Another significant teaching from the Yokefellow (discussed in “The Genesis”) days involved openness. Having been involved in such an intimate community committed to integrity in thought, word and deed, I learned a lot about human nature in others and in myself. I learned how a lack of awareness and immaturity can become manifested in such a way that it erodes intimacy. There were many times in the community where people had interpersonal conflict. The conflict was dealt with honestly and honorably. After working through many interpersonal issues or being involved with other people working through issues, I began to release a critical mass of SHAME that was triggered in the conflict. I began to live a life with a profound level of transparency. Instead of feeling defensive when there was conflict, I just believed that we were all human with our lower ego selves. BUT, when given a choice we always seem to choose the high road. To me it is all about awareness. If people are willing to become more aware, the path is much less problematic–including the path of communication.

Believing in this deeper sense of goodness in people when given the choice has helped me tremendously with sticky interpersonal relationships both personally and professionally. And this belief in others, and especially in myself, would be challenged during the years that I played The Game. The Game was developed by Marty Groder, M.D., in a maximum security prison in Marion, Illinois. The goal as to make the inmates “sane” so that the psychiatrist could stay sane during the year he spent there avoiding Vietnam. My former teacher, Kenneth Windes, was an inmate who began to study under Dr. Groder’s tutelage. The Game was a highly confrontive model that provided a mirror in which to see one’s blockages to authenticity. Kenneth was deeply changed by the process due to his own willingness to change, and he brought that personal success to his mainstream psychotherapy practice.

Usually The Game ran from Friday night to Sunday evening. There were openings for someone to become mean-spirited or the opposite, manipulatively victimized, but usually if this happened the person would be confronted with this behavior. This approach could be seen as an aggressive format and it was common for someone to feel “attacked.” If and when this happened, that person feeling attacked could get triggered and react defensively and go on the reverse attack. This process was very useful in learning about your defense mechanisms and how they blocked your authenticity. It was quite destabilizing to the personality structure, and a healthy foundation to the personality was required in order to make it through Saturday. Those of us who did The Game regularly recognized the pattern and wondered who would return Saturday morning after the opening Friday night. Usually if you made it until Saturday afternoon, you would make it through Sunday.

There was a point on Saturday where there would be a kind of awakening and one would experience a greater sense of well-being in one’s life. There was a certain collective euphoria that happened once the blockages were seen for what they were and a tremendous sense of liberation was experienced both individually and collectively.

To give you an example of what was possible during this process, I will offer my experience of reconciling with my estranged husband during one of these weekends. I had been separated for over a year from my first husband. We were not seeing each other due to the level of conflict between us, yet we were also not willing to let go of the marriage. I had a hard time justifying a complete severance since we had a child together. Our relationship was deeply problematic and abusive. However, as with most complicated relationships, there was a lot to be learned and healed both separately and between us. I frequently felt victimized by him and would often give away my power. What I came to see during this process was that I really didn’t know which came first, my sense of powerlessness or his abuse. I began to see that I had complicity in the abuse. When I realized that I was part of the problem, I realized that I was also part of the solution. Going from acting like a powerless mouse who was being victimized, I found my voice in The Game by being surrounded by people who supported me in breaking this pattern. The phrase “ruthless support” was born at The Game. At one point I was standing on a chair speaking at the top of my lungs to Eric. During The Game, I would not allow him to not hear me. On his part, he was able to see what was in the way of him hearing me, and a sense of respecting me that had been missing for quite some time was reestablished.

After clearing away much of the pathological patterns in our relationship, the love we had originally connected with remained. We then did what people were later encouraged not to do, and we made a life decision based on the expanded consciousness provided by The Game–we reconciled our marriage. In retrospect, what I learned from this process about my own individual personality constructs would help me piece together the cause of recurring suffering in future relationships.  But my relationship with Eric devolved again after a few years.

What I clearly saw from this process was that had we been clearer, there was enough love to support the relationship. I would take this information to future relationships and it helped me not create the same pitfalls in quite the same way. The level of maturation I received from this process was immeasurable. There were still contraindications or negative patterns in place. For example, I had learned to comply in the face of extreme agression that never seemed to stop. I guess I found other ways to give my power away. It would be many years and this illness to enable me to see all the ways I render myself powerless. But I have to say that without the foundation that I’d derived from The Game, it might’ve taken me much longer to see these limitations, if I ever did.

In selecting future interventions, I chose gentler tools. The Game was a masculine construct borne out of maximum security prison. As I developed, I chose more feminine processes. Now seen through the lens of Nonviolent Communication, I see how violent The Game could be to the personality and to the heart. However, as with most tools I have used, I cannot reduce them simply to black or white. My first experience of conscious heart opening was the result of The Game. By seeing the blocks in the way of opening my heart and walking through the process of leaving the blocks, I learned how to consciously open my heart more effectively than any process I’ve experienced. It would be easy to demonize the teaching once I had come to the end of its usefulness in my life, but as with most things to throw the baby out with the bath water would be to sacrifice something important in myself.

As Maya Angelou says, “when you know better you do better. “ I feel very fortunate to have found so many helpers along the way to help me to KNOW BETTER. And that has helped me to go on and help other people know better.