Saturday, November 6, 2010

Asserting Control

I mentionned in the previous blog that Lea was no freer than those in her men's group whom she confronted about the attitudes and actions of patriarchy. Her own ways of dealing with women in fact fit well within the patriarchal schemata. I don't think that she was comfortable being on equal terms with other women. She had no actual women friends. Those with whom she surrounded herself from her return from North Carolina had been clients of hers. These women in the main had histories of caring for adults from their early years and these proclivities were exploited as they came into Lea's sphere. They became her caretakers. They looked after her: cooking, cleaning, caring for her clothes and hair, giving her massages, in the mid-1970s assisting with her writing, and in the late 1970s, early 1980s providing nursing and custodial care. These women were not colleagues, friends or equals and they were no longer clients. They had been co-opted into traditional patriarchal roles of handmaidens to the leader.

There were other women who did not enter into caretaking roles with her but they were kept in line by other means. The Tuesday-Friday group had been taken in Lea's absence by Janet Griffith. Janet worked differently than Lea and the pace was not the same but the work was good. In the late spring or early summer of 1968 the group had a weekend marathon at the farm. Lea did what became a feature of her "supervision" of her former groups: she dropped in from time to time. On the first instance that Lea came to the group with Janet, she sat quietly allowing Janet to proceed. After some time she suddenly interupted saying, "Wait. This is very superficial. This isn't getting down to things." And she proceeded to take over the session, in the process humiliating Janet publically and shocking and confusing the rest of us. She made it clear to Janet and to us that she was the only one who could be relied upon to know what she was doing. From that point I began to feel the kind of estrangement from Lea that Grant identified in the men of Hypno I. I had had a great deal of respect and admiration for Lea. I had not by any means always found her gentle but she had been very tuned in and a deep worker. From around that time in 1968 it began to feel that there was someone else present, someone confusing and unpredictable. I became wary of her.

I observed Lea again aggessively asserting her position in a late winter or early spring marathon in 1969 for the newly formed CAG learning group. During the previous Christmas break Lea had convened a "project" with Visvaldis. She asked Mike to be one of the workers. As the project progressed it became clear that there were difficulties in the relationship between Lea and Visvaldis and Mike addressed these. At a seminar meeting a week or so later Lea furiously confronted Mike, calling him a saboteur. Visvaldis' problems had been fair territory but not anything that implicated her as a problem. At CAG's subsequent marathon Lea missed a morning group and Mike took the chair. "Work" was done with a couple in the group who had been together for a year or so but who were having troubles. After a bit of talk Mike suggested that they might take a "moritorium" on their relationship -- i.e., step back a bit from the relationship and try to get clarity on what was happening. This suggestion was quite consistent with directions Lea was taking at the time. She would decide that a relationship was not particularly healthy and would encourage that, usually the man, separate from his partner. The group finished and we took a break.

After the break Lea came back with Mike. She had had a report on the session and she was in a fury. She collectively grabbed not just Mike but the entire group by the ears and gave all a good drubbing. How could Mike suggest such a destructive plan? Didn't he know that the woman in question had health issues and that she would die!! if her partner was taken from her? If we had agreed with Mike, how could we be so lacking in insight and compassion? If we had disagreed, why had we not challenged him? For the remainder of the session no further work was done with the couple, no insights or help were offered. Instead Lea spent the next hour and a half going around the circle of more than 80 people, forcing each to confess that he or she was either as deluded as Mike or else too cowardly to confront him. Her energy and indignation were powerful. Mike sat quietly beside her during this process, head bowed, completely humiliated. In retrospect I believe that she identified with the woman addressed by Mike, that her fury was connected with what she considered his destructive intervention between Visvaldis and her. Nonetheless it was a devestating occassion for one and all. Collectively we left that meeting with our tails tucked firmly between our legs. It was hideous but effective. Lea was clearly in charge.

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