Welcome to the Launch Event
Join us at the big room cic (Macclesfield/Cheshire) for this half day event facilitated by Milan Bijelić.
Milan is a facilitator affiliated with CFOR (Force for Change) and brings first-hand experience of conflict resolution in Croatia and Rwanda. He will be joined (via zoom) by our five guest speakers who will be sharing their experience of eldership.
The subjects covered will include reconciliation and community building (Innocent Musore - Rwanda), women in politics (Vassiliki Katrivanou - Greece), safe space dialogues and immigration (Tariq Bashire - UK), supporting wellbeing in the LGBT community (Ellis Beardsmore - Scotland), post-war reconciliation and community building (Tanja Radocaj - Belarus).
There will be an opportunity to ask questions and meet those who have signed-up to the 9 month programme and hear about the local community projects they will be working on over the course of the programme. These include:
The opening event can be attended virtually or in person.
Book your free ticket on eventbrite.
What is Eldership? An interview with Ingrid Rose, Faculty Member at the Processwork Institute in Portland, Oregon
The words 'elder' and 'eldership' hold many different cultural connotations. Ingrid Rose, PhD, Faculty Member at the Process Work Institute, Portland, Oregon talks about eldership within the context of process work and the role of the elder in community.
About this interview... during this interview several terms are referred to in relationship to ‘eldership’ within the context of process work. A comprehensive glossary of process work terms can be found here. The terms used in the video are:
My son ran into the front room to tell the adults who were looking after him that a helicopter had landed in the garden. He was excited, he wanted them to come and see. He was 6 years old.
Knowing that children are prone to fantasy and that helicopters did not land in gardens - certainly not theirs - they did not share his excitement. Knowing what they knew… meant they didn’t have to look.
At some point in our lives most of us have experienced what it is like not to be believed. Having our experience invalidated and with it a sense of who we are is painful. A moment of excommunication which can only be lifted by denying our experience and falling into line with the mainstream consensus reality. When those moments run into countless moments the result is confusion, doubt and an intolerable sense of pain.
In her recently published book, the comedian, Hannah Gadsby recounts what it was like growing up in a world that insisted that what she was experiencing wasn’t what she was experiencing. In speaking about her neurodiversity in an article in the Guardian Gadsby writes, ‘It was difficult to believe that I wasn’t entirely to blame for my life being such a painful struggle, because I was so used to assuming I was a bad person.’
But perhaps the most telling line in the article in reference to her ‘difference,’ is the last, ‘…but I wouldn’t change it for the world, because I believe communities need thinkers like me.’
The adults looking after my son never did see the helicopter in the back garden. Perhaps if they had their world and ours would be the richer for it.
Read Hannah Gadsby's article
When someone asks me (Owen) about Eldership in the Community I can find myself caught in a log jam of words, thoughts and a where to begin. The following extract from Dr Stephen Schuitevoerder not only avoids that log jam it also addresses the complex relationship between eldership, leadership and followership...
"How many times have we wished for wise leaders who are able to not only express themselves well but also make skilful decisions in each moment of their work? How often have we placed hope in a leader, dreaming that they will take the direction we have been waiting for, only to be disappointed by one poor choice or another? Leading skilfully is challenging.
All of us who have had the fortune of leading, and it is many of us at this moment in one way or another, whether as CEO of an organization or leader of a rock band know of the challenges of leading. It’s the complex task of juggling different pressures, opposing needs and directions, competing visions and limited resources and capacity. What we hope for in others, we struggle with in ourselves. And yet more than ever we need leaders, not just those who can lead but those who can lead skilfully, with wisdom, insight and awareness. Leaders who inspire others as much by what they do as to who they are. Leaders who can weave skilfully between complex demands in such a way that competing concerns are recognized and addressed. Leaders who are more than leaders, who are elders.
This developing of eldership seems to have little to do with position, wise leaders can emerge at surprising places in systems and organizations and often lead as elders in spite of their lower positional authority. Eldership also seems to have little to do with age, wise leadership can as be as easily young as old.
This book (The cultivation of the elder: the development of wisdom in leadership) is about this very development. It is a step by step pathway in developing greater awareness, of ourselves and others around us. And in this its about how we might cultivate eldership, and work as elders to become more skilful, become wiser, through insight into the complex activities and decisions we make each day, so that those who follow can tread more easily and learn from our modelling.
But this book is also about followers, it’s about the moments when a person in leadership disappoints us, it’s about our own ability to respond at this moment and how we can choose to ‘lead’ from a lower positional authority. It’s about the fluidity of leadership, and how we might each work in our own way with our own eldership irrespective of the positional rank we might have.
The role of elder at times is the overt leader of a system, but need not be the designated leader of a system. Eldership and wisdom can emerge from any position, and with this emergence lead through its wisdom. And the role of elder is not fixed, it shifts between people, at one moment this wisdom resides with one person and at another moment the wisdom shifts to another. It’s in the field or group, waiting for expression and finding its next most likely inhabitant."
Book available on Dr Stephen Schuitevoerder's website
In October 2021 we held the last of the three pilot workshops for the Eldership in the Community programme. It can be difficult to explain what it is like to experience eldership so we have left that to those who attended these three half-day sessions. You can view these interviews on our Youtube Channel.
In January 2022 we were awarded a full grant from the Emergence Foundation to run a 9 month programme on Eldership in the Community. Our thanks to all those who attended the pilot programme and to the generosity of the Emergence Foundation.
If you think that this programme would be something you and your community could benefit from we would love to hear from you.
Deadline for applications is the 2nd April 2022 though we recommend early registration as places are limited.
We are delighted to announce that our grant application to the Emergence Foundation to fund a 9 month intensive Eldership in the Community programme has been successful.
The Eldership in the Community programme is a life changing journey for those who find themselves called to be a positive change in the world.
Programme starts May 2022. Registration is open. Places are limited so please register early.
For more information about the programme
An Ode to Angela
Thank you to Dawn Menken who has given her permission for us to share a chapter from her book: Speak Out talking about love, sex and eternity
‘As I look at the amount of individual, relationship and world violence around me, I feel a great sense of urgency. Anger is a part of nature that can’t be denied but needs to be worked with. Too many people suffer from their own anger, others’ anger, and from an angry world.
In his book, ‘Angry Men, Angry Women, Angry World: Moving From Destructiveness to Creativity’ (2004), Dr Gary Reiss shares how the anger of individual men and women, as couples, families and in groups rather than being destructive can be harnessed to create a healthier world.
‘Anger is energy. It is power. Like the power of the atom or the power of knowledge, it can be used for creative or destructive purposes. Anger is part of nature, and we cannot wish it away. Instead, we can learn how to use this energy to create healthy bodies, healthy relationships, and a healthy world’. (p8)
However, many people I know and many that I work with fear anger - their own anger and other peoples anger. Those most fearful of their own anger tend to describe themselves as “having no anger”, “I never feel angry”, “there was never any anger in my family”. Often these people are so numb that they feel nothing very much. They often come into therapy with the label ‘depression’. For these people it is vital for them to get in touch with the depths of their anger and their hurt.
Others are terrified of their anger, they feel it and spend much of their time pushing it down. These people often coming to therapy with the label ‘anxiety'. It is vital for them to learn to harness the energy of anger and express it with awareness. These are just two very common ways in which people talk about their relationship with anger in therapy. These are ways of being with anger that are more societally acceptable.
‘Anger is neither sin nor pathology, but a powerful human emotion that can fall anywhere on the spectrum from highly creative to highly destructive, from totally ethical to completely unethical. It can be a sign of pathology or health, a sign of lack of spiritual development or enlightenment. The key to using anger well is awareness, including the awareness we bring to our anger and how we bring anger into relationships and into the larger world beyond ourselves’. (p10-11)
So many of our experiences with anger have been destructive that, as a society, we tend to marginalise and demonise it. When we repress anger over long periods of time it can lead to self-abuse: a condemning and oppressive internal critic impacts our confidence and self-esteem, depression, psychosomatic symptoms. When we continually express anger without awareness we often hurt others emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And we lose intimate connection in our relationships - often the underlying cause of our personal history with anger - leading to more hurt and more anger.
‘It is interesting to note that couples usually come to the therapist either when there is extreme anger in the relationship or when there are no feelings present, and sometimes these two issues are related’ (p68)
Working with anger requires an understanding of rank and power. Becoming aware of our roles as both the oppressed and the oppressor.
‘Anger responses from being in power and being oppressed are very different, and mastering anger in both situations is crucial.
Gary Reiss's book is a very accessible exploration of anger from the perspective of Process Oriented Psychology and is suitable for both therapists and non-therapists. It looks at anger from all perspectives - male anger, female anger, couple anger, family anger, world anger. It addresses the destructiveness of anger when we ignore it and the potential it holds for creative transformation.
Dr Gary Reiss will be at the big room cic in Macclesfield, Cheshire, UK facilitating a 3 day workshop (26 -28 March 2020) on Process Oriented Family Therapy and Community Based Healing.
If you would like more information about this workshop see our website: www.thebigroom.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
When Winning is Losing
Written by: Hayley Stevens
Western European civilisation is built upon a win/lose game. A game which has been exported around the world. In truth it is the lose/lose game. In the long run we never win when we play this game – with our children, our partners, colleagues, friends, neighbours, community… and with the planet. When one side wins, and the other loses… the winning is just the start of losing all over again. This is what history shows us. This is what is playing out around the world right now.
The history of humanity might fill us with pessimism and despair about our ability to change this game. But there is evidence that it has not always been this way. The values and beliefs that underpin this game are only 2,000-3,000 years old - a mere fraction of time that humanity has existed on this planet. That’s 26-39 generations* or 800+ generations dependent upon which calculation you use!
There is hope.
It was hope that I felt listening to Laura Shannon’s talk at a conference in Cheltenham in the summer. It was this hope that lead me to invite her to ‘the big room' in Macclesfield.
Making a Space (A Story)
Written by Owen Stevens
Tomorrow there will be an election. The popular press drip with corrosive indignation and righteous shame. I try to find something from the supermarket that is not wrapped in single use plastic. I do, but mostly I don’t.
That evening I watch part of the Channel 4 ‘debate’ on climate change. The one thing that there is not, other than the Conservative Party and UKIP, who have both declined to attend, is a debate.
A landslide victory for the Tory Party. In that small bubble I occupy on facebook, everyone is in agreement. The election is a disaster. Despite or perhaps because of the election Brexit continues to hold the nations collective breath. In that holding there is a hardening. I see it in the faces of Christmas shoppers. But mostly I hear it in the conversations left unsaid.
“Have you heard the news, bloody Iranians. Bloody animals.”
I trying to sound measured in my response... “I wonder how we would feel if a foreign power came over here killed a top British General?’
“The thing about Trump is he does what he says. That’s why I like him.”
“Trump", I say, "is a very dangerous man”
To the passerby we might look like two dog walkers stood in conversation. But what we are stood in are the brittle shards of sentences uttered as pronouncements. The space between us barbed with wire, the trenches dug. As we enter 2020 these small and countless wars proliferate. Salted by a political popularism and increasingly bellicose popular press. What comes next is a deepening silence and with it a fragmentation which knows only one energetic response. War.
Facebook identifies itself as a social media platform a label that diverts us from what in fact it is – an advertising platform. A vanity mirror for some, an information centre for others. In all cases a space suited for pronouncements and in recent years the manipulation of elections. I am wary of those who deliver these pronouncements. In those short and airless sentences that arrive dead and breathless I hear the soundbite of the dictator, the pontificator, the manipulator.
And in my replies to this passerby, my neighbour, I realise that I am in these moments the very person I most distrust. Our world views are radically different. But in our pontifications we are siamese twins. It is never pleasant when we realise the other in us. And I think back on all those Facebook posts, most of which lacked the only saving grace that comes with pontification. Humour.
It is an irony hard to miss, that in this digitally connected world, we have robbed ourselves of those spaces where we can truly connect. Spaces where words can breath and in that breath give life to our differences. The well source of health from which all communities must draw if they are to grow to change to move to come together, has all but grown dry.
Our high dream for the big room is that it can be a space where words are given the freedom to dance, confront, rise and fall. And in the act of dancing bring us together. A space where the all in all of us is welcome.
These posts are written and curated by Hayley and Owen, founding members of the big room cic.
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