Monday, November 29, 2010

The School: Part 3

In the summer of 1977 Therafields celebrated a fifteenth anniversary with a gala weekend at the farm and a booklet of short essays about its various aspects. The originating date was taken from the 1962 formation of the first house group, five years before the purchase of the farm and the naming of that property Therafields. One set of essays is entitled 'Education.' Sharon Healy contributed a piece outlining the history of the school from the summer of 1973. Another parent who was very involved in this process also wrote of her experiences. The third piece was written by Josie. None of these essays reflect the struggle that had already occured, placing the care and responsibility for the children soley in the hands of Malcolm. Reading them now one is taken back to those days of naivete and group self-deception. Like all of the pieces in the booklet they are determinedly up-beat, positive promotions for the values and activities of Therafields. But in the light of what came to pass the ironies inherent to the essays are both staggering and painful. In her essay Josie states: "Not until Malcolm Hindley-Smith got involved in the education of our children did I start to feel secure about things. I knew the welfare of the child would be his main concern. This has proved true. He has in no way countenanced the oppression of children....Since Malcolm has taken over the reins of what has been called the KA school, my own anxieties have largely come to rest. Spared conflict with parents and helpers in the running of the school, he is confident to function freely on his own intuitions, which focus completely on the welfare of the child."

The problem with freeing Malcolm to follow his own intuitions with respect to the children was that it was precisely at that time that Malcolm was losing his grip. A strong person in charge of a school for kids can do wonderful things for them, as witnessed in A.S. Neil's Summerhill school. But Neil was grounded and emotionally healthy in ways that Malcolm simply was not. At the beginning of his involvement with the school Malcolm had been all energy, passion, and innovation. But by 1977 he was obviously "languishing," as Lea put it. And it was at that moment when he most decisively took the reins with the children, marginalizing and stigmatizing anyone attempting to intervene. Malcolm had many hatreds and took no care to shield the kids from them. On the contrary he encouraged them to share his feelings. He hated Therafields, his mother, his sister, people who were a part of Therafields, and significantly, the children's own parents. Over the next several years Malcolm arranged that more of the children essentially became residents at 59 Admiral, living with him in a progressively warped universe.

The following is an exerpt from my interview with one of the girls who was in the school from 1973-1980. She was nine or ten when the school moved back to the city.

"We didn't have any classes. We played and went bug hunting in the yard. We were made to learn Elton John's song 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart'. We had to recite it and sing it. That was weird. We had exercise time. People would be rotated through to lead the exercises in the back yard. You would stand up at the front and lead. On the first floor was a library where Malcolm had all the Ladybug books. You could go there and read if you wanted to but there was never any structure. We just went there and hung out. There must have been some things that he told us to do but I don't remember any.

"Sometimes we had to get together in the big room in the basement. If someone was mad at their parents (which I think was not us being mad at our parents but Malcolm telling us that we were), he would put pillows on the floor and say, 'Just imagine that is your parents there on the floor.' He would totally work people up into a head space. I remember him doing that with one of the girls, getting her so upset, crying, and jumping up and down on the pillows, and saying, 'I hate you.' He stirred that up in everyone. It was very conflicting because you felt like you had to keep him happy which we all seemed to want to do. To make him happy we had to totally dislike our parents. If we didn't, we were in the wrong and he would manipulate everything we did or said to make us not want to be at home. We had to keep secrets all the time about anything we were doing at the school because if our parents knew stuff, we would have broken the trust with Malcolm. He would say,'Your parents might take you out of the school.' They wouldn't understand and they were bad anyway. So we would just go home, eat dinner, go out to play, go to bed, get up and do it all over again. It was a split life. There was a room on the third floor at 59 that we could use to stay over on the weekends when we wanted. He had us do his laundry, shovel his walk, rake the leave and do everything around the house.

"Malcolm wasn't always around. Sometimes he would go out with the two older girls and do things and we would just be there by ourselves. We were put into groups. At one point I was with three other kids about my age which was cool. We would go back and forth between the back yards on Admiral and Brunswick. I don't know who was in charge of us. We were left to our own devices a lot of the time. Later he changed the groups and put me in one with four young girls. I was eleven then and they were about four or five. He told me that I was in charge and that I had to teach them. I remember thinking, 'Teach them what? Who'se teaching me?' I was so nervous about everything I did. I knew that Malcolm would be told everything and I was so afraid of getting in trouble.

"Malcolm would pick on different people to get mad at. He would rotate it. He would pick on the boys for certain things. He would pick on me by saying that I had no opinions on anything. Once on Canada Day we were all going to stay over and watch the fireworks. Then he told me that I couldn't stay. I was devastated. He dragged out a table and said that I could only stay if I stood on the table and told people two opinions. I made up a couple of things so he let me stay. I thought, 'What was the point of that?' Then I had to go to his study every week and tell him three opinions. After a few weeks he let it go. Then he got onto someone else. He went through all of us. He would pick something for a few weeks and get on to you about it and totally intimidate you. I was very afraid of him. He was weird and he was manipulating us all. He would scare us but we also wanted to please him to stay in his good books. You wanted him to invite you ino the coach house or give you some special task because you would feel relieved. Malcolm thinks I'm OK so I'm OK.

"You never knew if it would be a good day or a bad day. You never knew if he would be happy with you or your group. To clean his car was a big favour, like a huge reward for good behaviour. He would chose you and you would feel so great. Then he would chose someone else and you would think, 'Oh, what's wrong? He doesn't think I'm good enough now.' You never really knew where you stood. I remember we'd be playing in the back yard and he'd come down the back stairs at 59 and my heart would just stop. You'd never know what mood he would be in and if he was going to pick on you. When one of the kids was picked on there was nothing we could do. Our friendships were quite strong and we all felt the same things though we would never say so. No matter who was picked on we felt badly for that kid and we knew that the others felt badly for us when it happened to us. But if we said anything to support the one being picked on, we were accused of being bad too, so we had to just sit there and watch.

"At the school we had fun but we had to grow up fast also. We learned to be careful, how to watch our backs, how to suss out a situation before we said anything or before we chose which way to go on an issue. Because if we went the wrong way, forget it. No wonder he thought I had no opinions. I had to figure out what my opinion should be before I said anything. I was very stressed being in charge of the education of the little kids. I was in charge but I wasn't told what to do. I felt that it was another way that he set me up to get me in trouble so he could get rid of me."

"When one of the boys was taken out of the school in 1980 Malcolm told us that his parents had kidnapped him. I remember thinking at the time that I wished that my parents would take me out, but I would never admit that. I would go back and forth between: I hate my parents, and, no, I don't. He's telling me that I do. This is my group and my friends and we're all supposed to be together. He built up the thing with this boy who had left, telling us how bad his parents were and how bad our parents were. He would say things like: 'You have to be careful with your parents. You can stay here. This place is safe.' All of us were staying at the school to be safe from our parents who might want to take us away from his safe place. It was all mind stuff. Finally though, someone told my parents that I couldn't go to high school without a grade eight diploma -- thank you whoever told them that -- so I went to a regular school that fall. I had to put a face on it that it was terrible leaving the school but part of me was so relieved that didn't have to have all of that pressure from Malcolm and the weird scary feeling one always had. You never knew when he was going to like you or hate you or make you feel like shit. If you were really in favour he would let you come into the coach house and rub his feet. Man, did he ever have us -- unbelievable! I had to pretend to be upset when my parents first told me I was leaving the school. When I left though Malcolm told me that I couldn`t play with the other kids any more. I was devastated by that.

"It was awful at the other school for the first year. I had never sat at a desk nor done regular school work. It was really hard. I was OK with math because Sharon had taught us the times tables and some other basic things. Later we had learned the binary system and some computer stuff. But everything else was really hard, especially spelling, grammar, and punctuation. The socialization stuff was really hard too. I came from a place where we just hung out and played. Suddenly there was the whole thing of what group you belonged to, the regular social pressures of kids. I just didn't know how to do it. The next two years were really growing up years for me. Once during that time one of the girls snuck out of 59 and came to see me. That was the best day of the whole year. Malcolm had told her not to see me, that it wasn't safe because my parents had me now. Years later one of the other girls told me about Malcolm having sex with her and a couple of the others and the kind of pressure she had felt to please him and make him happy. She said she was glad that I had left because as soon as one of the girls developed he would begin to move in on them. I didn't tell my parents any of the things that had happened at the school, because we had been taught that our parents were bad and that they wouldn't understand how great it was at the school. We felt in some way that Malcolm was going to protect us from them.

"Looking back I can see that my parents withdrew me for other reasons than the grade eight diploma issue. My dad was good friends with the other two families who withdrew their kids from the school that summer and so he knew a lot of what was going on. As I got older I asked myself why no one did anything. Didn't people think that it was weird that we were all staying at 59? People were probably intimidated because Malcolm was Lea's son and so he was protected. But how could people send their kids off to a place where we learned nothing and spent our time taking care of Malcolm? Malcolm seemed to know when different parents were having personal problems and he'd tell us about them. Also he had a way of building us up and then shooting us down so that we would do anything to please him. Once he told me that the school was for gifted kids and that as I wasn't gifted, I'd have to leave. He had me tested by Tom O and I guess the results were OK because I was allowed to stay.

"I didn't stay in close touch with any of the other kids after I left though I did see one or two of them now and again. Those who stayed longer than I did weren't able to stay close with each other either because when Malcom went to trial, some testified against him and some for him on the stand. That put big wedges between them. By grade ten I had adjusted but I think I may be the only one who went to a regular school after KA. Those kids had a hard time once it ended. I think that it really affected some of them badly, that they came away feeling very badly about themselves. It's amazing that one person could have such an effect on us, to be able to make us want to please him, and to do whatever he wanted. I don't know if he planned all of that. It was so sick: building you up and then cutting you down and then making you feel so special that you would do anything for him. It was very special to be called into the coach house. He'd put his feet on your legs and say, 'You can rub my feet.' I remember thinking, 'Boy, this is big.' Now I think it was disgusting. Yes, master, it is an honour for me to rub your feet.

Anyone who was in a learning group, a parents' group, or who supported the school, or who was in any manner an integrated part of Therafields during the 1970s and early 1980s will recognize the patterns that emerge in this girl's statement. In the 1970s Lea gradually became more closed to outside influences and less able to bear with dissention. She began to distinguish between those whom she could trust to support her and those who were against her. She used her considerable influence with people to get her own way and to set agendas, even to framing what was to be seen as truth. Like Malcolm with the children she could raise people up and cut them down in progressively more arbitrary ways. As Malcolm withdrew from any intervening forces his power over the children increased but so did the depth of his disturbance. Ultimately I think that Malcolm was acting out some version of his own childhood terrors, making himself into both the scary monster and the one who would be the Pied Piper, the one to protect and rescue the lost children from their evil parents.

In my next blog I will give the account of another girl who was a part of the school from 1975-80. During her tenure there she gradually picked up the practical running of the school as Malcolm disappeared more into a darkening place of his own.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The School: Part 2

After Sharon left the school, it continued in part-time residence at the Therafields farm until Christmas time, 1976. In January, 1977 the school was relocated to Toronto full-time with 59 Admiral Rd as the official and main location. At first the school was restricted to the large basement room but later got rooms on the first floor as well. Malcolm had an office there and in the "greenhouse" room at the back the kids sometimes watched black and white movies. Malcolm's personal quarters were in the coach house at the rear. As his antipathy toward Therafields had grown with time, Malcolm wanted to clearly distinguish the school as his own, not as it had earlier been called, the Therafields' school. He gave the school the name of Ka around that time. (The word represents 'a life-force component of soul in ancient Egytian religion.') Malcolm's feelings about Therafields were by no means kept from the children in his charge. One of the older girls recalls: "Malcolm was very anti-Therafields. He hated it; he thought that the whole thing was evil and that everyone involved was a lemming."

Lea continued to worry about Malcolm. She had pushed for his becoming a part of the school and then supported his take-over, but she felt that he was languishing. She believed that he had talent with the children but that he needed support. She designed an elaborate scheme to help him by establishing house groups of promising people from her learning groups to surround and be involved with the school. As I mentioned in an earlier blog this scheme failed as Malcolm became progressively more irascible and rejecting of the milieu's assistance. One of the women who lived there spoke of her experience: "We had been carefully hand-picked by Lea to do a job but Malcolm wouldn't allow us to do it. He permitted me to have some role in the school though for most he simply refused. I was very careful with him as he was an extremely scary man. I figured that if he disapproved of me that I could be thrown out and I didn't want to take that chance. He had gotten one of the younger boys to leave his father and live at the school and he asked me to be involved in the boy's care. I welcomed him and looked after him but it was very difficult. Malcolm was completely in control of every detail of how I looked after the boy. If I did any slight thing he did not approve of, I would get a phone call. He expected me to clear everything through him, absolutely everything. The more he squeezed though, the more I threw up my hands.

"Eventually it became clear that the milieu was not working though no one wanted to say why. There was a sort of admission that Malcolm was a tyrant but the whole focus was always on seeing what we could do to salvage the situation. There were months of groups about this kind of thing with Grant or Adam. After a year or so Malcolm was belly-aching to his mother and it was decided to move us all out of 59 and 61 Admiral. We moved to 55 and started another house group. After that I had no contact with the boy I had cared for until years later when he was no longer in Malcolm's grasp. He had been told that I was his enemy. Even after we moved to 55 the milieu continued for another year and we endured more of those awful groups."

My own sense about Malcolm at that period is that he was not simply "languishing" as Lea indicated, but that he was sinking into a profound depression with numerous characteristics of outright mental illness. As Lea was deteriorating in the late 1970s, so was her son. The control that he established over the children extended to their acting out his views about Therafields in general and the people living closely with them in particular. One of the men there during that period says: "The way the kids were allowed to talk to adults was totally objectionable. The kids were always very distainful. That would have come from Malcolm. We were given a list of things that needed to be done at 59. One day another fellow and I went over to fix the doors. Malcolm came outside and went ballistic. I had never met him but he was screaming at us that we had no right to be there."

Malcolm became obsessed with spotless cleanliness and safety issues. Another man living for some time in the milieu told me: "My first encounter with Malcolm happened on a Monday evening about 9:30 after one of our first milieu groups. I had gone over to 59 to visit a couple of my friends. We were with some others in a sitting area on the second floor. I heard a noise coming up the back stairs. It was Malcolm and two of the boys. I didn't even know who Malcolm was . The boys had a mean look on their faces and Malcolm was furious. He began: 'You people don't seem to realize that you have a real responsibility living in a house with children and a school. I found this in the dryer and I'm not happy about it.' He then held up some fluff and went into a tirade about fire hazards and irresponsible people. I just stared. Everyone else knew him and they were cowering. I just thought, 'Who is this asshole?' He threw the fluff on the floor and left. I asked the others,'Who does he think he is?' 'Don't you know?' they asked. 'He's Malcolm Hindley-Smith.'"

Over time the situation with the milieu and Malcolm, Lea, the children and their parents became progressively more Orwellian. Things that were true could not be spoken without fear of censure. One man living in the milieu found that, "The reality of our lives there was that everything about it was focussed on pleasing Lea. No one took a real position on anything. It was impossible to raise real issues about how things were going so long as Lea took the groups, which she usually did. For example, no one was allowed to suggest that Malcolm was something of a nut-bar. It would be turned back as a problem of one's own." In the seminar a father spoke of an incident at the school in which his son had been treated sadistically by Malcolm in front of the other kids. The details certainly bore out his conclusion that it had been sadistic. Lea said, 'Well, there's always two sides to every story.' This man who told me this story concluded," Lea simply wouldn't touch it. Malcolm was quite crazy and Lea was trying to defend and protect him at all cost. It was terrible, criminal, in fact. It's amazing how with all of her insight she so entirely blinded herself in that way. On the other hand she would speak about how rebellious Malcolm was and how he didn't want to have anything to do with Therafields."

A parents' group had been established in the Brunswick milieu in the early 1970s to support the many families resident there. As the relationships with the parents and Malcolm deteriorated issues related to the school came more frequently to the fore in their meetings. The therapists taking this group were greatly influenced by Lea's determination to support Malcolm, however, and I believe that it would have been difficult to in any way mount a concerted protest about Malcolm's methods and his treatment of the parents themselves. In 1977 Lea decided that the parents of Hypno I ought also to form a group to discuss their children and to help one another. It was a quite unpleasant experience. The group met every couple of weeks in Josie's living room at 105 Admiral. True to her sense that she ought always to take on the role of the therapist, Josie consistently led the conversation. There was never in this group a sense of safety and hence trust for people to talk openly about their own concerns and struggles as parents. Increasingly, however, there developed talk about Malcolm and the school. Over the next two years I heard progressively concerned stories about Malcolm's contempt and rudeness and of his exclusion of the parents from any form of participation in the school. He would not allow any of this vastly educated crowd to teach the kids. The only activity given to a volunteer was cleaning. Toward the end of our "parents group" in early 1980 the tenor was growing more desparate as clearly some of the children were going to be withdrawn from the school, making the already heavy fee schedule even more onerous. One of the parents lamented this direction, saying passionately,"We need new blood!" My elder daughter was nearing school age and I was already under pressure to enroll her that fall. "Not my kid's blood," I thought.

In the next blog I will recount the experience of the kids at the school with Malcolm after returning to the city in 1977.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The School: Part 1

Jim Healy's younger sister, Sharon, came to Toronto in the late 1960s to do some therapy in the then developing Therafields. During her stay she lived in a house group, saw a therapist, and at the same time was trained in the Montessori method of teaching. When her training was completed, she took a job in Kitchener for a year. In 1973 some of the parents in the large Brunswick milieu approached Sharon to start a school with their kids. They wanted a system that more closely reflected their philosophy of living and one that would be more sensitive to the individual needs of the kids than the public system as they were then experiencing it. Sharon was delighted and very keen to work with them. They began with nine kids, using the basement of 477 Brunswick Ave. and had full use of the enormous open space behind the houses on Brunswick and Kendal as well. Over the next year or two Sharon's school continued in this fashion.

In the meantime Malcolm had become very interested in education as his infant daughter grew older. Malcolm read widely about schooling and had many interesting and innovative ideas about ways that it could be conducted. His own early education had been an unhappy experience and no doubt he wished to avoid that fate for his daughter. Josie and Lea were keen to have him work with the young children as they came along and some of the Brunswick parents were interested in his ideas as well. He began to do some "classes" with the older kids at Sharon's school. In September, 1974 Mary Lou moved back to Toronto from the farm and Malcolm began a more structured connection with her two children, Josie's son, and his daughter. Fairly soon after this, pressure began to build, especially from Lea and Josie to amalgamate the two small schools into one with both Malcolm and Sharon as teachers. Lea was happy to see Malcolm involved in a project that she believed in and that he seemed well suited for. It gave him a focus, a job, and a legitimate role within Therafields. Josie was Sharon's therapist at that time; she brought a lot of pressure to bear on Sharon to go along with the idea of one school. Sharon thought then that it was probably a positive step for the kids and she liked Malcolm and his ideas. At the same time she was nervous about him.

The amalgamation was effected by early 1975. It was decided to bring the newly formed school, then generally called the Therafields school, to the farm. The kids were bussed up from the city on Tuesday mornings with a few of the parents attending. They slept over a couple of nights with the older kids at the schoolhouse, though later in the dorms in the barn with the younger ones. They had classes in the group room and outdoors and would return to the city on Thursday afternoon. Some of the really young children had difficulty making the transition to sleeping in the dorms but the older kids loved it all. It was a great adventure. They would meet in the group room, sitting in a circle while Malcolm talked with them. They had spelling bees and would act out scenarios on the stage in the upper barn. There was a structure to the day and within it they were learning and having a lot of fun. One of the older girls remembers: "It was so beautiful up there. In general the kids were smart and interested in a lot of things. We would be outside all day, wandering in the fields and the woodlot. We older kids would sleep at the schoolhouse. After dinner we would all walk down there through the woods, the sun going down behind us. It was so beautiful. Sharon was a part of the school then and she was terrific. Malcolm was pretty great too at that phase. Everyone was into it in a special way and it was fun getting to know the people at the farm. One of the great things about being there was the focus on nature, the garden, the greenhouse. We were lucky to be there with other kids of all ages. We never wanted to go back to the city."

There were other pieces to the experience at the farm that were not as wholesome, however. There were attempts to do some group therapy with the kids. Each week they would be gathered in the group room for a session -- sometimes all of the kids but more often just the older ones. The same girl said, "There seemed to be an assessment that some of the kids were problem children. I think it was quite arbitrary, bearing no relation to the kids' actual emotional make-up. I was always sceptical and irritated by all the therapy stuff. I thought it was a lot of shit and that a lot of it was just made up. In the groups I would steel myself to being attacked or to watching someone else being attacked. The group leaders would direct the conversation. They would decide to talk to one kid and would bring up something that had happened and get some other kid to say something to him or her about it. Before long whoever was being focussed on would be crying. Once you reached the point of crying or raging, they would say: there, there. That's what they wanted. I never did it though. I would think -- what is it about these people?" Malcolm was not in favour of these meetings though they bear a resemblance to some of his own practices with the children in later years.

Not all of the parents in the Brunswick milieu had been happy about Malcolm joining the school begun by Sharon and them. One recalled: "When Malcolm first got involved we had a so-called interview with him. I asked him what his qualifications were and he became livid. He mentioned OISE and said that he'd done something there. In my opinion he had no educational expertise and little to offer. I should have sent up 18 red flags in the meeting and said, 'This is dumb. You don't trust your children to someone like him.' But I trusted Sharon and she really tried to make his involvement work. It just became a take-over though."

At the farm tensions among different factions became palpable. There were a series of fraught exchanges in the dining room among the parents focussing mainly on the children's diet. Food combination rules should be followed: No peanut butter with bread, but, peanut butter on celery sticks was allowable. All fruits and vegetables should be washed and peeled, or, washed in a particular manner and not peeled. Whatever the topic one could sense a deeper, unspoken agenda that related more to the discomfort of some about their loss of autonomy with their children and the desires of others to go along with the directives of and to please Malcolm and Lea.

At the same time another situation central to the future of the school was being played out. Malcolm had flirted with and had had liasons with at least a couple of the mothers. But he was becoming attracted to Sharon and wanted to develop a relationship with her. Lea was very keen for this to happen. She no doubt thought that Sharon would be good for Malcolm, a stabilizing factor in his life. She talked with her a couple of times, encouraging her to give him a chance. But Sharon wasn't interested. Malcolm accepted the rejection in seeming good part but before long differences between them became more underscored. Sharon says,"Malcolm's revenge was simply to get rid of me and everyone else just hopped on the bandwagon. He had basically taken over the school once we were at the farm. Malcolm isn't a team player; he's basically into slave labour: you do this; I do nothing; but, I get all the credit. I forget what the ultimate issues were but it came to a point where he and I parted ways over a number of things about the way the school should be run, who was going to put in the time, what the kids should be learning, and so on. Almost every issue became a controversy. But the real thrust was: this is my school. If you aren't going to be involved with me, then get out. Then all of these supposedly impartial people like Lea and Josie got involved. At a Hypno I meeting at the farm the decision to support Malcolm was made. I wasn't at the meeting and I wasn't consulted. I felt very let down, especially by some of the Hypno I women who were involved in the school. I felt that they were just like sheep then, doing what they were told and afraid to go up against Lea. They basically railroaded me out of the school and also out of the Brunswick learning group. Lea and Josie both told me that if I didn't want to go along with Malcolm that I was out of the group. They said that I was showing obvious signs of disturbance. It was all cloaked in terms of the school and how I didn't want to go along with the way he wanted to develop it. I realized then that Therafields had crossed a line and that Therafields and I were parting ways."

When Sharon left the school none of the kids was told that she had been ousted. Without explanation, she just was no longer there. One of the girls who had been with Sharon's school since she was six said, "I had liked Malcolm at the beginning but when Sharon left I felt some resentment towards him as I believed that she had left because of him. I remember thinking that there was something weird about the transition. We felt abandoned. She had been so good and so involved with us. We always had neat things to do in the Brunswick backyards. I was very sad when Sharon left as things were different without her. After she was gone we didn't have structured teaching. It was all very vague." Another recalled: "When you are young as I was, nothing seems that unusual because you don't have a reference point. Sharon's gone -- OK. Still, it seems that a lot of the structure of the school changed or collapsed after Sharon left."

Malcolm now had a fairly free hand with the directions that the school would take. In the next blog I will look at these directions as they were acted out when the school returned to the city.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lea's Children: Part 2

To write about Malcolm and the school is to look into the heart of darkness. But Malcolm by no means stands there alone. With him stand his mother, his family, her close companions and confidants; all who from early on knew the disturbances that Malcolm harboured; all who entrusted their children to him despite misgivings; all who directly or indirectly supported the school despite growing evidence of the pathology at its core; all who did not speak in an effective manner against what was happening; in sum, all of us who were a part of what Grant calls "the community" from the mid-1960s to those terrible days in the mid-1980s when the extent of Malcolm's abuse of his charges was laid bare. In this space we all stand accused though the degrees of our responsibility lie upon a wide spectrum. Regardless of our personal location along that spectrum, it is a painful but necessary exercise to stand there along with Malcolm. The alternative is to trust to the divisions that our society provides to protect us from positions of shame. We have categories of criminality and insanity that give us neat divides between Us and Them. Rather than leaving Malcolm alone in the shadow of evil, in all honesty we must look upon him as a fellow human and try to understand why he took and how he was allowed to take the path that he followed within Therafields.

When Malcolm came back to Toronto with his wife, Judy, late in 1968, only a visit was planned. They were en route to Manitoba. He had completed his bachelor's degree at Queens University, his master's in Windsor, and he was enrolled in the PhD program at Penn State. When they arrived here, however, Malcolm seemed to be experiencing a kind of break-down. Judy, meeting his family for the first time was very taken with Lea and Robbie. She pressured Malcolm to remain and to receive therapy. Malcolm worked for a while with Tom O and Judy with Lea. Lea purchased 63 Admiral, gave Malcolm and Judy the third floor apartment and induced some of the Hypno I people to move in as well. She dearly hoped that her son could be helped in ways that would solve some of his troubles and diminish his estrangement from the rest of the family.

Lea would speak in groups sometimes about the early life of the family during the war when they lived in Yorkshire. Because Harry could not find sufficient work, she took a job, leaving Malcolm as an infant with one or more local women. She worried about damage this might have done to him and speculated about the possibility that he had been sexually molested at some time in that period. She spoke also about the way that Harry would take up each child in turn as the centre of his life, only to abandon him or her when the next came along. Moreover, she said, Harry would make complaints about her to the children, turning them against her. Of the three children Malcolm would have been the most subject to the difficulties experienced by and between Lea and Harry after the war and during the transition to their new life in Canada.

Malcolm was a socially awkward child. He was brighter than most kids, his interests were different, and he was not a handsome boy. At school he never really belonged and he had a terrible time. Only at university did he begin to feel respected and understood. Within the family he had taken the role of supporting his father, believing that his father's life had been ruined by the move to Canada. This estranged him from the others who, as their parents' marriage deteriorated, had less respect for their father. Malcolm nursed resentment and outright contempt for Josie and Lea. There was another component of the family experience which was spoken of at the famous Bigwin marathon over a year before he and Judy came to Toronto. Malcolm had evidently abused both Josie and Rob when they were younger. Whatever the details or substance of this report, they were known to all present and they were not introduced as a concern years later when Malcolm's take-over of the school became a fait accompli.

Soon after his arrival in Toronto Malcolm became a presence on the tiny strip of Admiral Rd close to 63. He and Judy got jobs but his lasted only a couple of weeks. He had a great deal of trouble getting along with others in any work situation. His arrogance and contempt easily came to the surface making co-workers uneasy and angry. After this attempt I don't know if Malcolm held any actual jobs before his involvement in the education of the children around 1973-4. His relationship with Judy was unravelling and he was attracted to the young women at 55 and 59, having affairs with a few. It can be said that at this point Malcolm was rather attractive, clever, somewhat charismatic like his mother when he so chose, and, charming and funny under the right conditions. Undoubtedly the women drawn to him responded to these inducements though at the same time they were aware of his mother and his wife in the background. Here is an early example of the latitude given to Malcolm though allowed to no other. Another married man trolling for the affections and passions of a series of immature women would be confronted and curtailed. Tom, his therapist, whose own marriage to Josie was coming apart, seemed amused by Malcolm's behaviour. "Maybe he's got it right," said Tom.

Malcolm attended the family group for a time, where Lea would confront him and Josie about equally. Malcolm considered some of the things happening in Therafields at that period to be misdirected. He was against the development of an entrenched community. He thought that the position Rob had been given by his mother was ruining him. He wanted Rob to leave home, to go away to university. He took Lea on over these issues and received abuse from her and others as a result. Though Lea would confront Malcolm in the family groups she would support him in public. Other people could not successfully confront him as he simply would not take it. He would mount a serious defense to any attempt and as Lea would not support the confrontation, it inevitably would fall flat. Over time if people spoke to Lea about him she would ask why they were telling her their complaints. Did they not know that he was her son! Throughout she was in a constant state of guilt and worry about him. As she seemed unable to influence him herself, she engaged ML to be his periodic counsellor, a listener though never sought as a therapist.

Malcolm was never part of a standard, house, or learning group where people could collectively address him about concerns. As his involvement in the school developed, Malcolm gradually asserted his position as sole decision-maker. When the school was located at 59 Admiral Rd, Lea devised an elaborate scheme to surround it with a milieu of her most trusted young learners, people she could count on to support his work with the children. In the event, however, Malcolm refused to work co-operatively with them, seeming to deliberately work at antagonizing one and all. He managed to render the proffered assistance ineffective. As Lea's health declined and she was less present, her awareness of his activities also diminished. Her caretakers eventually protected her from knowledge of his state, knowing the pain and worry that it would evoke. After moving into 59 Malcolm dropped any pretence of co-operation with the children's parents or with any Therafields associates. Over the next years he began to live in a world peopled solely by the children over whom he developed a profound control. Freed of the society and the constraints of adults, I think that Malcolm sank deeper into a category of mental illness that had been taking him over for some time. It was characterized by irascibility, depression, megalomania, and, obsessive-compulsive and controlling features. These features were acted out in multiple ways with the children and with any adults coming into his sphere. Through the various agencies or passivity of many, Malcolm now had a free hand in a darkening world which contained children of the community.

In the next blogs I will write about the development of the school and what it became over the ensuing years.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lea's Children: Part 1

In the early days Lea would speak of her children in quite glowing terms: Josie, the lovely and talented singer and Malcolm, the mathematical genius. Just as Lea presented her family of origin in pristine terms, so she depicted her children and her relationships with them. The reality was much more troubled. Malcolm was barely on speaking terms with her and Josie. He had not introduced his new wife to his family. Josie, who had been openly rebellious and contemptuous with her mother for some time, had gone to England, trying to start a singing career. Lea was unsettled about both of them, feeling the guilt that any parent has over problems with her children. She was aware of the toll taken on them by the vicissitudes of the family's life and she longed to be able to repair the damage. She was undoubtedly pained by the realization that many in her practice were making strides to resolve residues of their own family backgrounds, becoming freer to live productive and happier lives.

Lea's boundaries in dealing with people were, unfortunately, not very good. She would become involved in various ways in the personal lives of her clients, seeing these interventions for their good -- as they often were. However, because she had developed such faith in her instincts, interventions could easily verge into outright interference. There are many difficult moments in the life of a parent with a child. One is the time when a parent must allow the child to forge his or her way in the world precisely without the kind of interference that can bind the child to a pre-adult state of dependency. Lea wanted too badly to make things better for her children and her interventions on their behalf had disastrous results for all involved. The adage "be careful what you wish for" was in this situation, spot on.

At Christmas, 1965 Josie came home for a visit. Then twenty years old she had been living in England for over a year and had every intention of returning. Contracts had been signed for the spring; England was now her home. But Lea was worried about her. She was a very young woman living a long way away. She had been involved in relationships that would give most mothers pause. Lea was very keen to keep her in Canada and to involve her with the people of her new learning group. Every inducement was attempted. Josie was a recent convert to Catholicism and Greg Baum was to her a hero. If she joined the learning group she would get to know him personally. People from 55 and 59 Admiral (prompted by Lea) introduced the topic of the learning group into conversations, saying how excellent it would be for her. As Lea's daughter she received particular attentions from some of the men in the group. None of these inducements swayed her, however. What changed her mind was a scenario in which Lea used the influence of one of her clients to get Josie an audition. This led to a union job, and a contract for a gig on Avenue Rd. In the event, however, the job fell through and Josie was unable to claim her rights in the situation because the boooking agent was her mother's client.

In the meantime Josie had committed to remaining in Toronto. Lea sent her to Tom O for a battery of psychological tests, necessary she said for the kind of self-knowledge one ought to have when entering the learning group. Tom scheduled a series of meetings with her to "explain the results of the tests," though this was in fact her intoduction to therapy. When he became attracted to her, Tom withdrew from that role, becoming before long her fiance and husband. Lea then organized a "family group" for Rob, Josie, and herself as a locale for Josie's therapy. Others closer to the family like Tom O were invited to participate to lend greater "objectivity" to the endeavour. When Malcolm and Judy landed in Toronto late in 1968 Judy was included in the group and Malcolm may have attended sometimes. Clearly this was never a situation in which issues could be discussed openly and fully. So much of Lea's history and troubles were hidden from all present, even from herself. The others were either her children, her clients, or her students. Tom wasn't entirely in any of these categories but he was her son-in-law and he carried to the end of his life a strong belief in her. In these groups Lea would baldly confront Josie about things she wasn't happy about. Attempting to do therapy with one's own mother, a mother with whom one had had an uneasy relationship, would be hard for anyone. Josie found it, "horribly, horribly painful. It was all difficult. It was flaming hot. My mother could be very hard on me in those settings though I don't think it was because of any ill will. I think it was just an impossible situation from any point of view."

Early on Lea invited Josie to come as an observer to a morning group that she was just beginning. "I couldn't be involved with any of it because I was her daughter and because I wasn't a therapist. I would make the occasional comment though. I learned a lot being there. If she was sick or couldn't come for some other reason, she would ask me to keep an eye on things. I saw that as the group running itself with me there as an observer, letting her know what had happened for the sake of continuity." Over time Josie began to see clients. When she and Tom moved into 105 Admiral in 1967 they were the house group therapists to the other, newer people who shared the first and second floors. Over the years Josie developed a practice.

None of Lea's children could receive therapy of any depth within the Therafields fold. Given the circumstances, they would have had to go to people outside for either objectivity or for a chance to explore their complex relationships with their parents, in particular with Lea herself. But this was never going to happen. And so there was "therapy" of a sort, looking at this but not that, going along so far but not beyond. Always in the foreground was the reality of their roles, their positions as part of "The Family." As her children took on more visible functions Lea had more deliberately to enlist their public solidarity. It would be deemed unseemly, destructive even, for Josie to question or oppose her mother in any public forum. For all her promotion of confrontation as the new golden rule of therapy, Lea herself did not handle it well. She would not only defend her position but would gather supporters to refute any challenges made. Others might be confronted but by affiliation with Lea neither could Rob, Barry, Josie, Malcolm, Visvaldis, or any other particular favorite of hers. People learned that attempts of this kind led to having the tables turned against them. One would be variously accused of destructiveness, paranoia, or ignorance. As Lea had more and more issues in her own private life and those of her children to protect, open and free discussion within the seminar necessarily dried up.

Josie was in the anomolous position of being lauded in public and scolded in private. During the years of Therafields Josie says, "I could never question my mother, certainly in any public way. Permission wasn't there at all. I dreaded having daughters because I thought that my relationship with my mother wasn't so much bad as unexplored. I feared that whatever was there would be acted out in some dramatic manner with a girl that wouldn't happen with a male child." In fact Josie felt that her relationship with her family essentially ended once Therafields began. "It all had to do with the fish-bowl effect, the sense of always interacting in a public place, of there always being an audience. In my dealings with my family 90% of the time, if anything came up between my mother and me, it couldn't be dealt with naturally. Years earlier we might have just gotten into a fight and then gotten over it. But within the Therafields context everything had weight and meaning. It's true that people couldn't confront me the way they might have someone else, but it was also true that if they had done so we couldn't have just had it out. I was in the position of trying to be a therapist in every situation."

This is a particularly sad commentary. It is a reflection of how Lea viewed her own life as it evolved in that same fish-bowl. But the bowl grew naturally from the fact that Lea did not have a life of her own separate from her work, her clients and her students. Her homes were used by these same people to such an extent that real privacy was impossible. Josie also chose to live in large houses with other Therafields people even after the birth of her children. Like her mother she enlisted impressionable, often vulnerable people to assist not just with the care of her children but also herself and her home. Over time she developed a "court" comparable to her mother's. And always in this court, like her mother, she remained the ultimate arbiter, always the "therapist," always unassailable.

Calling Josie "the therapist" though is a misnomer. It was simply that she took control of any situation that she found herself in, deferring only to her mother and her brother, Rob. She had learned enough of the discourse of therapy to be able to use it for her own purposes -- for flattery, to punish, or to soften the needs of daily life. She had never learned or appreciated therapy as a dispassionate relationship with another for the good of the other. Clients were eased into roles as baby-sitters, house-cleaners, drivers, or masseuses. Josie seemed to believe that merely being in her presence, within her ambiance, would impart special value to the fortunate client-cum-servant. And like her mother she would brook no opposition. Even the mildest complaint would be turned back on the complainant as an indication of serious faults of one's own. In the process the individual would be shamed, likely in ways similar to the manner in which Lea managed to shame Josie herslf.

I don't think that Josie ever understood how she had used and abused people. Even as Therafields was falling apart in the early 1980s and the dynamics became clearer to formerly foggy-minded people like myself, she remained puzzled by animosity that came her way. She would approach people asking to renew friendships though no relationship of that kind had ever existed. Since, she has connected with musicians in Toronto and is enjoying working once again with her earliest passion.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Money

So much can be said about the finances of Therafields though all will never be fully known. Grant writes about this area in the early chapters of his book as though all was well and happy and flowing from an open concensus among the various parties. At no point was this true, however. When Lea managed to give administrative control of the developing organization to her son and his friend, Barry in 1967, she was claiming it as her own business, ultimately, her family business. Doubtless she did not articulate this to herself at the time but in essence that is what happened. She was not able to trust the senior, more mature members of her seminar to nurture and care for the assets that were accruing. She had to maintain personal control. Before long that control was utilized to manipulate resources in ways unknown to the seminar and certainly to the average Therafields member.

In 1970 when the Therafields Foundation was created principal officers had to be named on the papers going to Ottawa. These could not be the same as the names of the administrative officers (Rob, Barry, and Rik) of the incorporated Therafields. Dan and Larry were asked to lend their names to the Foundation's patent. Dan recounts though that, "We were told right from the beginning by Lea and Visvaldis that these were purely legal titles. They would carry no authority. It was couched nicely: 'The way we do things, the way we run things.' Larry and I both knew that there was little we could do about it. But when Visvaldis died in 1983 we had to go in and clean the whole thing up. He had used it as his own personal bank account. He was the president and Larry and I were the vice-president and treasurer but we were never consulted on anything. We knew nothing about what was happening. Earlier the farm had been deeded to the Foundation. Rob made the decision but no one was ever asked about it. The Hypno I people had bought the farm but the records had been lost showing who had put in money."

From early days the various accounts were used in ways to benefit Lea and her immediate family without any accounting to the members who were in fact footing the bill. Visvaldis was promoted by Lea as a visionary architect. But his good ideas could be undermined by the fact that he needed supervision himself in keeping projects on course and limiting them to a manageable scale given the financial and human resources available. In 1971 construction work was planned for the Willow. It was to be a couple of new bedrooms on the second floor and a new vestibule. Soon after it began DJ came up to observe its progress. "I was shocked to see an enormous hole in the ground. Visvaldis had been unleashed. About one-third into it I was in the dining room with the both of them and I asked, 'Where are you going to get the money for this? It's going to cost a bundle.' Lea burst into tears and ran from the room. Visvaldis ran after her saying, 'Lea, you didn't worry about the money before.'"

A solution for this difficulty was found by consulting with Rob and Rik. It was decided that Therafields coffers would be opened to pay for the renovations and expansion. That detail was not mentioned explicitly when the prospect of a joint venture was discussed in the seminar and in groups. Rather the plan was couched as this terrific idea to develop the Willow as a special harbour for therapists while at the farm for marathons. They could stay at the Willow and so have respite from their interactions with clients. Marathon groups and meetings of the therapists or learning groups could also be held there in a more luxurious setting than the farm could afford. This was a further mixing of Lea's private estate with that of Therafields. Years later the Willow (together with its Therafields-built-and-paid-for expansion) was sold by Lea to Therafields, a tidy deal which allowed her to buy two adjoining condos at the Palace Pier. A clause of the sale agreement gave Lea the right to live at the Willow for the remainer of her life notwithstanding the sale. The Palace Pier apartments were combined to make one enormous unit, renovated like the Willow at the expense of Therafields and by the volunteer labour of its members. Once again the idea was floated that the gigantic apartment could be used as a site for future meetings of the seminar and other groups. When Lea died, Rob inherited the place, in essence benefiting not only from equity gained by his mother's earlier labours but by the financial and physical output of Therafields members.

Bob Luker has spent much of his professional career working with and studying not-for-profit groups. He reflects that "in Therafields there was never even the minimal level of democratic practice. In other groups, like the United Church ministry for example, people add up the money now and then and give a financial accounting. I went to Rik once and argued for some accountability to the people who were paying fees, paying the rent, and contributing their time to work. I said that we should be told where the money was going and that there ought to be some collective decision-making mechanism about how it was spent. He made it clear that I was wrong, that it wasn't any of my business. Later I realized that I had always been given that message, 'Hey, mind your own business; don't interfere.' Not being in the seminar made it seem even less my business but most people in the seminar didn't know what was happening either."

By 1975 there was more overt dissatisfaction about this state of affairs. Several in the seminar began to press Rob for an accounting. A stagnation in the evolution of Therafields had hit about that time. The numbers of people looking for therapy fell precipitously bringing a corresponding drop in over-all income to the corporation. Huge amounts of money continued to be poured into work projects. There was a growing sense of discomfort that no one beyond the administrative troika seemed really to know how the money was managed. There ensued a period during which the group from the seminar endeavoured to identify the amount and uses of Therafields' gross income but to little avail. As Grant reports the struggle led to some difficult scenes with Rob and Lea but the group's quest for transparency was fully justified. Jim remembers that "when I complained to Lea that Visvaldis was receiving a salary double that of the hardest-working therapist though he did no work, she said that it was my problem with my father. Regardless of what problems I might have had with my father, we were taken for a ride with Visvaldis. We were asked to pay him a large salary on the basis that for a couple of years he had donated his services. After this he did little. Lea and Rob covered for him and no one did anything about it. Any effort would bring forth pretty dire threats from Lea." In their discussions Rob would promise Jim or Philip that he would show him the figures but this promise was never realized. To the end the "administration," specifically Rob and Rik stonewalled attempts for an accounting of Therafields' affairs. But more about this at another point.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lea's Health

Lea's health was clearly a major issue in the unfolding of Therafield's history. Grant speaks of her diabetes and the mental deterioration that resulted from its ravages toward the end of the 1970s and early 1980s. Her health problems were more complex than simply diabetes, however, and must be regarded in their mental, physical, and psychological components and the interactions of these. By the mid-1960s Lea's health and energy were noticably dimishing. When Sharon came to see her in October, 1965, she saw immediately that "she was so unwell that you couldn't miss it. Her skin was white. She was given to wearing dark glasses as she had diabetes and her eyes were sensitive. I couldn't work with see someone suffering like that -- it seemed indecent to start talking about yourself." Though Lea carried on with her practice, taking on even more responsibilities, by 1967 she feared for her life. In a Tuesday-Friday group rather than initiating work with someone, she brought out a dream of her own, asking the more experienced members like DJ, Annie Miller, and others to help with its interpretation. She believed that the dream was a warning about her own impending death. The mood in the group was somber. For those of us still quite new, this departure was both surprising and sobering. It felt like hearing or over-hearing information about the difficulties of your parents that were hitherto unknown, even unimagined. Lea was in her mid-fifties and in the groups to this point had been energetic and even dynamic. It was about this time that she decided to admit herself to the clinic in North Carolina that specialized in Type-II diabetes, a condition which had been diagnosed earlier.

At the clinic Lea was put on a regimen of diet and exercise, the usual treatment for her condition, and it was successful. She lost weight and got her blood sugar levels under control. What made her situation difficult though, was not simply this illness. Over time it's control was stymied by problems that Lea already had relating more to her psychological and mental health. Lea's father had been hospitalized for years before his death after "descending into madness." The nature of that "madness" was never spelled out but he had clearly been psychotic. When a young woman Lea feared that a similar fate could await herself. She asked Mike, her therapist in England, if she could inherit some aspect of her father's disturbance. He assured her that such ideas were just old wives tales. But in truth the greater the degree of consanguinity with a person with a mental health condition, the greater is the likelihood of developing it. In that era psychoanalysts were attempting to understand all forms of mental or psychological disorders as stemming from one's family history, from the "nurture" side of the nature/nurture dyad. Little was known at the time about the interactions of one's genetic inheritance and one's psychological history.

Lea openly spoke about periods of profound depression that she had suffered as a child and as a young woman. Again, this condition was not understood as a complex syndrome involving cognitive, physiological, and mood disorder symptoms. Depression of this nature is triggered by a genetic pre-disposition as well as by damage done to brain function by extreme stress in early childhood. When others spoke in groups of depression she would tell stories of her own experiences. No one has suffered from depression as deeply as I have, she would assert. She would sometimes encourage a period of intensive therapy for the sufferer to try to connect with the events or conditions that had "caused" the depression. Other times she would simply state that her own depressions usually passed with time. In the meantime she had found that being with friends and sharing a drink would help to cheer her.

Lea also had periods of hypo-mania during which she would feel elation, enormous energy and confidence, and periods of sleeplessness. It was possibly during periods of this kind that she would take on larger and larger loads which once that phase passed would leave her feeling overloaded and exhausted. Dan was aware of these cycles from early days. Lea would "speak of going up into a manic phase," he said. "She loved the euphoria, the ascending, but it always pushed her over the edge. When she went to North Carolina (these cycles) were coming more to the fore. Her attempt was to deal with their effects while hiding from them through focussing on her physical problems. The condition came obvious more and more as she got older and the pressures of the community came to bear on her. By the time she came to do her writing in the mid-1970s it was completely unmanageable."

In 1973 or 1974 Lea began to talk in marathon groups about two personality types: the cyclothymic and the schitzoid. A few years earlier another great divide at the fore of her consciousness was the paranoid and the paranee. Here was a new framework on which to judge or be judged. (There is an old joke that goes like this: There are two kinds of people in the world -- those who catagorize everyone into two groups, and those who don't). At any rate there was endless discussion about this typology, the characteristics of each personality, and which it was more desirable to be. It seemed that being cyclothymic gave one a leg up on the schitzoid type. Lea identified herself as cyclothymic, a personality expansive and creative. The poor little schitzoid, by comparison, was a plodder, a dray, a boring but diligent person who could be depended upon to complete the large tasks envisioned by his or her cyclothymic counterpart. Ouch!! Just as one did not want to be labelled a paranee, the idea of being schitzoid was dreadful. There wasn't any sense of humour about these designations either. Lea was seriously trying to understand elements in herself that she was all too aware of. In the process though many others were scourged by the sense of being diminished and thus not respected or valued.

Without the impact of her mental health and psychological difficulties Lea might have been more able to deal with her diabetes in a consistent and grounded fashion. A woman who travelled with her from the late 1960s says that, "In North Carolina Lea learned a lot about Type-II diabetes. At Duke University they were at the forefront of work with that illness. She knew what it was and what to do about it but she didn't do it. I know others who are doing well on the regime -- basically just diet and exercise. But Lea had a lot of food compulsions. She could have been quite well if she had followed their directions. But instead she chased one fad after another. She'd believe the most god-awful ridiculous things. It was saviour-hunting rather than simply getting down to taking proper care of herself. I think I've met most of the quacks in the western world."

Throughout the 1970s Lea followed a succession of programs in the name of health but at root were a way of distracting herself from issues that she was not prepared or able to deal with. Macro-biotics and fasting would alternate with periods of bingeing. Nutritionists and healers of many stripes would be consulted and their ideas incorporated into her practices and those of the people who most closely followed her. In the process Lea certainly undermined her own health and compromised that of several others. One man died after imitating Lea on an extended fast from which he never recovered. Another was significantly weakened by his lengthy fast and succumbed to the swirling waters of a river in which he was swimming with friends.

By the mid-1970s Lea was clearly losing it though in public she maintained the demeanour of the woman in charge. It was about this time that she began to write her autobiographical novels. Over the next several years her mood swings and behaviour became more erratic. In Florida her companions would gather up the mountain of things that she had purchased that day and return them to the stores. The phases of mania became more pronounced and she became more difficult to control. No one though was willing to bite the bullet and declare that she was no longer fully responsible for her behaviour. People living with her and others who visited or who were kept informed with events remained intimidated or perhaps still in thrall with her and were unable to restrain or to contain her. One of her caregivers recalls: "Part ofthe difficulty with Lea was that even in an irrational state, she was still in charge. It became clear to me how many people were still in a transferential dream with her. People were treating her as sane even though she was crazy, so alot of the damage that she inflicted on herself continued."

Lea had preached a quite anti-medical model position from the late 1960s. Earlier she had been proud to state that her uncle had been a doctor. She also claimed to have been trained as a nurse at Great Ormond St Hospital. Influenced by the writing of Robert Lindner and likely because of her own insecurity about education and credentials, she gradually became more distainful of medical, especially psychiatric, approaches. This bias remained a legacy within Therafields for many years and likely continues with some of its former members. Because of this it was never possible to have a dispassionate look at the bipolar condition which was more and more taking her over. Her caretaker continued: "I have never conceptualized her ultimate break down as a manic-depressive condition but that could certainly summarize it. She was a powerful person and in many ways the power came from rising up above the depression -- that was, at first. Then she became more and more obsessive in her activities, especially her health activities. She would fast with intensity. She was always going for the intense activitiy. She didn't recognize that those experiences were wearing out her physical body as well."

In the early 1980s Lea suffered through an outright psychotic period and was hospitalized. Though diagnosed with a psychosis triggered by her bipolar condition, a not uncommon event for someone untreated, many people around her could not stomach the idea that this was the cause of her condition. Over a decade later Tom O was furious with me when I mentionned her state during that period. He clearly believed that to say Lea suffered from a manic-depressive condition was to insult her. To acknowledge a mental health issue in an important other was to styigmatize them. It was part of Lea's own legacy of anti-medical theory and practice that prevented her receiving help at a stage when her health might have been salvaged and her life have been more productive and happy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Spirit of the Community

I have many difficulties with Grant's chapter on the Heart and Spirit of the Community. General statements are made about how people felt and why they did things as if they are feeling and acting as groups rather than as individuals. For example, the "counter-culture" crowd comes across as a unified movement that is inspired by and in turn lifts the heart and soul of Lea, discouraged by the dour "50s crowd." The real divisions, I would contend, were within individuals themselves, rather than from demographic to demographic. As with most activities that we undertake motivations were tremendously mixed.

People entered therapy not to take on the land and the environment but because of perceived troubles in their own emotional/psychological beings. The existence of the farm and of the work projects was for some a major bonus. The possibility of meeting and working with other, like-minded, like-valued people in a broader social context could be an amazing, transforming experience. The degree to which this happened, however, was dependent upon the individual's own inner stability, the quality of the therapy he or she was receiving, and the timing of the introduction to the expanded scene. There were other variables involved, not just within the individual but also related to the stage of development of the "community" and often the degree of pressures brought to bear on people to participate. "This will be good for you," often was the velvet glove around the iron fist of, "Your help is needed and if you don't help out we won't see you as one of us."

Many issues are raised in this chapter: administration and finances; the progress of involvement in the "community" by the individual client; the centrality of the farm; Lea's interests in healthy food because of her diabetes; "work therapy;" "beliefs of the members of the commune;" anti-intellectualism; families in the milieu; private schooling; sexual relationships; and, an idea that Grant refers to often: the European branch of psychoanalysis that framed itself as a charismatic movement with a core thrust to community and social revolution. Each of these areas requires considerable space for reflection. I want here to look at Grant's view of Lea adhering to "the European school of psychoanalysis" which espoused the necessity of community life and action for the fulness of mental health. I am at a loss to understand these references.

The Europeans of whom Lea spoke most often were Freud, Klein, and Reich. Each had his or her own followers and detracters. A "school" of thought was built around the theory and practice of each. Their adherents rivalled one another and other sub-groupings for pride of place in the pantheon of psychoanalytic greats. The gossip and in-fighting within that rarified air was as intense as in any professional arena. To my knowledge (though I would be happy to be contradicted) none established or advocated a community based on psychoanalytic principles or as an outgrowth and extension of therapeutic resolution. In the 1960s Lea would speak of the proper care of one's home as a sign and necessity of good mental health. How can you deal with interior clutter and confusion if your external world is like that?, she seemed to say. This orientation came across clearly in her stewardship of the early house groups. In the early 1970s Lea extended this view to encompass the properties in the country. I think that it is true that she both encouraged and harnessed the enthusiasm of many of the newer members for the environment, putting their energies to work in developing those properties. I don't believe, however, that this direction was to realize a North American resonance of European ideals and practice.

Lea got into this sector by starting a small practice with individual people. It allowed her to do work that interested her a lot more than real estate and it provided a good income for her family. It gradually developed into the somewhat diverse milieu that she had shaped when the Catholic group came along. By then she had individual clients (patients), some smaller standard groups and a couple of house groups. All of this was manageable for the committed, hard working person that she was. During this early formative period Lea did not espouse a communal philosophy. She made clear to her clients that the goal was for them to do their therapy work and then to get on with their lives. If they ran into trouble later they could always come back for more help but therapy ought not to become a substitute for real life. This approach changed over time as Lea became more involved and invested (as did we right along with her) in the proliferation of house groups and learning groups.

As Lea drew back from the nitty-gritty of daily slog in the therapeutic trenches, she developed terminology and concepts to frame her view of what she and Therafields were all about. But theory is another double-edged sword. You find a box and then try to squeeze everything into it. Some things simply won't fit, so like the heels and toes of Cinderella's less charming step-sisters, they are squeezed, distorted, or simply lopped off.
The house group idea was indeed a special innovation of Lea's own. It gave a grounded environment for many who had been living relatively impoverished lives more or less on their own in a large city.

I myself, like many of my contemporaries found the house group milieu lived as Lea originally set it up, safe and nourishing. But living that way provided the seed of the ultimate extension of therapy into a way of life rather than simply a passage into a fuller life of one's own. Most of us found ourselves for the first time ever living closely with other people with whom we could share deeply not just our troubles but also our interests and joys. Possibilities abounded for lasting friendships and for mating. How was one to leave such a life behind? And so we stayed on, moving with the stream of events as they unfolded over the years, not fully understanding, any more than Lea herself understood fully, the multiplicity of desires and needs that both kept us there and that propelled us along the paths that Therafields eventually took.

I think that it was an unfortunate development that Lea tried to turn what had been a helpful innovation into her special claim to fame. There was some "deeper work" occurring in some house groups from time to time but they were never, before or after her declaration of them as "Threshold psychotherapy," the primary site of therapy. I don't know that they could have been even had there been sufficient resources to focus the work there. They had been intended to function as supportive families while each member persued therapy elsewhere -- in individual or standard group sessions. Trying to bring all of it together was too confounding, too layered; it was asking too much of people to develop friends and lovers and at the same time to explore raw feelings left over from childhood through these relationships.

We gained in diverse ways from being there but we also remained in a kind of warp, staying adolescent, children to Lea's momma. Lea gained many things as well but some of these were not good for her. The position that she carved out for herself gave her a power that was ultimately destructive to the very principles that she had prided herself on in her early years as a therapist. "Secondary gains" became not a danger to be avoided but a way of life not only for herself but for those closest to her, the "family" whom she had so wanted to redeem.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Later House Groups

Writing about Lea and Therafields is like trying to encompass every dimension of a hologram at the same moment. There are simply so many variables, so many contradictory but nonetheless true things happening all at once. One might say, "This was going on," but almost immediately would have to qualify that statement with another: "AND, this was happening as well." This is how it was in Therafields from its beginning. In my last blog I wrote about my own experience of house groups from 1966-1973. But that cursory review barely begins to reveal the lived complexity of the period. Volumes are needed to really excavate the way that we lived and the way that our lives intersected with the events that brought about the transformation of Lea's practice into what became Therafields. In this chapter I will look at some of the varied experiences of other people coming into house groups from about 1968-75. It can be seen that the nature of the house group experience changed from the earlier days when Lea was solidly in charge of them all. Many things influenced the nature of the changes and their effects on particular individuals.

The contained therapeutic milieu of Lea's practice was vitiated around 1968 when she ceased to have immediate connections with all of the players. Lea continued as a strongly central person in the community but no longer had the links with the several hundred people involved that her smaller, less complex practice had allowed. Someone coming into therapy would be assigned to a therapist or a team of therapists. She might then go into a standard group run by Lea but often taken by one of Lea's assistants. Moving into a house group she would have another therapist, or more likely, a pair of therapists who might or might not have clients of their own in the group. The work with her own therapist or team might emphasize one direction, the standard group therapist another, and the house group therapists a third. Also the various therapists with whom she was interacting could vary greatly in experience and sophistocation. With respect to both standard and house group experiences other variables that greatly affected the atmosphere and thus results were the size of the group and the consistency of the therapists. As one woman relates, her early Therafields house group experience was interesting but not necessarily therapeutic.

"In the spring of 1969 I moved into 32 Admiral Road. It was a double-edged experience. I found it wonderful but always felt an underlying fear. Things would happen that would scare me. When we met for house groups they were so large and unwieldy that they were not helpful. Some pressures were released but they were never actually therapeutic. I was living in a kind of circus atmosphere, always with a certain sense of dread. On the other hand I was fascinated with all that happened and loved the communal life. It was the late 1960s, early 1970s and this was the zeitgist. It was cool to live with so many interesting people and to get to know them well. I came into therapy needing help but I quickly pushed that away. That was easy to do with my first therapist -- to pretend that I wasn't troubled. I learned to cope and forgot that I needed therapy. The real attraction was the communal life, the farm, the social life, and never mind how fucked up I was."

The larger the house group the more would be going on internally. Some clients moving into a situation of that kind could manage it but others could not. It depended largely on the ego strength or the defenses of the individual at that period. A man who lived in 82 Admiral Road when it was a discrete house group, found it mostly helpful. He liked the care that people took of the place. He liked the traditional values espoused and also found:
"There was a great variety of people, professional and non-professional, but it didn't matter who you were or what you did. What was sought was who you really were inside. I liked that non-judgemental attitude."

Another who moved into 123-5 Walmer Road in 1970 told me of his struggles in that larger setting:
"It was a huge house group, about 25 people. We ate together every night at a huge table in the basement. I don't like large situations like that but I felt compelled to be there. A person was considered strange if he didn't eat with the group every night. It was pretty crazy. We had rotating therapists so there was no consistency. I think that generally things were out of control in the house groups at that time. There was so much violence and screaming."

During his stay at 123-5 it was decided that people in house groups should leave their standard groups and focus their therapy in their house groups. Decisions of this kind were made by Lea. They would be based on some ideas that she was working with at the time but would not necessarily be grounded in the reality of their effects. By this time she was simply too removed from the day-to-day experience of house group living in the extended Therafields milieu. Lea was talking in different contexts at that time about house groups, Theradrama, as her unique contribution to the evolution of psychotherapy. Out of those talks and perhaps from some practical reasons an edict came forth changing the nature of house group life as Lea had originally viewed it. This shift laid further pressures on the house group context:
"Before then a distinction had been made between standard groups and house groups. It was said that the deeper therapy took place in the standard groups and that house groups were to learn patterns and transferences that one should take to their deep group. It wasn't seen as therapy when we got together as a house group -- more just dealing with practical matters. Then that really changed when Lea decided that house groups were the places that the deeper therapy should be taking place. People left their standard groups but the house groups didn't get any better or safer. People would go wild and were encouraged to go wild. Dinner would stop and there would be a big group with someone pounding pillows in the living room."

With the focus on house groups as primary sites for therapy, the more contained context of a single house group of 12-15 people was more workable for most people, though the outcomes depended greatly on the capacity of each member to work emotionally there, as well as the skill and personal quality of the therapist. A man who moved into a smaller house group on Walmer Road around 1973 spoke of his experiences there:
"Those of us living there were quite similar in age and maturity. Most had their feet on the ground and had jobs but the therapy work that we did was quite raw. It was the first time I began to recognize my own resistance to changing. Jim was our therapist and he was excellent. He was dedicated and thorough. He had to open himself to be able to work so deeply with people. I felt very safe in that house group no matter what went on, mainly because of him and because of two of the other members with whom I had become close. The difficulties in any house group came from the people who were not willing to participate on an emotional level. They might want to control or avoid the group dynamic but they were not going to participate. I don't know why therapists put people like that into house groups."

In his next group house experience the larger venue was taken by a pair of therapists. There he believes that he grew more by becoming aware of the overall subtext of the house dynamics than by any direct therapeutic interventions. It can be seen from his remarks how the hierarchical atmosphere that had become more and more a feature of life throughout Therafields by the early 1970s affected the atmosphere of the house group.
"I couldn't get into the two therapists at all for the first year that I was there. I recognized her brilliance and his energy and dedication but I couldn't buy the routine. It was very strict -- my way or the highway. She was more in charge than her co-therapist: she was top level, at the right hand of Lea. Basically she wanted people to treat her as a queen and pay her the kind of homage paid to royalty. I grew a lot while there basically because I came to see both of them as just like us, people with faults. I was in the minority in the house though because most were big fans of theirs. I moved from being a child with few opinions to having opinions about everything that went on. It wasn't the place to speak of them though. The dynamic there was basically centered on the therapists. The whole thing helped me to understand the politics of how things worked. You see something going on but when you speak of it you are told that it is your own paranoia. Then you walk around feeling crazy. But if you can hold onto your awareness of what's happening you get to understand that there is a political hierarchy and a set of rules that are unstated."

Another fellow stressed the corrosive effects of the emphasis placed on confrontation in groups in the early 1970s. The nature of this approach pushed many people into their defenses or helped them to build new ones: "how to talk the talk." In the late 1960s a great deal had been made about the dangers, evils even of conformity, but whole new layers and forms of conformity were just a few years later taking hold. He recalls:
"What crept in was a certain sense that there was a way to be in the world and if you weren't that way there was something wrong with you and you'd better get your shit together fast or you were going to hear about it. People would go after one another in the groups. There was a high predominance of the super-ego. In my first house group on Walmer Road there were a number of real flag-wavers who shanghaied the group right away. There was lots of super-ego stuff and lots of pressure about work therapy. You had to be and to eat in a certain way -- the nutritional stuff. Eat this and wash it in this way. Everyone was terrified but trying to look like they had it together. I listened to all the stuff about food, for example, and thought, I'm going to starve here. It was all so precious and contrived."

This man says that he gained from the experience as the house group therapists did not discourage him from challenging what he called "the head boss and her acolytes dutifully following orders." In his next house group he found people more able to "drop the mask of being 'OK' and just be human with one another." His third experience, however, was in a larger setting; there he found more extreme examples of manipulation by the super-ego and of conformity to idealized notions of how one ought to be. In that setting he did not feel free to express his thoughts and feelings.
"There were about 40 people there and no real therapy ever seemed to happen. I thought that it was my problem because I just couldn't get it. There was a lot of super-ego again. A lot of the women seemed to me quite repressed and disturbed but not one particle of that came out in the groups. People seemed to be upset but I had no idea what they were doing with it. I didn't feel secure enough to deal directly with what I felt. The size of the group and the sense of myself as an outsider kept me from trying to address it. I was afraid of the male therapist and didn't trust the woman. She was much too concerned about herself as a guru. She was flippant in the groups; she didn't seem to take things seriously. I didn't think that the work in the groups was good. It always looked like something was happening but none of it sat right with me. There was a sense of people being overly self-assured as though we were living in a nirvana, and we weren't." After a year or so of frustration in this setting the man left despite a heavy effort of others to keep him there. He never regretted having left but found the process of doing so horrible.

The experiences of this group of people show some of the elements occuring in the Therafields milieu between about 1968-75. The initial fragmentation of house group responsibilty from Lea to a host of others left many groups in a state of confusion and even outright chaos. The size of the groups often militated against the necessary sense of contained safety needed for good therapy to occur. Also Lea's thrust toward confrontation in groups, at first with the Character Analysis Group but eventually extending down into the standard groups and house groups often led to a stifling dose of the super-ego and new forms of conformity. The decision in 1971 to move the main thrust of deeper therapy from standard to house groups in many instances merely increased the pressures experienced by people already overwhelmed by the intensity of their house group experiences.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

House Groups

For healthy emotional development a baby/kid/adolescent needs a proper "container." The parents, family, community, and the larger society must have enough stability and resources to nurture the child and to make him or her feel safe. If there is negligence, abuse, or chaos at any stage the kid is thrown out of childhood prematurely. In order to survive she must adapt to the adverse circumstances in which she finds herself. These adaptations are often successful for physical or psychological survival but they can also profoundly limit her full potential as a mature individual. Working one's way back through traumas and adaptations to original potential is the process of therapy. For it to be successful the same principle of containment is essential. The therapist and the therapeutic milieu, if the therapist is using modalities like groups, must be stable and resourceful. In the therapeutic "world" created by Lea in the 1950s. early 1960s, there was a clear sense of containment. Forms changed as Lea began more groups, then more house groups, but that "universe" stayed contained until about 1968. By containment in this context I am referring to the fact that Lea was pretty much on top of everything that was happening.

She had begun by working with a few individuals. As she took on more people she formed a group to see them together. Next came her early house groups, more standard groups, then even more house groups. Until the summer of 1966 this had almost all been within her own bailiwick. Tom O was seeing some people as was one other woman, but essentially it was all Lea. I have written earlier about the effect for some clients of working with one of her new learners from Hypno I but being in one of her standard groups. This dicotomy diluted the sense of containment with its potential for a split transference, but in general did not destroy it. Most of us were in or went into one of Lea's house groups about that time, further inserting us into a sphere dominated by her over-view.

In my first house group, the third floor of 32 Admiral, there was a palpable sense of containment by Lea. Almost half of the 12 residents were long-term clients of hers. In their individual sessions with her, she would check on how things were progressing on our floor. We met with her every Sunday morning in her living room at 59, to hash out any glitches and basically to focus on having a wholesome experience of living together. The more "senior" residents, Tom McNeil, Bernice, Allison, Don Denovan, and Mike Mohan, shared considerable respect and affection for Lea and a real sense of responsibility for those of us newer in therapy. They were like older siblings who encouraged us and helped us in any way that they could. But there was no sense of anyone being above the others. It was simply, as Lea spoke of it and intended, like a family. I felt very secure in that living situation and really very happy. Like in Grant's description of an early house group of his, at 32 there were always people around to talk with, to share experiences and troubles with. We had fun, listening and dancing to music, going to foreign films at the Cinemalumiere on College St, and wandering around Yorkville, then at its hippy best. Tom and Bernice had friends living on the 1st and 2nd floors of 32 and they would come up to socialize. In the weekly groups with Lea I felt completely free to speak of any issue that arose. As we were only 12, I found this context less intimidating than the Tuesday-Friday group in which I continued for the next couple of years. Its numbers fluctuated but there were usually about 25 at any given time.

I continued living in house groups until 1975 when Philip, Jim, Maurice and I moved into 87 Bedford Road but in none did I experience the safety and quality of life that I had had at 32. I understand the difference in terms of my analogy with a "container." In the fall of 1967 Lea founded her second learning group, Hypno II. The "senior" members from ours and the other two floors joined. Early in 1968 they moved across the road to 55 Admiral to live with others from their group and people much newer in therapy moved in. Chaos ensued. At the very moment that Lea was relinquishing work with house groups like ours, we lost the stabilizing "older siblings" on whom we had relied. In their places came neophytes who had little experience of therapy or of Lea. With Lea no longer available it is possible that there were some house group meetings but I have no memory of any. What I do remember is the sense of overwhelming confusion and a lack of safety throughout the building.

In the shuffle I was moved to the basement to share a room with a newcomer, a woman who soon showed signs of deep disturbance. I awoke one night to find her wandering about the building in her nightgown, carrying a lit candle. Shortly thereafter she became frankly psychotic and was admitted to the Clarke Institute. Those of us living in the basement remained connected to the third floor, having our meals there, and so on. One of the young men upstairs would drink heavily, then awaken people to talk with him or to fight with him, depending upon his mood. A girl who had moved to the third floor the previous winter, attached herself to one of the new men because she felt safe with him. She would spend hours lying about in his room. All kinds of silly things were happening. Some people got an idea that they had been too repressed and they decided to express irritations physically. Tantrums led to broken crockery and dinner on the floor. A man on the first floor whose tendency to bully others had been kept in check now outrightly intimidated people throughout the building. None of this would have occured when Lea had "contained" the house groups. She would have been informed immediately if disturbing or stupid things were happening and they would have quickly been dealt with -- not harshly, but with an effort to understand what was being enacted, to assert the importance of decent living conditions, and to find out what the disrupting individual needed.

About a year later in May, 1969 I moved across the street to 55 Admiral to live with other members of CAG. As I have written in a previous blog, the CAG group was not exactly a haven of safety or healthy containment. Lea held that when a person entered a learning group his or her primary therapy should basically be finished. Once again great in theory, but in the lived reality I would say that none of us, Lea included, had sufficiently resolved our deepest troubles. At 55 we had few house groups. DJ would come over from time to time and meet with us in the basement common room. A few times we had joint groups with 59 Admiral next door. On the whole though, as it had been for the previous year at 32, it was a case of getting along as well as one could in the circumstances. For me, for many if not most, that meant finding places of safety, reverting to patterns one had adopted in one`s family to survive.

In March, 1970 all of CAG moved over to 121, 123-5, and 70 Walmer Road forming the CAG mileu. In this constellation one was to move about the three houses, interacting with other group member. Most CAG members were seeing clients by then so rooms were set up as bed-sits. In the basement of 123-5 was a huge common room and kitchen, shared by about 25 people. Others from 121 and 70 Walmer also gathered there. Upstairs, the "adult" work with clients; downstairs, a cachaphony of less-than-adult feelings and interchange. Again, few house groups and no one with a grasp of the over-all dynamics. In September we all moved again, this time back to 82, 105, and 98 Admiral Road. The milieu remained there in very much the same condition until 1973 when members dispersed into a variety of living situations.

When I spoke with others about living in group houses in the early and mid-1970s, I was given quite a variety of responses. I will convey some of these in my next blog.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Learning Groups

Grant writes on Page 109 about the two streams created in Therafields by the newer, younger therapists who used bioenergetics and massage to explore emotions through the body and the older therapists of Hypno I who followed the more traditional talking cure. There was never such a clear-cut division. People trained in and using the physical approach were few compared to those in Hypno I, CAG, and the later learning groups who did what was often called "chair therapy." Those who did use the physical approach also incorporated techniques of hypnotherapy and inter-active interpretation used by the others. Similarly some of those not specifically oriented to physical work made use of its basic insights and methods with their clients. Abreactive work which required both hypnotherapy and a physical component was utilized by many across the spectrum of workers.

Founding the Character Analysis Group (CAG) in October, 1968, Lea took its name from the title of Wilhelm Reich's major opus. She had become interested in his work through Alexander Lowen's book on bioenergetics. But physical work was only one part of the orientation that she wished to take with this and subsequent learning groups. The way that Hypno I is working is too slow, she said. I want you people to go more directly after defenses, to learn how to confront these by doing it here in the group. Reich was not at all about the kind of confrontation Lea was espousing. His work was looking at the body, being aware and getting his patients aware of muscular blocks, places of tension, shallow breathing, etc. He saw that from an early age a person could develop specific tensions to prevent him or herself from feeling painful or frightening experiences. These tensions became chronic adaptations. Putting tight muscles under stress and opening up the breathing could release tension and liberate the underlying emotional substrata. Reich would have a patient breathe more deeply, allowing a greater flow of energy throughout the body. Sometimes this led to spontaneous crying or rage. Memories might surface that would make clearer the sources of the tensions. It was very interesting work, a really important departure. Lea incorporated Reich's work by having DJ begin bioenergetic groups in the summer of 1969 with the men and the women of both Hypno I and CAG. In these groups we followed the exercises that Lowen had developed from Reich's work. As feelings were released we helped one another as a group. Some stayed with this process and grew with it. Some found it too intense or scary for themselves at the time. In the meantime Marje Kabin had become a registered masseuse, using that modality as a further complement to expressive therapy, and others from CAG followed her to the massage college. About ten people engaged in physical work, developing it as a central focus in their practices. For the other 70 or so group members, CAG was simply another learning group with a focus on confrontation.

Of the people whom I interviewed from that group only one said that he had liked and learned from the Character Analysis Group. Many of us gained greatly from being in the group in that over the years we developed quite deep connections with one another and participated in work, play, and friendships together at the farm and in the city that were in the broad sense therapeutic and wholesome. But the groups themselves were often agonizing. About 80 people would sit on the floor in a small room with the expectation that someone would confront and someone else would be confronted. One never knew when another might bring up a personal discontent directed at oneself. Lea preached from time to time that confrontation should not be done out of personal spite. One ought only do it out of love, she would say, because you care about a person and want to help him or her. Good in theory but in the real world more often it was those less in touch with their own vulnerabilities and those who enjoyed hearing themselves (or having Lea hear them) who would do the confronting. Unquestionably personal irritations and emnities were sometimes at work. Those not on the "hot seat" would hide, hoping to be overlooked. One member spoke of the way that she lived in fear and trembling of those groups. "I remember feeling that you could do something completely innocently and then get lambasted for it."

Not long after the group began, however, Lea invited some members, like the Hypno I people in 1966, to try their hand at working with the constant overflow of new clients seeking therapists. Thereafter the groups gradually became a seminar. In that format the groups were not as threatening, though they could be boring. Sitting on the floor for an hour and a half hearing details of a problem client wasn't necessarily stimulating, especially in a room charged with unexpressed feelings and confusions. The amazing thing is that we stuck around. But we had committed so much by that time. This was where we lived, where our closest friends were, where our visions of the future lay. Those of us who aspired to be therapists wanted to continue with the body work that we were learning. Also many of us had histories with Lea in which good things had happened. We had to accomodate ourselves somehow. It became a relief when Lea wasn't at the group and she was often away. Many of us just learned to stay quiet and to get on with our lives in the diverse ways that they were developing. The whole large question of why we stuck around, why we went along with so much, not just the good or the neutral stuff, but things that were outrightly wrong, is a centrally important one that I hope to address later.

There is much to be said about the learning groups that Lea founded after Hypno I, about their orientations, processes, and outcomes. Hypno I seems to have been a site wherein Lea worked long and hard at the actual business of therapy, teaching her students by doing. None of the subsequent groups was particularly successful. Some participants did become therapists for the long haul, but significantly fewer with each succeeding "generation." After Hypno I there was Hypno II, disbanded after a year because of "unworkable resistances" to her, then CAG, a short-lived Hypno III group (also disbanded because of the amount of questioning and disagreement with Lea's ideas), the Brunswick learners, Gemini I and II, and in 1979, another short-lived group, the New Learners. Why did Lea continue to found these groups? Was it as Grant contends that she found the newer groupings more congenial, closer in spirit to herself than the boring old stick-in-the-mud Hypno I members? When Lea returned from North Carolina she essentially surrendered her practice to the therapists who had taken over for her. This work had been her source of income. Around that time the finances of what was now called Therafields became administered centrally and therapists were paid a salary based on their practices. Lea needed a job. Having more and more learners provided a focus for her and a raison d'etre. She was Teacher, Supervisor, and Ultimate Leader. The groups also provided an impetus for the organization as a whole. Pairs of neophytes were turned loose on the constant stream of people still coming to Therafields for therapy in the early 1970s. Learners did not receive remuneration for their work. Rather, all revenue generated by them went into the general coffers to pay for the administration, the farm, the on-going construction projects promoted by Visvaldis, and his and Lea's salaries.

Looking back on some of these groups it could be almost amusing to think of some of the directions taken, were it not for the fact that the so-called learners were putting a great deal of time, energy, and money into the process and yet learning little. The things that Lea incessantly talked about through the early 1970s: the paranee/paranoid issue; the emotional plague; cyclothymic versus schitzoid personality types; fasting and related health issues; the importance of viewing Therafields as a working --i.e., building community; and increasingly, the fantasized Environmental Centre. All of these flowed from her own issues, her own unresolved family problems, and the needs of Visvaldis and herself.