Facilitation with Empathy: an Attachment Perspective – March 2015
I just got back from leading a 6-day training in Warsaw, Poland. The group of participants came from 14 countries, and they were interested, kind, inspiring, and willing to explore with me.
And, for the first day, I felt anxious and had a hard time settling. I was far from home, and I had a vivid experience of fear. It wasn’t terror – it didn’t immobilize me, but it disturbed my cells and my thinking and my emotions. It was difficult to calm myself. (Needs at stake included self-trust, contribution, integrity and existing.)
Since I knew about my vagus nerve, I reminded myself that since I was in fight or flight, I wouldn’t really be able to tell whether I was effective. No wonder it was hard to find my self-trust. And no wonder I was longing for contribution, integrity and a need to really have the feeling that I existed. I reminded myself that I was not a reliable witness about what might be happening, and I asked for empathy from my brand-new team (thank you Pernille and Asia!).
On the second day I realized that I needed touch. I started asking for hugs, and I started to do better. As I started doing better, this lovely group of participants relaxed further into warmth for themselves and each other, and started to be able to feel and enjoy the warmth they already had for me. As I entered more fully into my own earned secure attachment, the teaching came alive.
My experience in Poland led me to think about this month’s teleseminar about attachment styles in facilitation. It makes such a difference how supported we feel while we are teaching. Under stress, we all move out of balance, becoming either more rigid, or less organized. When we run into our own unresolved trauma, integration becomes a pipe dream.
Read through the following questions to get a sense of your attachment styles as a facilitator. Answer the questions twice – first, how are you when you are fully confident and supported, and then what happens for you when you are under stress?
Favor education over empathy?
Start and end right on time?
Stick with your plan and cover all the material you promised?
Feel annoyed when participants aren’t timely?
Feel uncomfortable when a participant starts to process?
Mostly enjoy theoretical questions and discussion of strategies?
Have a hard time remembering peoples’ names?
Feel contempt for a participant?
Use dismissal and emotional withdrawal to manage the room?
Is your face immobile and is your voice mostly at one level?
When a person experiences these things, they might be coming from their Avoidant Facilitator.
Favor empathy over education?
Find that you start late and end late?
Follow aliveness so that you end up not covering your planned material?
Mostly enjoy emotional processing?
Have to manage shame to be able to teach?
Get hijacked by your own emotions?
Use pleading or outbursts to manage the room?
Experience power struggles with participants?
Obsess about performance or participants after the workshop is over?
When a person experiences these things, they might be coming from their Ambivalent Facilitator.
Feel terror when preparing to teach or while teaching?
Feel self-hate, self-contempt while or after facilitating?
Dissociate or lose time while teaching?
Lose track of your own thoughts or your grammar?
Fall into confusion when a participant is angry?
Experience rage or disgust with a participant?
Manage the class by scapegoating a participant?
Experience distress and vow to never facilitate again?
When a person experiences these things, they might be coming from their Disorganized or Traumatized Facilitator.
And here are the things that all of us experience at some time or other that indicate that we are being a Securely Attached Faciliator:
Integrate and balance empathy and education?
Have aliveness in your face, voice and body?
Work with a flexible, coherent structure
Feel warmth and affection for your participants?
Feel well-supported by your community?
Notice trauma bubbles and do the work to transform them?
Have access to self-compassion, self-empathy and resonance?
Value and support every voice being heard?
Co-create group agreements?
Notice ruptures and offer repairs?
Enjoy the teaching and feel delight about the participants?
And since facilitation is relational, it’s also important to notice that our participants come with their own attachment styles.