Ritual Group Dynamics: Healthy Exclusion


Our elder annointed and named our Ifa community a name intended to mean "House of powerful medicine." That is our intended purpose. Our western name is Temple of Growth Advancement, and we've spent the last 3 years learning how to offer more effective support and tools for personal healing and growth. However, we're finally recognizing a dynamic we probably should have recognized a long time ago. We need to stop including everyone who wants to participate. Let me explain.

We have people we've been working with for a while, and they've advanced in understandings and practices to where we can start to do some pretty awesome stuff. Example: Last night we formed a group mind and astral traveled together to 2 different local areas, formed personal and group relationships with the areas and the spirits of the area. Afterwards we started trying to work with spirits around the temple. While doing so we encountered a spirit of the region who did some really solid work with us... "that was fucking awesome" kinds of work.

The reason this matters is that we have a wonderful young man who is facing some life difficulties. His pain caused him to flail around and hurt some of the other people in our community. Last night I had told him he was welcome to attend the full moon ritual, because our moons have always been open and inclusive.

Unfortunately when he arrived we learned that someone who had been hurt by his actions felt that they couldn't be safe sharing ritual space with him. They were choosing to leave rather than make an issue of it. Normally in the past this would have resulted us wishing the person who was leaving well, but Shauna Aura Knight​ has written some amazing posts lately about dealing with unhealthy persons in community.

I recognized that this wasn't about a small personal issue, but rather the consequences of unhealthy behavior. I knew that if we allowed the person who was hurting other people in our community to stay and it caused the persons who had been hurt by his actions to leave, we would be starting a cycle of empowering misbehavior... and that would be unhealthy for our community.

Seeking wisdom of the ancestors I performed divination. It told me that the best resolution would be to bring everything to light and remove any illusions; however, I had already asked if we could do a quick mediation. The person who had been hurt said they weren't comfortable doing so yet.

I then asked in a different way. Of the options available for me was the best choice to let the hurt person leave? The ancestors "screamed" no. Was my best choice to ask the misbehaving young man to leave? The ancestors spoke loudly and clearly "yes."

It wasn't easy. I tried to tell the young man: "I'm sorry this is a consequences of your actions, we can try again in the future and do other things to rebuild trust", but I think he heard "We are rejecting you as a person." He left in pain.

The rest of the ritual was incredibly blessed by that difficult choice though. With safety and trust restored, the group was strong and focused to do good work. The persons who were going to leave ended up massively blessing the work with their personal gifts; the work would have been far less clear and amazing without them there.

Last night made it clear to me that our goal of inclusion has often interfered with the majority of the group being able to take part in this quality of ritual. We've been trying to welcome people without the necessary skills to participate, and it interferes with the work. Even worse sometimes we're encountering awesome people coming to us for help and support we're glad to give in one context, but who would actively interfere or be triggered by the works we do in another context.

A large part of me wants a one size fits all solution, but I think I have to admit that we're going to have to change our "security model" into a very personalized one. We will probably have to pay attention to things like interpersonal difficulties, each person's triggers and each person's experience, skills and gifts to personally welcome or exclude each person to different events.

I think that means we're going to have to start teaching people that exclusion from some rituals or events is just going to happen. We're going to have to understand and teach that we may need to reject some behaviors or relationship dynamics, but we are still welcoming persons in whatever healthy ways we can.

I think that if we apply this understanding throughout our whole community we will become healthier. We have misbehavior we've been tolerating in a lot of different areas... and that action has formed a ceiling to what we could achieve as a community. It's time to remove this ceiling. It's time to learn both personally and as a community to say no at the right times in a firm, consistent and loving way.

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