Nov 01 2008

2004 Victories of the Heart Follow-up Support Group Workbook Formally Approved by the Leader Group of 8 and the Board of Directors, then Degraded Immediately at the Board Meeting by the Original Leaders Surprise Announcement They Were Writing A Workbook Too, But for Men Over 50 Everywhere

Published by at 5:57 pm under Counseling & Psychotherapy

If anyone doubts the chutzpah of the original leaders desire to upstage and sabotage anyone they view as competing for their mantle of most amazing leader of all time, consider the original leaders took the occasion to interrupt discussion and praise for the workbook printed below to make their announcement.

I remember sitting there in amazement. One of the original leaders spoke up and

interrupted the process. He didn’t want to commend me and the other men who had accomplished something.


He took the spotlight off of us and put it on himself, telling the Board and all present that he and his original leader partner were also writing a book…oh yes…a workbook for men over 50…they had written there first amazing book and now they were writing their second book about the wisdom years…

My honest impression was he was making the entire thing up as he spoke. I looked over at his original leader partner..he wasn’t nodding his head in agreement, nor did he speak up and add to this breathtaking announcement.

Neither one of them cared or had the insight to see how their seizure of the spotlight shone badly on them.

In the course of my complaints to them later, one of these leaders wrote his explanation to me about this process, missing my point entirely that their self-focus then and later took away from the important task of improving the small groups and degraded the work of the volunteers.

Consider what he says:

“Speaking of books, (my leader partner) and I will not be writing a workbook that will in any way compete with the wonderful workbook you have written for the training of men from Victories or elsewhere who will learn about psycho drama and other aspects of the BT weekend. Instead, Bill our book/workbook will hopefully be about the Wisdom Years experience and will include exercises from the weekend and be something that hopefully men from around the country can read and work on to enrich their beyond 50’s years. I hope this clarifies the issue about the “workbook”.”

The timing of their announcement and their neglect of the core organizational task to develop a functional training program to help volunteer men learn facilitation skills is completely ignored.

Not competing? The timing of the announcement was clearly competitive and none of these original leaders, nor any of the others contributed anything to the task of developing a training for group facilitators.

I even discovered that the other leaders had decided not to give their small group leaders the workbook. I even got into a conflict with two men who had been involved in the development of the workbook and I thought were supportive of evaluating its use.

The process needed the strong man (again) to put his foot down and say, we all agreed at the Strategic Plan to develop a training to improve the groups. Bill and the other guys spent the time and have moved the process forward.

We can now work together to develop the training for both Breakthrough and Wisdom weekend small group facilitators and evaluate as we go on. If you do not collaborate in this process, you are in violation of the letter and spirit of the Strategic Plan and should resign your leadership position.

As I remember and write about this process, I consider this a textbook example of the selfishness of the original leaders and others and the resulting failure to improve the functioning of this dysfunctional organization.

Someone on the Board should insist on using what happened as a case study of what was and is wrong with VOH.

Central to the dysfunction was the dyadic leader teams annointed by the original leaders and sent off occasionally to create chaos. As long as there was chaos, they would be in charge.

One of those leaders offered me “consultation” if I had any concerns or problems with my leader partner. Really? How much would that consultation cost? It most certainly would not be free.

More evidence of the organizational dysfunction is the fact there is still another “task force” on group facilitation right now. I warned the men involved to make sure they have some power and the strong man will stand with them and not allow chaos to repeat itself over and over.

So, here is the workbook I and a group of well-intentioned others worked on in 2004, shortly after I became a full leader. It was designed as a starting point for eventual facilitation group trainings for all VOH volunteers and anyone interested.

While the 2004 leadership group of 8 men and the Board of Directors  endorsed this, the original leaders deep-sixed this process and guaranteed the failure of an important component of the Strategic Plan Action plan on improving the small groups.

Of course, as was the way, they kept their conflicts hidden and instead sabataged my and the other sincere men who volunteered their time to discuss and explore this task. I was the principal writer.

 VOH Support Group Workbook

Congratulations! You have made it through the weekend, and now you have option to continue your personal work in the VOH follow-up group.


 Staff will facilitate this group for the first 6 consecutive meetings and every other meeting for the next 3months.   VOH will also sponsor structured workshops at the 3 and 6 month period. At least one of these will be an overnight,  Friday through Saturday event. 

This purpose of this workbook is to provide a guide to the tools that have proven to be effective in continuing the journey you started on the weekend. These tools include:

questions and learning objectives

exercises and processes (see addendum)

suggested readings

Why do we stress the importance of the follow-up group? Over the years, we have heard many men say that the ongoing group has been the best part of the entire experience. There are groups who have been meeting for over a decade.

There is a lot to gain from participation in the group (or other groups for that matter) and we encourage you to give it serious consideration. One suggestion is to make a commitment to the group for the first 3-6 months after the weekend and then make a decision about whether you will remain a part of the group or move on. Making a commitment 3 months at a time is an excellent idea.

In this workbook format, we are offering you an opportunity to do some personal work on your own that will be the focus of each of the 9 facilitated groups we offer you after the weekend.

Here is what men from those groups say about their groups:

“I did the most significant personal growth work in my group about 2 years after my initial weekend. There is no way I could have done this work on my own. Our group built a strong bond of trust, which enabled me to find the strength to grieve, let go, and move my life forward. Grief was my block. Letting go of grief was my shift. My group helped me do this.”

“I met a man who is my best friend right now. When my father died about 12 years after our initial weekend, he was right there to support me.”

“Sometimes it is hard to remember my initial weekend experience. Unforgettable are the close friendships I have made in my ongoing group”

What are the values these groups help to create? Take a look at the values below and describe what they mean to you.

Being honest with ourselves and others

Expressing feelings openly

Taking personal responsibility when appropriate

Living with integrity

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable

Being authentic

Addressing and solving problems

Like all structured groups, our VOH follow-up group develops in stages.  These stages of development include:

Deciding to join

Communicating & Building trust

Solving conflict

Developing intimacy

Personal growth

Transition/Moving out of the group

Session 1: Deciding to join

The first stage, deciding to join or not, may be the most difficult. It is pretty easy to find other things in our busy lives to do, other than to meet with a group of men for the purpose of personal growth.

So, deciding to join or not requires serious thought. The group will not work if men say, “I will do the group” but don’t show up. Everyone in the group must make a commitment, and show up on time and be ready to work.

We understand that often, how we are in the group during the initial phase of the process mirrors how we might be in our own lives. We say we are committed, but have trouble making decisions, remain fearful of new things, or have strong judgements that keep us from being more connected in our primary relationships.

Here are some questions we think may be helpful for you to answer as you consider participating in the group:

What are your shifts and blocks?

What was the focus of your heartwork?

What is your affirmation?

What are reasons for you to participate in the group?

What are reasons for you to not participate in the group?

What might you receive from the group?

What strengths do you bring to the group?

Who in your life would like you to do the group?

Here are some possible exercises:

Trust circle

Energy circle

“What would my heartwork be tonight”


Posture & Voice


Session 2:   Building trust

To grow as human beings, we must learn to trust ourselves and others. This requires time, energy and commitment. Like doing a “trust fall”, we need to feel secure in our relationships with others and then, allow ourselves to “fall.”

Here are some questions for you to answer that relate to “trust”:

Who in your life do you trust?

When have you felt like a trust was broken or betrayed?

What thoughts and feelings come up for you when you think about trusting men in this group?

Would you feel more comfortable making a short-term (3 months) commitment to this group?

If men say they will be at the meeting, then don’t show up or call late to say they can’t make it, how would that effect your level of trust?

How do you feel about meetings starting and ending on time?

How do we determine the leadership structure?

How do we communicate important info (time, place of meetings, changes)?

Here are some possible exercises:

 “What I trust and mistrust”

“What I need to know about my leadership abilities”

Sessions  3:    Communication

Communication  is the way we build relationships, trust, intimacy and everything else important to us as human beings. We usually use words, but there are many other powerful ways we express ourselves, including music, writing, behaviors, and body-language. 

As we learn during the weekend, our behavior and body-language is often the most powerful ways we communicate.  This is related to the way we were socialized as boys, as it was often easier for us to “act-out” our feelings than to express them in words.  However, the way we communicate is not genetically programmed, so we are able to learn ways to become more effective communicators.

Paying attention to our own bodies is a first step. Headaches, pain, nausea, nightmares, anxiety, depression, frequent accidents, and other body related issues are often a way for our bodies to speak to us. We may not like the method, but our bodies get our attention quickly. We just have to begin to listen…

Here are some questions for you:

How do you best communicate?

If you were upset, who would be the people you would feel comfortable sharing your feelings?

Do you avoid or directly address difficult emotional issues?

How do you experience and express the following feelings?







Are you more likely to express yourself openly to friends, significant others or family members?

If you allow yourself to believe our bodies communicate to us through our aches, pains, illness, anxiety, sleep difficulties, etc, what is your body saying to you?

Here are some possible exercises related to communication:

Using I statements

Speaker/Listener Communication exercise (thoughts, feelings, needs)

Understanding defense mechanisms

Role playing…being late, not wanting to show up (see how it looks and feels)

Sessions 4 & 5:  Conflict resolution

Conflict is normal.  The big question is do we face it directly, avoid it, or some combination of the two. It is always best to directly resolve conflicts. If conflict is not addressed in the group, the group will not work.

 Most of us do not have great training in this area. The basic steps in conflict resolution are to listen to our  thoughts and feelings,  define the conflict and who else may be involved, communicate our concerns, brainstorm ways to resolve the conflict, and then evaluate any solutions after some time has passed. Easier said than done. However, it’s progress, not perfection. Resolving conflict is an important path to feeling love, joy and more energy in our lives, so we need to improve our skills.

Here are some possible exercises dealing with conflict resolution:

Conflict resolution role-play

Owning projections

Feedback Seat  

Writing letters

Grieving fire

Sessions 6 & 7: Building Intimacy

Intimacy has many shapes and sizes. We experience it as someone caring about us and probably has its roots in evolutionary biology. We became “attached” to our caregivers and could feel there concern/love for us by all that they did to help us survive in the cold cruel world.

If we didn’t grow up in the safest environment with the best possible family support, it is likely we may have fears about being intimate with others. Our fear often looks  like, “I am not getting my needs met” or “I can’t trust this person, they are going to hurt me.” However, if we want to feel joy and love in our lives, it is essential to learn how to build intimate relationships. 

How well do people really know you in your life?

What do you share and withhold in your relationships?

What is the relationship between sex and intimacy for you?

What do you need (physically, emotionally, spiritually, sexually)?

Here are some possible exercises related to intimacy:

 “Brainstorming: ways I avoid intimacy”

Group sculpture: how intimate does group feel

Out of group events

Asking for help

Trust fall


Lighting candles




Session 8: Personal growth

When we are lost, we need to find a map, study it, then find the best way to get to where we are going. In our lives, some of us don’t have a very good map or ask directions when we are lost.

If you had a magic wand, where would you be, who would you be with, what would you be doing?

Where is your life’s road map taking you right now?

How does your life’s mission, purpose, energy, values feel to you?

What do you do to excess and what don’t you do enough?

What is the role do your feelings have in keeping you stuck or moving you forward?

If knew you had 1, 3 or 5 years left to live, how would you live your life differently?

Here are some possible exercises related to personal growth:

Creating life goals

Strategic plan for living

Exploring love relationships (past &present)

Ending relationships and/or renewing commitments

Understanding the difference between half and full-hearted commitments

Session 9: Transition

Transitions are both natural and unavoidable.  Men will join and end their participation in the group for many different reasons. Some men are already too involved and need to set limits to outside activities. Other men are more isolated with very little to do.  Each man needs to decide when to transition out of the group, communicate this decision clearly, then make a transition plan.

What types of endings have you already experienced?

How do you handle endings?

How would it feel to talk about an ending for a few weeks or months?

What do you want your ending in the group to look like?

How will you send off  the group leaders when they have ended the facilitation?

Possible exercises:  

Creating ending rituals

Grieving exercises

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