Shadows of Facilitation

I’ve been quoting Otto Scharmer all too casually since I was a teenager, coordinating community groups of every size, training trainers who train trainers, and hosting 16+ retreats in 2 years when I should have been studying. I feel a magic that comes into my body when I’m working with groups. I can see dynamics dance across a room in peoples eyes and body language as it happens, I can feel shifts from stuck to unstuck in each person and coax them towards willingness with a quietly spoken question. I sit in circles feeling full of what someone in a group could say that would take everyone forward, and then realise I could be that person, and wake up and say it. Sometimes I can feel what people are going to share before its spoken, some nights I sit bolt upright in bed and while I’m deeply asleep I’ll firmly ask my partner for a time-check, or worse, sometimes I feel like can’t breathe in an un-held space. Having been the youngest person in the room at facilitator trainings for years, I am so grateful for everything I’ve learnt from my mentors, whether they know they were mentoring me or not. For me, learning the mastery of facilitation as been like taming a dragon.

I had a hard year in 2015 in my personal life and many of my most self-destructive patterns were on display. After months of reflection on my experience, I’ve started to name the patterns of my behaviour that led me down a self-isolating spiral of disengagement. Frighteningly, I have started naming some of those shadows and I’ve noticed that so many of them come from flexing well-trained facilitation muscles in inappropriate moments, or letting my facilitator-self lead the way I live my spiritual and romantic life; masking my sense of direction.

So for others who feel like “artists of the invisible” as Alan Kaplan puts it, I wanted to share these five shadows that I’m working with. I invite you to notice for yourself what role these or other shadows may play in your life as you move forward and live a life you want. I have learnt that whatever you tend to lean on as your strengths, can also be doors to your weakest weaknesses. Some of these shadows inhibit your personal growth, while others more directly hinder your growth as a facilitator. I am trying to make peace with every shadow by dancing with them - this is not a list of habits to quit, these are shadows I cast which and I’m now paying close attention to where they fall.

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