Different Ways of Supporting Each Other

Saturday 21 April, 2001

07.00 E&M. I felt anxious this morning because it was clear that we were not going to leave for the house as early as I had wanted. My anxiety turned to frustration with Dev and Robert until I realised that it had all been brought on by my failure to verbalise my desired departure time to them. As we arrived at the house, Leon was already there, as were Sunil and Earl.

I went straight into the garden to enjoy the sunshine and grab a few minutes to myself before the day started in earnest. The session began with Earl’s issue with a member of his family. Before he began, Karaj asked if he was prepared to work fully with his issues and to accept the support and challenges of the rest of the group. Once Earl had agreed we could begin and Earl would not have any excuse for walking out because he had given his permission.

He told us the beginning of the story and then Karaj split us into youngsters and oldsters to discuss the scenario with respect to Earl’s script. Our conclusion was that Earl was rescuing the family member and that he would eventually become the victim himself. This highlights his script beautifully because it is a pattern of his to mess his relationships up so that he can walk away from them, further reinforcing his withdrawal and loner status and also his image of himself as unworthy. All Earl needs to do is to sort himself out because if he’s okay then his family and those around him will be okay too.

Karaj’s Awareness

Earl went on to share a story about his beloved Grandfather who had worked very hard on the estate of a lord and who, after an accident, had contracted gangrene in his legs. From that day until his death he underwent eight operations to halt the progress of the infection into his body, and each time they amputated more of his legs until he was left with no legs at all. Earl became very emotional as he recalled this story from his childhood and he began to cry uncontrollably.

Karaj motioned to the elders to hold him. As they did so I felt moved as I witnessed them helping and supporting him. Karaj stressed to the older men that they hold and massage his legs. I considered this nothing more than reinforcement of their presence but then Karaj said loudly and firmly, ‘Massage his legs so that he knows they have not been cut off’. This impressed upon me the power of Karaj’s awareness. I know that Earl has suffered terrible problems with his leg as a result of a bad accident years ago but I did not make the connection between him and his grandfather.

Earl later said that, as a child, he had wanted to be like his grandfather – such is the power of these desires that Earl nearly lost his legs too. Karaj warned him that if he does not work hard with this issue of his he may yet end up suffering a similar fate to his grandfather. Karaj was hard with him which again impressed upon me Karaj’s effectiveness – he provides full support but does not let people off lightly. It is exactly what people need. We don’t need sympathy and people telling us that everything is all right and that we have no reason to cry or to be upset. We need people to be supportive but straight with us. The love is there but it does not cloud the hard work which needs to be done by all of us to resolve our issues.

We split up into small groups to discuss the learning points from the morning. I talked to Leon and Earl about what I had learned:

  • Further emphasis that if I’m okay, the people in my world will be okay
  • Kuldip’s point to me that I must acknowledge my part in the situation with the girl from dancing. I am leading her on and must be careful. This was a wake up call for me.
  • The support from the other men. Earl’s tears and the embraces from the elders. The group is a very safe environment.
  • One point made by Leon was not to bottle things up – let them go. He repeated the following quotation: ‘My emotions pass though me, I am not my emotions’.

Peer to Peer

During our discussion Leon talked about having to consider the future with his new woman. I wanted to tell him to take it easy but I knew that a better way to make my point would be to ask Earl for his advice. I did so and he said, ‘Don’t rush things’. This was a perfect way to get my message across to Leon. For me to advise him on relationships, given the 20 years between us, would not have had the same impact that Earl, his equal, had had. I felt good that I have progressed and learned enough from Karaj to be able to have felt this and to have gone with it. It was the first insight into a maturity I have never glimpsed about myself before, but that would appear again and again during the course of the day.

Fear

We talked about Dev’s fear of situations – he would like to be in a situation where he felt no fear because he believes his life would be much better for it. Karaj told him that this was precisely his problem. He should not be looking to rid himself of the fear but should instead accept it and live with it. He is using fear as an excuse for inaction – if he is frightened then he does not have to take action. Moreover, when he communicates his fear nobody can challenge it. In this way he does not have to be accountable for himself and can withdraw. He should stand up, be with his fear, and do something, anything. He should not be afraid of his fear. Karaj used the story of a footballer who scores the winning goal in a game. Before he scores nobody is interested to hear how frightened he feels with the ball at his feet in the final seconds of the game with only the keeper to beat. The same is true after the game is over – nobody wants or needs to know about his fear. All that matters is that he had a go. He may just as easily have missed, but at least he’d have had a go. Inaction can be such a disappointing and frustrating conclusion. Moreover, in such cases, we learn far more about ourselves from action than we do from inaction.

The Wrong Focus

Robert was next. He had been quiet and somewhat defiant all day. Robert had come to today’s group expecting to be asked to leave because he hasn’t been doing his appraisals – assumptions and very heavy mind fucking on his part. He explained that he had been feeling heavy for a fortnight, so Karaj told him to recount the events of the past two weeks. As it turned out, Robert had had a good time of it. He had spent an enjoyable day with Leon in Sheffield, and another one at the Tate Modern with George and Earl. He had enjoyed a great evening of dancing with Dev and attended his son’s wedding which had gone off without a hitch.

It was very noticeable, as Robert told us the story of his adventures, that he glossed right over the time he spent with the men. He paid them virtually no attention at all and failed to mention much of what happened and the fun he’d had. By contrast he could recall all the details of his time with his women – his wife, the daughters, his mother. Every anecdote which involved a female resulted in arguments, frustration or anger. As he talked it was obvious to all save Robert that he was concentrating solely on the problems in his life and discounting the good times, and that he was not considering himself important enough to find time for himself.

There was no need for people to give him any solutions because firstly, all the evidence was there for him to draw his own conclusions, and secondly, he has heard it all before – yet he still persists in looking to women for quality of life. Robert has a high opinion of himself. Maybe this is why he makes the same mistakes with his women over and over again, because he assumes he cannot be wrong. Wrong.

Acknowledgment & Clarity

After a break Karaj talked to us about the power of men and the empowerment of men. By this time, it was early evening, and the softness of the lighting in the room was reflected in Karaj’s voice – it was quiet yet powerful and everybody seemed to be listening more closely than usual. He talked about the group and how it has developed into the sort of support network he has wanted to create for many years. He acknowledged my part as the catalyst for what has happened in the group over the last 12 months and said that it was up to us to use him as much as we can. He addressed Leon and told him of the invaluable contribution he has made to the group in the past and of the skills which he possesses. It was clear that he empowered him because Leon seemed to come alive.

We moved smoothly on to George’s Germany trip, during which he found out some more information about the background to his parents’ relationship. He recounted the story in fine detail with no hesitation or confusion. He was very relaxed and clear-headed. He explained that he had gone there with no expectations and with no hang-ups about spending money – a perfect recipe for relaxed enjoyment and, therefore, a flowing and fruitful holiday. It was also a change in George’s habits to relax and not worry about money.

A Strong Challenge

Somehow, we made it back to Robert and his catholicism. George challenged Robert’s religious fervour from the valid standpoint of a lapsed catholic. Robert objected to George’s wagging finger and responded that George should not argue about religion with him because he could easily defeat him in any theological debate. Here was Robert’s problem in a nutshell. His inflated impression of himself felt challenged on an intellectual level, at a time when George’s point had been anything but that. He had been trying to make clear to Robert that he did not necessarily need the catholic church with all its teachings and rituals in order to live the life he wants to lead. Instead of hearing this, Robert felt assaulted and immediately blocked George’s support. This should have been a signal to us all that Robert is not ready for the next step on his journey.

By this time, Leon was in full swing. Karaj’s empowerment of him had been so effective that he had woken up fully and was once again the man I had first encountered at the beginning of last year. He highlighted the difference in narration between George, a man who is content in his space and Robert who is not. George talked fluently and included every detail, whereas Robert had talked of his fortnight in a way which missed out the best parts and stressed only the problem areas.

Leon asked Robert whether he was prepared to begin to plan time for himself into his schedule. Robert replied that he was. However, Leon picked up the non-verbal communication which had accompanied his answer: Robert had unknowingly shaken his head. As Karaj pointed out, this was all we needed to know. He had repeatedly blocked offers of support from George, Dev and Sunil and now his body language was finally giving it all away. He is not ready.

Related post: Different Commitment

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