Archive for the 'Victories for Men' Category

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. A friend 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. It was impressive.

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 a learning disability 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 xmas card I sent him of my family and an insurance claim copy. Nothing else.

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 who I admired greatly in about 2003 and 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. I attended the Boston Wisdom years and liked the experience. However, it was not a tour de force. Portugal’s request for me to provide an evaluation of this program 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 qouted Kurt as having said the only problem with the voice-mails was Portugal described me as “chronically disappointed.” This began the cover-up and efforts to damage my credibility and integrity.

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.  Kurt 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, simpy 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 rat and pot issue in the very beginning of my dispute with Portugal. My claim about this and the spontaneous anti-semitism 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, moreso than Portugal and Mark.

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.

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.

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 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.

In a private meeting between Bob Mark, Paul Kachoris and Kevin Fitzpatrick, Portugal and the other three 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.”

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.

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 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 two men would be selected to lead weekends and then would have the unforgiving burden to recruit men to participate if they were to be considered successful. And all efforts would be made to keep the two founders and the other principal leader team happy. 

However, 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 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.

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. 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 was 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. I also find it amusing so few people even read my writing…I have measures and only  a very few people have even read this! So be it.

 

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.

Not impressive were his limited evaluation skills and knowledge about trauma. For Portugal, 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 and I was much later diagnosed with serious brain health issues, likely caused by early childhood trauma.

I’m not sure Portugal thought much about my trauma and the impact it may have had on my brain. He had a learning disability and didn’t read much and was the type of therapist who listened a lot and could give you the impression of great concern. There were times too when his eyes struggled to remain open. He seemed tired. 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 xmas card I sent him of my family and an insurance claim copy. Nothing else.

Fast forward, I was recruited to join his men’s program, did so, then left…then was recruited again by Paul Kachoris in about 2003 and rejoined becoming a co-leader with Kurt Schultz a brilliant man whose vulnerability was in service to authority. He could be easily manipulated by Portugal, at least.

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. Portugal’s request for me to provide an evaluation of this program (I attended the Boston weekend) led to many disrespectful and degrading voicemails. Click here to read some of these voicemails 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 and 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 voicemails.

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 voicemails 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.

In a private meeting with Bob Mark, Paul Kachoris and Kevin Fitzpatrick, Portugal and the other three made it clear they would not meet with me to address my complaints and believed I was emotionally disturbed. I know this from a 5 page email I received from one of the participants at the meeting.

It’s pretty sad. They believed I was emotionally disturbed, yet refused to meet with me, clearly siding with Buddy Portugal and protecting themselves from my core complaints 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. From 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.

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 written again by Buddy Portugal’s attorney.

So two threatening lawyer letters. one direct threat across what was supposed to be 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.

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:

 

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 claim I was lying, distorting, as their lawyer letter stated. Behind the scenes, I would also guess they claimed I was having an emotional breakdown. 

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 light 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.

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 jeapardy. 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.

 

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 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 two men would be selected to lead weekends and then would have the unforgiving burden to recruit men to participate if they were to be considered successful. And all efforts would be made to keep the two founders and the other principal leader team happy. 

However, 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 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.

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, 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 and I am not the one who needs to apologize.

Sincerely,

 

Lawyer  name

 

 

No responses yet

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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Nov 18 2008

Victories of the Heart: Bill Martin Resignation Letter 2008

(Note: I am re-publishing this letter after many years. I want to state the Victories organization has made positive strides in making changes I am critical of in this resignation letter. I’m keeping it active as my right to state my opinion and explain some of the causes for my decision to resign. I have a First Amendment right to write and speak freely in this country and I think studying history is an important way to not recreate past mistakes. (For me also, it’s a way to stand up and protect myself. I don’t like being afraid and asserting myself helps me feel safer in the world.) I write with some discernment about what to reveal and not reveal. I am cautious to not offend anyone for my stated opinions. I have no malicious intent to harm anyone, though I expect anyone from back then who reads this may feel upset. I often heard the concept of “everbody has their own truth” and not one truth rules over others. I never agreed with this notion. Anyone studying ethics and clinical practice understands there may be different views, but their are ethical standards to follow rigorously. So, if I have offended anyone with this writing or any writing, feel free to let me know or add  your own comments.
From 2008:
As I have been asked many questions about why I resigned my leadership role in the Victories of the Heart program, I am publishing my June 2008 resignation letter here for anyone interested.
I am writing to express my thanks to Kurt and the VOH board to allow me to share some parting ideas about the work that each of us believes is relevant and important for men, their families and their relationships.

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