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Holding Space in Conflict

责任编辑:ccpg  来源:  作者:  人气:794  发布时间:2014-03-11 17:08:56

julie smith, alaska, usa:  

This piece about taking another look at how we think about conflict is also important. There is a growing profession developing around this question, of which I am a tiny part. I don't hear OS practitioners talking much about conflict resolution, but I wonder whether there are some important lessons for conflict resolution professionals in the work you're doing. I think the answer is yes, but I haven't quite figured out what the lessons are.  

chris weaver, north carolina, usa:  

Not knowing much about the profession of conflict resolution, I expect that there is a lot of resonance.  

I imagine that there are many mediators who see themselves as space-holders rather than fixers. I imagine that there are mediators who in some way invite those "in conflict" to consider a larger circle of viewpoints by holding space for a diversity of voices - not just the polarized "other" but a circle of those affected and those who care.  

My friend does victim-offender mediation, sometimes in the aftermath of violent crime. There is much in common about how he and I prepare for our work, but to me his space-holding requires more courage - warrior energy, tested tried & true. And an unwavering trust in & service to the transforming power of love.  

Interesting though.. .when I think of "conflict resolution" I picture two people across a table from one another, with a mediator in between, and I think, what a set-up. How could there be healing without the circle? How could healing be sustained without a circle of "the right people," who have responded to an open invitation? And what would be the theme? Thanks, Julie.. .I find a great deal to think about here.  

julie smith, alaska, usa:  

My husband, the builder, tells me of the boards and pipes dancing in his head, weaving together in his mind, to his hands, creating our home. Ideas dance through my head, weaving together in my mind, to my fingers on the keyboard, creating I know not what.  

Today’s vision:  

The short version:  

In our spiral of expanding consciousness, we outgrow conflict.  


The long version:  

During our journey, we encounter conflict. As in all things, we have two choices:  

1 .We can respond with fear. (In the Thomas-Kilman model, for you CR professionals, fear might wear the face of avoidance, accommodation, competition, or compromise)  

2.We can respond with love. (In the T-K model, the face of collaboration)  

Most of us experiment for a very long time with one or more of the fear-based responses to conflict. None of these responses fully engages the humanity/divinity of all the people involved in the conflict. From this place of fear-based response, it is an advance, a forward movement of expanding consciousness, to recognize the positive value of conflict that is expressed when we respond to conflict with collaboration. When we advance to a collaborative model, we seek to fully engage and honor and respect every person involved in the conflict. As we engage in collaborative responses to conflict (through a variety of processes, including OS and mediation) we experience fuller and more genuine engagement with others, we are awed and inspired by the beauty and natural intelligence of humanity, and our ability to love expands.  

And then….. there comes a point where conflict itself is no longer meaningful. It fades away because, in Jung’s words, “[s]ome higher or wider interest appeared on the… horizon, and through this broadening of… outlook the insoluble problem lost its urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms but faded when confronted with a new and stronger life urge.”  

From this place on the spiral, experiencing and practicing what it means to engage with love with everyone in every moment becomes the “new and stronger life urge.” From this place, engaging in our own conflict is a step backwards, a reflection of a momentary return to fear, an error to be healed.  

…..which leaves the question of whether and how we engage in the conflicts of others…… I think the focus on particular processes must also fade…..  

I think there comes a point of flow, where we simply accept the unfolding of people and events around us. Our sole responsibility is to quietly maintain our integrity to our loving intention, to be still often enough and long enough to hear our inner wisdom, and to choose our actions accordingly.  

harrison owen, maryland, usa:  

Yes.  

ken west, california, usa:  

In conflict, for me, I want each person to be able to tell their whole story, without interruption, and to be heard with compassion. First I ask them to tell me the story alone, Let it crock pot  


(Simmer) for a few days and then share it with the other. I want nothing in the room but chairs, no place to hide and nothing to get behind. Yes, OS is in many ways the essence of conflict resolution (my practice) as in OS a person takes responsibility and passion and is implicitly given the honor of a full listening. No two people are in a conflict it is the community as well. The process allows for and invites the participants to consider how to heal the community. I think when I am most successful the process works on a spiral with Macro and Micro weaving and separating. Dynamic processes invite/require open space. Peace is Security  

julie smith, alaska, usa:  

chris weaver wrote: Not knowing much about the profession of conflict resolution, I expect that there is a lot of resonance.  

        

   

      

Yes.  

      

Yes.  

    I imagine that there are many mediators who see themselves as space-holders rather than fixers.  

I imagine that there are mediators who in some way invite those "in conflict" to consider a larger circle of viewpoints by holding space for a diversity of voices - not just the polarized "other" but a circle of those afected and those who care. Sometimes. For me, this happens most often in child custody mediations. In these mediations, I consciously hold space for the children. Sometimes I do this silently, and sometimes I verbalize it.  

My friend does victim-ofender mediation, sometimes in the aftermath of violent crime. There is much in common about how he and I prepare for our work, but to me his space-holding requires more courage - warrior energy, tested tried & true. And an unwavering trust in & service to the transforming power of love.  

I’m also involved in victim offender mediation, though I haven’t done a large number of mediations in this area. The ones I’ve done have been with juvenile offenders. Our local youth court has developed a victim offender mediation program using youth and adult co-mediators to reflect the typical mediation participants: youth offender and adult victim. (Initially the program was set up with two adult co-mediators. The youth-adult co-mediation model is much better.)  

Interesting though.. .when I think of "conflict resolution" I picture two people across a table from one another, with a mediator in between, and I think, what a set-up. How  

could there be healing without the circle? How could healing be sustained without a circle of "the right people, " who have responded to an open invitation? And what would be the theme?  

Two is a circle. So is three. Any more than one. Sometimes two or three is “the right people.”  


chris weaver, north carolina, usa:  

Two is a circle. Beautiful. Thank you. So is three. Any more than one. Sometimes two or three is the right people. Yes, I see. And I reckon that one is a circle too.  

birgitt williams, north carolina, usa:  

During the decade I spent developing the Genuine Contact program to assist individuals to learn to develop conscious Open Space Organizations, I experimented with what worked regarding conflict resolution. Please note that my exploration distinguished between mediation, negotiation, and REAL RESOLUTION.  

Within the Genuine Contact program, when we look at conflict resolution, we emphasize that the BEST means of conflict resolution is an Open Space Technology meeting dealing with a critical business issue for which all participants have passion(the theme is not about the conflict resolution). Inevitably, as the business issue is getting dealt with, someone eventually begins discussions that lead to raising the topic of the conflict, and then dealing with it—no TRAINED facilitators involved in the discussions that emerge within the bigger OST meeting. Within the Genuine Contact program, when we look at conflict resolution, we emphasize that using Whole Person Process Facilitation (in which participants use their intuition to choose who they work with and how they will do the work within a preset agenda) again dealing with a key business issue rather than the conflict itself, allows the conflict to be raised and dealt with.  

Most frequently, conflict is resolved in either of these processes by the participants themselves, without anyone else needing to be involved. It is not because the people necessarily wanted to resolve the conflict, but because they want to get on with the business opportunities for which they have passion and recognize for themselves that the conflict needs to be resolved to get on with it. Their passion takes them beyond their attachment to victim behavior, their passion takes them beyond their attachment to conflict….  

And from time to time, the people most involved in the conflict, most affected by it, make it part of their action plans to get assistance after the meeting for conflict resolution. Conflict resolution processes are then in response to their expressed WILL. OST and Whole Person Process Facilitation are wonderful for surfacing that WILL. And I don’t know of any successful conflict resolution if the WILL is not there. Within the Genuine Contact program, we offer a two day program in facilitating conflict resolution so that the OST facilitators who are learning skills with the conscious Open Space Organization have a chance to reflect about the use of OST meetings and Whole Person Process Facilitated meetings in conflict resolution. And to equip them with a process for an intentional conflict resolution process if it is asked for. In developing this part of our program, we emphasize Angeles Arrien’s work with conflict resolution which in turn relies heavily on conflict resolution processes taught at US schools for diplomats. Well researched.  


Thank you for your detailed explanation of how conflict resolution and OST weave together in your practice. You captured what has been the deepest learning for me about OS when you said:  

Most frequently, conflict is resolved in either of these processes by the participants themselves, without anyone else needing to be involved. It is not because the people necessarily wanted to resolve the conflict, but because they want to get on with the business opportunities for which they have passion and recognize for themselves that the conflict needs to be resolved to get on with it. Their passion takes them beyond their attachment to victim behavior, their passion takes them beyond their attachment to conflict...  

When I think about some of the employment mediations I’ve been involved in, I think of the myriad overlapping issues and people who were talked about as contributing in some way to the conflict, but who were not involved directly in the mediation because they were not the primary participants in the conflict. And I think about the people who would sit in my office drawing diagrams of how the organization could work if things were restructured to better suit the people who worked there, and then throwing up their hands because their ideas were too big for the process that was offered to them. Those issues felt too big for mediation because the stated task, the given, was to resolve the conflict between a small group of people, and not to restructure the organization. I can see how in these kinds of situations, opening up the space and invoking the law of two feet could lead to dramatic and positive change within an organization. I can also see how upper management might resist large-scale opening space and change, and might desire and ask for mediation as a way to resolve the most obvious and pressing conflicts within the organization without requiring THEM to significantly engage or change.  

harrison owen, maryland, usa:  

Doubtless there are innumerable situations such as you describe, particularly ones where upper management refuses engagement or change. One side of all of us says -- well if we can't do everything, let's do what we can. And above everything else let's try and help the people caught in the middle. I know the syndrome, but I question it's wisdom. Organizations with such short sighted management hopefully will not survive too long, and in any event I am not sure that I want to be party to their sustenance. My reasons are two. First life is very short and sweet, and given the fact that there are endless opportunities to help folks who really do want to get on with the business of meaningful life, why should we waste it helping those who refuse to help themselves? Secondly, and this becomes an ethical consideration for me, let's suppose that we are wildly successful -- the conflict has been mediated AND the folks at the top never got their hands dirty, nor did they have take responsibility for a miserable situation they created. Who wins? Harsh, I suppose, but we only have so much life to give -- and how we choose to give it makes a difference, I think.  


As for who we help, my choice has been to help and be helped by whoever happens along. For me, remaining aware of the quality of my response to whoever arrives in front of me and whoever I arrive in front of is part of the flow. It’s part of letting go of any particular expectation and any particular outcome. A Good response is one that meets the other where they are, joins with them authentically, interacts with integrity until the interaction is done, and gently moves on. The interaction can be very brief…. a moment of eye contact or a smile….. or it can last varying amounts of time, up to a lifetime. I know it’s over when it feels good. (Glory, you have such a lovely signature line that gets at this…. I don’t recall exactly what it says…… something like ‘if it doesn’t feel good, our story isn’t over…..’)  

A glimmer of understanding on my horizon now….. it isn’t authentic, Harrison, for you to interact with groups in ways that require more words or technique or reliance on you as a facilitator/leader. What is authentic for you is to express trust in their ability to find their own answers, and to help by holding space with them. What that “holding space” is, is a manifestation of Spirit at work in you, co-creating with them an energy of creativity, good will, and unbounded possibility. Having experienced this so many times, it is inconceivable to you to respond to requests for a lesser experience. Your inner wisdom resists being and doing less than you are capable of.  

Is that it?  

As for the rest of us, we also have to find what is authentic for us. Authenticity isn’t something that can be transferred. We each have to look inside and find what is authentic for us. My understanding of OS is that it encourages each of us to authentically express our true selves, unbounded by artificial boundaries or expectations.  

julie smith, alaska, usa:  

Someone here recently said something about working at providing people as much space as they can take. I think that’s right. For example, mediation is often much better for individuals and organizations than the grievance process. If management is willing to go with mediation, but isn’t ready for OS, then mediation might be the best we can do. I’ve also seen organizations engage staff in collaborative negotiation trainings, to help people learn to solve problems on their own before they turn into larger problems. That also seems to me to be a health-inducing decision very much in keeping with the values of OS….. in OS lingo, a way of teaching people how to open space in a circle of two.  

I think mediation also has a place in situations that OS doesn’t approach (or hasn’t yet approached, to my knowledge). I’m thinking of situations where people perceive it is not in their best interest to invoke the law of two feet.  


harrison owen, maryland, usa:  

Maybe I just hit the hot-spots, but I don't think my experience is unique. Case in point was a nasty situation in Latin America. Two weeks before I arrived to open some space the Plant Manager and The Shop Steward (Labor) were at machete points --literally. We closed the whole plant and 500 people sat in a circle. They all spoke Spanish. I don't. I did what I could -- Hold Space, and they talked -- about everything. 18 hours later, I found the Plant manager and The Shop Steward embraced and in tears. Those who had trouble with their feet learned to use them -- or at the very least they learned that they had a choice, and were responsible either way. And when the whole thing was done, everybody knew that THEY had done it. Even if I had been able to speak Spanish, the likelihood that I could have been present at every instance of need was small -- and more to the point, I wasn't needed. I guess part of the problem here is that there seems to be a general presumption that just because you as the facilitator are not saying something, or doing something (overt) you have no impact or contribution. There are in fact subtle realms to be explored and worked with, and maybe another strand of our conversation might take a look at all of this?  

julie smith, alaska, usa:  

I do not assume the facilitator needs to be speaking or doing something to have a positive impact on a group. One of my favorite lines is: “Don’t just do something, sit there!” (I first read this in something by Thich Naht Hanh, I’m not sure of the original author.) I would be very interested in exploring more about the subtle realms.  

...Sometimes the conflict really does need to be dealt with openly and directly between the people who are in it. In those situations, mediation can be a very simple, elegant, and powerful process. In many ways, like OS. Also a little different. I think people who are in intense conflict who come to mediation experience considerable stress and anxiety about the conflict and the mediation. From what I know so far, they need more support than the typical OS participant. As a result, most mediators openly engage at a deeper level with participants than does an OS facilitator (as I understand it). Mediators don’t engage in an effort to control or to solve the problem, but to provide enough understanding and emotional safety that each person can tolerate the stress of sustained interaction with the person they are in conflict with.  

harris on owen, maryland, usa:  

There is no question that good mediators can and do achieve marvelous results. But as I observe such folks at work, it seems to me that the less they do, the more they achieve, and under optimal circumstances, they apparently do nothing at all. In my experience, you can tell the "newbies" by their attention to the detail of the process, making sure that the right words are said, and the appropriate steps taken. Watch an old pro and you never see their hands move or their lips. So how about this as an idea-- All Open Space is Mediation, and all Mediation is Open Space?  


Ummmmmm……. I would prefer to not adopt this particular idea. :) Mediation has a hard enough time defining itself without adding OS into the mix! In spite of the many similarities, I think there are also important differences. Many mediators are minimalists, and believe strongly in the power of doing nothing when nothing is called for. I think most mediators also believe that sometimes, something is called for. Usually that something is small….. but it is something. The something might share space in the subtle realms, but it also sometimes manifests in the material realm through words or actions.  

 

Mediators provide their presence, and hold space. In this way, mediation is like OS. Mediators also speak. In this way, mediation is unlike OS.  

When mediators speak, they speak their understanding of the Now of each participant. They speak their understanding of the present state of consciousness, of the understanding of the world currently perceived by each person. As that understanding is spoken, each person (including the mediator) shifts. Sometimes there is relief that comes from being understood by another. Sometimes there is insight from hearing another speak the thoughts they couldn’t hear from the person they are fearful of. Sometimes there is a spiral of increasing clarity as information is shared and understandings are explored.  

Mediators make choices. When to speak, when to remain silent. I often tend toward silence, toward letting things go as they will. I also choose to speak sometimes. For me, there is an openness, a freedom, that comes from being in a process in which I, too, can speak. For me, it is an expression of my inclusion in the humanity of the situation……we are all in the room, together with the goal of helping solve the problem. If my words can be salve to the soul of those engaged in the struggle, and can perhaps help move the struggle forward, then I want to offer them. I have so often been the beneficiary of the words of others that I feel compelled to return the gift.  

julie smith, alaska, usa:  

Sometimes I think of mediation as creating circles of two: me and A, and then me and B, and then back again, talking about what has happened, how it felt, and how it feels. As those circles become comfortable and A and B relax within their individual circles with me, learning to trust that they will be listened to and understood, they gradually reach out to each other. For a time, they hang onto their relationship with me as support, and we create a circle of three. As they become more comfortable, they leave me behind, and create their own circle of two. (This is my favorite part. I think of myself as blending into the wallpaper of the room….. present but unnoticed.) Often something difficult will be said, fear will rise, and one or both will reach back  


to me for support, and we’re back to a circle of three. I will help summarize or clarify or validate, working toward deeper understanding, the fear will diminish, and they go back to their circle of two. Eventually, if they choose to, they will reach a new understanding, and perhaps a formal or informal agreement.  

It seems to me that OS and mediation and other processes are tools. My husband, the carpenter, has many tools. Each is ideally suited for different tasks. His skill is to understand the best use of each tool, and to use it accordingly. I think the same is true of the work we do.  

harrison owen, maryland, usa:  

Julie -- I think there is an enormous amount that we can all learn from each other. And for sure I am not advocating the elimination of Mediation as a thing to do. There is definitely a time and a place for the intense, face-to-face, supportive environment that a good mediator provides. I guess what concerns me is that I see a lot of folks in organizational life who assume that every time conflict shows its ugly head a call goes out for the mediators. At worst this creates mountains of learned helplessness and needless co-dependency. I would say essentially the same thing about those involved in Community Building and Stress Reduction. We have learned a great deal from both groups -- but from where I sit the real issue is to find effective ways in which to enhance the self-healing process in our communities (whether that be businesses or whatever) -- with the absolute minimum of intervention. I think what we have learned from 15 years of Open Space is how much can be accomplished with less. And I don't think we are at the end of that learning. My mantra over the years has been -- Think of one more thing NOT to do. You keep striping away and striping away. Perhaps there is an irreducible minimum, but I haven't seen it yet. All of which I take to be extraordinarily good news, if only for reasons of economics. Given the levels and complexity of the stress and conflict in our world, we simply do not have enough stress reducers, community builders and mediators to go around, and it is doubtful that we could pay for them all, even if we did have the numbers. I consider Open Space not so much a tool as an on-going natural experiment in enabling the process of self-healing, which is but one of the many gifts of self-organization -- otherwise known as Spirit at Work.  

julie smith, alaska, usa:  

Harrison, you make me chuckle. Most mediators I know definitely do NOT see themselves as mainstream. Far from it. I would also differ with you about characterizing mediation as fostering learned helplessness and needless co-dependency. I see mediation, like OS, as a means of fostering self-determination and self-empowerment.  

I’m interested in your thought about enhancing self-healing in our communities….. and wonder what the difference is between self-healing and healing….. but my brain is tired and my stomach oh so empty…… don’t you serve food at these OS events????? Thanks for this forum and for this enriching conversation.  


john engle, haiti:  

I appreciate what you have shared here. seems it is wise to recognize that the typical use of the word conflict encompasses anything from disputes between co-workers to people wanting to kill others. given this, we must be open to approaches that vary.  

thank you again for your insights. the use of open space in extreme conflicts (where one hates to the point of being willing to kill), and in healing people who are very, very broken are areas that i wish to learn more about.  

naomi kahane, quebec, canada:  

I, too, wonder about how to open a space for dialogue between antagonists in an extreme conflict, such as supporters of the Palestinian cause vs. supporters of the Israeli cause. Right now, these groups stand on either side of a fence yelling at each other, which has nothing to do with anything constructive. Anyone out there with experience or conjectures. Thanks for all the generosity I see on the list.  

harris on owen, maryland, usa:  

I guess the simple answer is -- Just like always. But in super Hi-conflict situations things that are just "useful" under more normal circumstances become absolutely critical. In terms of a theme it must be something that people really care about and not just something "safe." The theme must be broad enough to allow for inclusion and focused enough so that people know why they are coming. I find it useful to look for real hard/gut issues -- something like "Education of our Children" or "fixing roads" --and not something like "Bringing Love to Our land." Voluntary Self-Selection is another "critical" -- if people feel forced to come, a bad situation becomes worse. And if you never quite knew what "holding space" was -- you will find out. It can be a real "white knuckle" trip -- but just hold tight to the arms of a good solid chair, say and do nothing -- just "be" as intensely as you can.  

As for Israelis and Palestinians I have no personal experience, though ask me in several weeks and that lack of experience will hopefully have changed. However in other similar situations I have found that at the end of the day people are people, and Open Space is open space.  

bernhard weber, austria and mozambique:  

Since there is this rich ongoing discussion on mediation/conflict resolution and OS taking place in the oslist, Michael Pannwitz told me it would be good to pass the following information on to the os-list, which had been my answer to a question in the "schneller wandel"(simultaneous change) list:  


Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa offers high quality training in political mediation at international level. The mix of participants from many countries and different levels of intervention is usually very interesting. Scuola Sant'Anna offer also actual and tailor made products (e.g. peace-keeping-training for Afghanistan)  

Their website: http://www.itp.sssup.it  

Contact: Ms Barbara Mancini, Pisa, Italy -- tel +39 050 883 312 fax +39 050 883 506  

bernhard again...  

Michaël Molenaar just told me that the link I gave is actually not working. I tried again and it seems that the server is down. Sorry! So if you are interested please try the following alternatives  

http://www.reliefweb.int/training/ti429.html (july course) http://www.reliefweb.int/training/ti796.html (Afghanistan)  

Organization contact(s): Gabriella Arcadu, International Training Programme for Conflict Management, Pisa, Italy, mailto:garcadu@sssup.it  

A good general starting point for looking up conflict management & mediation trainings at international level is the site HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE TRAINING INVENTORY: http://www.reliefweb.int/training/orgs.html  

harris on owen, maryland, usa:  

For me there are indeed lessons here -- and by no means have they all been figured out. But it could be a very useful and exciting project, given the state of the world. At the risk of misunderstanding and appearing as a bomb-throwing revolutionary in the halls of conflict mediators -- maybe the first thing we need to do is stop trying to resolve conflict? I am by no means suggesting that we simply stand aside and cheer the combatants onwards. That tends to get bloody, and if for no other reason than pure self interest, the thought is not a wise one. After all, the blood could eventually be our own. But I find certain considerations suggestive of an alternate approach.  

First, conflict, in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It shows that people care about something, they have some passion. Approaches that resolve the conflict by eliminating the passion remove precisely the ingredient of constructive change. Nothing will be different until people care to make it different.  

Second, when people are in conflict, the issues and inter-relationships are so incredibly complex that I as an "outsider" don't have a prayer of understanding the true dimensions of what is going  


on. Which means for me that the possibility of developing a rational process to straighten out the mess is a nice idea, but beyond the realm of possibility. Of course, those with the necessary knowledge are so close to the "problem" that they often can't see the forest for the trees.  

Thirdly, the critical piece for me (as a potential peace bringer) is not the conflict or the issues but rather the necessary space in which the parties can separate long enough to see new options. Presuming that they care about some meaningful life, and are generally opposed to killing or being killed (literally or figuratively), the folks will figure it out. That is, I believe, the experience of Open Space, or at least it has been my experience -- no matter how high the level of conflict may be. And just to be clear that this is not the exclusive magic of Open Space, I note that some of my legal friends who seem particularly skilled at enabling the resolution of conflict start with a search for what they call "negotiating room." I guess I would call that open space.  

Fourth, when the parties at interest have figured out who they are and where they are going, there remain a number of important tasks. Primary is to help them to an awareness of the fact that they did it, combined with a recognition of how they did it. Not in detail, for the details will never be repeated, but in general -- because this recognition will enable them to do it again the next time they find themselves in conflict. And of course there are doubtless a number of "i's" to be dotted and "t's" to be crossed which I find are best done by those with the appropriate skills -- usually the legal eagles. But at the end of the day i think it important to remember that preparation of the necessary documentation (written or otherwise) is not to be confused with conflict resolution. It is "only" a map. And we have had some discussion about maps and territories.  

   

Of course, I guess there are those folks at the far end of the curve who really don't care about issues or their resolution, they just love conflict for reasons that seem to have a lot to do with their own personal power needs. But I find such folks to be in a distinct minority, and they tend to lose their power and impact when the space is genuinely open -- a fact that usually terrifies them. Malignant Space Invaders all.  

judi richardson, nova scotia, canada:  

I appreciate your words here, Harrison. I have experienced "curmudgins" as holding a key pole position in the process of expanding consciousness. Holding that position so well that others are free to fly — and I often hear from the curmudgins by email after!!  


meg salter, ontario canada  

I read something interesting recently about the role of parasites (curmudgins) in the process of self-organization/ expansion of consciousness: Parasites force their hosts to evolve an immune system response - to fight off the effect of parasites. (some make it through, some don't.) Then the parasites evolve further to outwit the new immune response - and the host evolves further in self-defense. So - over the long term and large populations - parasites play a critical role in our evolutionary development.  

I suspect that the social equivalent of parasites include curmudgins - and other nasty sorts. Tough to deal with, and serve a useful role. It's certainly the way I've been forced to pay attention to things in life - dealing with the tough spots, not the smooth sailing!!  

ralph copleman, new jersey, usa:  

(Well, we're two biased witnesses talking to each other...) I'm sure you're not the only one with claustrophobic reactions to various interventions. I know that I have experienced them and, no doubt, caused them, too.  

It's not only the 1 8(?) so-called large group interventions I'm referring to. How about therapy or other one-to-one interventions? In my experience, these can thwart as well as free folks. Small group processes face/offer the same challenge. But some of these (individual or group) techniques do open new paths, offer break-through insights, and facilitate new levels of cooperation. And let's not forget meditation.  

All kinds of issues face all kinds of people and systems. We need to be thoughtful in our approaches. Of course, for my money, if you can't open a little space for folks, the odds may be against you.  

harris on owen, maryland, usa:  

Whether we are talking one-to-one therapy or a large group intervention for 1500, I think my question, and therefore the "metric," might still be valid. How much space do we have -- and how much can we create? I remember spending 2 and 1/2 years on the couch(4 days a week) of a classical Freudian analyst. And all I can tell you -- that Dude did create space. The most he ever said was a mildly expressive grunt -- but it did open things up. I found myself wondering what many of my clients seem to wonder -- why was I paying this character $100 an hour for grunts? --and Hell, I don't even grunt. But that which was purchased (I learned) was not "grunts" -- but space. I needed it. I grew in it, and it was worth every penny. And not incidentally, the experience created a whole mess of space in my wallet.  


So back to the original -- How Much Space? Can you stand. Can you create. Can the "client" tolerate? And choose your weapons accordingly. Question: When you said, "And let's not forget meditation." did you really mean mediation?  

ralph copleman, new jersey, usa:  

Nope: meditation. A real space opener.  

kenoli oleari, california, usa:  

Space is good and other things, too, like shared intention, engagement, shared attention, being heard, speaking our truth, hearing the truth, acting from integrity, being seen, love, compassion, hope, shared vision, clarity about differences, transformation, opening to new things. Some of these are so important that it is worth using anything we can use to get to them. And sometimes we have to grieve together, too.  

peggy holman, washington, usa:  

Similar to Ralph and Harrison, I have run screaming (to myself) from the room when observing/participating in several large group interventions that made me feel closed in. At the other end of the spectrum, I had a conversation with someone, a deeply experienced practitioner of another whole system method, who spent a week in Open Space. She wasn't at home in it, spending much of her time in her room. A perfectly valid choice, of course. Did she get value from the experience? No question. Would another "method" with more closely held boundaries allowed her to get even more value? I don't begin to know but believe that it might have.  

I think Harrison hit the critical questions with: "How Much Space? Can you stand. Can you create. Can the "client" tolerate? And choose your weapons accordingly."  

I recently was given a gift of an image around this that I've found quite helpful. A Buddhist priest attended Spirited Work (a learning community that gathers quarterly in OS). He used an image of hands for holding space.  

Actually, here are Master Chang's words: Since I left Whidbey Island, I've constantly thought of OS and its spiritual manifestation in earthly conditionings. It's dawn[ed] on me that we constantly create mental boundaries and then transfigure them into organizational rules, etc., which we call containers. Thus, there are levels upon levels of containers, depending on levels of minds that we have. What OP[OST] methodology attracts me is the way it can facilitate and accommodate multi-levels of containers by very few simple rules of gathering and interaction. The challenge for me in creating an OP[OST] organization is to be able to make available (and to promote) evolutionary & consequential levels of unfoldment ... so one can evolve from "container/2 hands  


cupped, facing each other" to "supporter/2 hands open, facing upwards" to "being/handless gesture" ...  

I LOVE this picture of hands reflecting the evolution of space, perhaps because it mirrors my own growing comfort with space. (While I aspire to it, I'm not sure I'm ready to hang out in the space of "look ma, no hands!") It reminds me that we are all at different places of comfort with openness. I may go screaming from the room when the space feels too closed and someone else go running to their room because the space is too open.  

Ain't our diversity great?  

kenoli oleari, california, usa:  

And what is space and what is a boundary or container? Whether we fall into a group out of the "marketplace", as a result of an assigned group with a task, by attending a workshop or training, or even at a lecture or organized discussion, the experience can feel exapansive, contractive, bounded or unbounded. I suspect it is not the external structure that creates the experience, but more the intention, the energy and the quality of engagement. I think that what we have found is that as we clarify and expand our goals and realize that the possibilities are way beyond what we have come to expect, that process and structure arises to begin to manifest those possibilities. When we reach for transformation it becomes a possibility. As we seek self-organization, tools for supporting this arise. When we envision change at a "systems" level this becomes an option. I suspect that as we expand our perceptions, the possibilities arise to meet them, as we dare to accomplish what has only been a dream we discover the means to approach that dream. We often then get distracted thinking the means we have used to get to a new plateau is the end we set out to achieve. And we have to keep re-discovering the possibilities and moving from the known into the unknown. And discovering and re-discovering old paths.  

peggy holman, washington, usa:  

Amen. To paraphrase that old thing about students being ready and teachers appearing: When there is inspiration and aspiration, the methods will show up.  

glory ressler, ontario, canada:  

Well, well.... A lovely chat, to be sure... I especially appreciated the dance metaphor - I/we am/are a dynamic interplay of current, limited, physical manifestation and pure potentiality... and the mathematical equations... and the free will / self-organization thread.... and...  

By virtue of our being here, we are self-organized. Everything that is has self-organized. If we hadn't, we wouldn't be here - evolutionarily speaking. if we don't successfully self-organize in response to environmental disturbances, we become extinct. In fact, we carry the self-organizing  


cellular memory of all that has been before us. It is also useful to think of a continuum... which for me is spiral rather than linear.  

And there is an important distinction between self-organization and conscious self-organization. To consciously do so is to know, in each moment, that you have co-created the conditions you are currently experiencing. In some way. To exercise control whilst you claim not to be doing so and to exercise control, in awareness and authenticity, are two different animals. Like dreaming and lucid dreaming. Self-organizing and consciously self-organizing. Self-organizing and free will - choice implies knowing what we have to choose from.  

The hitch comes because we attach an interjected judgement on what we 'should' or 'should not' be doing. Control is not inherently a bad thing. We have internal control in terms of how we choose to respond. It's when we attempt to control external things that we run into trouble.  

Also, to see the utility and wisdom, honestly, in all that we are presently believing and doing AND also to have a call or longing for something beyond the present is to interpersonal and intrapersonal psychology what the necessary tension and interaction between fields is to complexity theory.  

Open Space Technology is absolutely and by far the best living experiment, I know of, in social­self-organizing. The consciousness comes via the format and principles and one law. When enough of us (critical mass) learn to individually consciously self-organize then we will begin the journey into collective intelligence and conscious collective self-organization. Then we'll really be at play in the field of co-creative meaning and manifestation! The question for me is, What will the quality of this be? And this takes me back to the conscious self-organization (meaning, values and quality making) of my own experience.  

Thanks to you all! I'm enriched by your perspectives....  

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