she looks
at resistance in a positive light, offering a helpful perspective
for us to embrace the next time we encounter it in our groups.
Safety and Trust in Your Groups: A
Transformative New Approach to Working With Resistance.
this one-hour interview, Alyce Barry and
I will discuss a provocative new approach to managing resistance
based on her Shadow Work training. Read about the details of this
interview after the article below and join us next Thursday, November
10th at 1:00 PM Eastern (NY Time) for this provocative
Improvisational Facilitator Returns
Sue Walden and I will be leading another session of the 5-day teleclass,
"The Improvisational Facilitator," the week of November
14th. This class always receives rave reviews. We'll present powerful,
practical improv techniques you can use to immediately enhance your
facilitation, training, and group leadership skills. This class
is very interactive and uses many innovative experiential activities
that will surely surprise you.
Have a great week!
"This doesn't feel safe. What are you doing?"
When I hear a comment like that from a participant in one of my groups,
I feel it in my stomach. Is the participant saying I can't be trusted?
That I'm trying to hurt someone? That I'm "evil?" A group participant
can threaten to disrupt my group process -- what I call "busting
my container" -- in a variety of ways. Expressing a concern about
safety or leadership is only one of them. For me, though, it's one of
the hardest issues because of its potential to take me down emotionally,
into fear and distrust of myself.
As a Shadow Work group facilitator, however, I see container-busting as
a symptom of an underlying personal issue for the participant, stemming
from a bad experience in the past.
In other words, a person who's trying to bust my container is doing so
for "good" reasons. Let's say a group member named Oona mentions
feeling unsafe. This tells me that she's been in a group where there was,
in fact, something unsafe for her. In that group, Oona got hurt in some
way. That experience left Oona with "radar" for safety issues
in a group. If her comment is directed at me as group leader, I have reason
to believe she was hurt by a group leader in the past. Perhaps by a teacher,
a religious official, a troop leader -- or, since the family is our first
experience of a group, by a parent, sibling, or other family member. Perhaps
someone criticized Oona in front of others, or embarrassed or humiliated
her. Perhaps someone tried to control or manipulate her and left her feeling
In my group, Oona's radar has caught a whiff of something that resembles
that past experience, however faintly. It doesn't mean that anyone besides
Oona is necessarily at risk. All it means is that Oona's radar is up.
And it's up for good reasons -- to protect her from getting criticized
or humiliated or manipulated again. Because not only would she feel unsafe,
but she would most likely feel ashamed about not preventing it from happening
Shadow Work has a unique method for working with that inner radar, by
viewing it as a part of the self who's like a radar operator. The inner
radar operator is the voice of a person's resistance. My generic name
for this part of the self is the Risk Manager, but I've heard people call
it their Inner Protector, Guardian Angel, even Bullshit Detector.
Whatever its name, our Risk Manager's job is the same: to be vigilant
in detecting risks so that you won't get hurt like before. When I'm working
with an individual client, I welcome the Risk Manager to the process and
honor its role in my client's life. It begins to reveal things about my
client's past that I couldn't possibly know otherwise. It becomes a valuable
ally who can help me fulfill Job One, which is to create a safe emotional
environment. In a sense, my client's Risk Manager becomes my co-facilitator.
In fact, I think of my Risk Manager as the part of me that became trained
to lead groups. It started by "scoping things out" to protect
me, and it resisted any group leader who didn't know what he or she was
doing. Naturally, it thought it could do a better job and decided to learn
In my teleclass on November 10, I'll be discussing what the Risk Manager
means for you in your groups. I've seen five kinds of resistance arise
in a group, and I'll be discussing how to handle them by honoring the
The first kind of resistance to change, and usually the easiest one to
deal with, is skepticism about the group's direction ("What's going
on here?"). Second is alarmist ("Something big and scary is
coming!") which can sabotage a group emotionally. Third is confusion
from too many options ("We could do A or B or C or D or E or..."),
so that the group can no longer see the forest for the trees.
For me, and I think for most group leaders, the fourth and fifth kinds
of resistance are the hardest: criticism of my methods and criticism of
me personally. If Oona says to me, "You're doing it wrong,"
she had a group leader in the past who was, in fact, doing something wrong,
and things didn't work out too well. If Oona says to me, "You're
not qualified," she had an unqualified group leader in the past.
That experience made her feel like prey, and the hurt she felt now wants
to hurt me back and make me feel like prey.
But I don't have to feel like prey because I know she's got a good reason
for attacking me. In fact, I can feel glad that she's attacking me, because
it means her Risk Manager is on guard to keep her safe. What's more, I
can disarm her resistance by honoring her Risk Manager without her even
being aware of it.
How? First, inside myself, by believing that no matter how disruptive
or unpleasant her behavior, she's acting this way for a good reason, and
that she's hurting inside. And second, by genuinely honoring her reasons
in my response: "I'll bet there's a good reason why you're seeing
things that way." In the teleclass, I'll have more to say about this
response and suggest some language for
responding to each kind of resistance.
When you learn to honor the Risk Manager, you'll immediately feel the
increased safety and trust in your groups. With more safety and trust,
group members will take more responsibility. You may even find that learning
about your own Risk Manager makes a difference for you personally, because
it means you've had good reasons for everything you've done. I'll be offering
an optional exercise in which you can step into your own Risk Manager
so I can honor it directly. Honoring this part of yourself will make it
easier for you to make changes in your own life, and to feel compassion
for yourself about painful experiences in your past.