human awareness institute
Date: August 15, 2006 02:33PM
Hi, I'm another person who recently stumbled onto this discussion. I discovered HAI over 10 years ago, and I have taken 1 or 2 workshops most years ever since, including 6 of the 7 "levels," most of them more than once. They have been fun, joyous, challenging, and immensely valuable for me. I've also been an Assistant with HAI for the past few years. That means that I've taken HAI's 1-day Assistant's training, that the HAI facilitators have accepted me as someone they're comfortable having as an assistant, and that I'm now allowed to volunteer to help with the workshops. I'd like to weigh in on some of this.
Although I am an assistant with HAI, I speak only for myself as an individual. Assistants are not official representatives of HAI. Only the facilitators can speak for HAI.
Eaonderko said she wanted her partner to go to HAI so they could share some of the concepts and skills HAI teaches, and Ciruela used this to imply that HAI instills an us-vs-them mindset. In my experience, that's simply not true at all. It's hardly shocking that someone would want to share a meaningful part of her life with her partner.
Personally, I'm happily married to a woman who's not a HAI person. She did take a Level 1 after we'd been together a while, since she was curious to experience the workshops that had been such a significant part of my growth, and while she recognized the great value the workshops would have for many people, she didn't feel drawn to take more of them herself. (Her communication skills were quite functional from the day I met her, but if they hadn't been, I could see asking someone to try a variety of things such as learning about NVC or taking a HAI workshop, but that hardly means that people who find value in NVC or HAI have an us-vs-them mentality.)
I want to point out a misconception Ciruela has about the role of HAI's volunteers, which siofra unfortunately reinforced by going into how much training she's received. HAI's assistants and interns are *not* counselors, therapists, psychologists, or anything similar (well, except for some individuals who also happen to be therapists professionally), and they are *never* represented as such in the workshops. Before reading Ciruela's messages here, I have never heard anyone refer to their small-group leader (assistant or intern) as a "counselor."
They are simply volunteers who help make the workshops happen logistically. They fill the water containers, keep the bathrooms clean, operate the sound system, help the participants (and each other and the facilitators) with anything they might need, from unloading their car to finding their missing scarf, and yes, they lead the small groups of about 5-6 people that meet a few times during each workshop.
The training to lead the small groups is pretty straightforward, and the goal is primarily to make sure the group functions smoothly, to minimize any distractions and make sure each person has the attention of the group during their time to speak. We don't lead any activities that happen in the small group format. The facilitators do that. We're also asked to be ourselves and to be honest and real as members of the group we're leading, that is, not to hold ourselves separate or act aloof or superior or withhold what's going on for us (with the exception that we're asked not to request any favors or communicate any romantic or sexual attractions with participants). We're specifically trained *not* to counsel or give advice or commisserate or do *anything* other than simply listen attentively to what each person says and regard each person with care and respect. We're not paid, and we're not counselors, no more than a person listening attentively to a friend is their counselor.
Despite the fact that we're neither described nor trained as counselors, HAI recognizes that transference can still happen, as it can in any setting where a group of people is identified as representatives of an organization. The same would be true of a hike leader with the Sierra Club, even though they are not described or trained as counselors either. But since transference can and does happen, HAI does teach its volunteers to understand the issue of transference and requires that we agree not to abuse any special regard that people may grant us for our own social, financial or sexual needs.
Given this, I'm surprised and appalled at the experiences Ciruela says she had with her ex and a HAI intern. Assuming Ciruela's allegations are true, their behavior sounds completely inappropriate. Sadly, over many years of active involvement in the HAI community in northern California, I have heard a handful of stories of HAI interns or assistants abusing their position and breaking their agreements. (Also, the agreements have evolved and gotten clarified over time, so it may be that such problems were more frequent years ago.)
But these stories have been the rare exceptions, in my experience. They have involved just a few individuals out of several hundred active volunteers. Of course, nobody is going to write about any of the thousands of stories of people showing care, sharing wisdom, and having fun on a "cult education forum."
It's particularly sad to me that, from what you've written, it sounds like the prevalence of hurtful and selfish behaviors may be much greater in your region. I truly hope that the actions of a small group of unethical volunteers in one region won't interfere with all the very real good work that HAI does.
Ciruela wrote: "My own ex-partner told me why he wanted to be an HAI intern: (a) because he liked looking at naked people and (b) because he wanted to meet potential new sex partners." Well, those are patently inappropriate as reasons to volunteer to assist at a workshop, and if the facilitators had heard this, I'm sure they would never have accepted him. On the other hand, though, these could be understandable, if perhaps immature, as reasons to attend HAI workshops as a participant, or even as aspects of why he might have wanted to join the community of HAI interns (since they periodically have training workshops among themselves and there are a number of happy couples who met each other as interns). I personally know most of the active volunteers in the northern-California area, and I assure you that the vast majority of them, like me, take their agreements to heart and would not go assist at a workshop in hopes of meeting new sex partners.
But as with any situation in life, HAI has to strike a balance between safety and freedom. Psychotherapists have opted for maximum safety to protect their profession and ensure that people paying for counseling are not exploited.
In the case of HAI's volunteers, nobody is paying them and they do not provide counseling. The agreement not to date participants for a specific number of months after meeting them when assisting at a workshop is intended to balance the risks of relationships that might be based on transference with the interests of people who may first meet in that context and then, over a period of time, may take a number of workshops together as peers. For example, when someone becomes an assistant with HAI, they will then be attending workshops working alongside other assistants who they originally met when they were a participant, so it's not uncommon to develop friendships and feel attractions and be interested in dating.
At some point, it just makes more sense to trust adults to take care of themselves instead of treating them as children by making inflexible rules to prevent bad behavior. And anyway, the facilitators are always free to revoke someone's status as an intern or assistant based on their behavior, regardless of whether they technically broke any rule.
Ciruela, you said you wrote one letter to one HAI facilitator telling him what happened to you, but your letter didn't identify the individuals who treated you badly, you didn't request a reply, and you didn't receive one. I would suggest that you contact him again and ask if he received your letter and, if so, what actions he took in response, and tell him who did these things to you. Or, if you'd be more comfortable, call another of the facilitators from your workshops to discuss these people's behavior, and *identify them*.
You wrote "To me, this woman did not conduct herself properly and appropriately as a HAI intern, and my former boyfriend is basically an intern for all the wrong reasons." I would agree. Then you wrote, "Yet, Im sure neither of them will ever come before the Accountability Council." Well, if you would tell a facilitator what happened and who was involved, I'm sure that they would. Then you wrote "because, frankly, in my region of HAI, Ive seen far worse going on." Wow. What happened to you sounds pretty awful already. And you've seen worse? All I can think to tell you is, I'm sad to hear that, and I'm angry at whoever is doing these things. And, until you name names, I don't know how HAI will be able to address this.
You wrote "I CHALLENGE STAN DALE TO CLEAN HOUSE. He can start with HAI Northeast." I challenge you to inform a HAI facilitator (Stan himself has been in poor health recently, so I'm not sure whether he'd be up to responding personally) of the need for cleaning. I'm sure that every one of the facilitators would agree that this would serve HAI's interests as well as yours.