Grounding Charges with Others
Do you have dealings with people that leave you feeling really angry, scared or sad? Do you feel an inclination to blame that person for leading you to where you feel these intense feelings that set your heart at war? I think most of us experience that from time to time, and today I’d like to explore with you how those intense emotions towards another can be a gift for you. You can learn these simple steps toward grounding your charge, much the same way a lightning rod can ground the electrical charge without causing damage to property or people.
I recently traveled with some men to a cabin ‘up North’ in the Minnesota lake country. We had a small ad hoc gathering of men for an I-Group meeting, a type of support group for men. (Note: For those concerned with confidentiality, I am reporting this with their knowledge and permission.) It turned out that two of the men there had known each other through a working relationship that had ended with conflict and hurt feelings and negative judgments. The feelings were still there, on both sides, and that became apparent when I facilitated the part of the meeting where I asked the question, “Does any man have a charge with another man in this circle?” After hearing men’s affirmative answers, we did a process for these charges that led to both men successfully grounding their charges, hearing each other’s truth, and gaining real healing of hearts. I felt my own heart release its tension at the conclusion of this process, and then fill with a sense of peaceful, loving, hopefulness.
Men who do the ManKind Project™ training learn this process, so it is practiced by many people. I have used the same process in my family to heal wounds and improve communication. This is not the only way to ground emotional charges, certainly, but it is a way that works. It is so effective, I want to share it with you, so you have a chance to make this work for yourself.
Step 1. Create a sacred space. The idea is to create a space that will have minimal interruptions, and a commitment by all parties to stay engaged until completion of the process. Turn off all distractions like phones and radio, keep pets where they won’t interfere. You may enlist witnesses, bring in a sacred object, like a picture or wedding ring, light a candle, use smudge or incense. You want to create a space where there is a strong and loving focus on the healing process that is unfolding. It is not necessary, but if you have a staff or rod, you can use this to help keep the focus and literally ground the charge.
Step 2. Identify who has the charge, and with whom. One person may have dozens of charges with another. That person in turn may have a charge(s) with the first. Choose a person “A” who is to start and go through to completion first. That person will do most of the talking, and the other most of the listening. If Person “B” is not available, I often use an empty chair to represent them, or ask someone to stand in and hold the energy for the person who is the object of the charge.
Step 3. Enlist support and facilitation. Choose a third person who is neutral to facilitate the process (the Facilitator). Person A holds the staff (if available) with one end on the ground at all times. Person B holds the staff with their hand above Person A’s. Person A and B are asked by the facilitator if either wishes support from someone else. The Facilitator’s job is to ask the questions, keep the focus on the question at hand, interrupt the process if it becomes abusive, and help to set it back on track.
Step 4. State the objectives. The Facilitator speaks to Person B first, telling them that, though it may seem that “A” is directing their talk to “B”, this is not about “B”, but about grounding “A’s” charge. “B” is a mirror for “A’s” charge, and will be asked at times to repeat back what they heard from A. Person A is informed that this is an opportunity for their healing, and the purpose is to withdraw their projection on B and claim it as part of their disowned self (shadow). Under no circumstances is this an opportunity for A to spew on (abuse) B, and the facilitator needs to be watchful of spewing, and interrupt it if it happens.
Step 5. Relate the data. The Facilitator asks A to choose a single incident (combining multiple incidents creates generalities where facts can be blurred. We want to relate data as purely as possible.) Data is what was seen, heard, acted out or written. Just the facts: “I saw you go in my closet and come out carrying my sweater.” It is what a video camera might record of the incident. Saying “you stole my sweater” is not data, it is a judgment, an interpretation of the facts. It takes a little practice to start seeing the differences. Person B is then asked to repeat back or paraphrase the data to A, making sure to avoid judgments while doing so.
Step 6. Speak the judgments. When the facts of the case are completed, A is asked by the Facilitator to say their judgments. Judgments are interpretations of facts. I encourage the participant to get out of their intellect and speak from their internal seven year old: “You stole my sweater; you’re a thief.” Person B will again mirror these judgments back to A: “I heard you say I stole your sweater and that I am a thief”. Notice that B need not own what A is saying as true for him, just true for A. Once the judgments are completed, they might be summarized. If there are many, the Facilitator can ask A to name the two or three biggest ones.
Step 7. Identify the emotions. We get confused in this culture about feelings. We confuse them with judgments: “I feel you were lying to me” is not a feeling. Emotions come in the primary colors of Afraid/Fear, Happy/Joy, Sad/Grief, Angry/Rageful, and Shame/embarrassment. Often anger is a cover for another emotion that is resisted by the person feeling it. “I feel really angry about that, and underneath my anger I feel afraid” is a clear statement of emotions. Again, B reflects back to A: “I heard you say you are angry and under that you feel afraid”. It is useful often to stick with or close to these primary emotions so they are clearly understood and felt.
Step 8. State the wants. Person A then is asked to say what he wants to happen. “I want you to give back the sweater and to apologize for stealing”. B reflects back what was heard. The facilitator informs A that s/he is speaking her truth, and that is welcome, and that it is possible she may not get what she asks for.
Step 9. Own the shadow and withdraw it. After the data, judgments, emotions and wants are all related and reflected, it is time for Person A to name the shadow that was projected on B, and to withdraw it. A says something like, “What I own about this is how I sometimes disregard other’s rights and take what I want.” There is always something in the charge that is in shadow (hidden, denied or repressed) for A, or there would not be a charge toward B. The facilitator may need to help A with this. Often what is in shadow is a repressed, disowned part of the self. If I never lie, it is likely that my disowned part in shadow is the lying manipulator. Hard for me to see, but I can own the possibility of that, at least.
Step 10. What needs to happen for completion? The Facilitator asks this question to Person A, who says aloud what it is that they want for the process to feel complete for them at this time. Sometimes it is nothing, sometimes it’s a hug from B, or something else.
Step 11. Completion. The Facilitator asks for the actions for completion to take place, either now or in the definite future. If it is something like a hug, and Person B is unwilling, the Facilitator can honor intentions by saying something like, “A would like to give you a hug when you are ready to receive one from her. Would you be willing to accept that when and if you are ready?” Or perhaps a counteroffer from B can be made, for example, to shake hands as gesture of peace. The facilitator then can acknowledge the work of both participants, take the staff, and then ask if both feel complete. If B has a charge with A, then this process is repeated with the roles reversed.
I’d love to hear your comments on this procedure for grounding charges. If you give it a try, let me know how it went. Did you get stuck somewhere? Did you successfully heal an emotional wound? Would you like more information or training on this process?