Digesting the Darkness by Dale Hunter
In a 1 ½ hour workshop at the Australian Facilitators Conference (AFN) in Alice Springs, September 2014, I led a conversation about facilitators’ becoming triggered while working with groups.
This session was supported by facilitator/musician Karen Hunter.
From the workshop promo:
The workshop answers the frequent question at Master Classes, “How do I facilitate when triggered?”
This is done by offering a process template, which can be interpreted in many different ways depending on culture, prior practices, and experience. The process template provides a well -tested generic approach for coming back to full presence within a short timeframe (hopefully within minutes) after being triggered.
The workshop will begin with an introductory activity and then participants will discuss what it means to be triggered (or become negatively activated) while facilitating and the problems that ensue. Examples will be shared by presenter and participants.
Then the generic process “Digesting the Darkness” will be shared and discussed.
We will experiment in pairs, small groups and the large group – playing with and adapting the process to each person’s values, skill sets and cultural preferences.
The workshop began with my admission that I do get triggered when facilitating even though I have been facilitating for 30 years. I gave an example and then asked the 40 or so participants to share in 3’s their experiences of being triggered. There was a very lively discussion for 15-20 minutes and the sharing with the whole group indicated a sense of relief that we could talk about this aspect of facilitation and its “normality”.
The small groups of 3 then shared their strategies for becoming recentered / regrounded. Again there was a real sense of relief and much interest in one another’s input. Some of these strategies were shared in the large group.
I then shared a template, which had been developed at a Zenergy Master Class in 2013 called Digesting the Darkness.
Digesting the Darkness
Trigger: The facilitator becomes “triggered” (emotionally activated).
React: The beginnings of emotion (e.g. anger, fear, grief, or other “upset”) occur.
Notice: The facilitator notices the reaction in the light of their own awareness.
Pause: The facilitator presses their internal pause button on their reaction.
Ground: The facilitator practices their own version of a grounding/ centering process (such as connecting with the body and breath, slowing and deepening breathing: and grounding themselves (feeling feet on the earth and connecting/ feeling into the earth).
Connect: The facilitator connects with the group (places their attention back on the whole group) and reconnects consciously with the group purpose. Standing in the group purpose and being grounded the facilitator continues to work with the group in a safe and inclusive way.
There is (as always) the very important need to debrief after the facilitation with a co-facilitator, peer, or mentor and attend to any residual emotions.
The big take out from the workshop for me was the relief of facilitators in realizing that they/we were all normal and that getting triggered can be an everyday occurrence for facilitators. Getting triggered is not the problem. The problem is how we can grow our awareness to notice quickly when we are triggered, get regrounded and reconnected with the group purpose and so lessen the likelihood of acting out in the group. Do remember, too, that it is crucial to have an explicit group purpose.