Archive for the 'Ken Pope (on ethics)' Category

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


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:
Met All Expectations

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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Feb 05 2013

“Personal Growth Weekends”, Cults, and How They Use Recruitment as a Strategy for Survival and Profit

Cults…I talk a lot about the Yearning for Zion Ranch (YFZ Ranch) and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), but what are some of the characteristics of a cult?

Keeping it simple, it’s an organization of narcissistically driven (usually) men who use a variety of methods to manipulate and exploit vulnerable people.

Here are the essential characteristics of a cult:

  • mind control…use of bizarre religious or secular ideas to enforce the obedience of followers
  • emotional disclosure…participants are encouraged to disclose private, emotionally important information…while the leaders do not share emotional information with the larger group
  • recruitment…participants are encouraged/expected to go out and recruit others to join the cult organization using deceptive and manipulative tactics
  • restriction from all outside ideas and influences ( no radio, television, computer/internet, newspapers)
  • claims that the outside world is evil and will lead to the death or damnation of anyone who betrays the cult
  • participants are manipulated to believe that they can not survive without all the cult offers them
  • participants may also be physically and sexually abused, in addition to the pervasive emotional abuse
  • intimidation by threatening to harm others or animals, especially pets, like a pet white rat, a rabbit, puppy or kitten
  • leaders are a few men who directly benefit from the cult by abuse, manipulation, threat of harm, sexual control of women and intricate financial arrangements
  • methods during the activities include various rituals, guided imagery, psychodrama, native american spirituality, sweat lodges, and over-simplified and out of context psychological ideas
  • key to all these experiences is the claim they can “change your life”
  • marketing literature will often claim the programs are based on science, but they don’t mean research. These claims are often followed by non researched based psychological ideas, such as those of Carl Jung (the shadow and persona in personality archetypes)
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Jan 08 2013

A Son Dies: Exploring the Personal Impact of Rick Warren’s Hostility to LGBT’s

One hears “where there’s smoke there’s fire” a lot when evaluating the religious leaders who stridently oppose LGBT rights, especially marriage equality.

These men seem to crave the attention of both their congregations and media. They are on tv, radio, and often run for the presidency of the United States.

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Aug 08 2012

Victories of the Heart: Taking Credit for my Role in the Development of the 2005 Psychodrama Training

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 for my role in developing the psychodrama training to be recognized. Also,  my peer reviewed 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.

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Nov 28 2011

Victories of the Heart: Damaging Consequences of Not Following the Letter and Spirit of the Ratified 2004 Strategic Plan’s Action PLans, Especially in the Creation of Two Competing Leader Groups (Wisdom years and Breakthrough weekend)

In March of 2008, I was well into my conflicts with the original leaders.

By now, I could see how they misunderstood or ignored the 2004 Strategic Plan action plan regarding leadership development.

The not-yet-ready for expansion Wisdom years was in the process of failing in Boston, yet the original leaders were in full swing to try to expand out west. This was still during a time when they also thought pouring tequila onto the genitals of participants at the Wisdom years was a good idea.

Pouring tequila on the genitals of men was one of those events with meaning on multiple levels. On the surface, it’s a goofy thing the original leaders seemed to have copied from a so called south american shaman who drank a lot of tequila before a workshop I attended, then went around encouraging others to drink from the bottle as he was doing. Being in recovery for many years, I declined. However, when he came back around and pulled open the pants of each man and poured a swill of tequila down their pants onto their genitals, I guess I was too much in my low brain to say no.

Here’s where it comes to more symbolic meaning for was just a degrading experience. I have said something before about it being like we were being simultaneously awakened to our sexuality and chemically castrated for being bad (the tequila burned quite a lot).

I was not alone in my judgment, however this was another situation where I and another Board member were called upon to study this practice. It ended very quickly. I was not threatened with a lawsuit.

To me, this was one of the downsides of a two person leader team…they could convince each other of what good ideas they had, despite not evaluating them in the real world.

In the real world of a thorough Strategic Planning process, bright and dedicated men met, explored possibilities, ratified specific action plans, and then donated a minimum of $1000 each per year to help the organization (not specific leaders) reach its goals.

Regarding the leadership development process, there was a clear consensus the prior leaders had failed at developing successful plans. Several leader teams failed, primarily because of the lack of adequate training and a top down, leaders have to “recruit” for men to do their weekends.

The 2004 Strategic Plan never even suggested developing competing leader groups, as is what seemed to have happened between the Wisdom years and Breakthrough leaders. (I still do not know the facts, even though I was on the Board for 3 years during this conflict).

In fact, there were no other Wisdom years leaders besides the original leader team and should not have been any other leaders selected until we completed the Strategic planning process correctly. Specifically, this meant first developing a conceptual map about training…policies and procedures, before programming, to include an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the dyad, two person leader teams.

Here is the Leadership Development Action plan as written in the Strategic Plan report which served as the organizational blueprint for creating change:


A. Develop policy and procedure that specifies a path for leadership training
B. Specify skills necessary for Heartwork facilitation, and initiate a forum for teaching those skills
C. Rethink the Spirit of Generosity program
D. Increase training for Keep-it-Up leaders
E. Ensure that the new model of leadership training allows for men to volunteer rather than just being chosen for that role
F. Evaluate the practice of maintaining fixed leadership teams versus mixing up the teams

Paul Kachoris volunteered to pursue this program with the Weekend Leadership Group.”

All those who ratified these Action plans understood the task was to develop an organizational infra-structure which could develop policies, procedures and programs to enable volunteer men to learn skills and evolve into leadership roles during weekends.

There is other language which stipulates that the weekend leader group of 8 would make final selections of new leaders.

This of course never happened.

The original leaders, I’m guessing met with the current strong man at the time, and got him to give permission (I’m sure he had the illusion of choice) to allow them to do whatever they wanted. I think this is where the manipulation of telling him he and I would be in charge of the Breakthrough weekend and they would be “in charge” of the Wisdom years.

Of course, this is far, far from what all the Board and leaders agreed to at the Strategic Planning process. I and other self-respecting men did not sign on to allow the original leaders to use us, our energies and money to “wing it” their way.

So, the six of us (not important, not doing anything leaders) were axed out of any investment in the Wisdom years group, and although there were several men who crossed boundaries, it was like two enemy camps.

As a Breakthrough weekend leader who had turned 50, I (and others) were constantly badgered about “doing the Wisdom years weekend.”

It was hyped as something we needed to do to become complete as human beings. I have no doubt these men were “encouraged” by the original leaders, as this was their style…have someone else, a strong man or therapy client agitate for something they in fact wanted.

At one point, I asked a man to stop talking to me about doing the weekend. The pressure to do the weekend had become rude and disrespectful.

Clearly, I may have been the only one who understood our task was to create unified policies, procedures, and programs for VOH leadership development.

The email I received from one of them illustrated that there were two different opinions.

My opinion was the original leaders bifurcated the leadership development process and, as a result, damaged the positive momentum of organizational develolpment after the 2004 Strategic Planning process.

Why was this such a critical issue? One main reason is the dyadic, two person leader teams formed sub-groups within the larger organization, much like the franchise business model in which they derived their power and authority from the original leaders.

Conflict, or some allegiance to set of policies or procedures, a central moral code was missing. These dyadic leaders followed the norm of the original leaders and did just about whatever they wanted, including selecting whoever they wanted to staff their weekends. Selection of staff is one way these leader teams consolidated their little bit of power.

The unrestrained power of the dyadic, two person leader teams also explains how the Shadow weekend leaders could have so many unscientific aspects to “their” weekend…because it was “their” weekend and woe to anyone who might challenge them.

I also guess the original leaders read about the idea that leaders should be selected on merit by a collaborative Board/leader group, as they made sure this would never happen.

Their betrayal of the unified weekend leader group of 8 leadership development process, whether deliberate or not, severely damaged the organizational development process.

It sent a clear message to self-respecting men on the Board that these leaders were either ignorant of the 2004 Strategic Plan’s action plans ratifed by Board and leaders or thought they were above any authority of the non-profit and could do just about anything they wanted.

People can deny this if they want, but after I resigned, other Board members resigned too. These were very successful men who donated time and money to help VOH evolve into a more mature successful organization.

What they got was original leaders doing whatever they wanted, including leading a group that wanted to secede from the organization and programs where tequila was poured on the genitals of men, nudity, body paint, dangerous objects, and extensive use of silence.

I can’t forget the original leaders asking the team of 8 leaders to donate $150 each to pay for a play to be written. I was pressured to go to the reading, but am proud to say I didn’t go. I thought it was a terrible idea and back when I said yes, rather than no. I was told we would “own” the rights to the play and if it made money we and the organization would profit. It was one more bad marketing idea in which others were asked to give a lot and nothing, even a rough draft of the alleged play, was returned.

If they are reading this now, they also know I had to intervene and prevent leaders from smoking pot and kill a pet rat the night before a weekend,  and overt, virulent antisemitism was also what was happening behind the scenes.

The original leaders got what they wanted, but it failed to get them out of Oz to Boston.

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