Archive for the 'Men’s Programs' Category

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.

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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 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 Jay Karant, 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 publically 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.

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Jun 12 2015

Victories and Their Legal Threats to Silence My Writing: A Response to their 2011 Threatening Lawyer’s Letter

It’s been several years since I was initially threatened with lawsuits if I continued to write and publish about my experience in Victories of the Heart, previously known as the Men’s Room, now known as Victories for Men.

I so regret most of my involvement, especially the leadership and Board involvement.  Read my 2008 resignation letter here.

A graduate school associate at the time, Kevin Fitzpatrick referred me to Bob Mark for psychotherapy about 1989, then for some reason, changed his mind and suggested the late Buddy Portugal. Portugal was charismatic, with lots of hubris. His office seemed to be designed by an art director and interior design specialist to appeal to psychotherapy clients, especially men.

During the time I worked with Portugal, he changed the art work behind the couch where I sat. The new art work was directly in front of him, so he could look at it all day during his work. It was a fabric art piece of an older man holding the hand of a younger male child. Their profiles were facing away, so you could only see their backs.

It seems like the piece was meant to be evocative, much like everything else in his office, neatly placed to convey some meaning to the observer.

At the time, I concluded the art was meant to suggest how caring Portugal was to his clients. He wanted to be known as a loving father figure who held the hands of his children. To him, his clients were like his children, offering them the relationship correcting the harm or neglect of real parents.

Later, when I got to know Portugal better, especially the way I experienced him turning against me, demeaning me in voice-mails and to others in meetings and a Board meeting (May 17), the art piece took on a more sinister meaning. He had the piece commissioned by the wife of an early Men’s Room principal, so Portugal most likely told the artist exactly what he was looking for.

I considered everything done and said as projections of aspects of Portugal and the others they didn’t want revealed. So, the meaning of the art piece became at least suggestive to me of an older man who wanted to keep his real identity hidden. The older man holding the hand of the young boy suggested a desire to control and the walking forward suggested the older man taking the young boy somewhere that might not be safe.

It was definitely not clear the older man was the father of the young boy, so the more sinister meaning became more prominent to me, where the older man needed the young boy too much. One’s imagination could conjure multiple meanings and extend in many different directions.

Why had Fitzpatrick changed his mind and referred me to Portugal? I learned much later Fitzpatrick relied on Portugal for referrals and wondered if it was some quid pro quo on his part. I could easily imagine Fitzpatrick making this decision even knowing Portugal was a less brilliant therapist than Bob Mark. It was like offering up someone who would be a good client, a therapist (me) with a good reputation, to Portugal to add to his stable of therapist clients, emerging sycophants for the Men’s Room.

Portugal was not a good fit for me.

For Portugal, it seemed one solution fit all problems, namely seeing him individually and participating in his men’s weekend, then called the Men’s Room.

Ultimately, this was not helpful for me. I was much later diagnosed with serious brain health issues, likely caused by early childhood trauma. I was very smart, but had serious cognitive impairments when faced with new or challenging situations. This made me vulnerable to people to whom I gave my trust. My mistaken trust in a mortgage broker led to heavy losses in the 2005 recession and my re-engagement with Victories in 2003 are two significant examples.

I’m not sure Portugal thought much about my trauma and the impact it may have had on my brain. It was the early 1990’s and research was still being done to explain the complex way trauma impacted the brain. Also, he had some kind of learning problem and didn’t read much. He was the type of therapist who listened a lot and could give you the impression of great concern.

Yet, there were times too when his eyes struggled to remain open and he seemed tired during our early morning sessions. He told me he never took notes and many years later, he proved this when I formally asked him for my psychotherapy file, and he sent me a christmas card I sent him of my family and an insurance claim copy. Nothing else.  It’s significant to note he decided it was time to end our therapy right after I was selected to form a new leadership team with a friend for the Men’s Room program.

In summary, I was recruited to join his men’s program as a leader in about 1993, did so, then left the same year…then was recruited again by Paul Kachoris whose male energy spell I was still under in 2003, despite my concerns about my experiences helping with one of his early or earliest Shadow weekend. I rejoined becoming a co-leader with Kurt Schultz a brilliant man whose vulnerability was in service to authority.

By 2007, I could see Portugal and Mark had subverted the 2004 Strategic planning process in their desire to make their Wisdom Years program come close to their hype of it being the only program of its type for men over 50. It could not come close to the hype. I attended the Boston Wisdom years and liked the experience. However, it was not a tour de force. Portugal’s two requests for me to provide an evaluation of this program (I wrote one at the end of the weekend) led to many disrespectful and degrading voice-mails. Click here to read some of these voice-mails from Portugal.

He at first seemed to understand he had crossed a line and was poised to apologize. However, after a meeting with Kurt, he changed his tune. He quoted Kurt as having said the only problem with the voice-mails was Portugal describing me as “chronically disappointed.” This began the cover-up and efforts to damage my credibility and integrity and scapegoat me as having an “emotional breakdown.”

I didn’t believe Kurt would minimize Portugal’s offensive emails. I was driving to a meeting with Kurt and he wanted me to play the voice-mails for him. He played them on his bluetooth system in his car. He was very upset and told me it reminded him of a similar time he was asked to be a part of a meeting where the founders expressed a lot of anger towards a volunteer.  This volunteer has a name and many of us have spoken to him about this. It’s common knowledge or one of those secrets everyone knows. Kurt told me he was shocked and speechless during and after their outburst.

There were three other men who had the wrath of the founders directed at them, in addition to me. I’m sure many others heard about these incidents. All but mine was kept hush-hush and the founders were able to maintain the illusion they were all kind and giving. Kurt asked me to offer support to another Board member and colleague who received the wrath of two other principal leaders, simply because he could only make one pre-weekend staff meeting instead of two. Another colleague contacted me after a similar event with these two same leaders.

In respect to these leaders, I was also accused of extortion because I brought up the fact they pressured me to smoke pot and kill a pet rat the night before a certain weekend in the very beginning of my dispute with Portugal. Killing any animal is a class 3 and 4 felony in Illinois.

My claim about the pot and killing the pet rat (and the spontaneous anti-semitism…”those f….ing Jew boys”) are completely true and would require the two other men to lie to deny it.

I admit, I was intimidated and fearful of these men. These men had more power than me in our relationship and I needed them more than they needed me. In placing so much importance in my relationship with them, the possibility they would reject me was disturbing. Place this in the “fear of abandonment” category. My loyalty to these men became more and more challenged after a failed attempt to collaborate during a Breakthrough weekend and a miserable failure to deal with the issue of nudity and effort to reform and improve the Shadow weekend.

While it’s difficult to completely assess, the Shadow weekend has limped along since the early 1990’s and is only offered once per year. Compare this with the Warrior weekend which began a few years earlier, but now is offered countless times all over the globe. The architects of the Shadow and Wisdom years weekends have to assume some responsibility for the lackluster success.

On the other hand, the Psychodrama training, which I had a role  in creating, has been offered each year since the mid 2000’s and even offers CEU’s to professionals.  Although I am taking some credit now (Victories offers none), it’s success is based on the collaborative approach in its creation and scientific research on neuroscience (priming, state and context dependent memory, and brain structure functioning), psychodrama research, and the several “guts” work trainings (Warrior’s psychodrama) I attended.

Since I remained silent about the rat and pot incident and the accusation of me extorting them, they were successful in the pressure they placed on me to not reveal these inappropriate behaviors. It wasn’t until the Penn State abuse saga where the Administrators at Penn State were found to have protected the pedophile coach that I realized I was being subjected to inappropriate pressure to keep something secret which protected two men I once thought of as friends at a disservice to myself.

While Kurt alleged in the lawyer letter to me that I had lied and distorted what these men said and did, he also claimed I violated the confidentiality agreement to keep what happens on weekends secret. Despite being completely untrue, the lawyer’s letter claiming I broke confidentiality reveals the hint Kurt knew I was being completely truthful. It’s a lot of lawyer talk but ordinary people might read it as “well they didn’t say that and you distort other things and even if they said and did something like this, you were obliged to keep it secret.”

Later, during my meeting with Kurt right before he died, I told him I couldn’t negotiate with him as he was sick and what was unsaid then, dying. He wanted me to sign an agreement to remove all my Victories writing and agree to never write again about Victories. I was not doing it, plus I knew he knew everything he wrote for the lawyers’ letter was untrue.

I didn’t have the heart to engage in that discussion with him.

Our lives and decisions are only clear as we look back and study ourselves. In this case, the angry accusation of me extorting these men immediately made me fear their rejection, as they held great power in my life. I believed I needed them and the loss of their attention and approval seemed impossible at the time.

All of these events happened in relative privacy. There were always others who heard about it or witnessed it, like Kurt or other men in those staffing groups who watched in fear probably as two supposed leaders raised their voices to intimidate others with less power than them.

Kurt knew me, trusted me and understood I had already made several significant contributions to the organization, and knew I was not lying, no matter what content he wrote for the letter the Victories lawyer sent me.

Kurt was vulnerable to respect for authority and Buddy was a little like Darth Vader who could wave his hand and get you to believe and do just about anything. No doubt he co-opted Kurt who was just trying to keep things together, too much by himself.

So, Portugal began an even more damaging cat and mouse (I was the mouse) game where he cancelled a meeting and offered times so far in the future, it became clear he would not apologize and even perhaps felt no remorse. He certainly was in no rush to meet and resolve the damage he had done with his voice-mails.

He initially promised to listen to the voice-mails, as he “didn’t remember” what he said. However, when I sent him the cd of the voice-mails, his tune changed. He said he would not listen to them until we could “meet and listen to them together.”

I knew when his tune changed, his plan was to stonewall me and if we met, try to convince me that I was the one who had wronged him. I had quickly begun to request some type of mediation, as I knew Portugal would not meet with me alone in good faith. He searched for external validation and apologizing to me, even saying the words, “I am sorry” were not in his vocabulary. This is quite evident if you read the voice-mails and if you hear the voice-mails, his snarly, though confused defensiveness and entitlement is loud and clear.

The narrative became easy to understand as I listened to his projections of me avoiding him and not accepting his apologies. He had never made an apology and in the voice-mails and brief note he sent me, there is no hint of any remorse or accountability from him, while he continued to weave a narrative that I had injured him.

Initially, he claimed not to remember the content and tone of the most offensive voicemail and offered to listen again. I sent him a cd of all the voice-mails, but he had become more defiant and refused to listen to them until we met and would listen to them together. This was just one example, though significant, of the runaround Portugal gave me about a meeting.

I’m sure when he claimed to others I refused to meet with him, he did not disclose his cancelled meeting with me, and then his high pressure attempt to get me to “listen to his voicemails with him” as a way of manipulating me to end my complaints against him.

The context for the Wisdom years evaluation was my growing disagreement with the Portugal and the other three principals ignoring the 2004 Strategic plan which called for a transformation from a feudal system of so-called leaders subserviant to the founders who were not direct or powerful leaders. They were influential, but seemed to me to do more to sabotage themselves and the organization than help. I address many of these problems in my 2008  resignation letter which can be read here.

In my complaint against Portugal, I wanted him to acknowledge he had not apologized to me (as I was certain he claimed) and go to psychotherapy to address whatever personality or emotional problems he had that would lead him to degrade me, a person who had only done good things for him and his men’s program.

The organization and the men in power who protected him did not help him by allowing him to hide behind their backs. He died sometime after this dispute. Could his death had been averted if he engaged in psychotherapy seriously and addressed any underlying or undiagnosed health problem? We will never know. However, I believe those principals failed Portugal and the overall organization by enabling his inappropriate behavior, which may have included his neglect of his own health.

In a private meeting between Bob Mark, Paul Kachoris and Kevin Fitzpatrick, and Buddy Portugal agreed among themselves they would not meet with me discrediting my complaints publicly as arising from an “emotional breakdown.” I know this from a 5 page email I received from one of the participants at the meeting. I was not informed about the meeting and only learned of it when I received the email.

In this May 17, 2008 email, this person writes a great deal about the meeting and the pressure to discredit my complaints ( I had written a formal complaint with a long list of specific grievances related to the deviation from the 2004 Strategic plan, not just the voicemails by Portugal) by accusing me of having an “emotional breakdown.”

In his way, this writer expresses his displeasure with the focus and tenor of their meeting, indicates he lodged a soft protest claiming I was “a person of good intellect and  they should listen to my complaints.”

He states, “…then everyone was making about you just having an emotional breakdown and not giving you credence for many of the important things you were saying. (Again, at the Victories Board meeting of the 7th of May 2008, I said that about you in front of 18 men, including Buddy who was sitting across from me and I was staring right at him!)” (anonymous email. 2008, May 17)

It’s pretty sad. They believed my legitimate complaints rose from a place of an emotional breakdown, yet refused to meet with me. One would think esteemed mental health practitioners would want to reach out to a colleague who they felt was having an emotional breakdown. I believe the larger truth is these four men were not accustomed to be confronted so directly and in writing.

The notion I was having an “emotional breakdown” was a sinister, though easy way to explain why I had resigned from the organization, degrade me and my complaints. It was a classic ad hominem attack, discrediting my ideas by discrediting my person.

I was a bug on the floor they could stomp on.

So, the other three principals clearly sided with Buddy Portugal and circled their wagons. This enabled them to protect themselves from my core complaint about them subverting the 2004 Strategic plan to maintain their own unique way of doing things that relied on their personal charisma and the loyalty of their client based support system in their respective programs.

I could see the development process inspired by the 2004 Strategic plan failed and almost all of my time, energy, financial contributions and intellectual capital was wasted. It was four years later and the two principal leader teams were still fighting each other and men like me who were part of the effort to improve and develop the organizations and programs.

My vantage point and the view of the two distinguished psychologists who led the strategic planning process and wrote the report and recommendations, the old way of doing things relied on blind devotion to the founders and led to a variety of dysfunctional organizational problems. These consultants evaluated the crisis related to the previous Victories administrator which had been described to them as a “personality conflict.”

In explaining their view, they stated,

“From an observer’s perspective, what appeared as a personality conflict might represent more of an organizational crisis. The recent history of victories provides the context for this discussion. Recently, Bob and buddy had been trying to pass control of the organization  on to a new generation of leaders. Transitional processes like that crater. Change with opportunity for organizational growth, but also time with attendant dangers. The ambitious personalities, the formation of alliance and schisms, the competition over who is staying”truer”to the vision of the founders – all of these responses to the transition bespeak a cultish edge to the organization. If allowed to continue, these responses would really hamstring important work that gets done on the weekends. Many of us have encountered destructive processes like that in religious or political movements. Sometimes, periods of transition like this bring out what is worse in us as men. Ambition for power at the expense of men who we should be seen as colleagues and collaborators is one of these dangers.”   (Schwartz & Zuckerman 2003)

I have little doubt the organizational warning by Schwartz and Zuckerman was ignored, despite their clear warning.  The consultants warned the organization about the risk of not addressing the systemic issues and as a result they repeated themselves. The previous Victories administrator was trying to address the systemic (organizational) issues, but was caught in the middle between the founders and the second leader team. It was a volatile place for him to be and when the pressure built, both leader teams turned on him, scapegoated him, and, like me, he gave up and resigned.

The details of our situation are not identical, but the process is almost identical. A smart, assertive person lower in the hiearchy of the organization steps up to the plate and encourages change to help the organization grow and develop.  Portugal, Mark, Kachoris, and Fitzpatrick join together to push the other person out. I remember talking with this administrator and another leader at the time by phone. The other leader called to ask if I would consider becoming involved in Victories (it was still the Men’s Room) again. We had a long talk, but I knew better and declined. I declined again when another leader was looking for a new leader partner.

My admiration for Paul Kachoris and initial impressions of Kurt Schultz influenced my decision to return in 2003 as a leader. I loved working with Kurt and the other members of our leadership team, many of whom are now principals in the organization.

The excellent 2004 Strategic plan, offered promise, but the attendant dangers won out. The consultants process led Victories out of the woods, but it drifted back in due to the homeostatic pressures of personalities, ambition for power, as mentioned above.

This blind devotion and organizational dysfunction was evident in the 2003-2004 crisis related to the then Administrator who was mistreated and scapegoated by the same four leaders involved in my dispute. A second example is how Portugal was so wedded to his own view of the Wisdom years being the next best thing to sliced bread, he blocked himself from my excellent evaluation so completely, it led him to degrade me personally, referring to me as chronically disappointed. This was a manipulative way to say I was depressed and suffering an emotional breakdown.

It’s very important to stop and consider this situation. These are mental health practitioners who present themselves to the world as healers and innovators refusing to meet with me, a person who had been very supportive of their program and them as individuals for about 15 years. As for Paul Kachoris and Kevin Fitzpatrick, I had volunteered for several years to help them get almost everyone of their initial weekends off the ground, witnessed and supported their leadership development.

Being well-versed in dealing with different personality types, it was clear to me I was being the target of projections, much like the former administrator earlier in 2003. Was this a situation where others had to make me “bad” in order for them to be “good?”

Watching the Trump drama and his efforts to silence James Comey, I am reminded of the threats, first from Buddy Portugal and his attorney, and then from my former leader partner, the deceased Kurt Schultz who wrote the copy for the lawyer letter sent to me again by Buddy Portugal’s attorney.

So two threatening lawyer letters and one direct threat across the table at a meeting to try to find a way to resolve the impasse between Victories and myself. If it were not for the more measured, reasonable intervention of another Victories principal at the breakfast meeting ( I was unable to eat anything), I would have left. I am not sure who likes to be threatened while eating breakfast.

I was most concerned about whether the entire Board approved the lawyer letter to me. The letter was composed of lies and I wondered how other men I thought were friends, knew were licensed mental health practitioners and lawyers could approve a letter threatening me.

I had the two men read the letter, then read their response. They had not read it before. Who on a Board with liability is ok with sending a “threatening to sue you” letter to someone, especially when the letter is not based in truth?

Then, there was the final email threat. I was first scared, then angry, then calmly realized I didn’t have to be afraid because I was telling the truth and had volumes of memos, notes and emails (see James Comey method) which corroborated my story.

I had one telephone call with the Board president where I decided to restate my story about being asked to smoke pot and kill a rat the night before a weekend, even though the men telling me this was what we were going to do had to have known I abstained from all substances and had done so for many years.

I had revealed this before, but perhaps the other men believed Kurt’s version that I was distorting what happened and what I heard and essentially that I was lying. Did the other principal men involved tell him to allege this in the threatening lawyer letter? I feel sorry for them if they did. I would guess Kurt just said, “let me handle this…” and the letter was written and sent to my mailbox.

I remember I was most distressed that in addressing this conflict, Kurt and the others would resort to lying about key details and facts. Kurt and I were able to talk as friends and colleagues shortly before he died. I felt sorry he had been used so badly by Buddy Portugal and the other Victories principals.

Kurt was the fixer and his heart was in the right place. He wanted others to be happy and love him and this made him vulnerable to Buddy Portugal who was persuasive and quick to threaten the withdrawal of his hubris filled positive regard.

In the end, I told the principals I was publishing everything I had written and would continue to write. If anyone threatened me again, I would take legal action of my own and file complaints with the appropriate professional associations.

I told them to give some thought to seeing and hearing me testify about the truth, while the others would have to do their best to lie and make it believable.

I published the hostile voicemails from Buddy Portugal here and have the recordings from my voicemail system and warned that they would not sound pretty in court, being the hostile, abusive and scathing” (Portugal’s description of the worst message) words of a former therapists of his client become successful, effective leader.

My comparison to Comey is done without any suggestion my conflict with Victories and some principals is anything comparable. It’s similar only in the way self-absorbed men attempt to hide the truth by bullying and defaming the person speaking up.

In my case, Portugal, et al claimed I was having an emotional breakdown. I have this from one of the people at the key meeting where they decided to ignore my complaints about mistreatment and them hijacking the strategic planning process to promote their own programs to the detriment of the letter and spirit of the 2004 Strategic planning process which recommended building a more cohesive and collaborative organizational structure and programming.

 

Here is the 2011 Lawyer letter I received with my responses:

Lawyer copy is in black.

My response is in blue.

December 19,2011

Dear Mr. Martin

We are attorneys representing victories of the heart, and if the victories. The Board of Directors of victories has recited receive court your correspondence dated the 15th and 17th 2011, and we respond as follows. The letter state that you intend to publish information about victories and or its programs. Actual publication has already occurred through the posting of such information on your Internet blog. A preliminary review of your statements raises the following serious legal considerations and consequences.

My response:

I gave the recipients of the emails and letters sufficient time to be in touch with me to arrange some type of mediation, something I had sought for a few years. When I didn’t hear back from them, I published the document, as I had warned. I can only speculate they met together and determined the best course of action was to do nothing believing I would not follow through. When I did publish, their strategy was to accuse me of lying, distorting, as their lawyer letter stated. Behind the scenes, I would also guess they claimed I was having an emotional breakdown. The content and style of the lawyer’s  letter was very similar to language I had heard from Kurt. Also, the mention of David Karr is something few people would know, besides Kurt, so I know he had to be the source of the letter.  I spoke to Kurt shortly after this and met him just prior to his death. I thought it was doubly cruel for Victories principals to use Kurt’s power and relationship with me to prevent me from exercising my First Amendment right and holding them accountable. It was tragic to meet with him, understand he was so sick, yet manipulated to fight me, someone he thought of as a brother. 

First, please be reminded that in the written leadership agreement between you and victories, you agreed not to lecture publish anything concerning victories or its programs without the prior written authorization of the victories board or its designee. Such permission was never granted to you by victories. There are hereby directed to immediately remove all such items from your blog and take all action necessary to bring yourself into compliance with your contract. Failure to do so will result in further legal action against you.

My response: 

The contract mentioned here was something that Kurt thought of after I began to make my complaints with leaders and threats to write about them more public. Kurt described the contract as something to protect Victories programs and I had no intention, nor have I over the years, attempted to copy any of Victories programs. I suspected after receiving this threatening lawyer letter that it was Kurt’s way of trying to prevent me from making my unresolved complaints public. I had made every attempt to resolve these complaints privately.

I warned the principals I would write about these matters as I considered them abusive to me and an example of the systemic entitlement these men had within the organization. I knew they could do whatever they wanted, expect not to be held accountable, and further, key powerful people within the system, like Kurt, would be manipulated to fight others like myself who were more vulnerable.

My only recourse was to write and publish. I have to assume they underestimated my ability to write and the many contemporaneous documents I wrote about what was happening around me and to me at the time.

Anyone knowing how the dyadic leadership structure worked may also realize how personally damaging it was to Kurt to manipulate him to clean up their messes. When I met with Kurt shortly before his death, he told me how difficult this period was for him. He and I had been a leader team. He knew I asked him to recuse himself from this conflict, but Buddy Portugal pressured him to get me to back off and withdraw my request for mediation. No one would be surprised by this and it’s likely one or all of the surviving leader principals may be able to substantiate this as witnesses. Also, the letters I received were quite obviously written by Kurt. 

Second, your disclosure of the statements that you attribute to (leader name and/or leader name) in the context of the 1995 name weekend violates the confidentiality agreement applicable to all leaders and participants will weekend. Moreover, your statements concerning these individuals misquotes them and assert claims about them which are untrue and distorted.

My response: This point involves my disclosure I was told by two leaders we were going to “smoke pot and kill a pet, white rat from an Evanston pet store” at this Thursday night pre-weekend meeting. Allegedly, I talked them out of it. I only really know I didn’t smoke pot or kill a pet rat that night. So, everything I detailed in my letter was completely true and involved inappropriate behavior by leaders that could have risked the safety of participants and placed these leaders and myself and the Victories organization in serious legal and ethical jeapordy.

As I mentioned in my disclosure, I revealed this inappropriate behavior to my wife, a close friend and later Kurt. So, Kurt being manipulated to deny this actually happened was a tragic manipulation of him by others who he may have felt he had to protect. Kurt knew it happened and perhaps he felt it was so perverse it was essential to deny the truth and discredit and defame me in the process. What was said between these men and Kurt? I don’t know. 

My conversation with Kurt shortly before he died revealed to me his own distress and dissatisfactions with the events and the pressure placed on him by Portugal. I only know Kurt was dying at the time and it was painful for him to meet with me to discuss these things, knowing in fact I was truthful, including the spontaneous anti-semitism and the accusation I was using the “rat and pot” incident to  “extort” two leaders to get them to support me against Portugal.

Third, your discussion of the nudity on the shadow weekend without disclosing that nudity ceased in 2008 a fact known to you for years appears to be an effort to defame victories. The same can be said of your attempt to equate or compare the actions of the victories board of directors to the egregious conduct of certain religious and academic institutions.

My response: It was not a known fact that nudity ceased in 2008. I only knew the idea of men being nude for long periods of time at the weekend was being challenged. During my last formal meeting about this, I was told the plan was to have the men wear black gym shorts. There was no mention about how they would change into the gym shorts and whether there might be t-shirts as well. I still do not know that. The official website makes the pejorative statement that there is no nudity on the weekend in response to the question, “I heard there is nudity on this weekend.”

I believe the use of nudity by the leaders along with other inappropriate program ideas has been very detrimental to the organizational development process and it was part of my comprehensive criticism of programs during my 4+ years in leadership from 2003-2008. It was a dumb idea to copy something from another weekend and it only created doubt and ambivalence about the Victories’ program. I and others heard the complaints from participants of the weekend and it was numbing and frightening to me to hear about the length of time men were nude and silent. I considered these methods to be unethical and counterproductive to the welfare of participants and the mission/values of the organization.

 Further, there is a reason why this program has weak internal and external support within the larger community. If it was such a good experience, why does it still struggle to gain participants. I have no doubt if the principals listened to my complaints and responded, their programs (wisdom years and shadow weekend) would have been improved. Unless there is legal action, I do not plan to publish my evaluation for the Wisdom years experience in Boston where I was a participant. I was asked 2x for my evaluation. The second time it was received, it resulted in 30 minutes of hostile, ad hominem voicemails. It’s troubling when you are asked for an evaluation then personally attacked as being “chronically disappointed.” 

Fourth, your correspondence request appropriate credit for your contributions to the victories, basic staff training handout and defames victories by suggesting that victories has engaged in on ethical or legal misconduct by not acknowledging your contribution and subsequent versions of the handout. In April 2008. You acknowledge that victories have the right to use and publish those materials. The request for attribution was made at the time. It is our understanding the subsequent versions of the document, including those used while you were still waiting basic staff training, do not attribute authorship to any individual, just as your initial version of the document failed to acknowledge the contributions of David Karr’s work form the basis of your draft. Victories has never misrepresented a role in creating the handout. In fact, the message announcing the resignation from victories. Specifically, thank you for this contribution to one of victories programs.

My response:

Readers may find this surprising, but I felt like I put aside a lot of sharp elbows and myopic thinking while involved and even after I resigned. I thought my resignation made it clear I no longer thought I could have an impact and the rigidity of the system almost guaranteed the organization would continue to struggle with development.

On a practical level, it meant Portugal and Mark would have enormous power within the system to stop and divert much of the agreed upon changes in the 2004 Strategic plan. In my opinion expressed verbally and in writing in my ongoing complaints was the fact the 8 person leadership team of which I was a part was destroyed in a unilateral move by Portugal and Mark to leave the team and expand the Wisdom years program.

I remember this meeting vividly when they reported there plan to recruit and develop new leaders for the Wisdom years, but stressed they would bring these new leaders back to our leader team of 8 men (ostensibly) for approval. This never happened and in fact their efforts were so mismanaged and conflict laden, there was some effort on their part to actually secede from the larger Victories organization.

This was a hush-hush situation too and I still don’t know all the facts. I only know the idea of the Wisdom years becoming a separate, free-standing organization was being considered. This essentially bifurcated the organization destroying any momentum for change and development. Others may disagree with my assessment, but to date, I have not read any other perspective. If there is a lawsuit, we will find out.

Nonetheless, the practical results were a lot of dissatisfaction and unresolved conflict. I complained and resigned and other stakeholders were not happy either. 

The more practical issue was the two original leader teams continued in their passive-agressive hostility and competition further hampering any substantial development. The mythic idea two men as leaders and recruiters for weekends continued and I can only assume scheduled weekends are cancelled and others struggling to gain participants.

And all efforts would be made to keep the two founders and the other principal leader team happy. 

Ironically,  it was not until Kurt and another leader team were selected to give a presentation on psychodrama at a mind-body conference where I realized how insensitive these men could be. Kurt and I and several other volunteers were the ones who designed the psychodrama training (the original basic staff training) and enabled volunteers to learn how to do “heartwork” or psychodrama during Breakthrough weekends. The fact I was not included in the workshop I found shocking and unacceptable. I lodged a complaint about this too and it went nowhere.

At this later time I requested acknowledgement for my involvement in the overall creative process of the psychodrama training. I wasn’t looking for credit for the writeup or any document used in the training. I believe I should have been given more permanent credit for the total process of evaluating and ending the Spirit of Generosity, then working with the team of others, principally Kurt, to develop what is now the Psychodrama training.

My request for acknowledgement must have sent a shock wave through the leadership of the organization, as the dysfunctional culture of the organization only allowed “Bob and Buddy” to be credited for anything. There were others recognized at dinners, but they were usually outside persons or groups who were thought to reflect well on the founders, like Wendy Kopald and her women’s program, which Portugal helped her create.

While anyone involved in the development process would agree I had an important role, I was not surprised my request went nowhere, though I was a little surprised it was part of a lawyer’s letter threatening to sue me. So, out of site out of mind.

Your public statements are intentional and malicious acts calculated to inflict substantial harm upon the victories organization. Such conduct can form the basis for an award of compensatory and exemplary damages and would appear to violate the ethical standards of your profession. Moreover, the psychological injury you now allegedly finds a personally distressing is largely attributed to events, which occurred over 15 years ago. In that time you voluntarily chose to join victories as a senior leader, appeared with pocket shortest, Kevin Fitzpatrick, and other leaders of publicly distributed promotional DVD, referred a number of your psychotherapy clients to victories programs, helped recruit and train 60 L, and otherwise promoted an organization you now attack.

My response:

I worked hard to make the organization successful. The public statements I make are to defend my own integrity, hold others accountable, and provide a history of the organizational dynamics to help explain why weekends do not often get the needed participants and the dyadic leader teams who fail, drift off into the sunset. My alternative efforts were to have leadership teams, not two men trying unrealistically to love each other as much as the two original teams.

Ones true understanding of themselves is a retrospective process…a looking back. It was not until 2011 that I was diagnosed with brain damage from trauma and I began to piece together enough information to better understand the dysfunctional system and people I had been associated with from 1990 and especially from 2003 to 2008. As the more outspoken member of the disenfranchised group, I receive information from others who have helped me create a more cohesive narrative of my experience.

Also, 15 years is not a long time for someone to realize they were blocking and diminishing the impact of some type of abuse. I think Victories would find it impossible to find any expert witness, should they sue me, who would think there was nothing wrong in pressuring me, a volunteer with a history of PTSD and depression who abstained from all drugs and alcohol to smoke pot and participate in the killing of a pet white rat from a pet store the night before an intensive mens’ retreat.

They can claim I was and am lying, but my guess is they know better. Kurt knew I was telling the truth, as I had disclosed this to him several years earlier and I also told my wife and a close friend contemporaneously (see the James Comey method).

So, I do understand they wished I wouldn’t reveal the truth about these events, but then I would betray myself further and all the volunteers who work so hard to make Victories successful, but wonder why it struggles to fill weekends.  Victories has been plagued by organizational silos (the dyadic leader teams) and an inability to create a cohesive and collaborative organization. 

Victories seems a prompt resolution to this matter of the parties aren’t able to achieve such a resolution, we will commence with a civil suit against you without further notice and if appropriate, file a complaint with the Illinois Department of financial and professional regulation. Please direct all future communications to me.

My response:

OK. I hope they don’t sue, but I will stand up for myself. Like I told them, if anyone even threatens to sue me again, I will immediately take legal action myself to protect my First Amendment rights and personal integrity.

And, as I have told a few of these men, I am still available to mediate these concerns. However, I am no longer willing to share the costs of mediation. 

A sincere apology can go a long way.

Sincerely,

Lawyer name

In publishing this lawyer’s letter and my response, I am fulfilling my promise to the current Victories board to stop being afraid of their threats to sue me. It’s freeing for me to do so. I am standing up for my constitutional right to free speech and my own personal integrity.

I would add I have been in contact with Paul Kachoris and Kevin Fitzpatrick by phone voice messages inviting them to meet, clear up the distortion and lies about me in a public way. They have not responded to my requests and I will not contact them again. My contact with them preceded my publication of this more overt, naming of principals post, along with the lawyers letter from Victories.

Me contacting them was part me showing them I was no longer afraid of them, part hope they would have the decency to address their part in all of this, especially allowing Kurt to send me the deceitful lawyer letter I rebut above. This letter is such an obvious example of projection. They lie about me in order to defame me as a liar.

True to form, this was another systemic example of principals hiding behind others to fight for them. Rather than respond appropriately to me as a colleague filing legitimate complaints and asking for a formal mediation of these complaints, I can only assume they allowed Kurt to “handle” it by composing a letter of lies then sent by another lawyer.

I was shocked by the lack of truthfulness of this letter and wondered how Kurt would have gotten the Board to allow him to send it to me. During a phone call shortly after receiving it, I asked him if he had the Board approve the letter or if he just had it sent it to me. He just said he was the President of the Board, implying he didn’t need approval. Of course, by this time, he was dying of cancer, so these other principals will have to live with the fact they placed Kurt in the position to fight me, his former leader partner and close friend. Sad.

I also sent these two principals and the current President of the Board copies of my neuropsychological assessment to show evidence of my cognitive impairment as proof I didn’t have whatever diagnosis or personality disorder was used by them inappropriately to label me having an “emotional breakdown.”

I also realize how protective I had remained towards these principals and willing to keep their secrets, about the voice-mails and the pot and rat incident. One might say I have made too big a deal over these issues and that’s fine. For me, there are these issues and the longer systemic pattern within Victories to pay homage to the leaders, despite their behaviors, and forfeit the opportunities of creating a healthier organization.

It’s impossible for anyone on the outside to determine what weekends have enough participants and what weekends are cancelled. I would assume there would be more information about this, if all or most of the weekends had enough enrollment.

I can only assume since the dyadic (two person) leadership team is still the primary structure, there have been and will be failed weekends.

Had the stakeholders had enough insight and power, the systemic problem of homage to the founders/leaders would have been addressed directly and effectively. It would have been a win-win for everyone.

As an example of my efforts, I could see that every annual fundraiser became a “love-in” for the two founders. I thought to myself, how many more years can these men be given all the attention and credit for something that others have also contributed.

I spoke to Portugal in person, had a phone call to Mark. I told them it was counter-productive for the annual dinner to focus on them so much. I told them while it feel positive to some, it caused resentment among others. I spoke to Kurt about this and there was a discussion to do something differently at the next dinner in 2007. Kurt reported to me and others at a Board meeting there would be a “roast of all the leaders.”

A roast of all the leaders should not have left any confusion about what would happen. For the first time, I dragged my teenage daughter to the dinner so she might hear one or two sentences poking fun at me.

So, what happened?

True to the underlying, powerful dynamic in the organization, the “roast” became a video portraying Bob and Buddy as the characters from Brokeback Mountain. The imagery and language in the video was at once, homophobic, degrading, and mortifying to me and others. My daughter looked at me and said, “what does this mean?” I told her I wasn’t sure and then waited for a “roast” to begin. It did not.

No “roast”, but a terrible public relations event with confusing sexual innuendo about the two founders. Although I tried, I received no explanation about how this video had been approved. From the men who appeared in the video, I understood it to be those closest to the two founders.

The psychological message I received was the founders were the “only leaders” of importance and the creators of the video were either unconscious or indirectly revealing there were men in the closet who were married to women.

This was terrible messaging, yet demonstrates the so called homage to the founders that has permeated the organization from its inception in the 1980’s.

This ambiguous messaging about sexuality and sexual orientation within Victories has made it a less safe experience for men with sexual orientation questions or fears. A recent study of a Breakthrough weekend revealed one persons’ observation substantiating this problem at that weekend. The participant states:

“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. 99 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, pps.98-99)

This participant expresses the hetero-sexism inherent to Victories. It’s not that everyone is straight, but rather there are gay men who are fearful of speaking up or are married to women and deeply in the closet. I don’t know who the staff leadership was for the weekend in question, but after three decades, it’s fair to openly criticize the organization for it’s lack of respect for cultural diversity. I can not tell you how often I would hear the founders talk about the need to “recruit” gay men or men of color to weekends. However, when this was done, the men would experience the undertones of bias, racism and hetero-sexism. The comments by this participant are evidence that even now in 2016-2017, there are weekend programs that are unconscious about the need to respect diversity.

Read my comments about this study here and links to the full study here.

True to form, the Victories stakeholdes involved in the study were apparently unhappy with the results. The reasons for their negativity were not explained, yet the informed observer would guess it was because the study did not find exceptional measurable results.

If so, it would be another example of how Victories principals depend so highly on praise to support their positive view of themselves, it makes them less aware of parts of themselves revealed in more honest inter-personal relations.

I enjoy the freedom I experience in writing.

 

Three of the Victories principals have written books. To read my reviews, click on the links below:

 

Victories of the Heart: Inside Story of a Pioneer Men’s Group (Bob Mark & Buddy Portugal)

 

Clearing the Path: Opening the Spiritual Frontier (Bob Mark)

 

Unmasked: Poetry of Self-Expression (Paul Kachoris)

 

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Jun 09 2015

Victories and the Legal Threats to Silence My Writing: One Letter

It’s been many years since I first was threatened with a lawsuit in about 2011 if I continued to write and publish about my experience in Victories of the Heart,  previously known as the Men’s Room, now known as Victories for Men.

I so regret most of my involvement, especially in leadership and Board involvement. A friend at the time, Kevin Fitzpatrick referred me to Bob Mark for psychotherapy, then for some reason, changed his mind and suggested Buddy Portugal. Portugal was charismatic, with lots of hubris. His office seemed to be designed by an art director and interior design specialist to appeal to psychotherapy patients. It was impressive.

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Dec 09 2014

A Review: Clearing the Path: Opening the Spiritual Frontier by Dr. Robert Mark

Summary: Dr. Mark gets an A+ for writing an interesting narrative of his personal and professional development. However, a diminished grade for encouraging people to dispense with their critical thinking to entertain the possibility of higher powers and alternative realities. Discouraging a belief in science is a surprising part of this book and therapists especially should not take this advice seriously, lest they begin to practice unethically.
My acknowledgement: I was involved in Dr. Mark’s men’s program and have insights about him and his work. Perhaps there is no good ending in a relationship with people or organizations. This was true for me, so any negative views I express may be colored by my ending experiences.

I was very curious about this book when I learned it had been written and recently had a chance to read it. I surprisingly enjoyed it, as an autobiographical account of the author’s development as a human being and professional therapist. In person, Dr. Mark is both impressive and charismatic.

As the depth of his book demonstrates, he’s intelligent and highly skilled as a therapist. You can tell he has an ease and comfort with traditional forms of therapy and having seen him in action, I can confirm he is an exceptional agent of change in people’s lives.

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Jun 15 2014

Victories, A Men’s Personal Growth Program: Ethics & Transparency Progress

The Victories Board of Directors took a very positive step forward in creating and publishing its Ethics policy.

The key element of their new Ethics policy is as follows:

“Service Personnel who are mental health professionals shall avoid dual relationships involving their clients and Victories of the Heart unless they can be assured that (1) the relationship does not violate the code of conduct applicable to their profession and (2) the  relationship will not adversely affect their client. In particular, this means that no mental health professional will invite a client to a weekend, which he is attending as staff or participant, without full disclosure to the client of the potential change in the therapeutic relationship that may occur as a result of attending the weekend together. If more than one such client accepts the invitation, the professional must (1) disclose to each client the fact that other clients from his therapy practice will be in attendance and (2) fully discuss the therapeutic and confidentiality implications of the situation.”

Up until this new policy was implemented, it was commonplace for the therapist leaders and staff to encourage their clients to attend a weekend, preferably, the therapist’s own weekend. There were notable exceptions to this rule, particularly among the programs founders and other board members who had robust private practices and often referred their clients to other leader’s weekends.

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Aug 02 2013

Escape From Oz: An Ebook in Progress

How can you tell you might be going to a personal growth program?

It’s easy. In the marketing materials you will find words like transformation, breakthrough, shadow, initiation, healing, a big price tag (usually over $600), and so forth.

One of your friends, family, or in some cases, therapist or coach will also be the one to “invite” you to  “a weekend.”

There are many psychotherapists in the Chicago area who are familiar with personal growth workshops and may have referred many of their clients.

I think it can be assumed the vast majority of people who attend these programs benefit in some way, some tremendously.

It’s oversimplifying, but there are probably 3 camps when it comes to these programs:

·         The most enthusiastic are the ones who love the experience and claim it has changed their lives for the better.
·         The ones who give it some credit, but are not likely to repeat their experience.
·         This is the usually very quiet group, but when asked “trash” the experience. This third group are the ones to file complaints and lawsuits.

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May 15 2013

Victories Psychodrama Evaluations about 2006

While training volunteers was commonplace in MKP, the VOH founding leaders preferred to act as if there was some magic secret to facilitating psychodrama, even calling it “heartwork” to suggest it arose from some deeper place in the facilitating leader’s heart or from the intense love relationship with the other leader. Kind of the idea that the warmth and caring between the two leaders would be showered upon the participants and they would be healed.

It would be nice to receive some credit for the Victories psychodrama training. Seems my role has been whitewashed and my article on the “trust circle and psychodrama” is not listed in the websites’ resources for professionals, I am suggesting this has some ethical meaning for me and the organization.

I therefore take credit now.

The National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics states:

“4.08 Acknowledging Credit

(a) Social workers should take responsibility and credit, including authorship credit, only for work they have actually performed and to which they have contributed.

(b) Social workers should honestly acknowledge the work of and the contributions made by others.” 
The concept of “who owns ideas” is the basis of intellectual property disputes.The “who, what, when and what is written/published” of these ideas are key factors.
Related to this psychodrama training, the key factors are:

  • Prior leaders had 20 years to create a similar training and did not do so
  • The training they created, Spirit of Generosity, was a very poorly conceived program which did not even address the concept of psychodrama, may even have been harming men, and damaging to any overall organizational development (evidence of this is the fact staff at this event took the item men brought and buried the item on the grounds of the training site…a man told me he lost his heirlook wrist jewelry…he was afraid to tell the staff he wanted it back)
  • Kurt Schultz asked me, no one else, to help him evaluate the upcoming Spirit of Generosity training (about 2004-05)
  • Kurt and I then participated in MKP “guts” training which helped us develop a more detailed approach to psychodram on weekends
  • Kurt and I and others collaborated to create the new training, Basic Staff Training (BST), designed to begin teaching psychodrama and the interconnectedness of different Breakthrough weekend elements
  • I insisted on a shift from the term “heartwork” to the more intellectually accurate and research based “psychodrama”
  • Now called “facilitating psychodrama”, the training created modules which could be replicated (meaning the purpose was to create a training of trainers who were NOT dependent on Kurt or myself), have been replicated, and offered to professionals as a continuing education opportunity
  • While I believe my role was critical in the training’s conceptual design and implementation, the fact it has continued, new men learned psychodrama methods quickly, were able to facilitate psychodrama under supervision during weekends, the training offers Continuing Education Credits, substantiates the successful use of my “intellectual properties”
  • I wrote the first manual for this psychodrama training which we used for every training in which I was a leader (I don’t know if it has been used since my resignation in 2008)
  • A key development factor which also substantiates my unique role in the psychodrama development is the creative way I applied Moreno’s “chorus” concept…the new team approach Kurt and I taught engaged more men in the process as a “chorus” increasing the meaning for all
  • Kurt and I even used the participants of the first BST trainings to develop a vocabulary we could learn together… for example, training staff and participants joined together to create names for different types of cradles, a standing cradle, sitting cradle and a lift cradle…in this way, we all could communicate quickly and easily during a weekend when calling for a type of cradle to use
  • After the initial success of the first BST, I even attempted to engage Kevin and Paul in the colllaborative process, encouraging them to write up some of their own psychodrama methods…they never did so (in my fantasies, I envisioned us writing a book on psychodrama together…)
  • Kevin and Paul (and the other Breakthrough leader teams) never developed a conceptual map for their psychodrama method, so terms, research, and methods were never available to teach anyone else…and their highly intuitive, individual style, successful for them, often caused a disconnect with the “chorus” or the men not directly involved in their work, especially later in the day when everyone was exhausted
  • In fact, Kevin and Paul’s only expressed judgment was the team based psychodrama method Kurt and I were teaching was like a “clusterf..k”, a derogatory term used by VOH to slur MKP’s psychodrama facilitation method
  • As another illustration of my key role, I (no one else…they were all afraid of Kurt) received a lengthy complaint from a participant (I’m sure he was encouraged by another leader…this was one of the passive-aggressive strategies between leaders) accusing me of saying “there was only one way to do psychodrama” (Kurt and I stressed during our training that we needed to use common research based terms, and where none existed, create terms we could all understand and utilize during a psychodrama…the analogy was one had to learn to walk before running…become competent in a core method before becoming creative)
  • Obviously, the other leader who encouraged this person to file a complaint against me saw me as the primary architect of what was seen internally as a new training model which challenged the sacrosanct, but mistaken view the love between the two leaders (hearts connected) created a “magical” process healing men…threatening to reveal the wizards behind the curtain were only ordinary men with stereo-phonically amplified voices
  • In fact, the new training model Kurt and I developed resulted in the development of several new leaders who have successfully led Breakthrough weekends…kudos to them!
  • I had been asked by Kurt to help create an effective training and not to protect the fragile egos of other leaders
  • My prior teaching experience and team building knowledge allowed me to influence our process even during the training to help everyone be a part of the process, and thereby guarantee the end product was the result of the best of our collaborative efforts
  • An article I wrote on the “trust circle” and its application to psychodrama was published in an academic book on therapy techniques
  • I acknowledge VOH in my biographical description, but am NOT acknowledged by Victories for my contribution (and Kurt and other men)
  • Later in about 2008, I was selected to participate as a co-host for a radio-podcast and a father’s day television show in which I regularly acknowledged VOH

I believe it’s time VOH recognized my contributions as well. In addition to Kurt, there are other men, like Rick Simon, and others who were interested and invested in the development of this training and the men who participated and valued the contribution of  my knowledge, intelligence, teaching effectiveness and ability to “walk my talk.”

In fact, another clinician who staffed a Breakthrough weekend called me after his experience to tell me how complimentary the other staff were about me and my leadership skills. I could tell he was surprised by their admiration for me and I guess he thought I would be surprised too. I wasn’t, but was grateful he took the time to acknowledge me.

But getting back to psychodrama and the confidence and skills Kurt, the other guys and I demonstrated during the training, I am offering these extremely positive evaluations  as evidence of the exceptional work we all did on this training.

Although professionally trained and very highly regarded as a lawyer, Kurt  is a gifted and intuitive psychodrama facilitator. I’m sure he and I would agree we were an excellent team and could not have developed the psychodrama training alone.

In fact, David Kaar, an MKP leader in psychodrama should also receive credit, especially the concept of steps to the psychodrama process.

There are probably no completely original ideas and the scientific method is constructive as each idea builds into other more complex ideas.

Time for VOH to credit others for their legitimate contributions. I will stand in line with everyone else.

Here are the results of the evaluations:
June 20, 2005

Men,

Thank you for taking part in last weekend’s Basic Staff Training.  It was a deep and productive experience for all of us. In addition, it appears that it also achieved its objective: giving you an understanding of heartwork theory and technique that will make you a more valuable guide to the men who attend future Initial Weekends – one whose presence will amplify the weekend’s power to change lives.

At the end of Saturday’s session, we asked you to give us your evaluation of the training program, and we thought you would be interested in some of the results.

Ratings. In scoring the 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.

Once again, thank for your contributions to this workshop. We look forward to your participation as weekend staff.

Bill Martin
Kurt Schultz

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Apr 13 2013

Victories of the Heart Shadow Weekend: Not Recommended as Currently Advertised

Writer’s disclosure: I was part of the VOH leadership team, staffed one of the original Shadow weekends and had a terrible experience. The VOH Wisdom Years  and Breakthrough weekends are recommended and have the potential to be life changing. I really liked both of these programs and struggled to support the Shadow weekend, despite my own negative experiences.

I have had some new information which suggests the Shadow weekend had been redesigned and is a helpful, positive experience for participants. Should I be able to obtain more detailed information about this program, I would be able to more clearly evaluate the experience and recommend it.

Right now, I can say the men involved as leaders are sincere, bright, caring men and I can only assume knowing them and hearing about the program that is a good experience. I wish there was more transparency, so I might be more enthusiastic.

The Board and leaders of Victories are tied to the past when these types of programs (LGATs) required secrecy as a way of managing the overall experience for participants. It’s a bad idea now for tow important reasons. First, it discourages potential particpants and referral sources who may be wary of the secrecy. Second, it prevents a public evaluation of the program.

For now, I express my First Amendment right to publish my thoughts and opinions about this experience in the spirit of frank and open discussion of disagreements and conflicts is in the public good. In this case, my opinions expressed here offer some limited perspective on why the Shadow weekend never took off and became a popular program in the community. Also, my publishing these opinions has come several years after my efforts to express my thoughts and opinions internally.

As I have said privately in correspondence never answered, it’s been a cruel joke played against me that I should be considered doing something harmful to Victories. To expect to be treated with respect, acknowledged for my good work, and have others be accountable to me is something we all expect. To witness or experience bad behavior in an organization, try to address it privately, see the more powerful people ignore me, then organize to degrade my complaints as those of a person experiencing an emotional breakdown publically is unacceptable. I warned them all I would write about it as I could see them circle the wagons and project blame on me, just as is often common for people in power when confronted. It wasn’t them, it was me would be their mantra.

The lack of transparency and frequent phone call deals made which went against the spirit and letter of the 2004 Strategic plan were just too much. Many of the post 2004 Board members like myself were all contributing at least $1,000 per year and probably some much more. To me, the original leaders with their Wisdom years and the Shadow weekend leaders were allowed to operate as usual, as if their respective programs were their own private business. I’m sure their other people with a very different view and I would really welcome their comments, writing or any way to make this a public discussion so it can finally be resolved.

I looked around and just could see I was pretty much alone in wanting more transparency and change. I have been accused of abandoning the group, not staying to fight it out. I just didn’t think the men involved had the insight to make the leap to the new reality that Victories was no longer a private business, but rather an organization struggling to become a functioning non-profit. I felt like it was a cruel joke on me I was trying to work diligently and openly to build something bigger and better, while others were scheming behind the scenes to get what they wanted.

The Shadow Weekend claims to help men shine the light on their shadow, or unconscious selves. However, the program itself is shrouded in secrecy making it a leap of faith for participants and potential referral sources to support the program. An organizational crisis occurred about 2007 when excessive and confusing nudity and silence on the Shadow weekend was discovered after the fact by organizational leaders. What I learned about the weekend was shocking to me and unacceptable. It mirrored my own experience of the mid-1990’s Shadow weekend. This was the weekend that involved the threatened pot smoking, rat killing, random nudity and a confusing sweat lodge. If this was an attempt at competing with the Warrior weekend, it failed.How successful is the weekend? The organization is not transparent enough to publish evaluations of programs. I was the first leader who initiated formal evaluations given to the organization for accountability purposes. I know people like the Shadow weekend and find it useful to them. To all of them I say, if it’s such a good program write about it and tell the success stories. Otherwise the website descriptions remain unchanged after many years and are not scientific or even plain speaking so ordinary guys would understand what might happen. There is the suggestion that other men who have done other programs, such as the Warrior weekend are eligible to participate. I assume this means they would have the requisite experience to manage the challenges of the Shadow weekend. My guess any Warrior guys who did the Shadow weekend might have a good time, but would rate their Warrior experience much higher.

The rigidity, defensiveness and blowback I experienced when trying to create change in this program constructively was one of the reasons for my resignation from the organization in about 2008.

While I have been assured men have not been asked to be nude since about 2008, I still do not recommend this experience.The VOH website’s attempt to describe the experience is more “hype” than substance. No research citations are offered, and Jung’s writing about the “persona and shadow” are presented as if they are widely accepted and research proven concepts. They are not.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Shadow weekend had evolved with available neuroscience research and helped participants understand the powerful way life experiences, especially trauma, are stored implicitly and are constantly operating like a software program influencing our thoughts, feelings and behavior. Implicit memory has often been described as procedural memory, things we learn to do something later. It’s stored below our level of awareness, yet has a powerful impact on our lives. Learning to ride a bike is an example of implicit memory.

Explicit memory, the other type of long-term memory refers to the information we store consciously. Examples of this are the date of our birthday, upcoming doctor’s appointments, the times tables, information we study for school, and so on.

My discussion of memory here is very important. Jim Hopper, PhD, a Harvard professor, researcher and clinician, has an educational website devoted to the research about trauma. It’s wonderful and highly recommended. Click here to take a look.

One key point made by the research so nicely summarized by Dr. Hopper is a large number of women and men who are abused, especially sexually abused, have no conscious awareness of the abuse. So, to put this simply, men who go to a Shadow weekend who have no conscious memory of being abused and those who do have an awareness, can possibly be re-traumatized. I know I was re-traumatized by my participation as a staff person at this weekend. I could say more.

I will not go into detail here about my own negative experience as a staff person and the negative experiences of other men. I’ve written about it before and every word I wrote was true.

In using more contemporary science, the Shadow weekend could be an empowering experience where men could begin to better understand themselves. Without more information, I have to assume the bear bones structure of the program remains the same, lots of self-disclosure.

At best, the Shadow weekend is not a memorable, life changing experience. At its worst, it may be possibly retraumatizing for men who are trauma survivors.

Certainly, the program has received enough organizational support over the years and the original leaders had plenty of opportunity to build something that could last without their popularity and charisma. It has not succeeded.

Time to let it go. It’s not really the “next step” for Wisdom Years and Breakthrough weekend graduates. It’s a step, but a precarious one.

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