May 18 2017

John Gottman Relationship Scales: Evaluate Your Relationship Here

If you are interested in thinking about the strengths and vulnerabilities of your relationship, here is a survey for you to explore.

1.    Staying emotionally connected ___, or becoming emotionally distant___

Check all items below:

  • Just simply talking to one another.     Not a problem___     A problem___
  • Staying emotionally in touch with each other.   Not a problem___     A problem___
  • Feeling taken for granted?    Not a problem___     A problem___
  • Don’t feel like my partner knows me very well right now.  Not a problem___A problem___
  • Partner is (or I am) emotionally disengaged.         Not a problem___     A problem___
  • Spending time together.   Not a problem___     A problem___

2.    Handling  job and other stresses effectively____, or experiencing the “spill over” of non-relationship issues

Check all items below:

  • Helping each other reduce daily stresses     Not a problem___     A problem___
  •     Talking about these stresses together    Not a problem___     A problem___
  • Talking together about stress in a helpful manner   Not a problem___     A problem___
  • Partner listening with understanding about my stresses and worries  Not a problem___     A problem___
  • Partner takes job or other stresses out on me   Not a problem___     A problem___
  • Partner takes job stresses out on the children or others in our life   Not a problem___     A problem___

 

3.    Handling issues or disagreements well ___, or gridlocking on one or more issues____

Check all items below:

  • Differences  have arisen between us that seem very basic   Not a problem___     A problem___
  • These differences seem unresolvable    Not a problem___     A problem___
  • We are living day to day with hurts      Not a problem___     A problem___
  • Our positions are getting entrenched     Not a problem___     A problem___
  • It looks like I will never get what I hoped for    Not a problem___     A problem___
  • I am very worried that these issues may damage our relationship   Not a problem___     A problem___

_

4. The marriage is romantic and passionate___, or the it is becoming passionless; the fire has gone out____

Check all the items below:

  • My partner has stopped being verbally affectionate.     Not a problem___    A problem___
  • My partner expresses love and admiration less frequently.  Not a problem___ A problem___
  • We rarely touch each other.  Not a problem___     A problem___
  • My partner (or I) have stoped feeling very romantic. Not a problem___ A problem___
  • We rarely cuddle.   Not a problem___ A problem___
  • We have few tender or passionate moments.       Not a problem___ A problem___

5.    Our sex life is fine_____, or there are problems in this area____

Check all the items below:

  • The frequency of sex.        Not a problem___ A problem___
  • The satisfaction I or my partner get from sex.     Not a problem___ A problem___
  • Being able to talk about sexual problems.    Not a problem___ A problem___
  • The two of us wanting different things sexually.   Not a problem___ A problem___
  • Problems of desire.     Not a problem___ A problem___
  • The amount of love in our lovemaking.    Not a problem___ A problem___

6. An important event (like the birth of a child, job loss, changes in job, or residence, an illness, the death of a loved one) has occurred in our lives_____. The relationship is dealing with this well____, or it is not___.

Check all items below:

  • We have very different points of view on how to handle things.
  • This event has led my partner to be very distant.
  • This event has made us both irritable.
  • This event has led to a lot of fighting.
  • I’m worried about how this will turn out.
  • We are now taking up very different positions.

 

7. Major issues about children have arisen (this could be about whether or not to have a child).____ The relationship is handling these well_____, or it is not_____.

Check all items below:

  • We have very different points of view on goals for the children.
  • We have different positions on what to discipline the children for.
  • We have different positions on how to discipline the children.
  • We have issues about how to be close to our children.
  • We are not talking about these issues very well.
  • There is a lot of tension or anger about these issues.

 

 

8. Major issues or events have arisen about in-laws, a relative, or relatives._____The relationship is handling these well_____, or it is not_____.

Check all items below:

  • I feel unaccepted by my partner’s family.
  • I sometimes wonder which family my partner is in.
  • I feel unaccepted by my own family.
  • There is tension between us and what might happen.
  • This issue has generated a lot of irritability.
  • I am worried about how this is going to turn out.

No responses yet

May 16 2017

Victories of the Heart Breakthrough Weekend Research by Josiah James Miller: Highly Recommended Reading!

Psychologist Josiah James Miller evaluated the Victories of the Heart Breakthrough weekend as his dissertation for his doctorate. It was recently published online and is a treasure trove of ideas helpful to the Victories organization. You can read the dissertation here.

by Miller, Josiah James, Psy.D., The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, 2017, 119; 10159295

I have read the study a few times and think it’s an excellent contribution to the evolution of men’s social movements and the origins of personal growth weekends for men.

Dr. Miller dissertation evaluates several quantitative factors related to the Breakthrough experience, such as the effect on the levels of gender role conflict, perceived social support and psychological well-being in men who attended the retreat.

His study also explores and elaborates on the qualitative experience of participants. Having been a leader of this weekend and volunteer for many years, I understand how meaningful the experience can be, so the excellent qualitative reports by participants was no surprise at all.

Dr. Miller also raises important questions for the Victories organization to consider as they evaluate this program and make plans for their organization’s future.

Kudos to Dr. Miller and the Victories stakeholders to allow a program to be evaluated and the results published online so all those interested can read and learn.

For those interested in the history and methods of men’s programs, this evaluation is very much worth reading.

No responses yet

Mar 18 2017

Obamacare 2017: 10 Talking Points for Advocacy

I. Introduction

I’m writing for my family, friends and the public to advocate for Obamacare.

Right now, it seems the Senate will vote against the repeal and replacement legislation proposed by House Republicans, but there is still a fight and it will help if we all understand the honest benefits of Obamacare and the Republican lies.

Here are the 10 Obamacare Talking Points:

  1. Children should be allowed to stay on their parent’s policies until age 26.
  2. No denial of coverage for pre-existing condition and NO high-risk insurance pools.
  3. Individuals and employers should have a mandate to get insurance.
  4. Americans should get financial help to cover costs of insurance.
  5. The increased taxes on individuals earning more than $200,000 and families earning more than $250,000 should remain in place.
  6. The 80/20 Plan where Insurance companies have to pay at least 80% of their income on health care costs for customers should remain in place.
  7. Insurance companies should continue to be forced to present any request to raise insurance premiums over 10% to be reviewed.
  8. Federal funds should be used to fund the “risk corridor” program so that insurance companies can be protected from financial losses.
  9. All states should expand medicaid.
  10. Insurance benefits should have no limits in coverage and offer free preventative care.

 

II. Research Supporting the 10 Talking Points

 

  1. Children should be allowed to stay on their parent’s policies until age 26.

The law that children between the age of 19 and 26 be allowed to stay on their parent’s insurance policies has had universal support in our country among Republicans and Democrats.

You may find it surprising to know that in 2010,  13 million Americans between the ages of 19 and 29 were uninsured. This figure represented about 27% of the total 47 million Americans were uninsured.

So, this population was important for healthcare planners to get insured. About 3 million became insured on their parents policies and many others bought insurance in the insurance markets.

 

 

Click here for a youtube video describing this aspect of Obamcare in more detail.

Youtube video on Obamacare 19-26 year old access to insurance.

 

      2. No denial of coverage for pre-existing condition and NO high-risk insurance pools.

Obamacare guaranteeing insurance coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions was a radical breakthrough.

For the first time in history, Americans could not be denied coverage or have their coverage terminated because they were sick. It seems shocking to write this sentence…how could an advanced, rich country like America neglect its most vulnerable citizens and allow insurance companies to reap profits by excluding and dumping sick customers.

So, this provision has also received widespread support, but the current Republican proposal begins to limit this provision ever so quietly. They say everyone will be covered, but they create a loophole where Americans must have “continual coverage”, meaning their insurance must not lapse. If it does, the insurance company can demand a 30% premium increase, so the sick person must pay more, as was true in the past.

The other part of the Republican plan is to use “high-risk insurance pools” for Americans with pre-existing conditions and serious health problems. High-risk pools have been used before and several problems were identified, especially related to cost and access. OBamacare is considered by many experts to be better because it focuses on increasing coverage among more healthy, young people so the premiums paid by younger people will help pay for the more costly care of older people.

Here is a short video describing the problems with high-risk insurance pools:

High-risk insurance pools vs. Obamacare

 

No responses yet

Oct 15 2016

An Example of Implicit Bias: Heterosexism (everyone’s straight) at a Victories for Men Breakthrough Weekend

In his doctoral dissertation, “Victories of the Heart: An Evaluation of a Transformational Men’s Retreat”, Josiah Miller, PsyD provides a useful and interesting look at at the issue of implicit bias.

Implicit bias is a widely researched process which shows that human beings have deeply held, unconscious bias which accounts for prejudice and racism in American society.

According to Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute the key characteristics of implicit biases are:

  • Implicit biases are pervasive.  Everyone possesses them, even people with avowed commitments to impartiality such as judges.
  • Implicit and explicit biases are related but distinct mental constructs.  They are not mutually exclusive and may even reinforce each other.
  • The implicit associations we hold do not necessarily align with our declared beliefs or even reflect stances we would explicitly endorse.
  • We generally tend to hold implicit biases that favor our own ingroup, though research has shown that we can still hold implicit biases against our ingroup.
  • Implicit biases are malleable.  Our brains are incredibly complex, and the implicit associations that we have formed can be gradually unlearned through a variety of debiasing techniques.

Implicit biases have a powerful effect on multiple levels. Many Americans on the right who support policies which overtly discriminate against people of color would deny being racist or biased in any way. They say the sort of things like we are supporting America and making America great again.

Josiah Miller’s research of the Victories of the Heart’s Breakthrough weekend offers a tiny, but very clear example of the implicit bias in the Victories leadership of the weekend studied and the the program as a whole.

As many people know, I was actively involved in the Victories program for several years and have observed and studied both the leaders and programs with both a supportive and critical view.

Along with Kurt Schultz, Rick Simon, a motivated team of volunteers, and lessons I learned from participating in Mankind Project’s New Warrior Program’s “guts trainings”, I was an instrumental part of creating a psychodrama training program which has been a very successful component of the Victories program since about 2005.

Not as widely known, Kurt Schultz asked me to help evaluate the Victories previous staff training mis-named the “spirit of generosity.” I learned very quickly this was a terrible program which left participants with mixed feelings and even resentments.

The reasons for the mixed feelings and resentments were obvious. Participants were asked by the leadership to bring an object of value to the day long training. They surrendered their objects at some point. What happened to the objects. This is sort of unbelievable and some may think I am making this up.

The objects the participants brought to the day were taken out of the room, onto the grounds of Techni Institute, then buried in a secret place. The participants never recovered their “valuable” objects.

One person I interviewed told me he brought a valuable and emotionally priceless piece of jewelry his deceased father had given him. He was not happy about what happened, but like many, chalked it up as some type of lesson he was supposed to learn on the way to personal growth and fulfillment.

Like replacing someone at work who failed miserably in their job, it was not difficult to create a more relevant, respectful, empowering and educational training event for volunteers. Many of the participants in those early trainings went on to leadership roles, including the two most recent Board presidents.

So, what evidence of implicit bias did Josiah Miller’s research offer about Victories? Research participants were asked to write about their experience after the weekend.

A gay man at the weekend makes several points about his perception the inappropriate use of heterosexist (everyone is straight) language:

“There was a certain tone that they were speaking from a place of authority and an absolute authority. There was a certain rigidness to whatever it was that was being communicated, there wasn’t that sort of openness. There was a sort of absolutism about it in a way that felt false to me.”

“There were also moments when they used some more hetero-normative language. As a gay man, I would have hoped that they would have used more inclusive language. Like during certain activities, they would be talking about the men and their wives rather than the men and their partners or you know companions or spouses. I’m pretty sure that I was the only gay male on my particular weekend.”

“Although at the beginning I was certain that a couple of the other men were. Then one started talking about his wife and another was talking about his girlfriend. Well, seeing that I am a clinician and knew several of the men conducting the retreat, I knew that there wasn’t anything negative meant by that. You know, I see a number of gay clients who…I would question if they would you know, feel comfortable in hearing language that was somewhat exclusionary. And you know, it’s not like I felt they were trying to single me out or intentionally exclude me, but it was just kind of something I noticed. I was also kind of wondering how Victories approaches transgendered or inter-sexed individuals and issues around their care and inclusion in Victories?” (Miller, 2016)

I write about his now because as early as 1993, I was a part of discussions both in Victories and the Mankind Project where the use of respectful cultural diverse terms like “partner” instead of husband/wife were actively discussed. It was part of the Basic Staff Training (the Psychodrama training) I helped design and implement in 2005 for Victories.

Why would a weekend program in 2016, 23 years after I know the issue was discussed, have staff using language that left a gay participant, apparently a mental health practitioner, feeling excluded?

Implicit bias offers the best explanation here. The staff leadership, if asked if they were biased against homosexuality, would say no, of course not.

However, this participant’s experience documents his felt experience of bias during the weekend. His words are a poignant description of how the LGBTQ community feels living in the dominant heterosexist American society.

There is no positive spin on this lapse in respect for cultural diversity within the Victories program. Their lack of sensitivity and self-knowledge at this time in history is inexcusable.

Although Dr. Miller notes the Victories principals were not happy with the results of his research, they have not disputed his findings or the comments of individual men, so we have to assume everything happeneds as described.

I think it’s safe to say, it was the staff leadership making the the lapse in respect for cultural diversity, not their evil twin brothers.

It goes without saying that the ethical code every profession has standards requiring the respect for cultural diversity.

We have to assume Victories, even though they have had the opportunity of over 30 years to evaluate and self-correct problems in policy and procedures, has more work to do.

Why is this important for them? They have to ask the question about how enthusiastic the gay participant will be in making referrals to the Victories programs.

Certainly, I would never refer a gay participant to a Victories program.

I’ve written about the ambiguous way Victories leaders and program have addressed the issue of sexual orientation and it seems to be still too ambiguous.

At a Victories program in the mid-1990’s I heard Buddy Portugal try to reassure someone by saying “we’re all homosexual.” I was confused by this at the time and observed this mis-statement throughout my years of involvement and study of Victories.

No, we’re not all homosexual and to say this diminishes and disqualifies the murder, abuse, and discrimination experienced by members of the LGBTQ community.

Most importantly, we are not all heterosexual. To perpetuate this bias is wrong.

No responses yet

Aug 06 2016

Relaxation Script

Relaxation Script

Prepare to relax by finding a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed for 20-30 minutes…loosen any tight or restrictive clothing and remember relaxation is something that happens all by itself if you let it…

and learning to allow relax is allowing relaxation to happen…no one really knows exactly how you relax, but as you think relaxing thoughts, your body responds by letting go…

we don’t really know how you walk, talk, ore scratch your head…you just decide to do these things and your body responds…in the same way your body responds to your decision to let go and relax…

as you learn to relax, please don’t concern yourself with how quickly you are relaxing or whether you are relaxing deeply enough…

you will find, as you practice relaxation, that at different times, you will relax at different rates…sometimes relaxation will occur slowly and subtly…

other times you will relax very deeply, very quickly…

and it really doesn’t matter how you relax at this time, just that you notice how relaxation feels to you when it does occur..

as you begin to let go and begin to notice the sensations of relaxation you have …

that learning to relax is learning to allow relaxation to happen. Your body knows how to relax and as you begin to breathe more deeply, relax your muscles, and use peaceful imagery you will be able to relax, feel more comfortable, and manage challenges more easily.

just allow the intelligence of your body and mind guide you…

Start by finding a spot furthest away from where you are and stare at it. You will notice your eyes becoming slightly tired, they may begin to blink, signaling you are ready to close your eyes and move from your external focus to an internal focus.

Begin to relax more deeply by taking 3 deep, slow breaths.

As you inhale, let that “in” breath be associated with fresh air, peacefulness and relaxation.

As you exhale, let that “out” breath be associated with the release of any unnecessary stress and tension.

As you breath more deeply, allow the muscles in your body to also more deeply relax. Begin with the muscles in your feet and legs, take a deep breath and as you “let go”, allow the muscles in your feet and legs to more deeply relax.

Then the muscles in your stomach and chest…lower back and upper back…arms and hands…neck and shoulders…face and even the muscles around your tongue…allow those muscles to more deeply relax.As you find your body becoming more relaxed, you may notice that your mind is also becoming more quiet, calm and still.

Take a few moments and enjoy this comfortable feeling in your mind and body.

Relaxation is something you learn to do and the more you do it, the easier it becomes…

In order to deepen your level of relaxation, allow an image of a staircase with 10 stairs come into your mind. Notice what the staircase looks like, whether it is wooden or steel, spiral or straight, indoors or outdoors…

Imagine that as you step down each stair, you are stepping into a deeper and deeper level of relaxation. Count backwards from 10 to 1, and when you get to 1 imagine stepping off the stair into a peaceful place, maybe your favorite vacation place or an imaginary beach, woods, or by a pond, whatever comes to your mind… just allow yourself to go there…

So begin to count backwards to yourself from 10…9…8…deeper and deeper…7…6…5…4…3…2…and 1.

Now, allow an image to form in your mind of that safe and beautiful place and just be there…notice what you can see, hear, feel, and smell in that peaceful place…enjoy being there and stay as long as you want…as you allow yourself to become more and more deeply relaxed…

Continue to breathe deeply and comfortably. When you are ready to come back, start to open your eyes, notice the increased light against your eyes and any sounds in the room. Stretch your muscles. Come back refreshed, relaxed and feeling better than before.

When you wake up, write or draw about your relaxation experience and the peaceful place you imagined. Allow yourself to explore any of this experience that you want.

From Guided Imagery for Self-Healing, by Marty Rossman (2000)

No responses yet

Aug 02 2016

Victories 2016: Acknowledging the Positives

I have a lot of experience in what’s called the “men’s work” field in the Chicago area. Most of my experience is with the Victories of the Heart, formerly known as the Men’s Room.

While it’s somewhat known my 2006-2008 involvement and ending with Victories was problematic, it does not reflect on this organization’s efforts to offer quality programs.

The two founding leaders, Bob Mark and Buddy Portugal (deceased)and the second leadership team, Paul Kachoris and Kevin Fitzpatrick are/were creative and effective therapists and workshop leaders. They are/were charismatic men who changed many men’s lives and their loved ones’ lives for the better.

This does not mean  they were perfect and I discuss some of the difficulties I had with these men in other writing. It’s been many years since I was actively involved and the men who are in key leadership positions have made positive changes.

The woman on the Board is a well known and highly respected therapist, teacher and author. Her input and influence is certain to enhance the organization and programs.

Since 2008, there have been many positive changes in the organization which I am very happy to see and acknowledge. These changes include:

    • movement towards a team style of leadership
    • leadership training and development
    • sensitivity and reduction of the dual-relationship problem within the organization
    • improvement in the support group program
    • development of ethics policies and standards.
    • inclusion of women on the Board
    • more diverse programs, especially the Couples weekend and Shame workshops

Continue Reading »

One response so far

Jan 25 2016

Unmasked by Paul Kachoris, MD: A Book Review

I first met Paul Kachoris at a men’s retreat about 1990-91 where he was on the leadership team. It was one of those “I have no idea what I am getting into here type of experiences” which served as my first venture into the direction of the “within”, of the 7 directions, often described as the most important.

Paul was a huge part of my nearly 2 decades of involvement in men’s programs and I am grateful for his gifts. I remember vividly him approaching me as I was getting into my car to leave that first retreat and him telling me he was Kevin’s friend and a writer. He has always been a writer.

This book of poetry exemplifies the lyrical way he connects words to the human spirit. Reading this book, I learned he has been writing poetry for many, many years. I recognized some of his poems’ themes, like the chapel and sculpting out of thin air, as potentially related to his work on men’s retreats. I especially took note of the shadow themes, like in the poem, Ambush, (pps. 92-93) where he explores the inevitability of screwing ourselves over because we lack awareness and self-knowledge.

However, the depth and breadth of his themes relating to his own psyche, relationships with his family, and the disconnect/connect with his family’s homeland in Greece suggested more of Paul’s deeply empathic abilities. I’ve wondered to myself and in some of my own writing how his legacy might be expanded should he connect in some way with the Warrior weekend’s international efforts. He has been a big fish in a small pond for too long. We know fish too big are targeted.

The founders of the program to which Paul has been devoted (one is deceased) were too jealous of his stature and deep masculine energy. They knew how to co-opt and unsex men who they saw getting close to their secrets and illusionary beliefs about their own grandeur, their shadow, as Paul would say. They were the masters of pseudo-mutuality creating a world where everyone acted like they loved each other by denying and avoiding any conflict. In the shadows, they were skillful at creating chaos, keeping others off kilter, ensuring they would be at the center of power, their fingerprints everywhere.

When I had influence, I ensured Paul would be on the marketing video for the organization back in 2004 and then in 2007, built the concept of the organization’s new program committee around Paul as the Chairperson. I knew he was the one to bring some clarity, intellect and humanity to this key element of an organization struggling to evolve. Paul had so much more integrity, wholeness and warmth than the others. These were his strengths, not wasted, but still so much more to give.

His personality archetype may be described by others as more Magician because of his poetry. I know him and see him more in the Warrior/King archetype. Paul even explores the theme of his kingship in one of his poems. He is more King than Magician in my eyes. Magicians stand alone and use their magic in isolation. Warrior/Kings use their strength and wisdom to unite others and fight the good fight. There are so many men who need help and the international men’s network offers men like Paul a pathway.

There was so, so much competition and unresolved conflict within the men’s program where Paul worked and works still, his greatness has been constrained. The Warrior weekend would have embraced his gifts and the leadership program would have challenged him and chiseled his spiritual and intellectual muscle. I know the Warriors would have welcomed him doing both programs and what a model that would have been of inclusion in the men’s work world!

Like me and the rest of us, Paul is not perfect, but he is perfectly human and the world is better for him. At a significant time, he wrote to me and I appreciated it.

The poem that really spoke to me from this book was “On a Train With No Windows” (p142). I want to cite the first several lines.

Paul writes:

Boarded up in my windowless train
on a one way ticket to Somewhere.
Just followed the crowd;
Jumped aboard when young, with baggage in tow.
Not asking: “Where am I going?”

Clickety clack
clickety clack
clickety clack.

Down the one-way track
to some imagined, pre-ordained destination.
-an oasis waiting.

This is a beautiful poem evoking feelings of wonderment, journey, and promise. It reminded me of my favorite song, “People Get Ready” written by Curtis Mayfield, a song in the liberation theology common in the African American community. Unable to speak truth to power for fear of being lynched, castrated, tortured, African Americans used religious language to express their desire for freedom, their salvation.

Like Paul, Mayfield writes,

“People get ready
There’ a train a-coming
You don’t need no baggage
You just get on board

All you need is faith
To hear the diesels humming
Don’t need no ticket
You just thank the Lord.”

The clickety-clack of the train wheels on the rails to freedom, the “oasis waiting.”

No responses yet

Dec 01 2015

kevin and paul letter

January 9, 2016

Dear Kevin and Paul:

I am attaching the correspondence I have had with Rick, Alan and Ron for your review.

As you can see, I am trying to learn how you handle the issue of clothing/gym shorts, etc at the Shadow weekend.

I want to be direct with both of you and not be secretive about it. I don’t believe it’s unrealistic of me to think your solution to the nudity issue many years ago would be to sidestep the real issues of how trauma memories are stored and the potential of someone with sexual abuse histories being triggered and injured psychologically by events on weekends.

I am also attaching the letter from the VOH lawyer which states pretty clearly I was lying and distorting other writing I have done, especially as it relates to the inappropriate events which occurred between us, namely the pot and rat and abusive anti-semitic language triangulating me, you  and bob and buddy.

I think any objective person would agree the ways in which I was treated, especially during the “scandals” of VOH were abusive to me and characteristic of a very dysfunctional organization.

Originally, I believed you that the dysfunction was a result of someone else, etc. However the four years I was a leader allowed me to see the dysfunction ran deeper. I have said this before, but Shadow, as it is commonly understood, is often only discovered in relationship through addressing conflict. This never happened in VOH.

In fact, there was a lot of activity which was very much a concern to me. The disastrous attempt for the Breakthrough leaders to share leadership was evidence of this. On Saturday night, you guys bitched about Kurt taking control and acting unilaterally.

The next official meeting, you both confront me for “taking over” a psychodrama and interfering with your ability to work together, even though you knew I had no idea the guy was Kevin’s client or what you wanted to do together.

Then the joke of the nudity issue process. I was sick, in the process of discovering I lost a lot of money. Wouldn’t you think I had better things to do than go to a worthless meeting where all the decisions had been made before hand? I knew how easily Kurt could be manipulated by all you guys. I feel certain phone calls happened before the meeting, Kurt agreed to the faulty idea of gym shorts and the meeting was just to force the solution through in an undemocratic way.

I am feel certain you never told Kurt you guys were pissed at him for being controlling and unilateral.

Instead you attack me for something that had more to do with your inability to ask for something for yourselves or be accountable for what you didn’t do , vs what I did innocently.

If you guys told me to jump through fire, I probably would have tried. I wanted nothing  more than to be considered a member of the team. I had no special desire to lead anything.  I had a desire to help VOH change, knew how that could happen, and proceeded to do so in the roles I was assigned.

I can only wonder why you both turned on me there at the end. You knew what Buddy was capable of doing. His verbal abuse was not the ultimate problem, but his refusal to apologize was remarkable to observe and experience. For you guys to refuse to support me in confronting him was shocking and an example of the dysfunction in the organization.

Communication was between the two leaders, other leaders were suspect, conflict and truth was swept under the rug, and people who were injured, like me and (name) were ignored and written off as borderline, or whatever degrading “diagnosis” could be made.

Here is an opportunity for you to speak up to defend me when you are asked about this request of mine for information. I’m not asking for anything else. In an ideal world, you would also acknowledge publicly the threatening legal letter from Kurt to me was an effort to force me to be silent, rather than a protection of anyone being defamed.

Trauma memory is stored implicitly and is timeless. Yes, you both apologized individually to me, however there is no doubt excluding me from the Psychodrama workshop for the L. Clark workshop illustrates you really had no remorse or insight into the self-focused ways in which you injured me and fought every attempt to reform Victories and help its programs succeed and grow.

Your fanatical attachment to your so-called Shadow weekend has been a drag on organizational growth and, like Portugal and Mark’s efforts in the Wisdome years creation, split the organizations into factions and destroyed any momentum the 2004 Strategic planning process had.

You have been left standing, your leadership coupleship still intact, after several decades. Portugal and Kurt died, Mark seems to have stepped aside.

Yet, with all that power you have amassed and exercised over the years, the Shadow weekend limps along with one weekend a year and who knows if it even happens each year. There is no transparency to allow any critical members of the public to know these things.

I will continue to write.

 

Sincerely,

Bill Martin, LCSW

 

 

 

No responses yet

Dec 01 2015

Victories Breakthrough Weekend Research Finding Staff “Coldness” and “Roughness”: Is This a Remnant of Warrior Weekend Envy?

In his doctoral dissertation, “Victories of the Heart: An Evaluation of a Transformational Men’s Retreat”, Josiah Miller, PsyD provides a look at one participant’s perception of “coldness” and “roughness” from the staff of the weekend.

I make a special note my thoughts about this are based on one participant’s comments, not a widespread finding of all participants from this experience. Whether others were turned off by this “cold” initial contact and the “roughness” in staff style is not clear.

However the comments of one critical observer is worth considering, especially an organization like Victories that is sensitive and reactive to criticism. I will add I witnessed and tried to change this problematic leader behavior during my 2004-2008 involvement in Victories and obviously failed.

Perhaps shedding light on this program deficit and exploring the connection to the Mankind Warrior weekend now will enable reform elements within Victories to help initiate needed lasting improvements.

This “coldness and roughness” dynamic in intensive workshops goes back further in history than even the Warrior weekend. One can look at the rise of the Human Potential Movement and large group awareness training (LGATs) programs in the 1960’s and 1970’s and find the pattern of this obhorrent leader behavior.

Participants at 60 hour intensive trainings by Werner Erhard known as EST were routinely degraded, insulted and prevented from using the bathroom for long periods of time during the program. EST evolved into the Landmark Forum, an international program which perhaps provided some influence to the development of similar programs that followed.

Victories’ principals would likely not support the idea it’s programs fit the social structure and process of LGATs, but they do. I had a conversation with a principal of another larger program who agreed his program was a LGAT.

While most participant’s of LGATs have a positive experience, some are seriously harmed and even killed. The most egregious example of death at a LGAT involves the fraudulent work of James Arthur Ray whose negligence led to the deaths of three participants. Ray was charged and convicted of negligent homicide and spent two years in prison.

For more about risks in participating in LGATs, read my short book, “Searching for Oz” here.

In the Initiation section of his dissertation titled, “unpleasant introductions”, Dr. Miller shares the comments of one participant talking about an uncomfortable view of Victories staff. The participant states:

“I don’t know if this is on purpose, but there at times I felt sort of like a coldness from the staff. And I don’t know if that‘s them developing a certain sort of rapport of sorts or maybe it’s in some ways cutting off the small talk. Yeah, it’s a little bit coldness. Yeah, just sort of like short or even I think when some guys were kind of struggling in their work or if the leaders were I think struggling with facilitating it, there was a little bit of a roughness in a way they dealt with the person.” (Miller, p.109)

This participant goes on to give a specific example to explain his perceptions. He states:

“So we showed up and we actually had our dinner we were just walking down to this bonfire and it was very first of all when I showed up, I rolled down the window and there were some of the greeters and I was “Hey how’s it going?” They were just like, “Okay I need you to park your car, I need one of you to grab your things and walk first and then you’re going to walk…” so there was no real friendly…. Yeah, it was like “This is what you’re going to do!” and then when we got to this other checkpoint it was like “Hey by the way we haven’t eaten yet” and the one dude was like “Did you not read the instructions before you came here?” and so…. And they’re like “What you’re going to have to do is hurry up and go sit on that bench. I don’t want you to talk to each other.” (Miller, pps. 109-110)

My extensive involvement in Victories from 1992 until 2008 and ongoing observations and study of the people and organization leads me to guess the leaders of this Breakthrough weekend were trying to emulate and copy various aspects of the Mankind Project’s New Warrior Weekend.

I don’t want to reveal too much about the New Warrior Weekend, but the opening described by this Victories participant will be familiar to any Warrior weekend participant.

The “roughness” by the Victories staff, however, is, I think, solely related to what I observed as two or three Victories leaders trying to “act like real men” by sounding tough, aggressive and in-your-face. I never experienced or observed this in any Warrior weekends I staffed, although I would not be surprised by this having happened during a Warrior related event. I just never saw it or experienced it.

On the other hand, I both witnessed and experienced this sort of “real men sound aggressive” behavior among Victories principals.

At a meeting for volunteer staff for a Buddy Portugal/Bob Mark weekend, Portugal went into an impassioned and aggressive speech about men’s imperfections, selfishness and need to be better human beings. I remember not listening to his words so much as his fluid, intense delivery. It was decades ago, so I don’t remember the exact words, but the message was clear.

He was the leader, his voice raised and aggressive and we needed to be quiet, obedient, and passive. And we were that way all weekend long. It was Portugal and Mark’s show and we were the (staff) audience to sit in the first two rows and let the participants know when it was time to stand up and clap. Fitzpatrick and Kachoris had similar leadership styles.

Likewise, I know leaders aggressively confronted volunteer staff for such things as not being able to attend the second of two pre-weekend staff meetings. Another time, after sharing my own anxiety about being a staff person, I was told by a principal, “don’t bring your depression to the weekend.”

I also was subjected to about 30 minutes of negative voicemails from Portugal after he was upset by my objective evaluation of the recent Boston Wisdom years (which I liked). Portugal was just used to people adoring everything he and Bob Mark did, so to receive objective feedback about my experience and constructive ideas about ways to improve the program, was too much for him. You can read what I considered his disrespectful voicemails to me here.

I have written many times about Victories threatening me with legal action for writing what they considered to be negative information about Victories. After their most recent threat, I realized I would prefer to stand up to their bullying threats and publish all my writing, including about the pressure to smoke pot and kill a rat and the Portugal voicemails I found emotionally abusive.

During one final meeting to explore the ethical and legal issues related to my right to free speech, especially about truthful experiences with Victories and its principals, I was met with another loud, threat of being sued “if we (Victories) don’t like what you write.”

Really, the person being loud and aggressive could have sent the same message more respectfully. When I told the two principals I was going to get up, leave, and file ethical complaints against Victories, the other of the two men intervened and told the other person to stop threatening me. He then told me I would not be sued for writing. He later clarified in writing that I could still be sued if Victories decided my writing was harmful.

It was helpful to me to experience the “rough” and aggressive personal interaction at this meeting, to be assured my first amendment rights would be respected, then to have this assurance be equivocated with maintaining the threat of being sued.

I knew this person to have a lot of integrity and understood he must have felt the pressure of the lawyer faction to keep me feeling threatened.

How sad for them that they would threaten me, someone who was dedicated to them and the organization for so many years, with a lawsuit for telling the truth.

It wasn’t like they didn’t want me to express my opinions and judgments about what happened. They didn’t want me to tell the facts of what happened.

Unfortunately for the Victories organization, program and principals, many others were aware of these facts and several other men (I count four) had similar experiences, though I would imagine I was the only one pressured to smoke pot and kill a rat the night before leading a weekend.

There is no doubt I was being scapegoated by the four principals in Victories and threatened with legal action because I dared to try to hold them accountable for both bad behavior and their self-focused way of diverting the legitimate reform efforts of sincere Board members and stakeholders in the 2004-2008 period.

Challenging and trying to change the goofy idea of “acting tough” and incorrectly copying aspects of the Warrior weekend (the Warrior guys do not “act tough” during the initial contact) were some of the ideas I was trying to promote back then.

Also, I was very much against the pressure to “recruit” (a LGAT characteristic) as a way of promoting programs.

My initial dispute with Portugal came when he tried to pressure me to “recruit” for an upcoming Wisdom years weekend. I told him first of all, I was already encouraging men to attend. I said further, “Buddy, recruitment is not the way to promote programs. The quality of the program should sell itself. There are problems with follow-up support groups which need to be addressed and issues with the weekend program itself.”

He had already read my evaluation from the Boston Wisdom years program, so he knew I had several critical areas of feedback. A short time later, came the request to “talk with me about what the guys were saying about the Wisdom years.” I didn’t know this, but there were efforts to expand the Wisdom years out west somewhere. I knew the program would not happen again in Boston and had no chance in hell to expand anywhere else.

I didn’t want to gossip with Buddy about the Wisdom years and rewrote my evaluation and faxed it to him. He called back and said he had received it and it was essentially the same as my evaluation from the weekend itself. He then told me he was going to share it with the Wisdom years group and thanks so much for my efforts, but this wasn’t an evaluation, these were my ideas for a Wisdom years weekend, etc, etc, and it was much appreciated…as only Buddy could say.

I knew him well and understood what he meant was I had wasted my time in writing this evaluation and the ideas expressed would go nowhere.

I already had Kurt asking me about the “pouring tequila down the pants of the participants.” I had seen this before at a Bob Mark alleged shamanic workshop with a South American guy who drank tequila at 9am and poured tequila down the pants of the participating men and offered them a swig.

Unfortunately, I allowed him to pour the tequila down my pants (bad idea),but didn’t swig, as I have abstained from all substances.

Puring tequila down the pants of participants at a Wisdom years? An extremely unwise action. Kurt began to enlist me in the efforts to reform the Wisdom years weekend by ending the tequila dumb idea, but I didn’t want to get involved in any more drama in Victories.

I had already too much on my plate, was hit hard by real estate investments in the recession, and did not want to get involved in Victories leader drama. Trying to extricate myself from the dispute with Portugal, while still telling the truth resulted in him making what I considered degrading and disrespectful personal attacks.

So, am I making a big deal about one participants comments at a Breakthrough weekend? I don’t think so, as this is but one of the more dumb leader ideas which they think is brilliant, but serve to diminish participants’ experience and likelihood of recommending the program to others.

Why are the leaders of this weekend still promoting activities and language which have no research support and result in negative program evaluations?

I didn’t think the “coldness” at the beginning of a weekend or “roughness” in facilitating psychodrama were very helpful at the time and obviously think they are especially egregious now, decades after Victories has been offering mostly successful programs.

Is it really necessary to have such a confusing, unwelcoming first contact for participants who have not really been informed about what they are getting into? I say no now and said no before.

Victories leaders were especially vulnerable as they were selected or maybe “anointed” mostly by Mark and Portugal and had not been tested by the fire of real life leadership situations. This made them more defensive and likely to attribute problems to someone else and strenuously keep their programs’ secret, so they could adapt and amend things as they went on, never really being held accountable for dumb ideas that flopped.

Sure, they will claim the secrecy is so participants can be surprised and others will not steal their intellectual property related to program ideas. I always laughed at this as Victories principals all attended the Warrior weekend and the structure of the Breakthrough weekend closely followed the structure of the Warrior weekend.

If there was stealing of intellectual property, it was no one from the Warrior program stealing from Victories. This does not mean Warrior guys didn’t like Victories programs. They did and many Warrior graduates also participated in Victories programs and had great experiences.

In the 2004-2008 period while I was on the Board and a leader, Kurt Schultz and our leadership team shifted this “imitation Warrior” behavior at the beginning of our weekends and greeted arriving participants in a normal, supportive way. We had food, coffee, and refreshments in the dining room, helped the men get their gear into the cabins, find their way and introduced ourselves.

This conscious shift helped everyone, staff and participants become more comfortable and connected as we all began the work of the weekend which involved trust in the competence of staff to lead psychodrama on Saturday. Everything else was easy. The psychodrama was what proved to be the main event for all of us.

I knew the Warrior weekend well and the stance of staff at the beginning and during the weekend had a purpose and rationale. At a Victories Breakthrough weekend, a cold and aggressive stance by staff was, at best, nice guys trying to act tough and, at it’s worst, a fraudulent copy of one aspect of the Warrior weekend.

I think the Warrior guys understand this copying pattern. Many individual men and organizations have copied the Warrior weekend in various shapes and forms.

One of the most unsuccessful copying of the Warrior weekend by Victories’ leaders Kachoris and Fitzpatrick is their so-called Shadow weekend.

Of the major Victories programs, I have always liked the Breakthrough, Wisdom years, and Psychodrama programs.

The Victories Shadow weekend was by far the worst men’s program I experienced. This was in about 1994 and I’m assured the program is now a “great” experience.

Is it?

As I have written before, the details of the program are shrouded in secrecy and I don’t think anyone knows what happens unless they attend the program. I have been reminded of the threat of legal action if I write something Victories principals don’t like simply by making a formal request for information.

What I witnessed at this weekend was terrible at the time and shocking in retrospect. I was pressured at the Thursday night staff preparation meeting with the two leaders (only the three of us) to smoke pot and kill a pet rat they had brought for this bizarre ritualistic purpose. Just to clarify, smoking pot before leading a weekend is malpractice and killing a pet rat is a felony crime. I refused and the other two leaders claim they did not smoke pot or kill the rat.

The weekend included the familiar shadow object (think knives, switchblades and handcuffs) exercises and a horrible and disrespectful sweat lodge that violated all Native American principles of conducting a sweat lodge.

The Victories principals may argue their Shadow weekend is not influenced by the Warrior weekend. Knowing these men, I understand how much they admired the Warrior weekend and how much they fought against anyone else tampering or changing anything about “their” weekend.

When there was an appropriate Board level evaluation of the extensive nudity at this first Shadow weekend, the principals were upset at the new scrutiny of their program by the fledgling Board. It was a sad example of how two people can convince themselves of anything and can react with anger when they feel criticized.

Sad too that a recent Breakthrough weekend’s overall success can be marred by the lack of leadership insight and the proper oversight by the Victories’ Board of Directors about this negative greeting by staff.

Do I write now to damage Victories and their work? No. I loved the Breakthrough weekends, especially those of our leadership team. I thought they were great and the leaders I worked with were tremendous guys, two of whom have been the most recent Victories Board presidents. They and the other guys were awesome and we were a cohesive team.

Kurt and I had both experienced the burden of leadership in our lives and welcomed the rich and dynamic contributions of the other leader team members. We all developed a collaborative model that challenged the more hierarchical leader structure of the Portugal/Mark and Kachoris/Fitzpatrick and earlier leader teams.

The Breakthrough weekend worked great with an inviting, engaging opening night and no aggressiveness towards participants during psychodrama work.

It’s not hard to be kind, especially in places where it’s needed.

No responses yet

Nov 02 2015

Victories of the Heart Breakthrough Weekend Research Fails to Show Positive Impact in Quantitative Measures

Psychologist Josiah James Miller evaluated the Victories of the Heart Breakthrough weekend as his dissertation for his doctorate. It was recently published online and is a treasure trove of ideas helpful to the Victories organization. You can read the dissertation here.

by Miller, Josiah James, Psy.D., The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, 2017, 119; 10159295
A interesting aspect of this research is Dr. Miller’s message that although Victories has operated for decades, there has been no research on its programs effectiveness. He states:
“Victories of the Heart, the program that evaluated in this study, has been in operation for almost thirty years and has served over 5,000 men in the Chicagoland area and ought to be studied in order to better understand its impact on those involved in their retreats.” (Miller, p.2)
Miller is correct in noting the importance of studying this program to get a better understanding of its impact on participants. Someone like myself who has studied Victories and its principals for 27 years would say, “..yes, after 30 years, it’s about time someone took an academic approach to evaluating Victories.” We have to note the research was only on the Breakthrough weekend, no other Victories program.
Victories and its principals have had a clear bias against any public evaluation or criticism. I myself was threatened with lawsuits 4 or 5 times for publishing information considered negative about Victories and some principals.
The late Kurt Schultz and I may have been the first leaders to have participants evaluate their experience at the end of the weekend. We provided the results to Rick Simon who I believe was the executive director at the time. I think Rick may have distributed the results but I’m not sure. There certainly is no public record of evaluation results anywhere on the Victories website or internet. I have posted some of my leader teams’ evaluation results.
So, it’s curious Miller suggests Victories was interested in doing research on the Breakthrough weekend. He states:
“This program is looking for research to evaluate and enhance their program and the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement. This research has the potential to not only benefit participants and leaders at Victories of the Heart, but to better understand and improve the overall health and functioning of males in society.”
Was Victories and its principals really interested in researching the impact of the Breakthrough weekend? They must have had some interest as the research was completed. However, the research results failed to show any significant change in perceptions of gender role conflict and social support and the other variables studied.
I’m quoting Dr. Miller’s description of his quantitative findings here:
“There were no differences between levels of perceived social support in participants before and after having attending the Victories Breakthrough Weekend with a pre-retreat µ of 54.16 and a post-retreat µ of 54.10. There was a slight trend toward decreased levels of gender role conflict following participation in the retreat with a pre-retreat mean of 58.88 and post-retreat µ of 51.71 (see Table 2). However, these differences were not statistically significant with a p value of .175 (see Table 3). There was a slight trend toward increased levels of flourishing and psychological wellbeing following the retreat with a pre-retreat µ of 38.64 and post-retreat µ of 41.10 (see Table 1). However, these changes were not statistically significant, p = .419 (see Table 2). As such, any significant findings or correlations presented in this study cannot be attributed to participation in the Breakthrough Weekend.” (Miller, pps. 31-32)
What did the research’s negative quantitative findings mean for Victories and it’s principals? I can imagine, knowing the principals involved, that it was not a positive experience.
However, if Victories was more of a system open to critique and feedback, there are several valuable qualitative results. One worth noting here was the finding that the Breakthrough experience may have had a positive impact on the male participant, many of the men did not experience a positive impact on their relationships and families.
Dr. Miller states:
” Transparent within several narratives was the theme of men “slipping” back into their old ways, particularly within struggling marriages where the participants were not concurrently involved in couples counseling and parenting classes. Two man reported not having significant relationship problems with their partners prior to or after the retreat and another reported being in couples counseling and parenting classes with his wife prior to the retreat but not experiencing significant change in his marriage until after he returned home from his Breakthrough Weekend. That being said, the remainder of men in the qualitative sample reported having significant difficulties forming and maintaining romantic relationships following their Breakthrough Weekend. In particular, two married men that were interviewed expressed a degree of frustration and discontent with having difficulty maintaining their therapeutic gains as well as seeing these benefits extend to their relationships.”  (Miller, p. 55)
Victories and its principals would benefit from taking these findings to heart. I will continue to write about them and am very grateful to Dr. Miller for his excellent contribution to scholarship in this area.

No responses yet

Next »