Aug 08 2012

voh shad II

Published by at 6:53 am under Counseling & Psychotherapy

For the last several years, I have not recommended the Victories of the Heart Shadow Weekend.Since there has been so much secrecy and unhealthy leader competition related to this program’s development, and the VOH website does not publish much information, I still do not recommend this experience.

If you are considering participating or referring a man to this program, first ask the following questions:

  • Will there be any nudity?
  • What research findings guide this program?
  • Will participants be asked to disrobe and put on other clothing? If yes, what and why?
  • Is there use of silence? If yes, for how long?
  • What are the risks for injury or retraumatization (for men who may be trauma survivors)?
  • What is the screening process?
  • What is the training for anyone leading a sweat lodge during this program? How is this sweat lodge similar or different from the MKP NWTA sweat lodge?
  • How many of the therapist-leaders’ private psychotherapy clients may be participants?
  • What safeguards are in place for any complicated dual-relationships possible during the program?
  • Has the VOH organization thoroughly reviewed the program plan for this weekend? Are all Board members in support and willing to assume liability in the event of problems?

The last Shadow Weekend held (I am aware of) resulted in a cycle of unresolved internal personal and organizational conflicts among several leaders (including me).

Unfortunately, the secrecy of this weekend prevented other leaders and Board members from finding out about the extensive nudity and mandatory silence until after the weekend.

An attempt to mediate these conflicts failed at the time and, to the best of my knowledge, the next scheduled Shadow Weekend failed to attract enough participants.

Rather than address the legitimate professional and ethical issues related to the participant nudity of the previous Shadow Weekend, the conflict resolution process was circumvented by a unilateral decision to have participants to the weekend arrive, and exchange their clothes for a pair of black gym shorts.

It was, “OK, here’s the solution, black gym clothes, end of discussion.”

How were the men to change from being fully clothed to wearing a pair of black gym shorts?

I still would like to know. And I am still curious to know the ethical and clinical rational for asking men to not be fully clothed.

My judgment remains that asking men to disrobe could potentially trigger emotionally damaging memories, especially for men who were sexual abuse survivors.

As I have written before and discussed with the principals of this program, it’s an inferior alternative to the MKP New Warrior Training Program.

Many of the Jungian themes and activities would be a reminder to a knowledgeable participant of the MKP experience.
While it’s billed as the next step for Victories of the Heart loyalists, those men might be better advised to attend the MKP weekend instead, if they are seeking this type of experience.

The willingness of the VOH organization to support another attempt to run this weekend, as well as the principals desire to run the weekend, illustrates the lack of insight and conflict resolution in the organization and the misuse of power by long-term leaders.

Those associated with this program have had many, many years to make a go of it and have had mediocre success.

And why the mediocre success? Some might say it’s because the program has critics like myself who suggest men not participate.

I sincerely doubt I or others have that much power to persuade anyone one way or the other.

It may be more helpful to the VOH principals involved in the creation and implementation of this program to start looking at their own motivation, the internal organizational conflicts which have led to lukewarm support, and the ambiguous, and perhaps, discouraging, self-defeating language on the website.

The website states:

“…when the Shadow+Info Weekend concludes, each man leaves with a deeper understanding of and connection to his dark side…”

Dark side? So, a bunch of middle and upper-class white men sit around and discuss their “dark side?”

An African-American man might wonder why these white men have chosen “dark” to describe something potentially negative about themselves and other human beings.

If the VOH principals were more studious and considered the symbolic meaning of their words, they might find the ample research findings that skin color plays a major role in attitudes about the value of human beings and is the key factor in racism.

They may have found the seven minute film exploring attitudes about skin color which clearly suggests that the “darker” the skin color, the “less” the person.

And the VOH principals want men to find and understand their shadow or “dark” side? It’s more than old and ambiguous, it is not a great marketing strategy.

In addition to the shadow being a very old psychological construct, it is not validated by any contemporary clinical research. Jungian psychology was very popular as a theoretical base for “men’s movement” activities in the 1990’s, but that was nearly 2o years ago.

For VOH to become a more functional organization, the intelligent men involved need to take charge, revise, retool, and rename the shadow weekend so it meets the contemporary needs of men and truly becomes a legitimate next step.

The alternative is to accept the verdict of the market. Men are not that interested in this program.

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