Winos with Power Tools

Pretty much everywhere I go these days I do transparency tools workshops.  Part of the reason for this is I continue to be amazed at how people will grab them and run with them.  Adder and I are currently at the North American Student Cooperative Association annual gathering in Ann Arbor presenting for Twin Oaks and Acorn and we did a guerilla workshop here, which was surprisingly well attended.

This years NASCO theme is on being a good ally

This year’s NASCO theme is on being a good ally.

One thing we have well established, is that some people are much more open in small groups shares (on topics like “If you Really Knew Me”) than they are in a larger group.  And from a workshop logistics perspective it is a slight headache to break up and move around in smaller groups.

So what I often do to prove the power of these tools is do a single go round of “If you really knew me” in the full group.  This is occasionally funny, usually reflective, and often deeply personal.

One of the dangers of these experimental techniques is something I call the “Winos with Power Tools” problem.  We are getting people to open up and say things, sometimes things which they have not even realized before themselves which can leave them emotionally vulnerable or even shaken or depressed.  If we don’t take care of folks who are hurt this way, we are being irresponsible presenters – like a drunk trying to operate a chain saw.

don't leave someone depressed without a safety net

Don’t leave someone depressed without a safety net.

As responsible presenters, we check in with people in the group to make sure if someone leaves the workshop badly shaken they have someone to go to, to talk with about their experiences and support them.  And if they don’t have someone, we offer to provide that important service.  I did this today, not realizing the significance of what might get offered.

Having again been convinced by the full group share that people would reveal significant personal truths when given the opportunity, we broke down into smaller groups to keep practicing these techniques.  And once in the smaller groups, some people opened up even further, mostly with quite positive effects.

In my group someone admitted that they thought they were a sociopath.  This was someone who I had already been concerned about because of things they had said in earlier exercises.  This was not a joke, they were fully serious.  When we reconvened into the big group, they slipped away before I could get a chance to talk with them about getting more help.

I walked out of the workshop worried about the welfare of this person who revealed this disturbing thing about themselves.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]