Monday, July 2, 2007

Facilitating and Structure

You all know I really care about the bi women's group to which I belong. I started going in early 2001, to connect with women - not because I was cruising, but because I was dating a male redneck and hanging out with a lot of men. It's been over six years and I have seen a lot of changes in the membership, the people who came regularly stopped coming and then new people started coming regularly, and then the "new" people stopped being "new" and, these days, most of my intimate friends are women I met through the group.

After a while it was clear to me that I should have taken the facilitators' training the Pacific Center offered, at that time, twice a year, but I didn't. Most of the times the all-day course was offered were times I couldn't attend, like days that conflicted with dance events. For a long time, though, I didn't take the training and become a facilitator because I didn't think that I would be a very good one.

I am really attached to structure, and as I write this I realize it is not as true as it used to be, but it is still true. The facilitator of the group is, most of the time, a member of the group who makes the announcements and watches the time. She doesn't really guide or lead the conversation or do much policing. Except for the few occasions when crazy things have happened,the group sort of leads itself (it's true that for the most part our group is fairly well-mannered and most people seem to have an idea of how groups like this work).

I thought that I would get really uncomfortable with things just going as they might go, if they veered at all outside the group guidelines or if people didn't exactly "behave." So I thought that being a facilitator wouldn't work for me, would reduce my enjoyment of the group, and, more importantly, impact what other people might experience. I tend to get a little protective of individuals and it's sometimes hard for me to allow them to have their own experiences about whatever is going on. I finally became a facilitator a couple years ago and for the most part facilitating groups has been going well for me.

I thought my attachment to structure would impact my ability to facilitate, but the other night while talking to Desi it occurred to me that my attachment to structure could be impacting my ability to be a facilitator, a member of the facilitating team. There are, technically, nine of us, though two of us are out of town this summer, and I'm not sure how involved a couple others actually are. It's a non-hierarchical organization, which I find really frustrating, which is why I took over as the Facs' Facilitator.

Recently some things have come up with the group that have me full of questions and frustrations about some ongoing trends that may or may not continue or may or may not rise again if they do stop now. I'm feeling like we have to make some decisions about how we are going to handle this thing or this other thing. While talking to Desi I noticed how rigid I'm getting about the general purpose and outline of the group, and I find myself wondering if it's because I'm getting rigid in general. Maybe I'm stressed out and just trying to control what goes on in my life. I'm talking about it as if I'm protecting other people's space, but I think I feel protective of my space.

When I'm not actually facilitating a meeting, I wonder if my being a facilitator is serving anyone. I'm not sure it is serving me, and it's because of a different take on my need for structure than I thought it would be.

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