Processes in Process Work
The other day there was a discussion on how to explain Process Work to people who may not have known about it. One way I thought was to simply say that it is work that aims at individual and social development. It is not therapy, because first, we are not dealing with any disorder or illness and secondly, the facilitator -not being a therapist- does not provide a line of treatment to the participant, who again is not a client. It is not counselling, because process work is not addressing an issue, though that may happen in the course of process work. Also, the facilitator is not a counsellor who stands outside the participant’s situation and provides insights. Rather the facilitator is a co-traveller with the participant, walking with her in the journey of life that has its own joys, trials and everything else that comes with it. Here we need to bring centrestage the point that Process work happens in groups. It does not happen in one-to-one settings, as in most forms of therapy and counselling. That has its great significance.
When I am one to one with an experienced, mature and wise person, I find it easier to open upband talk freely and share without reservation. And in a group? I find it difficult to share the very same things. I am afraid of being seen as unworthy, weak, bad or having all negative attributes, by others in the group. I may have done things that don’t show me in a good light. I may regret that I should have done other things. Or I harbour guilt that I committed those acts. In process spaces, I am invited to look at what was happening in that situation not only outside, but also inside me: my thoughts, my feelings, hopes, fears and everything else. Slowly I begin to see the whole process of my perception, meanings I have given to things and the choices that I make. The labels of weak or bad or some such quality are preventing me from looking at what was going through me at that point.
The labels in a way represent the social judgement or evaluation of actions as good or bad and desirable or undesirable. The process space that encourages me to explore my whole experience of those actions does not evaluate or judge my actions in any way, but treats it as part of being human. In other words the space accepts that I may have behaved in ways that are not exactly socially sanctioned. So there is a world of socially constructed norms and appropriate behaviour and there is my inner world with my meanings, feelings, perceptions and thoughts. Are they always in conflict? Not necessarily, but there may be several occasions of dissonance.
When I speak in a group about things that trouble me, I am in a way saying to the world that I am vulnerable and I am human. It does not happen all at once and smoothly. I hesitate at first, I am half audible, I mumble and finally I may be able to state it clearly. But to be able to state it in the group is a big step in the process of accepting one’s humanness, with all its foibles, in front of the world.
I remember how I trembled and shivered in a community session a quarter century ago while stating a ‘scathing indictment’ I had received from my wife about being insensitive. As I explored it further I realised how I had overinvested into an organisational role and robbed myself of living wholesomely. That led me to a deeper question of the meaning of success and fulfilment and the way I had looked at myself. Those were really intense explorations and I must say they turned out to be very important in choosing a further course of life for me.
The group or community in this case was an extremely vital space for the exploration to take place. As I narrated my struggle, things started becoming clear to me. Others expressed their struggles and experiences, many aspects of which resonated with mine. The underlying meanings started slowly coming to surface. Nobody offered any advice, but the direction became clear. The strength to open up comes up from the space that does not judge or evaluate. It accepts me and confronts me at the same time. It never fails to ask me what is happening to me and what I want to do with all this.