Aug 07 2013

Victories 2008 Resignation Letter and Comments

Published by at 5:47 am under Counseling & Psychotherapy

Writers note: I am publishing this resignation letter on LinkedIn for the first time. It’s been published on one of my other websites and available publicly for about 8 years.

I’m publishing on LinkedIn to exert my right to free expression and explain some of the causes for my decision to resign in 2008. This marked many years of involvement, including the 2004-08 period as a Breakthrough leader and Board member.

The initial part of this post includes excerpts from my ebook, Escape from Oz and then the resignation letter is posted with no changes.

I made a few important contributions over the years, notably my involvement in the creation of the successful Psychodrama training, the nurturing and training of several leaders and Board members, and very high participant evaluations for all the weekends in which I was a part of the leadership team with Kurt Schultz and other men.

The following is an evaluation report sent to participants after one of the Psychodrama trainings (about 2005-06):

“In scoring the Psychodrama training program on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest), six of you gave it a 10, seven rated it a 9, and four gave scores of 8. The average was 9.12.

One-Word Descriptions. The words used were:

Awesome
Empowering
Enlightening
Enriching
Excited
Fabulous
Fantastic
Hopeful
Life-changing
Met All Expectations
Phenomenal
Sincere
Solidarity
Transformation

Comments. Here are some of the positive things you said about the program. We’ve included comments from all 17 evaluations.

“I liked the combination of explaining the process of heartwork and then doing it.”

“Small groups worked great.”

“Conversations at meals made me realize I could invite myself to participate in an initial weekend and that could be really good for both of us.”

“Demystifying heartwork was a special gift for me to receive.”

“I’m excited about bringing what I’ve learned back to my group.”

“Understanding more about the process is key to understanding more about myself and the other men going through the process.”

“I am amazed and filled with gratitude for the instant connection that this experience affords total strangers.”

“The process of demystifying heartwork and leadership will be the salvation of Victories. The idea of 18 men practicing the process is incredible.”

“Understanding how the process works is helpful, especially developing a common vocabulary.”

“I’d do this again in a minute.”

“Small group work was great.”

“VOTH is taking a wonderful new direction.”

“I went to my first staffing experience with no skills and an inadequate understanding of the heartwork process…. After this training, I feel that I really can bring something valuable – that I can help men open their hearts and, at the same time, open my own.”

“I was honored to be part of my brothers’ heartwork – it gave me great humility and opened up my heart.”

“It made me look at the word ‘service’ in a whole new way – in serving, one truly receives.”

“One giant step up the ladder.”

“I felt safe and nurtured.”

“This was a fantastic experience that perfectly addressed the process of heartwork. The ‘basic steps’ gave me a clear, easy-to-understand framework that allowed me to focus on the man and his work.”

“This was a confidence-building experience, as well as educational.”

“The program is energizing VOH as an organization.”

“It was great that it was overnight. It put us in the correct mindset to get into real work for a complete day.”

“Encouraging us to take on each role was a great experience.”

“I learned more about the process of self-discovery….”

“It was a good time to re-connect with my brothers and staff.”

“The theory explanations were extremely helpful to feeling more comfortable with facilitating heartwork myself.”

“I experienced a lot of safety.”

“I learned a lot about what makes heartwork effective. Learned the value of trusting the man’s inner wisdom and its ability to heal itself.”

Suggestions. Some of you gave recommendations for improving the Basic Staff Training program. They were:

“I felt there was a contradiction between the training goals & the heartwork – in other words, since some real great heartwork was going on, I deferred and was also led by the more experienced staff. Perhaps staff in the training for heartwork could step back a little to allow trainees to get the practice….”

“I would have liked more hands-on training with restraints for those doing anger pieces.”

“How about a book list.”

“Within time constraints it would have been nice to have spent some time teaching some of the support techniques – safe cradles, etc.”

“When presenting the heartwork process, it might be helpful to have a couple of men model it step by step – ‘Anatomy of Heartwork’.”

“…it was kind of hard or distracting to have 3 different groups do heartwork at the same time.”

“I would like more defined “dos” and “don’ts for most situations. I realize that all are different but need some defined basis to work from when facilitating.

The weekends I led with Kurt and the other leadership team routinely scored an average 4.7 on a 5 point scale. Descriptions like “life-changing and amazing” were common. There was not much to change or criticize in the Breakthrough weekend, and a careful review of my writing will not find any criticisms at all. Likewise, I have not published any criticism of the Wisdom years weekend.

Excerpts from Escape from Oz:

I want to state the Victories organization has made positive changes of many things I am critical of in this resignation letter. For my post summarizing some of these positive changes in the organization, click here.

Like everyone in America, I have a First Amendment right to write and speak freely. The First Amendment, a cornerstone of freedom in America states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievance.”

So, in America, no one should be afraid of speaking up, writing, protesting, even if someone may take offense to what is expressed. The additional concept is the importance of people asserting themselves and asking for their grievances/complaints to be heard.

For me also, it’s a way to stand up and protect myself. I don’t like being afraid of legal threats (4) from Victories and asserting myself helps me feel safer in the world.

Having a persistent threat hanging over me of some legal action has been a damaging and unfair burden. No one wants to be sued, especially if it’s a SLAPP lawsuit designed to silence a critic. (Skolnik, 2006)

I think it’s a very cruel joke I am the one being threatened with legal action.

Rather than cowering in fear anymore, I am publishing the truth and will respond to any legal threat or action. I am tired of being intimidated.

Although revealing some things, I am muted in the way I am writing. I write about the poor psychotherapy assessment and treatment I received (about 1990) and how my therapy ended prematurely and abruptly when I was selected to become one of the leaders in the Men’s Room about 1993.

Then, how my therapist informed me that I and my new leader partner were going to take him (the therapist) and the other principal out to dinner. It was not a comfortable dinner for me.

My referral to one of the Victories principals for therapy was unfortunate. I knew I was raised in a damaging, alcoholic family, but was looking for help, not a replication of that family. Without an accurate assessment and the pressure to build a men’s organization with other therapists like me, it was a perfect storm of how not to work with a serious trauma survivor.

I really do not fault him for his therapy, as he was a very supportive and kind therapist to work with for me at the time. He was unaware of his bias towards finding male therapists to work in his men’s program. He had engaged many other men in his program successfully, so it was a common treatment goal of his. Provide supportive individual therapy, then refer men into his weekend and follow-up group program.

Unfortunately, a few years ago, I was diagnosed with brain related problems probably caused by early childhood trauma. His kind listening approach was helpful, but the encouragement to quickly engage in intense men’s work processes was not the correct clinical approach. Think yoga and meditation, rather than the action oriented processes, like psychodrama.

I recovered a particularly traumatic event during my first session and I wish this had signaled to the therapist that there were some serious concerns. It did not. He rarely mentioned this recovered memory and I wonder now had I not brought it up myself if he would have never mentioned it again.

There’s a name now for when therapists avoid dealing with client’s trauma memories. It’s called co-constructive avoidance and occurs when the client and therapist unconsciously collude to avoid dealing with trauma memories. I was aware of my own avoidance. Being engaged in “helping” weekend programs during my therapy served to diminish my ability to talk about some of my deepest concerns.

The spreading out of my “informal therapy team” to include two other principals muddied the process a great deal. Where my individual therapy avoided trauma issues, my informal work with these men re-enacted my trauma and shocked my nervous system on an ongoing basis.

The trauma memory I recovered involved me taking a butcher knife, then threatening my drunk and abusive father to protect my mother and brothers. It was an awful experience, as one might imagine.

At my weekend program, I re-enacted this memory in a rudimentary psychodrama, but it left me dazed and probably dissociated. Then in my work with the “informal therapy team”, they encouraged me to bring “shadow objects” to use for preparation for weekend programs. They modeled this by bringing sharp objects and handcuffs, if I remember correctly. Naturally, they expected and I cooperated by bringing a butcher knife from my kitchen to re-enact the trauma memory over and over, continuing to shock my nervous system leaving me more vulnerable, probably dissociated.

Looking back, I expected more from this “informal therapy team.” I expected they really knew what I should do. My attachment to them was significant and I wanted to please them very much. It was difficult to look back and see how vulnerable they were and how they were probably experimenting with processes and I was one of the guinea pigs. They didn’t know as much as they thought they did and I’m sure this was difficult for them to understand.

I needed a safer, more steady treatment plan with one therapist to facilitate my trauma work. The trauma work now using imagery, EMDR, and exposure therapy has strict clinical and ethical protocols. What I experienced in this version of men’s work had no scientific basis and challenged many ethical standards in clinical practice, especially in using research to guide practice and problems with dual and multiple relationships. The current VOH leadership has addressed this problem, although I have little idea how it works within the program. It’s a step in the right direction.

I have no doubt my overall experience was re-traumatizing and unhealthy stimulation for my already unhealthy brain. It’s an example of how dangerous men’s programs could be when they mixed therapy techniques to heal in an informal weekend/group format where informed consent has not taken place.

The re-enactment of my knife trauma was a badly executed type of exposure therapy without my permission. My attachment to these men prohibited me from saying no or even understanding I should not be doing this.

My proper diagnostic work helped me understand my brain problems included high intellectual functioning (I can be very smart) and very low intellectual functioning when doing something new or with added stress (My cognitive abilities slow down and I can become paralyzed with doubt and confusion).

I’m sure my individual therapist was working with me in a strength based manner and either didn’t notice the low functioning part of me or was trying to reinforce my improvement. He was incredibly popular and effective in dealing with men in transition, such as going through a divorce. He just didn’t see the need for more specialized diagnostic work for me.

As a therapist myself, I understand the client needs to understand and engage in the evaluation and therapy process as a partner. I also didn’t know about my serious brain related problems either. Now having been accurately diagnosed, I am able to work more within my areas of intellectual strength and avoid the pitfalls of my intellectual vulnerability.

The other problem I think of as I write was the fact my treatment with him occurred at the same time he and his colleagues were trying to build a bigger men’s program and needed more volunteers and eventually leaders. When in my higher brain self, I was an ideal candidate for volunteering and leadership.

For him, it was providing unconditional positive regard during our sessions, saying very little. While in the middle of the session, he often seemed tired, at the beginning, he was engaging and at the end offering a big hug, even if the hug was out the door so he could get to his next client.

He was most energized when discussion drifted to the Men’s Room and comparisons with the Warrior weekend. He was one of the founders in this movement, so any focus on this made his eye’s glisten and glow. He told me the Warrior program was in a decline and the Men’s Room would soon overtake it in popularity.

I remember being confused a bit when I learned the Warrior program was expanding to many different cities and later countries. It’s an international men’s program now. He was wrong and I often wondered if he realized this. It was sort of like he thought if he just said something, it would be true. He was incredibly charismatic and could be very believable.

His office was something incredible to experience. Spacious, comfortable chairs and loveseats set in a circle surrounded by windows allowing natural light to filter in. He had the right men’s energy items, like drums and incredible artwork done by Dick Levon honoring his work with men in the Men’s Room.

At some point, the large painting behind the loveseat where I sat was changed. In it’s place was a large art piece depicting a young man holding the hand of a young child, probably a boy, walking off into the distance. The man and boy were shown from the back, so you didn’t see their faces. The colors were light and airy.

Walking into the office, the image was the first thing you would see before turning and sitting down. It faced the therapist continually, perhaps to remind him of the success of his work. He had other reminders of this success, such as awards from the American Family Therapy Association and the local Family Institute. I was in awe of these accomplishments and in him as well as a person and therapist.

At that time in the early 1990’s, I never thought of myself as a leader in the Men’s Room and never imagined I was on a path of conflict with this therapist and the the other principals who I had grown to love and admire.

On a primitive level, my therapist knew he could trigger access to deeper emotions for humans. He wrote about it in his book and I saw him in action from time to time. He was a celebrity therapist and I came to realize I was being groomed as a volunteer for what was called the Men’s Room.

Being threatened with legal action seems to have jarred my memory and willingness to write about details of my experience sooner than I had expected.

Besides, my writing has been truthful and an opportunity to offer my perspective of what happened during that time for me. It helps me to write and hopefully offers others perspective on why I have been so critical of the 2004-2008 organizational development process, the Shadow program, and the nature of my complaints.

I write with some discernment about what to reveal and not reveal. I am cautious to not offend anyone for my stated opinions.

I have no malicious intent to harm anyone, though it’s possible someone from back then who reads this could feel upset.

Also, I am supported by most recent legal findings about bloggers, such as myself, having the same rights as journalists. (ACLU, 1997)

In his website article, “Victory for Bloggers: Illinois Blog Wins Lawsuit”, Warner Todd Huston, reports:

“In a good sign for blogger free speech, a lawsuit against a high profile conservative blog in Illinois has just been tossed out…This is a victory for free political speech as well as a victory for the status of blogs in the world of “journalism.” (Huston, 2011)

So, more evidence and close to home for all those Illinois bloggers who are reporting on controversial topics. They have the same protection as mainstream journalists.

So, I have to assume I have these same rights and am protected, so long as I am not trying to defame anyone or cause damage to a person or organization. The organization has always said, it’s ok to “talk about your personal experience” and this is what I’m doing.

Who would be surprised to know there were disagreements, sharp elbows and fragile egos? Bottom line for me is I have advocated for vulnerable people all my life. I am not going to betray myself.

Finally on this matter, should a lawsuit be filed, everything about my complaints and other issues will become part of the public record. This will include 30 minutes of voice-mails, being asked to smoke pot and kill a pet rat as a staff person prior to a weekend (I did not and was told the others did not either), many emails documenting my failed efforts to address and resolve my complaints privately, and the concerted effort by the principals to discredit my complaints by telling the others I was “having an emotional breakdown.”

Even if it were true I was having an “emotional breakdown”, which it was not, the privacy of my medical/mental health status is protected by law.

Let’s just suppose I was having an “emotional breakdown”, wouldn’t it be likely those four men may have been really concerned about me and taken some action to offer me assistance? I think so. The fact they were so unconcerned they refused to meet with me suggests they didn’t want to give me the time of day and hear my concerns.

I’m guessing there was a splitting in their thought process where they forgot all of my loyal contributions and began to think of me as unworthy of their time.

How would the organization’s lawyers defend against this should they file a lawsuit against me? Any lawyer who seeks to silence me through threats should first read this multiple page email written by a known Victories figure. It would not be hard to find.

Of course, if a case went to court, I would depose this person and call him to testify. I wonder if it would be freeing for this person to tell the truth publicly too. Perhaps, it would untangle a small knot for him. It’s not easy to hide from evidence. A court where everything would be made public is the only level playing field. Since I am telling the truth, I am not afraid.

My conflicts with Victories principals were highlighted at the end in 2008, but as my resignation letter below describes, I was most upset at the deviation from the 2004 Strategic Plan for the 4 years in which I re-engaged. It’s true I held the principal leaders responsible for this deviation and describe the tangents they influenced directly and indirectly.

The principal leader teams were brilliant, charismatic, and very effective psychotherapist/leaders of weekends. They were very easy to admire and want to be close to. To be associated with them felt like a great honor. They had very successful private practices and I think we all assumed they were quite wealthy.

However, I didn’t think they had great organizational development abilities and they seemed less aware of characteristics which did not coincide with their idealized versions of themselves.

They seemed to me focused on their own agendas and had difficulty with the necessary, post 2004 shift from “I own this program” to “we share the ownership of these programs with a non-profit organization.”

They didn’t see the systemic connections and inter-dependence of various parts of the organization and that pressure to do one thing, especially, for example, selection of new leaders and expansion of the Wisdom years, would have an effect, perhaps a negative one, on other aspects of the program. The fact the Shadow program leaders did not anticipate the problems with the extensive nudity and silence expressed by their participants was stunning.

The Shadow program created a controversy, yet the leaders were angry at me and other stakeholders. Most of us concerned had heard about the extensive nudity and silence from friends or clients. I know I became wide-eyed when I heard about it and concerned for my clients well-being.

The Shadow program leaders anger when they felt criticized was familiar to me. I was a support staff person for them for several years, until I helped them with one of the first Shadow programs. A friend who was also helping had to leave on Thursday to return home, so it was just the leaders and myself.

I know becoming angry when they felt challenged or criticized was not uncommon and can document other instances if necessary. Among the principal leaders group it was not surprising to witness such processes.

My experience on that Thursday night and the following Shadow program led me to lose respect for these men who I had previously loved and held in the highest esteem. I soon left my involvement in the program, until being recruited back in 2004.

So, the very negative experience of participants at the recent Shadow program, my negative experience during and after the co-led January Breakthrough weekend, the defensive, angry response of the leaders, then the series of 30 minute voice-mails I found offensive, severed the threads which kept me tethered to them and the overall Victories program.

I came to believe the stress placed on volunteers for time and money was being misdirected on expanding the Wisdom years and operating the Shadow program. I like the Wisdom years program and think it’s fine for it to be a local program. With 7 million people,there are plenty of guys to fill weekends right in the Chicago area.

In 2008, I thought the Shadow weekend leaders should make the program a part of their private practice again and do whatever they want. If they wanted Victories to support it, I believed they should have surrendered to the leadership group process and allowed us to have input and sign off on the weekend’s processes.

I thought that was not only appropriate given all the Board and leaders liability, it would make the program stronger. It did not happen then and it did not seem clear it would happen any time soon.

Around Victories at that time, I often heard the concept of “everyone has their own truth” and not one truth rules over others. This is faulty logic and I never agreed with this notion. It’s true people have different perceptions about the same event. This does not mean all the different perspectives are equally true.

A therapist who insults a client might very well argue the client insulted them first and the client “had it coming to them.” However, anyone studying ethics and clinical practice understands ethical standards should be followed rigorously and serve to guide any clinical/professional practice.

In this brief case example, the therapist has more power and must exercise that power carefully and in the best interest of the client. Insulting the client is inappropriate. Insulting the client and then not apologizing and making amends in some way is contemptuous.

My key disagreement was my perception (you know, in my opinion) the organization did not follow the spirit and letter of the 2004 Strategic Plan. In my opinion, this involved the failure of leadership to surrender to the vision/mission of that excellent plan.

If the 2004 Strategic Plan had been followed, the organization may not have taken 12 years to move closer to the changes detailed in this plan. The principal leader team of the organization in the post-2004 period may not have so quickly created Wisdom program leaders and tried to expand to other cities without being ready.

This Wisdom years expansion was the most significant deviation from the Strategic plan. The plan called for the development of leadership training policies and standards before taking any action. The principal leaders went off, selected men on their own, including at least one from Boston.

I and the other 5 leaders along with the two founders were the designated decision-makers in the Strategic plan and operationally. This unilateral move by the principal leaders essentially neutered the other leaders and we were sent to the locker room to wait for the Wisdom years drama to play out.

Of course, we (at least me) were unable to see, hear or know anything about what was going on. Our original group of 6 leaders were supposed be part of the selection group for new leaders which my notes confirm from the last all leader group, but that never happened. I really had no problem with the men I already knew who were selected. It was the process that was terrible.

We were also supposed to meet the newly selected Wisdom years leaders, but it never happened. I never knew why, but research on group process offers some insight. A group splitting off into smaller groups (sub-grouping) is a normal process. However, it can have a positive or harmful impact on a group. (Yalom, 1985, pp. 331-351)

In this case, my opinion is the deliberate splitting of leadership teams and keeping them separate was based on some anxiety about integrating the two groups. I know from emails I received and kept, the principal team either ignored or were unaware of the significance of the leadership development committee’s work and recommendations.

There was nothing in our recommendations about the two principals going off and creating a new set of leaders without oversight. I knew the selection of new leaders had several downsides, one of them being the new leaders were not trained and evaluated by others before trying to “lead a weekend.” This happened to me in the early 1990’s and I know it happened to several other teams that failed.

I knew the key skill needed for new leaders was the facilitation of psychodrama.

All the men who collaborated in the development of the successful Psychodrama training in about 2005-06 deserve a lot of credit.

I had contacted the principals to ask about training ideas they had, but they had no real response. I didn’t understand at the time, but the fracturing of the organization had begun in earnest and there was no thought about any integrated trainings for all leaders.

Our committee discussed briefly the idea that all leaders could become cross-trained in the Breakthrough and Wisdom years program as a way to expand weekends and encourage collaboration. There were several men already who were staffing both weekends and I myself offered to staff a Wisdom years weekend after attending the Boston program.

In my opinion, the effort to create the Wisdom years leader team and attempt to expand to Boston, and then West somewhere caused chaos and a deeper bifurcation of the organizational and seriously damaged the development process.

Not only were new, inexperienced leaders selected, they were set up in a competitive position with existing leaders, most of us exhausted and probably experiencing vicarious traumatization from the deeply felt traumas of the men we worked with on weekends.

I believe it was a terrible idea and is an obvious explanation as to why the Wisdom program has not really expanded much in many years. I have no idea how easy it is to fill weekends, although I do suggest the program to men over 50 years old.

Like I said to a principal, recruitment is not the answer to filling weekends, in fact without an excellent program, recruitment can be counterproductive. This was the conversation which led down the rabbit hole and to 30 minutes of voice-mails I found offensive.

While a heartfelt apology would have resolved the negative messaging, the run around and then the refusal to meet and resolve the conflict alone or with mediation, escalated the conflict and began to feel like stonewalling and bullying.

I could feel the fledgling organization being split into two by this process, but only later realized the damage it did to the organizational development process. At the time, I was confused by the process and was simply irritated by the frequent pressure for me to do the Wisdom years program. It was ridiculous. Probably, similar to the type of jealous competition experienced among teenage girls for the attention of boys.

By far, Kurt Schultz, Board President, was the leader who helped the organization transition from leaders who owned weekends and shared the profits from weekends equally to an evolving non-profit where leaders received a stipend, equal to the donation they made each year. I knew Kurt well. We were leader partners and participated in psychodrama training at MKP with David Karr and others. Kurt was brilliant.

While we disagreed in the amount of leeway the principal leaders were given, the organization survived and still has the chance to thrive. I could see how one of the principals put excessive pressure on Kurt to silence me. It was the same dysfunctional systemic pattern repeating itself. The leader angers someone, denies accountability, and then places someone in the middle to fight their battle. In their mind, they think their hands stay clean, but their finger prints are everywhere.

So, Kurt led the organization into some type of transition, but I think the process broke down as a result of the Wisdom years pressures, then the nudity, excessive silence and lack of transparency (none of us knew what happened in the Shadow program) crisis in the Shadow weekend added fuel to the fire.

I didn’t start any of these fires. I had nothing to do with the Wisdom years or Shadow programs. Even though I didn’t realize the subterranean conflicts being acted out sideways, I knew it was not healthy for the organization or me.

However, the dysfunctional way the Wisdom leadership process and the Shadow weekend controversies were handled was clear evidence I had no clout and was a target of inappropriate anger. With no internal conflict resolution process and other leaders choosing to turn their heads, I left. I wish I had never engaged with Victories in about 1989 and then re-engaged in 2004.

My involvement in the post-2004 period allowed me to see and experience the unhealthy competition, tendency to expect more favorable treatment, and lack of empathy among leaders. That part was really not fun at all and there was no conflict resolution process. Conflicts occurred a lot, but were driven subterranean, only to come out sideways.

There was a glass floor beneath the feet of the principal leaders and god help you if you got too close.

Kurt was able to quickly get the leaders to end the profit-sharing of weekends quickly, but I wonder how much resentment remained for that decision. After 2004, leaders worked for free as our stipend equaled our annual donation. This, in itself, was radical and built a bridge to what the organization looks like now. The two Board Presidents since Kurt have continued to help the organization evolve and coalesce around sensible, effective planning and programming.

So, if I have offended anyone with this writing or any writing, feel free to let me know or add your own comments.

This resignation letter is published without any updated edits.

From 2008:

As I have been asked many questions about why I resigned my leadership role in the Victories of the Heart program, I am publishing my June 2008 resignation letter here for anyone interested.

I am writing to express my thanks to Kurt and the VOH board to allow me to share some parting ideas about the work that each of us believes is relevant and important for men, their families and their relationships.

My resignation comes at a time of great personal upheaval and a realization that I have many other challenges to face that are more important to my family and me than those facing VOH.Realistically, the leadership of Kurt and the professionalism brought by other VOH Board members has placed VOH strategically in a potential place for growth and development.

I applaud Kurt for his leadership and having worked with him so close for many years, I know his heart and mind are in the right place. I am but one of the VOH men who have benefited from his generosity and support. He will go straight to heaven.

I look back on my decisions to re-engage in VOH after about 10 years of disengagement as an opportunity to help enact some of the changes that I felt were needed to make the programs grow.

I am including the copy of my comments from the strategic planning process in 2004 as further evidence of my thinking and vision for VOH at that time.

My vision today has not changed. It includes the following:

1. Creation of a strong and informed Board of Directors

2. Organization acting as a not-for-profit

3. Creation of a new leadership model focused on training of leaders

4. Development of training in facilitation of psychodrama for all volunteers

5. Creation of a strong after weekend support group program

6. Introduction of evaluation for programs

In review of this vision, I can see that many of the parts of it have been successfully developed. Aspects related to the board were already in place when I re-engaged in the organization thanks to Kurt and others.

However, looking at the remaining aspects of my vision, I must say that I am very disappointed in the lack of progress during the last four years. Was my time wasted? Probably not, but I confess, I feel it was mostly wasted. I would not re-engage had I to do it over again.

Shortly after re-engaging, I went to work on the workbook for the Breakthrough Weekend support group with others. It was widely known that this aspect of the VOH program needed much improvement.

While a lot of public statements are made about how wonderful the groups are, there has been no research on whether this is true or not. We have anecdotal statements from men who are in or have been in groups that they are great experiences. However, we are not sure how many groups are actually out there in the community and what are the mechanisms that help them work.

Four years later, I judge that the VOH support group program is woefully inadequate. I don’t think anyone can really say how many groups are functioning and if so, what value they hold for their members.

This is the singlemost failure for which the leaders and the entire VOH organization should be held accountable.

What is the best way to encourage men to go to weekends?

1. Tell them honestly what to expect (rather than secrets).

2. Help them understand the elements of each program.

3. Provide the research that supports each program.

4. Allow access to the results of all the evaluations that are completed at the end of programs.

5. Stop everything else and develop a more competent approach to the support groups after each program, including the Wisdom Years, Breakthrough Weekend and the Shadow Weekend.

If Kurt had not provided the leadership to hire a group director, this concept would still be languishing in a file somewhere. Still, Kurt cannot do it all.

Regarding a new leadership model, I have long stated that the dyadic leadership team model has more weaknesses than strengths. I have seen and experienced how it encourages competition, hostility, and opposition to change among leaders. I have been personally victimized by this negative sub-grouping. I know others have been victimized too.

Due to the limiting structure of the dyadic leader teams, leaders mostly talk only to themselves and probably reinforce each other’s negative beliefs about the other leader teams.

One of the most simple, though irritating examples of this back-handed competition is the “pressured recruiting” of Breakthrough leaders who have not participated in the Wisdom Years. I had been one of them and was subject to frequent pressure to attend the Wisdom Years, as if my life was not yet complete until I experienced this weekend.

Ironically, I was the one (of this resistant group) to attend and have been the target of other pressure and mistreatment as a result of my evaluation of the experience.

To me, the limitations of the dyadic leader model has always bred hostility and damaged the potential for collaborative relationships. I am an example of this.

I worked on the committee led by Paul Kachoris to develop a structured leadership development program and we debated the pros and cons of the dyadic leadership team.

I thought we all agreed that we needed to change the model from a dyadic team to a three or four person leader team. The details were not worked out, but there seemed to be an agreement the old model did not work, so we needed to try a new model.

When it came to a decision-making moment during our (8 person) leadership team meeting, we reported our decision to experiment with a new model.

Another senior leader simply said he disagreed and that was the end of it. I looked around the room and everyone was silent. I look back at this moment as an example of the way things really work.

I should have resigned then.

What happened to the many hours of study and discussion the leadership development team devoted to this important issue? Nothing.

One person who was not at any of the meetings vetoed the idea and I suppose the other leaders were relieved not to have to give up their privileged status as “leaders for life.”

There is still confusion about how to create new leadership teams. How can this be possible given the positive success of other business and social service organizations in the creation of functional, successful leader teams usually consisting of 3-5 members?

What would happen if all athletic teams were made up of dyadic teams, instead of a cohesive group of players who all pitched in for the success of the team? There are no dyadic athletic teams for a reason. They could not succeed and they would not be fun. VOH’s dyadic leader teams can be successful in their own realm, but do little for building the organization. I would say they do more to hinder organizational development because of the limited vision and self-survival needs of those leader teams breed competition, rather than collaboration.

The psychodrama model that Kurt Schultz and I began to develop looked much more like an athletic team, than a dyadic leader model. We began to write, name and record psychodrama exercises and techniques in a training document to be used by the VOH organization. We developed basic steps in the process that volunteer men who are not therapists could learn the method.

We conducted two trainings per year which were very successful and highly evaluated by participants. It was the first time any training had been successful in de-mystifying the complicated process of leading psychodrama.

I wrote a professional article which was recently published. Here is the note from my Editor, Kate Sori, for the Therapist Notebook III where my article on psychodrama and body-centered therapy techniques will be published:

“Bill, your chapter on psychodrama and other body-centered therapy techniques was such a pleasure to read. I am really happy to include it in the Therapist Notebook III to be published sometime in 2008. The description of your work is awesome and your clients are lucky to have you as a therapist!” –Kate Sori, PhD

Why wasn’t my success in getting this article published recognized by the larger VOH leaders and organization? It would be good to get an answer. My sense is that the competition among leaders for “top dog” status played a role.

And how did the competition among leader teams specifically show up related to this new model of training and implementing psychodrama?

The argument that VOH should not have only “one” method of doing psychodrama, frequent reference that there are many ways to do psychodrama, and the worst and most cynical behind the back criticism called it a “clusterf..k” method.

Anyone who has been around men’s work knows that “clusterf..k” is used as a derogatory statement to criticise the way the Mankind Project (MKP) implements psychodrama.

Even as I write, I am shocked at how unscientific and resistant people and an organization can be to more effective ways of accomplishing significant tasks.

I am personally proud of my contribution to this effort, along with Kurt Schultz. The men who learned this model understand first hand how helpful it is to have a “conceptual map” to learn such a complex process.

Will VOH spend the next 10 years trying to find men who can commit to each other in a dyadic relationship?

If the answer is yes, VOH will continue to be stuck in the mud and have trouble filling weekends.

How many teams have failed already in this effort? I know at least 3 and I have no idea how the Wisdom Years program is run even after spending 4 years going to Board meetings and even attending the Boston weekend.

So, what is the theoretical model for Breakthrough weekends psychodrama? If you ask the current leaders, they will likely say “there are many different ways to facilitate psychodrama” and “no method fits all situations.”

But what are they really saying? What is the shadow (unspoken or unconscious) message?

The message is “if we keep telling everyone that the success of the psychodrama is based on the intimate relationship of the two leaders and we can continue to be the two leaders for the rest of our life, we will get all the glory when we are able to work some through a psychodrama process.”

Like the wizard behind the screen in the wizard of oz, keep the men thinking it is really the magic of the wizard(s) not a scientific and research based process that most anyone can learn.

The men in the Mankind Project’s New Warrior Training Adventure have used a collaborative model for many years. It’s not just two people, but teams of men who have been trained and experienced in facilitating psychodrama.

This is why MKP has programs around the world and VOH is still trying to figure out its own theoretical identity.

We can say that change takes time…but after nearly 20 years of trying and failing, why would the leaders not rally round the more collaborative model based on psychodrama research and practice? For there to be any growth in programs, leaders have to both lead and teach to help other men trying to step up into leadership.

I would have to rule out fears of competition, losing their leader status, resentment that they could not arrive at a way of doing this, and also grandiosity…no one else is supposed to be able to lead psychodrama work, except those chosen few, the ultimate success of any weekend based on the love of the two leaders for each other and that love trickling down to staff (or is it “servicemen”) and the participants at weekends.

The other problem with the leadership development process was the lack of cohesion and transparency in the original VOH leadership group. Two principal leaders left the original leader group right after vetoing experimenting with a new leader model.

It is true that there was a meeting where they presented the idea of them setting up meetings with prospective WY leaders, but it was stated that any new people would not be placed on the VOH board and would not participate in the current team of leaders (bob, buddy, paul, kevin, bill kurt, steve and joe).

It was a subtle, but definitive moment. Two leaders went off and created a separate group of leaders who became competitors to the Breakthrough leaders and probably among themselves as well. The two leaders who went off alone chose them and no one from the other leader team or VOH board had any input.

As I look back on this, I personally can say it was like a secret demotion. I went from being one of eight leaders in the organization to being a leader in one program along with what turned out to be many leaders in the Wisdom Years program.

Am I saying this was wrong? Yes. I believe I had earned the right to be a leader through my own hard work, study, leading support groups over many years for the Breakthrough Weekend, writing, training, participating on the VOH Board (who really likes Board meetings?:), training, credentials, brains and other activities.

After several years, I still had not met most of the Wisdom Years leaders and still do not know what they did to earn the privilege of being a program leader.

I suspect that being the therapy client of someone played a role.

What has been the result of this decision?

To date, the Wisdom Years leaders have been reluctant to meet with the other Breakthrough leaders…for some unknown reason.

This is not a good thing….certainly on the cohesive and collaborative scale, seems like more negative outcomes for leaders.

Looking at evaluation, I would say there is some progress here. Rick Simon is a professional person and will eventually get all the leaders to begin doing evaluations and submitting them to him or Kurt or the appropriate board person.

However, shouldn’t the VOH board have received the results of all the evaluations? I believe so. The evaluations are not just for the leaders, but for the Board and entire organization.

So, in closing, I reached a point of frustration and lost hope that any of the changes I saw as important to the organization would happen soon. I accept that I became impatient and saw various maneuvers to bring the organization back to a place of “working for a few”, rather than “for the whole.”

Things like paying for someone to write a play, the idea of the Wisdom Years expanding to another city, the squabbles of where to have the annual dinner, who should the dinner proceeds go to, my time wasted debating the appropriateness of prolonged nudity and silence during a weekend, and finally the inappropriate, video shown at the annual dinner 2 years ago (about 2006), all led me to lose faith in the integrity of the men involved to follow the spirit of the organizations strategic plan adopted by the VOH Board.

I also lost faith in my own ability to weather the storms of resistance I saw and experienced related to creating healthy change in the organization’s program, procedures, and culture.

Apparently, I was the only one who placed more importance on the items of my vision, which is identical to the vision detailed in the strategic plan.

For others, a play, special interests about certain parts of weekends, getting a DVD, taking “their” program to other cities (like the MKP?)….all these issues I considered a deviation from the original vision and mission I signed up for in 2003-4.

I don’t hold my views expressed in this letter out to be the only truth. I encourage others to speak up, write, and further the dialogue about differences and conflict, so characteristic in a democratic society.

I hope that the men remaining will be strong and open in their debate about where VOH is headed. Things have not changed enough for me and the universe has conspired with me to dramatically change the way I do things.

I wish all of you well.

Sincerely,

Bill Martin, LCSW

I am writing to express my thanks to Kurt and the VOH board to allow me to share some parting ideas about the work that each of us believes is relevant and important for men, their families and their relationships.

My resignation comes at a time of great personal upheaval and a realization that I have many other challenges to face that are more important to my family and me than those facing VOH.

Realistically, the leadership of Kurt and the professionalism brought by other VOH Board members has placed VOH strategically in a potential place for growth and development.

I applaud Kurt for his leadership and having worked with him so close for many years, I know his heart and mind are in the right place. I am but one of the VOH men who have benefited from his generosity and support. He will go straight to heaven.

I look back on my decisions to re-engage in VOH after about 10 years of disengagement as an opportunity to help enact some of the changes that I felt were needed to make the programs grow.

I am including the copy of my comments from the strategic planning process in 2004 as further evidence of my thinking and vision for VOH at that time.

My vision today has not changed. It includes the following:

1. Creation of a strong and informed Board of Directors

2. Organization acting as a not-for-profit

3. Creation of a new leadership model focused on training of leaders

4. Development of training in facilitation of psychodrama for all volunteers

5. Creation of a strong after weekend support group program

6. Introduction of evaluation for programs

In review of this vision, I can see that many of the parts of it have been successfully developed. Aspects related to the board were already in place when I re-engaged in the organization thanks to Kurt and others.

However, looking at the remaining aspects of my vision, I must say that I am very disappointed in the lack of progress during the last four years. Was my time wasted? Probably not, but I confess, I feel it was mostly wasted. I would not re-engage had I to do it over again.

Shortly after re-engaging, I went to work on the workbook for the Breakthrough Weekend support group with others. It was widely known that this aspect of the VOH program needed much improvement.

While a lot of public statements are made about how wonderful the groups are, there has been no research on whether this is true or not. We have anecdotal statements from men who are in or have been in groups that they are great experiences. However, we are not sure how many groups are actually out there in the community and what are the mechanisms that help them work.

Four years later, I judge that the VOH support group program is woefully inadequate. I don’t think anyone can really say how many groups are functioning and if so, what value they hold for their members.

This is the singlemost failure for which the leaders and the entire VOH organization should be held accountable.

What is the best way to encourage men to go to weekends?

1. Tell them honestly what to expect (rather than secrets).

2. Help them understand the elements of each program.

3. Provide the research that supports each program.

4. Allow access to the results of all the evaluations that are completed at the end of programs.

5. Stop everything else and develop a more competent approach to the support groups after each program, including the Wisdom Years, Breakthrough Weekend and the Shadow Weekend.

If Kurt had not provided the leadership to hire a group director, this concept would still be languishing in a file somewhere. Still, Kurt cannot do it all.

Regarding a new leadership model, I have long stated that the dyadic leadership team model has more weaknesses than strengths. I have seen and experienced how it encourages competition, hostility, and opposition to change among leaders. I have been personally victimized by this negative sub-grouping. I know others have been victimized too.

Due to the limiting structure of the dyadic leader teams, leaders mostly talk only to themselves and probably reinforce each other’s negative beliefs about the other leader teams.

One of the most simple, though irritating examples of this back-handed competition is the “pressured recruiting” of Breakthrough leaders who have not participated in the Wisdom Years. I had been one of them and was subject to frequent pressure to attend the Wisdom Years, as if my life was not yet complete until I experienced this weekend.

Ironically, I was the one (of this resistant group) to attend and have been the target of other pressure and mistreatment as a result of my evaluation of the experience.

To me, the limitations of the dyadic leader model has always bred hostility and damaged the potential for collaborative relationships. I am an example of this.

I worked on the committee led by Paul Kachoris to develop a structured leadership development program and we debated the pros and cons of the dyadic leadership team.

I thought we all agreed that we needed to change the model from a dyadic team to a three or four person leader team. The details were not worked out, but there seemed to be an agreement the old model did not work, so we needed to try a new model.

When it came to a decision-making moment during our (8 person) leadership team meeting, we reported our decision to experiment with a new model.

Another senior leader simply said he disagreed and that was the end of it. I looked around the room and everyone was silent. I look back at this moment as an example of the way things really work.

I should have resigned then.

What happened to the many hours of study and discussion the leadership development team devoted to this important issue? Nothing.

One person who was not at any of the meetings vetoed the idea and I suppose the other leaders were relieved not to have to give up their privileged status as “leaders for life.”

There is still confusion about how to create new leadership teams. How can this be possible given the positive success of other business and social service organizations in the creation of functional, successful leader teams usually consisting of 3-5 members?

What would happen if all athletic teams were made up of dyadic teams, instead of a cohesive group of players who all pitched in for the success of the team? There are no dyadic athletic teams for a reason. They could not succeed and they would not be fun. VOH’s dyadic leader teams can be successful in their own realm, but do little for building the organization. I would say they do more to hinder organizational development because of the limited vision and self-survival needs of those leader teams breed competition, rather than collaboration.

The psychodrama model that Kurt Schultz and I began to develop looked much more like an athletic team, than a dyadic leader model. We began to write, name and record psychodrama exercises and techniques in a training document to be used by the VOH organization. We developed basic steps in the process that volunteer men who are not therapists could learn the method.

We conducted two trainings per year which were very successful and highly evaluated by participants. It was the first time any training had been successful in de-mystifying the complicated process of leading psychodrama.

I wrote a professional article which was recently published. Here is the note from my Editor, Kate Sori, for the Therapist Notebook III where my article on psychodrama and body-centered therapy techniques will be published:

“Bill, your chapter on psychodrama and other body-centered therapy techniques was such a pleasure to read. I am really happy to include it in the Therapist Notebook III to be published sometime in 2008. The description of your work is awesome and your clients are lucky to have you as a therapist!” –Kate Sori, PhD

Why wasn’t my success in getting this article published recognized by the larger VOH leaders and organization? It would be good to get an answer. My sense is that the competition among leaders for “top dog” status played a role.

And how did the competition among leader teams specifically show up related to this new model of training and implementing psychodrama?

The argument that VOH should not have only “one” method of doing psychodrama, frequent reference that there are many ways to do psychodrama, and the worst and most cynical behind the back criticism called it a “clusterf..k” method.

Anyone who has been around men’s work knows that “clusterf..k” is used as a derogatory statement to criticise the way the Mankind Project (MKP) implements psychodrama.

Even as I write, I am shocked at how unscientific and resistant people and an organization can be to more effective ways of accomplishing significant tasks.

I am personally proud of my contribution to this effort, along with Kurt Schultz. The men who learned this model understand first hand how helpful it is to have a “conceptual map” to learn such a complex process.

Will VOH spend the next 10 years trying to find men who can commit to each other in a dyadic relationship?

If the answer is yes, VOH will continue to be stuck in the mud and have trouble filling weekends.

How many teams have failed already in this effort? I know at least 3 and I have no idea how the Wisdom Years program is run even after spending 4 years going to Board meetings and even attending the Boston weekend.

So, what is the theoretical model for Breakthrough weekends psychodrama? If you ask the current leaders, they will likely say “there are many different ways to facilitate psychodrama” and “no method fits all situations.”

But what are they really saying? What is the shadow (unspoken or unconscious) message?

The message is “if we keep telling everyone that the success of the psychodrama is based on the intimate relationship of the two leaders and we can continue to be the two leaders for the rest of our life, we will get all the glory when we are able to work some through a psychodrama process.”

Like the wizard behind the screen in the wizard of oz, keep the men thinking it is really the magic of the wizard(s) not a scientific and research based process that most anyone can learn.

The men in the Mankind Project’s New Warrior Training Adventure have used a collaborative model for many years. It’s not just two people, but teams of men who have been trained and experienced in facilitating psychodrama.

This is why MKP has programs around the world and VOH is still trying to figure out its own theoretical identity.

We can say that change takes time…but after nearly 20 years of trying and failing, why would the leaders not rally round the more collaborative model based on psychodrama research and practice? For there to be any growth in programs, leaders have to both lead and teach to help other men trying to step up into leadership.

I would have to rule out fears of competition, losing their leader status, resentment that they could not arrive at a way of doing this, and also grandiosity…no one else is supposed to be able to lead psychodrama work, except those chosen few, the ultimate success of any weekend based on the love of the two leaders for each other and that love trickling down to staff (or is it “servicemen”) and the participants at weekends.

The other problem with the leadership development process was the lack of cohesion and transparency in the original VOH leadership group. Two principal leaders left the original leader group right after vetoing experimenting with a new leader model.

It is true that there was a meeting where they presented the idea of them setting up meetings with prospective WY leaders, but it was stated that any new people would not be placed on the VOH board and would not participate in the current team of leaders (bob, buddy, paul, kevin, bill kurt, steve and joe).

It was a subtle, but definitive moment. Two leaders went off and created a separate group of leaders who became competitors to the Breakthrough leaders and probably among themselves as well. The two leaders who went off alone chose them and no one from the other leader team or VOH board had any input.

As I look back on this, I personally can say it was like a secret demotion. I went from being one of eight leaders in the organization to being a leader in one program along with what turned out to be many leaders in the Wisdom Years program.

Am I saying this was wrong? Yes. I believe I had earned the right to be a leader through my own hard work, study, leading support groups over many years for the Breakthrough Weekend, writing, training, participating on the VOH Board (who really likes Board meetings?:), training, credentials, brains and other activities.

After several years, I still had not met most of the Wisdom Years leaders and still do not know what they did to earn the privilege of being a program leader.

I suspect that being the therapy client of someone played a role.

What has been the result of this decision?

To date, the Wisdom Years leaders have been reluctant to meet with the other Breakthrough leaders…for some unknown reason.

This is not a good thing….certainly on the cohesive and collaborative scale, seems like more negative outcomes for leaders.

Looking at evaluation, I would say there is some progress here. Rick Simon is a professional person and will eventually get all the leaders to begin doing evaluations and submitting them to him or Kurt or the appropriate board person.

However, shouldn’t the VOH board have received the results of all the evaluations? I believe so. The evaluations are not just for the leaders, but for the Board and entire organization.

So, in closing, I reached a point of frustration and lost hope that any of the changes I saw as important to the organization would happen soon. I accept that I became impatient and saw various maneuvers to bring the organization back to a place of “working for a few”, rather than “for the whole.”

Things like paying for someone to write a play, the idea of the Wisdom Years expanding to another city, the squabbles of where to have the annual dinner, who should the dinner proceeds go to, my time wasted debating the appropriateness of prolonged nudity and silence during a weekend, and finally the inappropriate, video shown at the annual dinner 2 years ago (about 2006), all led me to lose faith in the integrity of the men involved to follow the spirit of the organizations strategic plan adopted by the VOH Board.

I also lost faith in my own ability to weather the storms of resistance I saw and experienced related to creating healthy change in the organization’s program, procedures, and culture.

Apparently, I was the only one who placed more importance on the items of my vision, which is identical to the vision detailed in the strategic plan.

For others, a play, special interests about certain parts of weekends, getting a DVD, taking “their” program to other cities (like the MKP?)….all these issues I considered a deviation from the original vision and mission I signed up for in 2003-4.

I don’t hold my views expressed in this letter out to be the only truth. I encourage others to speak up, write, and further the dialogue about differences and conflict, so characteristic in a democratic society.

I hope that the men remaining will be strong and open in their debate about where VOH is headed. Things have not changed enough for me and the universe has conspired with me to dramatically change the way I do things.

I wish all of you well.

Sincerely,

Bill Martin, LCSW

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