Sunday, October 31, 2010

Who's in Charge?

In his chapter "Confrontation" Grant quotes Dan McDonald's intense disappointment when in Dec, 1967 Lea pushed through a decision to leave Rob and Barry in charge during her stay in North Carolina. Dan had been quite instrumental in the search for a country property earlier in the spring and had felt a real pride in Hypno I's purchase of the farm. I question whether Dan in his remarks would refer to the "end of the movement." None of us at that time saw what was happening as a movement. We were doing therapy and we had acquired a farm where we could do marathons.

Leadership at the farm evolved that fall as individuals with time, energy and skills came forward and took it. Adam was there quite a bit as part of an on-going project at the farm house. Stan was there too as ML was involved in the project and they had just begun a relationship. That academic year he was teaching at St Mike's College and living in the city but he spent every moment not in class at the farm. He took charge of the construction work, ordered supplies and worked with other volunteers fashioning the group room from a shed and dorms, a dining room, kitchen and washrooms from the lower barn.

There was another site in which leadership was needed -- Lea's groups, including the seminar/learning group when Lea was not present. As Josie recalled, if her mother could not attend a group or would be late, she would ask Rob, Barry or herself to sit in on the group to let her know what had happened, what was spoken of, and so on. This became the taking of the therapist's chair, an importantly symbolic act. From being an observer to actually "taking" the group was a slippery slope in these circumstances and by late 1967 it was common practice that Rob and Barry would chair the seminar meetings in Lea's absence. They would bring concerns of hers to the meetings and in turn would relay to her the substance of the discussions. There was no dissention in the group about this arrangement.

At the meeting that she called in December at the farm Lea wanted to talk about how it would be cared for while she was away. Lea used a "soft" approach to getting what she wanted: Let's talk about this. What do you think? and so on. Stan was proposed as the obvious choice to continue the leadership role that he had assumed. No, Lea said. Stan has made some bad decisions -- he had once ordered too much concrete; he wasn't a good choice. Well, how about (another person)? No, he's not mature enough. What about so-and-so? No, I don't feel good about him. Each proposal was rejected. Clearly she had some person in mind. Someone suggested Rob. Lea clapped her hands together with delight. Of course, what a brilliant idea. She immediately coupled Barry with Rob and spoke of how well they would work together.

Rob was then 20 years old; he had never held a job and had no experience of management, but, he was his mom's right hand boy. He was her closest child, her consolation in the years of developing estrangement with Harry, the child who had not rebelled against her as had Malcolm and Josie. Rob always experienced himself as the arbiter in the family, the go-between for his parents, his siblings and between his parents and his siblings. He got along at school despite bullying incidents by becoming a clown. He had a quick wit and could be funny and he used these skills to defuse situations of tension. Lea trusted him because he was always there, always faithful to her, always hers. He had finished high school at home and had remained, getting involved with the learning group, doing "therapy" there with his mother, and sharing a room in the family suite on the ground floor of 59 Admiral with Barry, Lea's other "son" of trust and closeness.

Barry was profoundly "in debt" with Lea. Like Rob he was his mother's last child and he was very tied to her. He had left home but eventually transfered all of his feelings for his mother to Lea. She encouraged him in his poetry and his personal development but she kept him close. He was as solidly hers as was Rob. For the next decade this special arrangement endured. "The boys" as Lea referred to them in her writing, were tuned into her concerns and needs and they followed her directions and supported her unflinchingly.

Lea and what was formerly her therapy practice were at an important crossroads in late 1967. I think that even before she went to North Carolina Lea knew on some level that she would never return to her practice as it had been. This was no longer possible for her either physically or emotionally. Up until the purchase of the farm by the Hypno I learners all of the properties used by her clients were her own. Now something new was happening. The numbers of people swelling the ranks were bringing financial resources that could open other possibilities. Lea was a fighter and a survivor. She had come from Wales to find her way in London with little backing; she had survived the Great Depression, World War II, and the the insecurites of the family's early years in Canada. She started with little and had developed a small real estate portfolio of her own. Moreover her therapy practice of inauspicious beginnings had grown into a "community" of several hundred people. Lea was not about to surrender the centrality of her own position especially at this time of personal vulnerability. She was unwilling or unable to sufficiently trust the people with whom she had worked and associated for several years to guide and care for the organization that they were jointly creating. Lea distributed her clients and her groups to the learners but to Rob and Barry she bequeathed the role of practical administration, subject always to her approval. Thus Lea put her stamp upon the future. Rob and Barry would be her executive; she would be governor.

In my own interviews other than Dan's upset and disappointment I did not come across much strong feeling about Lea's placing "the boys" in charge in 1967, certainly nothing like what Grant describes as "shock and indignation ... from that point forward their (the men of Hypno I's) attitude toward Lea's power and authority was tinged with fear and resentment." Lea had in fact managed this appoinment without the overt show of power she exhibited the following year after her return. Most simply accepted the decision without a struggle. Philip remembers that, "When Lea went away to North Carolina she left Rob and Barry in charge which was absolutely crazy. She would bring up that kind of idea: 'Wouldn't it be great for them to lead things? They work so well together.' Then it would happen. There wasn't much talk about it but it wasn't much of a surprise. By then they were chairing the group when she wasn't there. But they were 'puer' in the Jungian sense -- the boys. We allowed them to take over by not intervening. The number of core people in the group who had come out of religious life aided this giving over. What we knew that was best in religious life was the cameraderie and the feeling of deep connection with one another. We were not used to reflecting deeply on economic aspects."

The rationales that Grant gives for Lea's choice are pretty thin: she needed people who could act quickly on things she felt were necessary; and, Rob and Barry were closer in age to the people who were coming into therapy in those days and so would be more able to connect with them. The reality was that Lea wanted to remain in control of all aspects of the evolving landscape of Therafields and knew that her best hope was to place these young men at the helm in her absence. When she returned, as Grant states in another passage, "the gloves came off." A restored Lea asserted control in ways that did indeed seriously interupt the harmony of the seminar. But more about that in another blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment