Mankind Project self-destructing?

After a steady rise in influence and numbers, the Mankind Project may now be in decline. More about that in a bit.
Today,
Chris Vogel writes about a dispute within the murky inner-circle of the MKP which has become public. Vogel writes:

Here’s some news for you readers who’ve been keeping up with The ManKind Project, the controversial so-called men’s self-help group that detractors have criticized for targeting members of 12-step recovery groups, practicing therapy without a license and maintaining a dark cloak of secrecy regarding its “New Warrior” rites and rituals.
Reid Baer, the former editor of the non-profit organization’s monthly publication, the New Warrior Journal, says he was fired from the position because the group’s leadership is tired of him demanding more transparency to the public.
“The problem,” Baer tells Hair Balls, “is that they have been a secret organization for so many years that they don’t know how to stop being secret. I fought for stuff for five years and I think they just got tired of me telling the truth, because I would interview men who had dissenting views, and they hated it.”

Nice that Baer confirms what has been obvious: MKP deliberately keeps practices secret from initiates and requires participants to keep these activities secret. Baer’s firing may have been multi-determined though, as Vogel explains.

But, Baer concedes, that was not the official reason he was let go from his $10,000 a year post. According to a letter Baer says MKP’s Executive Director Carl Griesser wrote him, Baer, a former journalist turned poet on the Internet with his own Wikipedia entry, was terminated because he uses the nom de plume “NewWarriorMan.” In his letter, Griesser says the name “New Warrior” is a registered trademark of The ManKind Project and therefore Baer cannot use it.
Baer says that while MKP has trademarked similar phrases to the one he uses, his specific Web name is not one of them.
Griesser also complains in his letter that Baer made the “unilateral decision” not to publish the organization’s periodical in November (to which Baer says his supervisors made the call) and is concerned with “some especially offensive videos in recent weeks.”
One such video Griesser points to, taken by Baer, shows the poet drop trou in front of the camera, bend over a desk, smack lube across his backside and then say, “Go ahead, I’m ready.” The segment is titled, “Jack Nicholson is ready for Barack Obama, et al.”

Thanks to the Houston Press, and several websites, including this blog, men who want to know more about the MKP can find out almost everything about a New Warriors Training Adventure via an Internet search in advance. So Baer argues that MKP should become more transparent, saying,

“Some of the things we do we keep from the public because the surprise value of it, historically speaking, has had more impact. But now that we’re in the Google world, I have for the last five years been campaigning to be more transparent and to share more about what we do on the weekends because men now, before they go, will Google ‘MKP,’ and if all they see are the bad stories, a lawsuit, this and that, then that’s not doing us any good. And so for them to fire the very guy who wants to put good information out there is insanity.”

Another reason Baer may have been fired is to save money. MKP is not doing well and has recently informed members of significant financial problems.

The Mankind Project is currently facing one of the biggest financial challenges of its life. Due to a significant decline in men enrolled in NWTA’s, and despite $30,000 in budget cuts over the past three months, we are facing a projected shortfall this year of $75,000. We need your help.
Historically, about 90% of the revenue generated by the Project has come from tuition from our trainings. The rest is raised through contributions, primarily to the Chairman’s Campaign. For the first
time in 23 years, our average number of men per training has decreased significantly – by about 10%. We expect to initiate 2849 men this year, down from a high of 3209 in 2005. We are budgeting
for a similar decrease in 2009.

MKP is now holding re-initiation weekends where men who have been through the weekend Training Adventure can do it all over again. Despite the gay friendly nature of New Warriors, NARTH, JONAH, Richard Cohen, and Northern Ireland’s Paul Miller continue to recommend New Warriors as a kind of reparative therapy intervention to reduce same-sex attraction via an enhancement of masculinity feelings.
Back to Mr. Baer; he is not too happy about the copyright issue and has created another YouTube identity at NewWarriorMan2.

AHO!

Mankind Project clarifies stance on reparative therapy

Within the last day or so, Mankind Project members received an email from Executive Director, Carl Griesser with an alert to a new feature on the MKP website.

…the next time you visit www.MKP.org you will find a rainbow flag with the word Friendly superimposed as a navigation button linked directly to a slightly modified version of the reparative therapy statement. The Executive Committee and our IT Team believe this is an effective way of indicating our welcoming attitude to all men, while making the statement easily accessible to the public.

Click on the link and you will find the following article titled Sexual Orientation & the Mankind Project:

· The ManKind Project creates trainings and circles in which men are invited to discover their deepest truths.
· We welcome men of all sexual orientations: gay, straight, and bisexual, as well as those who identify as having unwanted same sex attraction, to do their own work as they define it, to respect the identity and value of others, and to take responsibility for the impact their words and behaviors have on others.
· We support each man in pursuing his path to deeper authenticity. We do not provide therapy nor endorse any particular therapy, including reparative therapy. Any group or organization that states or implies otherwise does so without our permission.
· We do not, and will not, attempt to change a man’s sexual orientation.
· We stand firm in support of gay and bisexual men. We support men who believe that homosexuality is a normal part of the spectrum of human sexuality and of mature masculinity.
· We will not tolerate proselytizing for any religion or belief and do not tolerate discrimination on our trainings or in our communities. We support our training and community leaders in identifying and challenging discriminatory language and behavior.

I provided a link to this statement in a previous post. Essentially, some reparative therapy clients/therapists were recommending the New Warriors Training Adventure to same-sex attracted men as a means of enhancing their sense of masculinity. Reparative therapists believe male same-sex attraction derives from a sense of distrust of men and a disconnection from natural masculinity. Via the reparative drive, he sexualizes his desire for masculine closeness and seeks homosexual relationships. Get a man feeling all masculine and his SSA disappears. Perhaps one of the clearest statements of this hypothesis and the proposed remedy is David Pickup’s the Workout program.
Mr. Pickup recommends the New Warriors Training Adventure and notes on his website that he serves as training coordinator of the Los Angeles branch of the Mankind Project. This is the branch which hosted Joseph Nicolosi, Narth co-founder and father of reparative therapy, at a training session in 2005. This session was quite controversial and eventually led to the MKP statement.
The email to MKPers provided this rationale for the new rainbow link:

Men,
As many of you are aware, the Project Council approved a Position Statement on Reparative Therapy in February 2007. Based on initial text prepared by Jim Mitchell, I prepared a statement which was then revised by a group of gay, bi, and straight men, and men who identify as having Unwanted Same Sex Attraction (USSA). We decided that it was necessary to take this stand because many men were being referred to the NWTA by reparative therapists and groups who had little or no experience with MKP (as well as by some reparative therapists and USSA men who had been through the training.) It was our intention to clarify for ourselves and for these men what they can expect if they attend our trainings. I sent the statement to the reparative therapists and groups I knew about, and have continued to do so when I learn of others. I asked organizations which implied on their websites that MKP offered or supported reparative therapy to remove such statements and any links to our website. Some complied with the request, though not all.

I got a chuckle out of this sentence: “It was our intention to clarify for ourselves and for these men what they can expect if they attend our trainings” since the MKP is so secretive about what men can expect. In any case, I believe it is valuable for MKP to indicate to men that they do not adhere to the masculinity enhancement model of reparative therapy for men who might be encouraged by reparative organizations/practitioners to seek NWTA for that purpose.

Houston Press: A new retreat for the Mankind Project

Chris Vogel has an article in the Houston Press which follows up the settlement of the Scinto wrongful death lawsuit. Near the end of the article, Mr. Vogel quotes my blog post where I provide details of the settlement. I continue to believe the remedies are minimal and much more disclosure should be made to potential participants. Vogel refers to the informed consent issue and additional concerns while recognizing that many men believe the MKP has been helpful to them.

Thousands of passionately loyal members claim the group provides life-altering training and vehemently dismiss detractors. However, there is a contingent of critics who say the organization practices therapy without a license; targets vulnerable members of 12-step recovery groups; purposefully withholds the details of the program, thus keeping potential participants from making a fully informed decision whether or not to attend; and does not screen applicants who may be too emotionally frail for the rigors of the ­program.
It is these criticisms and concerns that Kathy and Ralph Scinto tried to address through the terms of their settlement.

I wish the Scinto family well and pray they are able to find peace and healing. I also hope this prompts the MKP to disclose the details of the processes and methods used. If these methods have any inherent potency, then disclosure should not diminish the effect.

Records temporarily sealed in Scinto vs. Mankind Project

Last Friday (6/6/08), a Harris County, TX judge partially granted a motion to seal the Scinto wrongful death case. The Mankind Project wanted the case marked confidential and the Exhibit A removed from the settlement document. Exhibit A spelled out changes agreed to by MKP which I reported here last week. As it stands now, the case is “sealed temporarily” with another hearing to be held on July 18, 2008.

Mankind Project of Houston settles wrongful death lawsuit; some mental health oversight required

Some months ago, I reported extensively on the Mankind Project with attention to their signature program, the New Warriors Training Adventure. My interest in MKP and NWTA was provoked by a Houston Press article detailing the suicide of Michael Scinto. Mr. Scinto had attended a NWTA and reported distress thereafter. His parents Kathy and Ralph Scinto believed his death was linked to his experiences on that weekend and filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of his estate in August, 2007.
In April, 2008, the case went to mediation and was settled. Although the parties to the dispute have signed a confidentiality agreement, the terms of the settlement are available for review on the Harris County, Texas District Court e-docs website. You will need to register (name, email address), verify your email and then change your password but the process is free. Once registered, search the name Scinto as Plaintiff and you will find all documents related to the case.
The terms of the settlement are found in a 20 page, May 20 document titled, Defendant’s Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement. The Scintos and their attorney won $75,000 split roughly three ways. Furthermore, MKP of Houston is required to make some changes in procedure. The changes involves screening of applicants, disclosure of activities and means to exit the weekend. Anyone who registers can preview all of the court documents for no cost. I summarize the highlights here:
-MKP of Houston agreed to have its pre-New Warrior Training Adventure Adventure questionnaire reviewed by a licensed mental health professional for recommendations about how it can be improved. However, the MKPH board must approve changes before they can be implemented.
-Each application for the NWTA must be screened by a mental health professional who has personal knowledge of the weekend. The screener shall determine whether the applicant shall be accepted or not with the decision written on the application.
-The following changes will be made within 30 days of a required MKP of Houston Board review of the website:
1. Change the website to provide adequate information from which potential applicants can make an informed decision about whether to attend the NWTA.
2. The website shall disclose that a mental health professional will screen applications to determine suitability for participation.
3. The website will need to disclose that people who wish to leave the NWTA are free to do so.
4. Applicants will be told that the NWTA may involve optional nudity and certain elements of Native American traditions.
-MKPH agrees to develop a written protocol which will allow any participant to leave NWTA safely with MKPH assistance. Participants requesting to leave shall be allowed to do so immediately unless the action would result in further risk of harm. Once a request is made, the participant is not required to do any other activities unless the participant changes his mind.

As far as I can tell, this settlement is only applicable to MKP of Houston with no requirement that MKP elsewhere implement any of these points. Given the lawsuit involved a wrongful death charge as well as claims of performing psychotherapy without a license, I would say these changes are minimal, but important. I think they are valuable and provide recognition that some form of oversight, minimal though it is, is important. While I suspect that MKP of Houston will have no problem getting a mental health professional to perform this screening function, I would recommend any mental health professional performing this duty check first with his/her liability insurance carrier to make sure such a
review is covered activity.

Mind Games: The gap between therapists and researchers

Researching rebirthing in the context of the Mankind Project, I ran into an article by social psychologist, Carol Tavris titled, Mind Games: Psychological warfare betwen therapists and scientists. Tavris mentions rebirthing as a process for which there is no evidence, but her reasoning could be applied to other approaches as well (e.g., holding therapy, bioenergetics, etc.).

Here a couple of excerpts:

Our society runs on the advice of mental-health professionals, who are often called upon in legal settings to determine whether a child has been molested, a prisoner up for parole is still dangerous, a defendant is lying or insane, a mother is fit to have custody of her children, and on and on. Yet while the public assumes, vaguely, that therapists must be “scientists” of some sort, many of the widely accepted claims promulgated by therapists are based on subjective clinical opinions and have been resoundingly disproved by empirical research conducted by psychological scientists. Here are a few examples that have been shown to be false:

• Low self-esteem causes aggressiveness, drug use, prejudice, and low achievement.

• Abused children almost inevitably become abusive parents, causing a “cycle of abuse.”

• Therapy is beneficial for most survivors of disasters, especially if intervention is rapid.

• Memory works like a tape recorder, clicking on at the moment of birth; memories can be accurately retrieved through hypnosis, dream analysis, or other therapeutic methods.

• Traumatic experiences, particularly of a sexual nature, are typically “repressed” from memory, or split off from consciousness through “dissociation.”

• The way that parents treat a child in the first five years (three years) (one year) (five minutes) of life is crucial to the child’s later intellectual and emotional success.

Indeed, the split between the research and practice wings of psychology has grown so wide that many psychologists now speak glumly of the “scientist-practitioner gap,” although that is like saying there is an “Arab-Israeli gap” in the Middle East. It is a war, involving deeply held beliefs, political passions, views of human nature and the nature of knowledge, and — as all wars ultimately do — money and livelihoods. The war spilled out of academic labs and therapists’ offices and into the public arena in the 1980s and ’90s, when three epidemics of hysteria caught fire across the country: the rise of claims of “repressed memories” of childhood sexual abuse; the growing number of cases of “multiple-personality disorder” (MPD), from a handful before 1980 to tens of thousands by 1995; and the proliferation of day-care sex-abuse scandals, which put hundreds of nursery-school teachers in prison on the “testimony” of 3 and 4-year-old children.

She continues…

But psychotherapeutic nonsense is a Hydra: Slay one set of mistaken ideas, and others take their place. Recovered-memory therapy may be on the wane, but “rebirthing” techniques and forms of “restraint therapy” — physically abusive practices that supposedly help adopted or troubled children form attachments to their parents — are on the rise. In Colorado, 10-year-old Candace Newmaker was smothered to death during rebirthing, a procedure in which she was expected to fight her way through a “birth canal” of suffocating blankets and pillows. The two therapists convicted in Candace’s death are now serving time in prison, but efforts in Colorado to prohibit all forms of “restraint therapy” were defeated by protests from “attachment therapists” in the state and throughout the country. After Candace’s death, one member of the Colorado Mental Health Grievance Board noted with dismay that her hairdresser’s training took 1,500 hours, whereas anyone could take a two-week course and become “certified” in rebirthing. Yet the basic premise — that children can recover from trauma, insecure attachment, or other psychological problems by “reliving” their births or being subjected to punitive and coercive restraints — has no scientific validity whatsoever. 

In the rest of the article, Tavris calls practitioners to base our interventions on research and to take a skeptical stance toward our work in order to avoid confirmation bias. 

Mankind Project technique – “Bucketing,” Part One

In the last week or so, I have been reading many emails and comments from men who felt positive and negative about their New Warrors Training Adventure and Integration Group experiences. Via some searching I found a manual for the I-groups from 2005 that describes a variety of techniques for leading I-groups. Some of these sound very much like therapeutic techniques I read about in the 1980s designed to help clients uncovering repressed memories and perhaps some therapists still conduct. One such technique is referred to as “bucketing” in the I-group manual. In my opinion, this technique is of questionable efficacy in the hands of experienced therapists, let alone lay people.

MKP-International PIT 5.2 Facilitator Manual

80

BUCKETING

The purpose of this process is:

  •   To follow an emotional charge to an earlier source

  •  Release the charge

  •   Gain insight to the behaviors around the charge

  •   To discover a shadow, own it, and own its projection onto others

  •   Develop new action (reaction) choices

  •   To continue to peel the onion

    1. Identify an emotional charge or judgment regarding another man who is present in the circle or an emotional charge about a person not present.

    2. Have two men face each other (sitting or standing) with a facilitator at their side.

    3. If it’s about someone from outside the circle have the man with the issue identify who his brother (seated across from him) is role playing.

    4. The facilitator instructs the man who is the object of the emotional charge or judgment to sit in silence, listen attentively, and maintain eye contact

  • (The Facilitator can read from this form until he masters the process over time)

Data: “And so _____, tell this man the Data or facts around this issue.”

Judgment: “Tell this man the Judgments you have around this Data.”

Feeling: “Tell this man the Feeling you have from this Judgment.”

Locate in body: “Close your eyes. Where in your body do you feel that feeling?”

Shape, Size, Color: “If that feeling were an object, what shape would it be? What size is it? What color?”

Voice: “Now give it a voice. What words is it saying? Say it again – louder this time.”

Regression: “Now let this voice take you back. Follow your body back to an earlier time when you felt that way. Go back in time, maybe back to the first time you felt feeling. Let your body take you back, let this voice take you back, back in time.”

Wound: “What’s happening? Who’s there? How old are you? What’s happening?”

REPEAT: “And then what happens…?” Until the trauma is complete.

Shadow: “What are the messages you are getting right now? What decisions are you making? What beliefs and judgments are you taking on? What behaviors / reactions are you learning and adopting from this?”

Return: “Slowly begin to come forward in time again, forward, forward until you find yourself back in this place and time, back in this room with these men. When you’re ready and fully back in this time and place, open your eyes.”

Lesson: “What did you learn about your charge around this issue?”

Projection: “What about you were you projecting onto this man?”

Ownership: Do you choose to own that shadow? Do you see that any issue around which you have a charge or upset is an opportunity to learn about yourself?”

Healing: “Now go back in time to just before this experience. Turn back the clock and bring your adult self into the picture. Would you like to go back through this experience with his help this time? Ask him to help you. O.K… Turn the clock forward and see what happens this time. What’s happening? Repeat “and then what happens” until the man is complete.”

Empowerment: “What messages are you getting now? “What decisions are you making? What new behavior choices do you have available now? That’s great. Now become your adult self.”

Self-Forgiveness: “How do you feel about this 2-year old that had to go through this experience alone?

Can you forgive him for the decisions he made and the behaviors he adopted?” Can you release any judgments you made about him? Have the adult man take his own little boy into his heart. Can you forgive yourself for holding this unconscious belief & behavior? Can you forgive yourself for continually re-creating this drama in your life, hoping that someday it would turn out better?” Can you let go of your negative self-judgments?”

Forgiveness: “Can you now begin to forgive ________ (whatever person involved in triggering this issue for the man, IE, Bad Dad) for playing out his/her immature pattern?”

“Are there any judgments of (him/her) that you need to release?”

Return: “Slowly return to this room. How do you feel? Is there anything else you need to complete this?”

NOTE: If this is an inside issue, or a conflict resolution, continue below. Otherwise, stop here.

More…: “Do you still have an issue with this man? If yes, tell the man what you own around the issue, and what you want for yourself.

Perception Checking: Have the other man repeat back what he heard. Have him say how he feels, what he owns around this issue, and what he wants for himself.

Conflict Resolution: Keep working the above steps with each man until the process comes to a resolution where both men have been heard, and both men get what they want.

Choices: “Based on what you learned in this process, how else could you have reacted to this issue? What choices could you now make in the future?”Close: “Do you need anything else around this? Is this complete for now?”

The wording here is a little vague, but this process describes a facilitator helping a participants frame negative experiences as possibly emanating from past trauma. However, using visualization in order to suggest someone can regress to an earlier age can promote false recollections of trauma.  Furthermore, this description certainly seems like therapy to me in that the process seems designed to enable trauma recovery. In Part 2 regarding “bucketing,” I will post one former Warriors experience of bucketing that did not go as nicely as described in the manual.

Friend of the Scinto family comments on Houston Press website

The Houston Press article by Chris Vogel reporting on the New Warriors Training Adventure has drawn much interest on the newspaper website. Yesterday, a woman identifying herself as Heather Del Rio wrote a moving tribute to Michael Scinto and his family. Scroll all the way down the page to comment #61.

I will never forget the day I came into to work and listened to my messages and heard Becky’s distraut voice. “Hi Heather, It’s Bec. I just wanted you to know Mike’s dead. Call me.” and she broke down sobbing as she hung up the phone. I immediately called her, the reality, and permanance of it all not yet hitting me. Expecting her to tell me of a car accident I was shocked to find out he had commited suicide. Mike was a great man, a man that strived for beterment of himself. He followed after his father with the strength and humor that he provided to all he knew. To say that he was a troubled man, or that his parents obviously are looking to blame someone else rather than turning the finger on themselves is obsered. Any family who has been through a suicide death always looks to themselves first, what could I have done to stop this, why didn’t I see the signs, and so forth. This family is no different. Michael trusted the advice of his AA sponser as so many do, and he attended the weekend, I had never heard of something like this until Michael’s death.

Read the rest on the Houston Press website. Also, the newspaper has a blog with many comments of interest there. Clearly, this whole issue is controversial. I am interested in this topic now as a social movement and phenomenon, in addition to the ex-gay angle on the story.

Mankind Project position statements on therapy

In response to my request, Mankind Project Executive Director, Carl Griesser yesterday emailed the MKP’s position statement on reparative therapy. He also confirmed the accuracy of a position paper I found online which addresses the question of whether New Warriors is therapy. You can read each statement by clicking the links below.

Reparative therapy and MKP

New Warriors and therapy

Clearly, the Mankind Project does not want to give any impression that what they do in the NWTA is therapy. This is understandable since staff would need to demonstrate training and credentials to conduct group therapy. The NWTA claims to address fears and wounds from the past and help a person become a better person. I recognize that therapy is hard to define but resolving unwanted states and trauma is generally considered an aspect of treatment. Here is a statement from the Mankind Project’s website regarding what the NWTA aims to accomplish:

The New Warrior Training Adventure is an invitation to step forward and look in the mirror. What do you see? Are you the leader that you are looking for? Are you living on the edge of your life? What stands between you and taking action in your world? What is the risk for you to take full responsibility for your life, for living it from the inside out? Do you have the courage to face your own fears and insecurities and discover the tremendous power and beauty that lies within you? Are you willing to step into the fullness of who you really are? Are you willing to discover the real joy and terror of being a man? If so, this training may be for you.

We do not recommend this training for every man. To participate in this training, you must be highly committed to your life, and ready to take a hard look at yourself, your deepest fears, your wounds from the past, and the specific ways your life is not working for you. We choose to work only with men who are ready and willing to do this initiatory work with us.

Facing “insecurities,” “your deepest fears,” “your wounds from the past,” and “the specific ways your life is not working for you” sounds like an active attempt to address dysfunction and trauma. However, I remain open to dialogue on this point and intend to speak further with MKP, perhaps yet today.  

New Warriors Integration group activities

A anonymous Mankind Project member mailed me what was labeled a handbook for leaders of Integration groups. Integration groups follow up the New Warriors Training Adventure. According to the manual, these exercises are

for the use of I-Groups that have reached a proficient level of self-facilitation. The value in many of them will be realized only by a deep commitment on behalf of the group to process the feelings evoked.

There are some which seem innocuous enough such as writing oneself a letter, volunteering for charities and staffing a NW training.

Others seem more provocative and sound a lot like Gestalt inspired group therapy techniques. Here is one that would likely be close to Richard Cohen’s heart.

I.2. Fathering

One of the powerful scenes we set up on the weekend is based on being held in the arms of the good father. Have men on their own write the things they wanted to hear from their fathers but never did. Have men bring the letters to the next meeting. If at all possible arrange to have elders or men from your community show up the next week to hold these men and read the letters to them. If men from outside the I-Group are not available use the men from the group. This basically is a re-play of the set up we use on the weekend. The difference is that men may have more difficulty dropping into a similar place not having just completed a piece of work. Try not to put weekend expectations on this process but simply see it for what is presented in the moment. Work with men to increase their awareness of body response. Resistance, grief or passive acceptance are all felt in the body. Another option is to have men choose the man they want to role-play from the community at large, then bring him along to the I-Group. This also has the potential to identify the men in the community most admired for their fathering abilities.

I suppose if I allowed myself to be held, I might experience a sense of dependency. However, I submit this could happen to almost anyone, whether the man had fathering issues or not. The situation makes it more likely that such feelings would be elicited. It is more likely that I would feel tense and uncomfortable. A person trained to look for these reactions as a defense might then say I was defensive and thus clearly had father issues that need resolved. Only those in the NMTA can speak to this. I have been around the therapy world long enough to know counselors who look at all client reactions as theory-guided indications of pathology.

Here are a couple of others that would be a bit more intimate:

I.3. Massage

Pair up the men in the group and announce that this evening we will give massages. After the first half of the men have received a massage tell the men no more massages will be given. Lead a feeling check, first with the men who gave the massage and then with the men who received.

1. Would you have given knowing you would not receive?

2. Is there a sense of betrayal, and with whom?

3. The men who received. Do you feel you got away with something? Or do you feel like you are beholden to the man you received from? If so why?

4. Let this check in progress wherever it goes. How does this reflect our expectations when we offer some gift of service?

I.4. Changing Clothes

This exercise may also belong in the play section, but it’s definitely a stretch when it comes to intimacy. The set up goes like this. Have all the men remove their clothing and then have each man choose someone else’s clothes and put them on. Once everyone is dressed assume the characteristics of the man whose clothes you wear. Check in with one another and decide on an exercise that will give an opportunity for interaction with one another. Stay in role through the entire evening. Leave time at the end to process the feelings that have come up.

1. How accurate was the role-playing?

2. Did men see a different side of themselves as a result of seeing other men portray them?

Don’t neglect the hurt feelings. Exaggeration will cause a certain amount of misunderstanding. Give one another feedback on projection and shadow, how it appeared and how it was dealt with.

I suppose there is no law against people getting together and doing this sort of thing, but these exercises sound like they would be at home in a Gestalt and/or Jungian psychodrama paradigm. The creators of these exercises probably feel they are eliciting something buried or hidden in each man. However, I wonder if the demand characteristics set up by the exercises cannot help but bring predictable reactions.

As a probably weak illustration, consider this picture. If you had to tell a story about it, what feelings would you say it would elicit?

tat_kaartc.jpg

I would not be at all surprised if a depressing story was told in response to this adaptation of a picture from the Thematic Apperception Test. Would this mean the story teller was a depressed person? Perhaps, but there is no way to know since the stimulus here naturally elicits depression. Similarly, I think the I-group exercises may elicit a variety of emotions and reactions which may or may not be reflective of underlying issues or problems. My thinking here is influenced by the classic social psychology experiments such as the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram studies on obedience. At this point, I am not making a solidified judgment, rather I am clumsily attempting to articulate a social psychological perspective on the NWTA and related activities.

I have not even started on the Jungian shadow thing; more to come on that topic.

Keep the dialogue going…