Author Archives: Elva Redwood

What is Processwork?

Welcome to The Edge, a blog about Processwork in all its applications and manifestations.  As a practice and theory of human experience, those applications are unlimited and as varied as all the individuals and groups who make use of it.  I hope these posts, by Processworkers in different walks of life all over the world, will draw you in and inspire you to discover how Processwork can support growth, creativity and communication in your own life and work.

By Elva Redwood, Managing Editor, The Edge

History of Processwork

Processwork originally grew from Jungian psychology in the 1970s and 80s, when Arnold Mindell practiced at the Jung Institute in Zurich.  Dr. Mindell’s deep curiosity and work with people on body symptoms led him to broaden the dreamwork approach and explore different sensory channels.  Processwork was born as one of the first psychologies to integrate somatic experiences, and has since grown far beyond psychology in its scope.

The group of students drawn to study with Dr. Mindell became a dynamic community who helped him creatively; to teach, apply research, and elaborate on his theory and practice of Processwork.  The discipline continues to develop and is taught with the understanding that each Processworker will make it their own and contribute their own expertise and discoveries to the whole.  This original community has grown into a global association of practitioners and schools, both those without official Processwork credentials, and those with a Diploma in Processwork and affiliated with the International Association of Process Oriented Psychologists (IAPOP).

Influences on Processwork

Since its beginnings, Processwork has been shaped by many indigenous cultures’ wisdom, to which we all owe so much.  Most notably the Indigenous Australian knowledge of Dreamtime and the Chinese philosophy and practices of Taoism are fundamental to seeing the world through a Processwork lens.

Processwork Theory

The theory itself is elegant in its simplicity and application to any aspect of life.  As well as a tool for individual personal growth, Processwork’s model for identity and experience is equally useful for relationships and groups, both small and large, and any kind of conflict work.

Processwork understands human experience as a dreaming process which unfolds through sensory channels.  Our experiences are alive in Consensus (everyday) Reality as well as Dreamland – aspects of experience which are subjective and not necessarily agreed upon in a given culture.  At the deepest level, consciousness and reality spring from Essence, birthed and mediated by Process Mind, which is analogous to the ancient Chinese understanding of the Tao Which Cannot Be Said.


The simple channels of experience are visual, auditory, proprioceptive and movement.  Composite channels are made up of these simple ones and include relationship and world.  We are constantly receiving and emitting information in all these channels, though we are only aware of some of that information.

Primary and Secondary Processes

The information we are aware of and identify with comprises our “primary process,” the person or group we understand ourselves to be.  Information that we don’t identify with, which is often problematic in one or more channels, is connected to our “secondary process,” something outside our usual identity, which we are growing to become.


Between these primary and secondary processes is the phenomenon called the Edge.  It is our growing point, guarded by conscious and unconscious belief systems and contributing to misunderstandings and conflicts on all levels.

Attention to this dynamic of identity increases self-awareness, and therefore gives access to more choices of action.  Exploration and integration of secondary material leads to temporary resolution, eases difficulties, and opens a path to the next phase of growth.

Processwork is Useful Everywhere

Processworkers everywhere use this empowering paradigm to facilitate growth and creativity in uncounted spheres.  From individual psychology and inner work, relationships and families, Processwork has found rich applications in coaching, organizational development, and large-scale conflicts.  One of the most exciting applications for our troubled times is World Work, where hundreds of people meet to work on global issues. There are also dancers, painters, writers and musicians using Processwork in creating and performing their arts.  Teachers apply the theory in the classroom, and nurses use it in the OR.  Anywhere there are humans, Processwork can be useful.

To find out more from these individuals, please read on in The Edge.

If you’d like to explore deeper, visit the Processwork Institute Bookstore and public manuscripts pages, check out Arny and Amy Mindell’s website at, find a school or workshop near you at IAPOP, and take a class, or contact an individual practitioner.

Thank you for visiting us at The Edge!


by Elva Redwood, MA, PW Dipl., Managing Editor

Elva Wolf Redwood is a Processwork Diplomate practicing with individuals, couples and groups in Portland, Oregon, USA, and on-line.  They are a writer and a lover of dogs, fermented foods and knitting.  They are drawn particularly to work with artists, activists, culture changers and anyone addressing developmental trauma.


Rhinos, Fires, and Pandemics

(This post was written before the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and the uprisings across the US. So it does not address the pandemic of police killing black people and institutionalized racial violence.)

by Lane Arye

It is a time of upheaval, uncertainty, financial collapse.  Of fear, sickness, death, grief.  Of isolation, self-protection, selfless service, slowing down, going inside.

While COVID-19 is decimating communities of color in the US, highlighting and amplifying systemic oppression, and so many people are losing their jobs, I have the huge privilege to live in a house with my healthy family, see clients on Zoom, and work on myself.  Unfairly, it’s a time of incredible growth for me.

Working on Worst Fears

I spent the first week of the pandemic welcoming and fully experiencing the fear in my body, letting it tremble until the shaking was a vibration resonating with the vibration of the universe.  Then I worked on my worst fantasies of being deathly ill with the virus, alone in a hospital room, my lungs filled with scars, unable to take a breath.  I took in the physical suffering, the terror.  I felt my aversion to it, fighting against reality.  I felt my fury, loneliness, self-pity, and entitlement.  “Why me?  I am too important to be having this experience!”  Then I let all of that die.  What remained was freedom.  Acceptance.  Equanimity.  An ecstatic joy.  Huge gratitude for this breath, this moment.

Flowing with the Current

This reminds me of a Taoist tale.  Confucius, on the edge of a turbulent river, sees an elderly man apparently fall in.  The master orders his disciples to rescue the man.  They find him standing downstream, unharmed.  When Confucius asks how he fought against the dangerous whirlpools, the man laughs.  “I didn’t fight.  I let the vortex take me to the bottom; then it pushed me back up.”  This ancient wisdom is at the core of Processwork.  Rather than resisting what is disturbing or scary, we follow it to the bottom.  When we flow with the river of process, our troubles become teachers, leading us toward something valuable and meaningful.

Triggered Childhood Trauma

Even with such deep experiences, I sometimes still get triggered into old trauma.  Much of my life has been ruled by fear.  Childhood taught me the world is not safe.  Those who should have taken care of me were themselves life threatening.  Lack of safety somehow got projected onto germs.  That guy just coughed into his hand.  He touched that doorknob.  Someone else is touching the doorknob, and now she’s coming toward me!  I’ve healed so much of that trauma, and yet it still lives in my body, waiting for a trigger.

Fire and Rhinos in my Dream

In the first weeks the coronavirus was spreading through California, I had a dream.  In the dream, I’m living in an old farmhouse.  I go outside and see my gate is open.  I’m angry that someone opened my gate.  I see a bunch of rhinoceroses standing in my front yard, and I know it will be impossible to move them.  I go back inside and a homeless man is in my kitchen, setting small fires all around the outside walls of my house.  I scream “what the f#@k are you doing?!” and I run to the kitchen to get water to put out the fires.  I can’t find a container to carry the water in.  I know I’ll never put the fires out, which by now have multiplied and grown.  I wake up in a panic.

Reflecting on it, I saw that the “me” in the dream (what Processwork calls my primary process, the part I identify with and that’s most known to me) was angry and scared.  It wanted to close the gate, get rid of rhinos, and put out fires.  My secondary process (the part that’s disturbing to me or definitely “not me”) included the rhinos, the open gate, the homeless man, and fires burning down the walls.  How could I possibly follow these disturbances?  I felt too shaky to even try.  I anyway couldn’t go further at the time.  It was time to buy food for my family, my first shopping trip in the time of Covid-19.

Grocery Shopping During Covid

The store was crowded.  I was nervous to touch the food, wondering if the virus was on it.  When someone came near me, I felt angry and scared, and quickly walked away.  I was hypervigilant, my body tense, my eyes scanning for danger.

Waiting in line to pay, the guy behind me kept coming too close.  My muscles tightened, ready to push him or run.  Then I remembered the rhinos.  My body immediately settled.  I was as huge as they were, as grounded and immovable, my thick skin impenetrable as armor.  In that moment I remembered the fires, and I let the fires burn down my walls.  Suddenly I looked around and saw people, who all looked scared.  I was filled with compassion for them.  They were no longer threats.  They were human beings like me, and I loved them.

I was reminded of a poem by Mizuta Masahide, a 17th century Japanese poet and samurai.

“My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.”

From Trauma to Freedom

What happened there?  When I walked into that store, my old trauma was triggered, and the little scared boy was in the driver’s seat.  I was seeing the world through his hypervigilant eyes, feeling through his tense body.  Long gone was Lane the processworker, who meditated on his death, opening his lungs and his being to the virus.  My body in hyperarousal, I was in fight/flight mode, ready to yell at or run from the people coming too close to me.  Like in my dream, I wanted to close my gates, protect my property, not let in anything that could hurt me.  But gratefully, the rhino was inside my gates, in my body.  When I felt the rhino’s grounded invulnerability, the scared boy settled down.  I no longer needed walls to protect me and was happy to burn them down.  Then I could see the beauty all around me.  I was homeless, with nothing protecting me, nothing needing protection.  The river had pulled me to the bottom and lifted me back up, with treasure in my pockets.  My barn having burned down, I could see the moon.


By Lane Arye, Dipl. PW., Ph.D.

Lane Arye is a senior Processwork trainer and a founding faculty member of The Processwork Institute.  Whether teaching, working in private practice, facilitating community and organizational conflicts, he partners with people to help create more inner and outer freedom, inclusion and wholeness.  A process structure geek, Lane has a process oriented, neurobiologically informed way of framing and working with trauma reactions.  He researches whiteness, and leads groups for white folks about race, resilience and repair.  Lane lives near San Francisco with his wife and two teenagers, who help him grow his heart every day.

Learn more about Lane or contact him at:


Image credits

Fire: pixabay

Rhinos: pexels

Intervening in Racism; Key to Cultural Change

As Black America stands up and refuses to take any more government licensed brutality, joined by other people of color and white allies, all of us are called to assess our values and what we contribute to immanent cultural change.  Over the past four years, I have been pessimistic about the direction of that change.  Now, the abundant energy of the Black Lives Matter protests, fueled by the financial deprivation and confinement of the Covid crisis (which disproportionately hits African and Native Americans) gives me real hope.


Racial oppression, beginning with colonialism, genocide and slavery, and continuing with mass incarceration of people of color today, is an integral part of US and global culture.  It shares common roots with all the scourges of our world: misogyny and rape culture, homo-and-transphobia, capitalist greed and poverty, cultural genocide, ableism and environmental destruction.  It is far broader than the horrific murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others.  Everyday racism, from physical violence to microaggressions that white people don’t notice on systemic and personal levels, is a constant pressure on people of color.  It is a massive public health crisis.

Racism has been with us a long time.  It is taking, and will continue to take, a lot of work to uproot and change.  White people need to step up more, face our responsibility and work harder for that change.

Cultural Myths

C.G. Jung worked with individuals on lifelong patterns through the lens of a life-myth, symbolized in an early dream or memory.  In Processwork, we also apply this to groups, organizations and whole cultures.

Our cultural myths appear in the stories we tell.  Novels, movies and songs can be seen as our collective nighttime dreams, while the bigger tales; religious texts and origin stories are symbolic of our cultural trajectory.

Old Stories

In the oldest stories, humans are part of nature.  Other species have equal importance, and spirit is present and inseparable from the material world.  Native American nations of the southwest tell how Coyote creates the world.  In the northwest it is Raven, who also brings light.  In Indigenous Australian wisdom Dreamtime gives rise to our reality, co-created by animals, plants and rocks.  Nature is sacred, and humans are dependent on her.  Ancient Celtic stories, and old stories from African and Asian countries contain a similar profound reverence for all life.

The essence experience of wonder about existence, the awe and understanding that another being – whether flower or human – is as amazing as ourselves, is key.  When we live from this place, debasement and impersonal violence are not possible.

Myths That Disconnect Us

In contrast, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic story of Genesis places humans above nature and separates out spirit and wonder.  Many interpret Adam’s stewardship of other species as license or even a mandate to use, abuse and destroy.  Too often white people extend this to humans they see as different from themselves.

The elevation of white European style culture over nature and other peoples can also be understood from the many stories where a Christian figure destroys a wild beast.  These stories include Beowulf and Grendel, St George and the Dragon, and St Patrick expelling the snakes.

Until recently, science hasn’t given us a better alternative.  Our current materialism tells a sterile story of the big bang and a meaningless, chemical origin of life.  It’s a short step from this to nihilism and apathy.  Senseless consumerism and numbing to disaster and harm to others are not a necessary consequence of scientific materialism, but without dedication to humanist ethics, it is where many of us live.

New Return to Old Wisdom

It’s time for a new cultural myth, or return to old and indigenous ones.  There is room to reinterpret Genesis as God entrusting humans with responsibility to care for nature, not dominate her.  Christians can refocus on Christ’s actual core message; equality and love for all.

Quantum science and many psychologies are re-centering consciousness in our understanding of life.  Reflecting back wisdom present in Indian traditions for thousands of years, as well as indigenous knowledge the world over, new science tells us consciousness is the foundation of existence.

If we choose to live and relate from knowing all things are conscious, we will have a wondrous relationship to everything.  It will be much harder to cut off our innate sense of empathy, the curiosity and sense of connection that all children show.

We need to adopt global cultural myths that guide us to actively care what other people experience.

Practical Tools

On a more practical level, Processwork also gives us tools for understanding and working with the roles present in oppression.  These roles are similar whether on a systemic level, in a specific situation, or even within an individual.


The roles of oppression are victim, perpetrator and witness.  In systemic racism, those roles are inhabited by people of color, white supremacy groups including corrupt police and other agencies, and the public and political systems.  It is not enough that only people of color and some white people bear witness and understand racial oppression.  All white people need to shoulder our responsibility, be present and make change.

When the witness goes beyond observing and intervenes in the abuse, they change the whole story and shift us from the myth of disconnection into our essence of caring for all life.  They connect us to our new and ancient myths and create sustainable cultural change.

Role Transformation

As the witness tranforms into the intervener – and in the case of systemic oppression the public and political systems are by far the most powerful part – the oppression is halted.  The victim role can begin to transform to the thriver, and the perpetrator also has the opportunity to change.  If they decide to, the perpetrator can use their power for the common good instead of against it.  St. George, instead of slaying the dragon can choose to be a noble protector.

Inner Roles

These roles also live inside us as internalized oppression.  In her excellent TED talk, Zed Xaba describes working on internalized racial oppression.

White people who work to be allies also have racist parts inside us, as well as our own internal oppression, which comes out unconsciously and harms people of color.  We have to do our inner work too.

Inside the white supremacist, these roles also play themselves out.  It is traumatic to teach a child to hate other humans.  The adult that child becomes must continuously oppress their innate sensitivity to maintain that hate.

Change is Coming

In this moment, as I hear helicopters again over the protests in the city of Portland, our cultural witness role has stepped into the intervener against systemic racism.

Everyday people are flooding the streets of 430 US cities and many other cities worldwide in sustained response to the brutal murder of George Floyd.  Many city and local governments are responding to this call.  Our current federal government may not be able to hear, care or shift, but as described in the Chinese classic the I Ching, in times of change, what is too rigid will eventually break.


Take Action:

Please consider donating to Black Lives Matter, or to a local organization such as Don’t Shoot Portland

Support black owned businesses countrywide and local to Portland

Further Resources:

Join this online anti-racism training by Raggi Kotak, Challenging the Dynamics of Racism

Learn about racism as a public health crisis at Right to Health

Learn about internalized oppression from Zed Xaba

Reading and other resources, and other organizations to support can be found here, here and here



by Elva Redwood, MA, PW Dipl., Managing Editor

Elva Wolf Redwood is a Processwork Diplomate practicing with individuals, couples and organizations in Portland, Oregon, USA, and on-line.  They are a writer and a lover of dogs, fermented foods and knitting.  They repeatedly commit to intervening in oppression of all kinds, wherever they find it, and to work on climate justice.  They are drawn particularly to work with artists, activists, culture changers and anyone addressing developmental trauma.

Pronouns: them/they/their

Engaging the Inner Critic; Toward a Fluid Inner Ecology

by Rhea Shapiro

All of us with an abuse or trauma background, especially in early childhood, live with the remnants of these parts of our lives in different ways.  A common result is an inner voice that is anything but kind or supportive.  This voice echoes the tyrant or “ism” that we lived with and endured with no power to stop them.  If we have survived into adulthood we have that tyrannical and critical voice inside us.  It doesn’t stop.  We have to work it.  We have to work against it and with it.

This is a mythic challenge represented by the “wrathful deity” of Tibetan Buddhism.  We can learn to interact, wrestle, kill, re-educate, change and finally even love this inner part of ourselves.  I recall Pogo, the comic strip character’s famous quip: “ I have met the enemy and it is me!” which is completely applicable here.

Hayagriva is a fierce emanation of Amitabha (infinite light) Buddha, from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

How do we notice, work with, and transform these voices, including the habits and repeating loops we develop?  After all, these critics usually have all the secondary powers our primary identities are searching for.

The process of creating a more fluid inner ecology takes time; working back and forth, up and down, in and out, repeating, forgetting, re-repeating and slowly our inner atmospheres can shift.

Noticing Comes First

For many, this voice actually hides in its everyday form.  We are so used to an inner climate of negativity that we don’t question it.  We are hypnotized by the normality in our inner world; not expecting to do well or to be liked or loved; actually expecting to fail or be rejected; never doing well enough to satisfy this voice.

Where once this voice might have kept us safe from an abusive adult that frightened or negated us – we learned not to speak out, disagree or rock the boat – now it is just this old familiar loop that no longer serves us.  It keeps us from actualizing our full potentials and enjoying a life that a human being is meant to live.

Pulling back our projections is also noticing.  A good rule of thumb (because we internalize oppression); if it is happening outside, it is also happening inside.

Creating Relationship: Wrestling
The inner critic usually operates in the inner auditory channel, through our often unconscious ideas and thoughts about ourselves.  Creating a new relationship with this inner role means engaging this voice and practicing inner relationship work.  This includes standing up, fighting with that critic and recruiting allies, real and imagined.  We use our creativity and all perceptual channels here:  movement, sound, language, art and feelings – both body and emotion – as we create a more fluid relationship with this spirit.

These critical voices are not used to being challenged and can be quite rigid and mean.  Up to this point, it has been top dog in an open field with little resistance.  Keep going.

The critic is an inner role that can shift.  With time and work, you can create a new relationship with it, and a more fluid and sustainable atmosphere inside yourself.  Remember, as a 4 year old once announced to me:  “I am the boss of myself!”

Going Deeper

After challenging – and challenging and challenging – the inner critic, we can begin to dialogue with it.  We find out what exactly it is saying, thinking and feeling.  Critics are often too general, and when really challenged they get to the edge of their known world.

Working at that edge to create more specificity brings change, and power can shift.   To do this one must learn to really enter the critic’s role and walk in their shoes.  This is phase three of Arnold Mindell’s Four Phases of Conflict.

We are working to embody the energy of the critic, not the Consensus Reality figure from our past.  We explore the characteristics of the critic as a path to that energy.

Re-educating the Critic

As we begin to allow ourselves to embody the outer aspects of the critic, – masks and theater are helpful here – we may get to know the stories and feelings behind its meanness and small mindedness.

Critics hold our suffering in a different way than our primary identities, which usually identify as victims of the abuse.  Inner critics have internalized the power of the abuser.

Just as the victim can practice fluidity and begin to more consciously use the power of the abuser, so can the inner critic shift, develop and change.  This fluidity needs to be imagined as a possibility.  Then, in fits and starts, it can be introduced into the inner relationship between the victim and critic.  This is a good example of a “Path Made by Walking”, which is also the title of a great introductory book about Processwork, by Julie Diamond and Lee Spark Jones (now Caroline Jones).

As it says in the I-Ching; Perseverance Furthers!

You will be rewarded as this critical inner figure slowly develops into a critical awareness that works with you, supporting you to process your life experiences.

Practicing with the Essence Level

This is the inner elder who uses Big Mind and Great Compassion – phase four of conflict – to create more spaciousness and friendliness inside.  Working with the essence level tunnels underneath the polarity created by the critic.  There you find its essence, and you can use that to work with the critic itself.

There can be relief from the critic’s meanness when you dance the energies in the victim/critic polarity, and move into your nature spot and out into a universe dance.  (See Arnold Mindell’s The Universe Dance.)

The World Channel

Work in the world helps to integrate our newfound powers, as we use our critical awareness to process world problems and energies.

We all have the power to shift and grow this inner figure and develop a more fluid inner ecology.  May the force be with you!  And may you realize this great journey to yourself.


By Rhea Shapiro, Dipl. PW

Rhea is a longtime processworker living in Portland, Oregon.  Processing is her life’s continual joy and challenge.  Rhea’s favorite quotes from Arny Mindell are; “Oh boy, we’re in a mess now!”  and;  “Each of us is a full-time group-process.”  These quotes remind her to  remember process when working with clients and herself.  They bring an overall engagement, patience, compassion and even a sense of humor when working with so much life experience.

contact Rhea

Image credit:  Sergey Noskov, Fine Art America

Corona Virus Dreaming – We’re All In The Same Boat

by Barbora Sedlakova

I have never felt so alive and consciously connected to people and mother earth as over the last few weeks.  Since the novel coronavirus attacked the world and stopped our typical way of being, I have seen a multitude of changes in my personal life and throughout the world.

At this time, we are all in the same boat.  We cannot fully protect ourselves against this powerful wave and we do not know where it is taking us.  It confronts us with our deepest selves.  It forces us to question all aspects of our lives and our future.  We are in the unknown.  Our everyday routines; the world as we know it, are no longer the same.  From a Processwork perspective, we perceive the coronavirus as a secondary process that manifests in the world channel.

Primary and Secondary Processes

In Processwork we distinguish our primary process (who we identify ourselves with as individuals, couples, groups, organizations) from our secondary process (outside of or less known to our identity).  Our secondary processes usually include unintentional and disturbing things in our lives such as illness, inner or outer conflict, or the current pandemic.


Processwork, also focuses on the constantly changing flow of information through six channels.  Four of these are simple sensory channels: visual, auditory, proprioceptive, and movement.  The other two are composite: relationship and world.  The coronavirus affects the entire world through the world channel.  It also manifests in proprioception, as body symptoms, as well as our individual responses to danger, such as anxiety, paralysis, grief, action and humor.

For example, over the last few weeks I have woken up with anxiety almost every morning.  The world channel affects me and impacts me through proprioception, despite my consensus reality knowledge that I’m safe and healthy.

Levels of Reality

On the consensus reality level, things appear concrete and we more-or-less agree on them.  For example, the basic facts of the current pandemic.  Another level of reality is called dreamland.  It includes roles, polarities, symptom makers, and dream-figures (similar to Jungian archetypes) that we all share.  Yet dreamland emerges though unique experiences for each one of us.  Even deeper there is a third level of reality: the essence level.  This is the unity from where everything emerges.  It is the space-time where we don’t distinguish between me and you, where we feel connected to something bigger that goes beyond ourselves.

Facilitating Inner Relationships

In Processwork we facilitate the relationship between the more known and lesser known parts of ourselves.  With this in mind, I ask myself what I should do with my anxiety?  The feeling is so strong, it’s not easy to ignore.  Rather than trying to marginalize it, like we do with many secondary processes, I listen to it carefully.  It helps me to act, to protect myself and others, to take my responsibility in the world seriously.  The anxiety comes back later, but it feels different now.  I feel more fluid between what used to be my everyday-self and the anxious part of me.

Holding Contradictions

There are a variety of responses to this pandemic and each of us reacts differently.  Some of us have contradictory responses at the same time.  Recently, I have learned from Lane Arye about experiencing strong inner contradictions.  For example, feeling both fear and humor, life and death, working and not working, being in contact with others yet also isolated, paying attention to the news and being detached.  How can one be in between these polarities?  This is where a meta-position (an ability to perceive the situation objectively in its wholeness) is helpful.  When we experience such strong contradictions, taking a meta-position is akin to sailing in a boat while it is calm yet stormy.

Letting Go

Julie Diamond writes that what we are currently experiencing is also normal for the world.  Everything is always in a state of change.  For some, this comes in the form of wars, raging wildfires, and previous pandemic diseases.  For me personally, this is all new.  The current disruption is unprecedented in its impact on human lives, but many of our ancestors went through similar crises and worked hard to achieve something in their lives.  We must, however, also be prepared to let things go.

To let go… And let the earth move your body to allow something new to emerge, something we haven’t been in touch with yet.  This is something that I have been repeatedly learning from Arnold Mindell and other Processwork teachers.  To allow myself to go beyond my everyday-self and belief system and see what wants to emerge for me and for the world.

Innerwork Exercise

I would like to share a short exercise with you.  You might do it with a friend or by yourself.

(Inspired by Kate Jobe’s work on the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and Max Schupbach‘s Black Swans – Black Rabbits seminar.)

  1. What is your biggest fear about the current crisis?  What part of yourself is disturbed by this fear?  What does the threatened part of yourself need?  How can you care for this part of yourself?
  2. Let yourself become a bit foggy, relaxed, and playful.  If the virus were a dream figure, what would it be?  What qualities does this figure have?  What is the essence of it?  Imagine you have just landed on a new planet in a universe where everyone has this quality.  What message would the beings from this planet relay to you and the world you come from?
  3. How could you integrate the experience from steps one and two into your everyday life?
  4. What is your greatest hope for the world?

The Pandemic is Also an Opportunity

We are all in the same boat now.  Really, we have always been in the same boat, but the corona virus reminds us of this.  Processwork allows us to dive deeper into the dreamland and essence of the virus and other disturbances and find something positive and useful there.  My biggest hope for the world now is that we can take this crisis as an opportunity to learn and open ourselves up to something new as individuals, communities, and humanity.


By Barbora “Bara” Sedlakova, M.A., M.Ed

Bara holds MAs in both Psychology and Special Education.  She is a facilitator, dancer, researcher, and lover of nature and adventure.  She is a phase two Processwork diploma student at IPOP in Prague, Czech Republic, a PhD student of Clinical Psychology at Palacky University in Olomouc, and currently completing a long-term internship at the Process Work Institute in Portland.  She is constantly developing her skills in the fields of mental health, body symptoms, crisis intervention, and dance.  She appreciates a diversity of challenging life situations and is passionate about finding different ways to bring awareness on both individual and collective levels.

Pronouns: she/her

Image credit:

I would like to thank Elva Redwood, Cathy Bernatt, and Jolene Lloyd for their ideas and help with editing in the English language.

Why Manifestation Doesn’t Always Work: A Process Perspective

By Jeanell Innerarity

If you’ve engaged in personal growth work in the last fifteen years, you’ve probably dabbled in “manifestation.”  Manifestation hit the mainstream with the 2006 release of the documentary The Secret, which featured celebrities, philosophers, and even scientists talking about how they create their own reality by acting like it’s already real.  The movie claims that some of society’s biggest names have used this “secret” to get to ahead, and the rest of us can do the same.

Life is more Complex

If tuning in to the vibration of our goals is the only thing between us and our ideal reality, then why aren’t we there yet?  Did some of us stick the wrong images on our vision boards?  How come manifestation sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t?  I believe the missing piece in this conversation is PROCESS!

Process, if you know how to track it, is no secret.  The word “process” can be a noun or a verb and applies in many contexts, but it always implies that something is emerging naturally from what came before it.  As a Processworker, I track process by noticing what is more obvious or consciously known (primary), and facilitating opportunities for the less known (secondary) aspects of awareness to emerge.

The Secondary Process

How do I apply this when a client comes to me and says they want to “manifest” something?  The term manifestation gives me a clue: there’s a primary aspect of their awareness which has a goal, and a secondary aspect which has another plan entirely!

A client once came to me with enormous career goals.  Already the leader of an international organization, they wanted to manifest more power, money, and status.  However, they were exhausted.  Their shoulders were tied up in knots.  Their relationship and libido suffered.  They had been betrayed in a business deal and felt unable to trust.  Their primary process was success, but their secondary process was rest. 

What they thought they wanted to manifest was one-sided and oversimplified; it did not honor the complexity of their life and character, and was impossible to maintain without serious consequence.  When you marginalize significant aspects of your experience in order to manifest something, the secondary aspects of your process will eventually sabotage your efforts!

All the Isms

But what if what you’re honoring your full experience, yet you keep running into roadblocks?  When clients describe this scenario, I often find that classism, racism, homophobia, or other institutionalized biases are at play.  A person tries to manifest their dreams, and the world pushes back against them.

Does this mean they can’t get there?  Absolutely not!  With these clients (and within myself) I bring to light the process of internalized oppression—the way in which we repeat to ourselves the same critical and dangerous stories the world has fed us.  In this case, we must first fight the inner oppressor and pick up its power for ourselves!  The outside world may not immediately change, but when we stop agreeing with its insidious and abusive voices we can act with more confidence and at least avoid self-sabotage.  After we’ve laid a foundation for a less hurtful inner dialogue, we can strategize about how to take action, build alliances, and even change systems in the wider world.

If you experience societal oppression and believe—as many do—that manifesting your dreams is based solely on your own ability to visualize, then you will feel like a personal failure every time your dreams don’t come true.  In this case, the culture of manifestation becomes abusive; it tells people that the big isms—sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, etc.—are easy to overcome, thus erasing the pain, challenge, and grief of someone’s experience.  Not fertile soil for manifestation!

You Can’t Go Against Your Needs

It’s also nearly impossible to manifest an intention which overrides a fundamental need.  A classic example shows up in the field of weight loss.  How many millions of people have spent billions of dollars trying to lose weight, only to fail at the outset or gain back more than they lost?  If you eat to “be big” or take up space, to feel safe in your body, to feel free of the sexual gaze, or to experience comfort, then no amount of focusing on thinness will manifest your vision until you can feel these things on your own terms.  Additionally, the cultural emphasis on weight loss is a type of social oppression all its own, so it’s important to explore why you might want to lose weight in the first place.

Your True Nature

And finally, there’s destiny.  Processwork proposes that we each have a unique path in life: a certain type of trajectory, tendency, and dreaming process which shows up in our earliest childhood dream (or memory) and cycles back throughout our lives.  A sort of personal myth.  To harness the power of that myth is to live out your destiny!

In my earliest childhood dream, I disturb the status quo and wake up terrified of my own power.  Predictably, when I try to conform to the mainstream in my waking life it comes back to bite me;  it’s against my nature, which is to use my power to wake people up!  I can’t manifest something lasting if it isn’t “me;” when I’m true to who I am, extraordinary things manifest themselves in my favor.

Because of the impact of the secondary process, societal oppression, unmet needs, and personal destiny, manifestation doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does!  Sometimes, with astonishing quickness and accuracy, you wish for something and get what you wanted.  Is that just dumb luck?  Maybe occasionally!  More often, I’d say it’s akin to “going with the flow.”  When you learn to track and unfold your own process, when you align your choices with your true nature, and when you notice and act on synchronicities, you get out of your own way.  When you honor your needs and take back the power of the internalized oppressor, you open up possibilities for the intelligent universe to shower you with blessings!  It’s just that those blessings might look nothing like what you intended to manifest….

By Jeanell Innerarity, MAPOF, LMT (#22490)

Jeanell Innerarity facilitates personal healing with global impact.  She specializes in integrative work to help clients better understand their personal power through the lenses of ancestry, Earth connection, and somatic awareness.  She is the Founder and CEO of The EcoSpiritual Education Center LLC, where she provides group workshops, one-on-one counseling, and online education focused on personal development interwoven with ecological and social sustainability.  She holds an MA in Process Oriented Facilitation, a BA in Environmental Studies, is certified in Permaculture and Ecovillage Design, and is a Licensed Massage Therapist.  She recently completed her first novel.

Learn more about Jeanell’s work at Ecospiritual Education

Image credit: Jeanell Innerarity

Sharing the Handprint: How Processwork Holds Me to My Dream

By Jon Biemer

August 21st, 2019 is a date I will remember.  This is when I received an offer from Rowman & Littlefield to publish From Footprints to Handprints: Creating Sustainability to Heal Our Planet.  How did I focus and stay the course long enough to reach this point of fruition?  I have Processwork to thank for that.

Competing Passions

I felt pulled in two seemingly incompatible directions. 

The idea of getting a PhD with a cross emphasis in sustainability and spirituality intrigued me, even though I had no inclination to use it for consulting or teaching. 

Also, for two decades, I had followed a Native American spiritual path.  I left my full-time job, partly with the intention of deepening my commitment to ceremony and carrying medicine. 

I brought my divergent callings to a Processwork class on altered states.  We would learn about the diversity of dreams within ourselves, and how they insist we pay attention.  The instructor used a basic Processwork technique of amplifying symptoms, in this case my yearnings.  He asked class members to form two groups, each advocating an aspect of my dreaming. 

The PhD group regaled me with congratulations for choosing their path and assured me that I would join a cadre of esteemed colleagues.  I would receive a badge of honor.

The spiritual folk literally pulled me away from the academic crowd.  They reminded me of my desire to help others.  They appealed to a calling higher than the practical plane.  They loved me. 

But I couldn’t stop looking over my shoulder.  I could not ignore the conventional crowd.  The exercise ended in chaos — but I had to treat the PhD seriously. 

My process toward the handprint

During the break I filled a whiteboard with my reservations.  I’m a slow reader.  I don’t enjoy studying, let alone following rules.  Spending four years – if all goes well – away from my environmental activism seems like a selfish distraction.  I’d be spending less time with my wife.  I wouldn’t be helping other people much either.  And the significant cost… I was at an edge, a Processwork term for fearing change.

Two bubbles on that web of thought (some call it a mind map) stood out for me – “contribute something unique,” and “need to be recognized.”  Ah… Those were the reasons the PhD was so compelling.  I realized there may be other paths to meeting those needs. 

Unfolding My Path

Upon hearing my story from the altered-states class, my wife Willow said, “You could get a PhD from the universe… rather than a university.” 

That resonated with me. 

I could intentionally treat my adventures in sustainability as coursework.  I had already managed energy conservation programs professionally.  I had supported ballot measures to curtail nuclear power.  We were in the middle of an eco-remodel of our new house, creating a “food forest” in place of a lawn, and partnering with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council to remove invasive English Ivy.

For my unique contribution, I was already nursing the idea of the Environmental Handprint, the good we do, the ways we can change the system.  Encouraged by my altered-states experience, I submitted and presented a professional paper about the Handprint, and… One morning the vision for a book crystalized. 

I loved writing, but it had always been a lower priority than getting things done.  But now a book would serve the role of my dissertation.  Besides, I might receive some recognition.

The Gift of a Headache

Four years into my book project, work proceeded slowly.  Some of my data was going out of date.

And another problem claimed my attention.  Headaches.  A fiercely intense pain over my right eye would claim my entire attention for about twenty minutes.  They came mostly during sweat lodge ceremonies.  The doctor had a nine-syllable name for these headaches and some medicine – which worked.  But, after ordering precautionary imaging, he offered no physiological reason why I was getting them. 

I brought that reality to another Processwork class.  In this instance, I walked with the seemingly incompatible energies of my ordinary plodding self and the pounding energy of my headache.  I moved first with one energy, then the other. Gradually, they fused into a lively dance. Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” came into my mind. 

I moved with the music, feeling its punctuated downbeats.  I admitted to myself that the heat of a sweat lodge was part of the headache problem.  Yes, but that thought didn’t feel helpful.  Processwork reminds us that physical symptoms can reveal wisdom that we are not already aware of, perhaps something needed for a breakthrough.  I kept dancing.

Eventually, these words came to me, “The dance is my spiritual practice.” And then, “The dance, slowed down, is my walk.” 

Suddenly I understood that my book – a walk of sorts – is a spiritual calling. 

My headache told me that life was out of balance.  It is okay to back off the sweat lodges.  I’m not abandoning my spiritual path.  I’m deepening it – as I hoped to do back when I took that altered-states class.

The labor and discernment I pour into my book is my commitment to serve.  Making money is not my goal.  However, it is important to find a mainstream publisher and partners willing to share this earth-healing message widely. 

Therefore, engaging a book coach became yet another course in my advanced study.


From Footprints to Handprints required six years of writing and rewriting. It represents the practicality, creativity and persistence of millions of people who are contributing to a better future.  It offers nearly two hundred Handprint Opportunities.  And it reflects the power of Processwork to help inner needs make a difference in the outer world.

The image with this article, a green handprint superimposed on the 1972 NASA photograph of the Earth, is a symbol for sustainability, much as three arrows in a triangle symbolize recycling.  

By Jon Biemer

Jon Biemer earned a Certificate in Process-oriented Psychology in 2014. He also is a registered Professional Engineer. He provides Organizational Development consulting to businesses and non-profits. Check out his website at Contact him at, especially if you’d like to receive publication announcements about From Handprints to Footprints: Creating Sustainability to Heal Our Planet

Image credits: Jon Biemer

Process-Oriented Dating

By Amy Palatnick

Although I don’t get paid for it, I like to call myself a “professional dater,” because my approach is more of a martial art or a research project than a quest for love.  I focus on dating for personal growth, using each date to challenge myself in the realm of communication.  In my practice, the manifestation of love is a cherry-on-top, not a primary goal.

A unique perk of dating is getting to interact with a variety of people.  Different parts of me get evoked by each connection.  At an early stage of interaction, I have little skin in the game and can freely experiment in my communications without feeling limited by stagnant roles that crystallize in longer-term connections. 

Dating also has a built-in bonus of introspection: when it’s over, there is plenty of time to reflect on my experience. 

If you are ready to flex your communication muscles, dating is a perfect practice arena to usher you into the bountiful land of elevated relating.  Dates are filled with opportunities to develop and practice our communication skills, from first contact to sayonara.  All we need to know is how we want to grow!

How Do We Grow?  The Mandate of Personal Evolution

I believe that each person is on a unique evolutionary path, encountering specific, personally-tailored obstacles that inevitably result in personal growth.  When we navigate our journeys with awareness, we may experience a gentler ride: we can consciously manifest and monitor our progress (including our failures!).  My belief is, even when we resist or ignore spiritual growth prompts (which can manifest in the form of accidents, body symptoms, dreams, disturbances in our home, relationship, or work lives…) we still evolve!  We can’t avoid the lessons life has in store for us. 

Yet growth is often difficult and uncomfortable!  We have to be willing to shift belief systems, to stretch in new directions, and to behave in ways that feel foreign and uncomfortable.  It takes work to build new muscles.

The Concept of the Edge

Foundational to the Processwork paradigm is acceptance of the whole of who we are, including the unknown parts of us that desire expression.  We can help the process along if we have a sense of what those parts are. 

The threshold of our growth is called the edge; an inner boundary between the known and unknown parts of ourselves.  It is the gate to our emerging future, the portal to our untapped potential.  Most of us try to avoid edges, feeling safer when we rest in what is known. 

But emerging qualities actually need an outlet.  When blocked, these marginalized (not fully integrated) parts often find troubling means of expression, such as through addiction (an unconscious strategy that gets us over the edge), nightmares (which confront us with our edges), body symptoms (where our edges surface physically), and other difficulties.  By consciously choosing to grow, we can express these characteristics in ways that are more supportive and less sabotaging. 

An easy way to identify the parts of us that are trying to grow is to look at people we admire.  Who do we wish we could be like?  What is it about them that speaks to us?  Can we act like they do?  Can we integrate their unique characteristics, even a little bit?  Can we sit like them, talk like them, grab that trait they have and play with it?  If not, why not? 

If we are willing to take risks to act in new and unfamiliar ways and to dance with our edges, to welcome our unknown parts, we can embrace our emerging traits by taking risks and manifesting our growth.

What is Your Relationship Edge?

We have all kinds of edges: some are personal, others are interpersonal (between people) or even transpersonal (beyond personal).  “Relationship edges” are interpersonal, showing up in connection with others. 

My biggest edge in relationships is radical honesty (speaking my truth even when I’m afraid to).  My primary style is to accommodate, to say what I think the other person wants to hear.  In dating, this comes up a lot: I often am conscious that I am not interested in my date but I continue to “make nice” instead of ending the encounter. 

I have a personal hero named Janet.  My relationship edge is radical honesty, and Janet always says it like it is, for better or worse.  When I am on a date and know that I have something to say but am afraid to say it, I think about Janet, and pretend that I’m Janet! I sit up taller, and I feel like Janet.  I look through her eyes and put my hands on the table.  When I remember, I use this line that helps me get where I want to go, “Can I be honest with you?”  From there, I always know what to do. 

If you know your central edge in relationships, you can identify opportunities for growth, learn to recognize those opportunities and have a strategy for how to overcome the edge.  Other relationship edges indclude: vulnerability, sobriety, intellect, receptivity, interrupting, bigness, masculinity, femininity, freedom, surrender, trust, playfulness, detachment, and power.

To hone in on yours, you can ask yourself:  “What do I wish I could do in my relationships?”

You can openly work on your edges during dates.  You can say, “I’m practicing [insert personal edge] and I’m planning on practicing that with you tonight!”  Your date might be impressed and could even help you develop your new skills.  This can make for a playful, deep and unexpected experience.

Dating with the intention to cross our edges can help us learn to communicate the way we really want to in our relationships.  And when love finally does show up, we will have used our time wisely, becoming more of the people we want to be.


by Amy Palatnick, Dipl.PW

Amy Palatnick is a professional potter, a black belt Nia instructor, and a Processwork diplomate, therapist and coach living and loving in Eugene, Oregon.

Amy is passionate about personal growth, especially through relationships, and is preparing to release a book about process-oriented dating in 2020.

To stay in touch, send her an email at and follow her on Facebook!

Image credit: Alexas_Fotos at Pixabay:

Climate Change Inaction and Relationship

By Irina Feygina

Climate Change is at Our Doorstep.  We have all the tools needed to ameliorate, and possibly reverse, the human impact on the climate.  Our economic and human resources, capacity for technological innovation, and ability to coordinate and learn are immense, and if harnessed toward tackling this issue we can turn things around.  But we don’t.  Why are we failing to meet this challenge with the wisdom, courage, and community spirit that it requires?  How can we shift toward action and support adaptive responses?

Relationships Underlie our Responses to the Climate Crisis

We tend to envision climate change as a multitude of measurable trends: increasing greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures, climate variability and extreme weather events, loss of nature and species extinction, sea level rise and desertification – all leading to destructive impacts on agriculture, infrastructure, cities, communities, lives.

Yet, our responses to climate change and barriers to action are driven by a different layer of experience, one Processwork calls “the Dreaming”.  It is comprised of individual subjective experiences, perceptions, and interpretations – our inner, unique, authentic world from which our behavior stems.  Understandably, many who want to engage politicians and the public with climate change offer facts and scientific knowledge to convey the severity of the risks and impacts.  Yet, this approach has not succeeded because it has not recognized and addressed the barriers at the dreaming level.

In many years of learning about and attempting to address climate change inaction, I have discovered that beneath the resistance is a longing and profound need for relationship.  I offer this insight as a tool to work with climate change differently, in a way that connects rather than alienates people.


Climate Inaction Stems from the Need to Belong

Our fundamental motive, which drives much of our behavior, is the need to belong: to be an accepted and valued member of a group, welcomed and desired, loved and included in something bigger.  Our relationships may be with institutions, communities, families, friends, God or spiritual entities, animals, nature, ourselves.  For most people, relationships form the heart of our lives, and offer meaning and purpose – and we are willing to go to great lengths to protect them.

This becomes a key impediment to accepting and addressing climate change, which threatens the very fabric of our society, and the well-being of those we love.  Climate change brings the most fundamental facets of our socioeconomic systems into question – the reliance on industry, technology, and the notion of progress, and reveals their unsustainability.  Those strongly identified with and psychologically invested in these systems will do anything to protect them, and are likely to engage in denial of climate change and resistance to solutions.  This dynamic is effectively exploited by an organized, extensively funded, shadow political effort to stymie action and sow doubt about the science of climate change.

On the other hand, those who are willing to acknowledge the reality of climate change often fail to see its relevance and proximity to their lives and the people they care about.  If they do, they may be unable to take action due to overwhelming feelings of fear, powerlessness, and inefficacy in the face of this enormous challenge.  The absence of a coordinated response spearheaded by political leadership and inclusive of the public leaves a void where a shared reality is needed.  People are left without a coherent vision nor a path toward engagement which is feasible and meaningful in their lives.

The Key to Overcoming Disengagement is Relationship

Climate skepticism and complacency are both about belonging.  The skeptics perceive a conflict between responding to climate change and protecting the economic and political institutions they identify with and depend on.  The complacent prioritize responsibilities to the relationships that comprise their lives, and are lost without a community foundation for engagement with climate change.  For both groups, responses driven by identity, relationship, and community (or lack thereof) prevail over risks and scientific fact.

Consequently, to work on climate change effectively is to work on these relational processes.  Help the skeptical undo the perceived conflict and harness their desire to protect the system by reframing solutions as a way to uphold what people love and feel attached to.  Help the complacent and disengaged connect climate change to the relationships they care about – their children, friends, neighborhoods, work. 

Make climate solutions consistent with people’s values and aspirations.  Build community and empower through shared engagement and successes.

Not only is relationship at the root of inaction, it is also at the root of action.  People align their behaviors to social norms, as a way of fitting in and being accepted.  Social norms are the most powerful driver of changing behaviors toward sustainability.  Adopting clean energy technologies (e.g. solar panels) is most strongly predicted by how many neighbors have done so, not price.  People are most effectively convinced to reduce water and electricity usage through learning that other people in their locality are doing so.  The burgeoning social resistance of the youth to governmental inaction is driven by connection to members and identity with the movement. 

The Paris Accords were successful after decades of failed international climate negotiations as a result of dedicated relationship building and dialogue among the world’s nations.

Processwork Facilitates Deeper Relationships across Diversity

There are many tools that Processwork can offer for supporting relationship dynamics in the context of climate change.  I am beginning to explore ways to bring these tools to climate organizations and groups, and trust these attempts will be my teacher in how to best draw on Processwork to support the Dreaming. But here are some thoughts.  As facilitators, we strive toward an inclusive attitude that honors and recognizes all perspectives – even ones we experience as disturbing, unknown, or frightening.  When conflicting sides encounter and recognize each other in this integrative way, a foundation is created for a deeper conversation, in which each side can recognize and acknowledge the other.  This can give rise to solutions that are informed by both facts and a deeper dreaming, and foster relationship across difference.

Processwork teaches us to embrace conflict, adversity, and wounds, and trust that listening deeply will reveal what we need to know and show the path forward.  By learning to follow and trust the process we discover our unique contributions and styles of working with complex situations, and can offer support to others for deepening personal growth, strengthening relationships, and building community.  It also offers approaches for supporting team dynamics and interpersonal difficulties within groups and addressing the insidious state of hopelessness and burnout that often arise when tackling entrenched challenges.

Exploring the Essence and Doorways into Growth

Processwork also invites us to discover the essence and explore the mystery of climate change – what is it teaching us and what doors is it opening?  How is it challenging us to create meaning in this unknown landscape?  What spiritual insights and growth is it demanding of us?  Going to the essence offers a detached viewpoint from which we can step out of the ever-widening polarization and perhaps discover a new sense of interconnectedness.  It can also help cultivate hope, resilience, and empowerment.

It is time we listen to the dreaming behind climate change inaction and recognize that our responses are driven by belonging, identity, and relationship.  We have much to offer in recognizing, holding, and healing these relational processes, and moving from polarization and alienation toward community and hope.


by Irina Feygina, PhD

Irina Feygina is a process-oriented facilitator and psychologist who supports individuals and groups to deepen self-awareness, strengthen relationships and communication, and embrace conflict as a doorway into discovery and transformation.  Her passion is working on the human dimensions of climate change – conflict and cooperation, skepticism and engagement, and holding space for complex personal and community processes around this vast challenge.  She has worked in government, nonprofits, and academia, and is currently developing approaches to climate conflict that combine insights from Processwork and behavioral sciences.  Irina holds a PhD in social psychology and is completing her Diploma in Process-oriented facilitation.

LinkedIn Profile
Publications, Talks, and Resources

Photo credit: South Bend Voice on flickr

Image credit: Ann Kopka; Entwined

The Spirit of Conflict

By Ger Halpin

“Conflict is a gateway to a deepening of relationship with myself, with others, and the world.”

I’m afraid (in fact I’m terrified) to speak about the spirit of war and conflict, especially at a time when there is so much suffering and fear in the world.  I have not lived through the horror of war.  I haven’t lost my loved ones or seen them suffer in ways that are unimaginable to me.  Attempting to speak about conflict is brazen and potentially dangerous, and a huge part of me questions my right to say anything about any of it.  But something wants me to share my very small experience with you. 

The Fighting Spirit Inside Me

Within me, a warlike spirit emerges from the essence level, from the root of my creativity.  It is often the source of essential changes which need to happen in my life.  My war-like nature has connected me to my personal power, when everything in my life conspired to take it from me.  I’m forged in the fires of my own personal conflict and this has been at the core of my life myth

I feel compelled to explore conflict and my confrontational nature.  I yearn to have a peaceful, Zen-like nature and to emanate peace and reconciliation, but it isn’t my path.  Instead I fight, wrestle, question and trample my way towards moments of peace, insight and enlightenment.  Processwork’s inner-work model, which believes every experience is potentially valuable and transformative, has enabled me to go deeply into this aspect of my nature.  So, despite the horror and desolation of conflict, I own that I’m not yet ready to engage in peace and reconciliation.  

Why is that?  Because I struggle to celebrate and embrace my warlike nature, or to grieve for the pain and desolation I have created for myself and others.  It frightens me to say it out loud, but I am still in awe of the generative power of conflict and I’m not ready to surrender my part in that process yet.  But, because of Processwork, how I engage in conflict is changing.

Processwork Transforms Conflict

The complex nature of conflict is revealing itself to me slowly and in different ways.  Processwork enables me to work on power, privilege and rank.  Now, conflict isn’t about shoring up my identity, establishing my boundaries and creating the world according to my version of reality.  I don’t need to use it to seduce, subdue or threaten others to accept my vision. Processwork is teaching me that I fail when I use conflict to create a world which reflects only my own narrow worldview.  

Engaging in conflict is not about honing my skills and establishing strength in relationship to the weakness of another person.  Scoring points is now an empty victory if it only seeks to exclude or denigrate someone else’s experience or beliefs.  If the result of my conflict with another is to only reflect my perceptions and my experiences, then my world becomes a poorer place.  I have misused the power of conflict.  I have rejected the inherent creativity of conflict and lost the chance to create a world enriched and sustained by diversity.  

Conflict isn’t about marginalising the perceptions of other people, their diverse experiences and denying our shared history as sentient human beings.

Deepening Relationship with Myself

After years of fighting, polarizing situations, and creating stalemate in my personal and professional life, I now realize that conflict is a gateway to a deepening of relationship with myself, with others and the world.  What began as a crusade to establish my identity and to experience my own power in the face of familial and societal oppression, has now become the challenge of experiencing myself as a person and a spirit connected infinitely to everyone and everything else, past, present and future.  This is both shocking, frightening and exhilarating.  This is a world in which I can live, love, fight and explore the experience of being a woman, a mother and a human being.  

Skills for Conflicting Creatively

Processwork motivates me to find new skills to engage in conflict.  The ability to fight and conflict is a great gift to me, changing my life, sometimes for the best and sometimes for the worst.  However, my intention in fighting with someone or for some cause is changing dramatically.  I want to use conflict to learn more about myself, about you and the universe we inhabit.  But I’m fearful that without inner-work, group work and rank awareness, the cost will be too high.  

It isn’t easy to stay connected to my deepest self when I feel frightened or threatened or excluded.  I fear my opponents and their intent when they challenge me or threaten the people or values that are precious to me.  I struggle to get beyond those feelings, and sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.  Despite this, I know conflict is a powerful path to awakening and I want to become a warrior on this path. 

At its deepest level of expression, conflict is a path of heart.  Having fought for my physical, emotional and spiritual survival, at great cost, I value and appreciate the power of conflict.  I have learned so much about the roots of my own suffering and I have inflicted wounds and suffering on other people.  I’m learning about power, how it is used and misused and its impact on all of us.  I am learning about sensitivity and insensitivity, and how these both facilitate and inhibit our capacity to notice and respond to feedback, in ourselves and others.  

Taking the Other Side

I must always remind myself that conflict loses its transformative power when I fail to take the other side as well as my own.  I am still trying to find ways to creatively engage in conflict, a possibility and a pathway revealed to me by Processwork.  I’m hoping that you and I can follow the nature of conflict, so that it isn’t just about death, destruction and subjugation, but instead becomes a channel for deepening our humanity, and embracing all our creativity and diversity.

by Ger Halpin, MPP, Dipl. Processwork, PG Dip CDRS, Approved Mediator MII

I am an eternal student of change and conflict.  Change and adaption is the key to survival.  Moving through life, negotiating conflicts and flowing with change is my life myth and ongoing challenge.  This requires awareness, a certain attitude and a spiritual practice: a spiritual practice that honors your past, your present and your future.  For me, Processwork embodies all of this and forms the cornerstone of my existence.  It is at the heart of my daily practice as a Community Worker, Facilitator and Mediator.

Ger is on teaching faculty at Processwork Ireland

« Older Entries