The Effects of Negativity

Friday 31 August, 2001

Natasha, Aaliyah, Michelle and Priya were all present in our group today. They’d had an early session with Karaj and we came in at the end of it. Initially, the women were only going to stay for an hour but they stayed for eight and a half. During that time there were numerous interactions, interventions, exchanges and learning points. The feedback at one point was very dynamic – everybody verbalising their thoughts and feelings about everybody else. It brought home to me the importance and benefit of verbalisation.

By late afternoon we had moved on to the flip chart where Leon took charge of the question: ‘What have women contributed to men?

  • Allowed us to see our underlying fear of women
  • Helped us get in touch with our emotions
  • Shown us we don’t trust other men folk
  • Shown us we don’t trust ourselves
  • We saw our scripts in action
  • Brought an added dimension of feelings to the group
  • Demonstrated how we go into our heads when dealing with problems
  • Helped us to see that we can work together
  • Why?’ is an example of male cockiness

In turn, the women made the following points:

  • Men have worked with each other in front of women, have been challenged and have achieved results
  • It has been illustrated that each gender cannot gain respect from the other until they have been challenged/supported by their own gender

We broke for dinner. When we returned we began with the homework. Robert led off and I immediately felt nervous. There were two reasons for my anxiety. Firstly, I was worried about the work I had done and whether it was good enough, and secondly, I was comparing my work to Robert’s. When Robert was finished we all struggled to give him feedback. After a while we did get going but it was a struggle. Robert’s homework was just like his success stories – wordy and negative. It seemed he had learnt nothing from the process.

We moved onto Dev, who read his homework out very clearly. Despite his clarity, every one of us was stumped for something to say. Karaj gave us a break but when we returned we could still not offer Dev any feedback whatsoever. Karaj gave us a further half hour to work out why we could not respond to Dev. We sat outside on the promenade and could not come up with an explanation as to why all of us had been affected in the same way.

Back in the room Karaj was at pains to make it clear to us that we needed to work through this systematically in order to pinpoint the exact point of the evening when we all withdrew. It would serve no purpose for Karaj to give us the answer because, as he said himself, this was a massive breakthrough for all of us and we needed to own it. We worked backwards through what had happened since we reconvened, until we settled on Robert’s homework.

That was the point when we all retreated into ourselves and were unable to function in any respect. Karaj then explained to us that Robert had spread his net of negativity over us and had paralysed us all. Moreover, he had done this without any of us realising what had happened. This was a very important insight for me – to understand that such negativity exists, can be so destructive, can strike from anywhere and at any time, just goes to show that I must be on my guard at all times. Karaj took time and effort to reassure Robert that despite the effect he has on people, he is not an bad man – he is a truthseeker like the rest of us.

After another break, Ishwar declared that he wanted to leave the group. He wanted to run away from the negativity. My immediate reaction was that I didn’t want him to leave – I am just beginning to appreciate his presence in the group and it would be such a shame if he left. Karaj asked us to tell Ishwar what we have contributed to him. We all struggled and Karaj took us to task in a very serious fashion, demanding that we look deep in ourselves to make a connection with Ishwar. He gave us half an hour. I separated from the group in order to be with myself. I felt like this was a drastic situation and I needed to do my best to convince Ishwar to stay.

I came up with a list which I still felt was inadequate but I read it nonetheless. I became very emotional and felt like I was trying to save a relationship that was important to me. I have worked very hard to help make this group what it is and I took it personally that someone wanted to leave. What I said came from the heart and it touched Ishwar who said he was ‘gobsmacked’ by my reaction.

To compensate for the negativity of the evening Sunil led a prayer in the room I shared with Ishwar. It was a very peaceful way to conclude a full and long day – finishing at 4am meant a record-breaking session of 19 hours.

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