Navigating persistent personal turmoil, despite all the time you’ve sat with it and all the ideas you’ve put into action, can be exhausting.
How do you navigate the isolation, tiredness and melancholy of feeling like you’ve got to do it all yourself, even though you know there are good people in your life who care?
Regardless of constant opportunities for connection in the modern world, and despite those in our community who may want to support us in our time of need - we can still feel alone and lost when we’re experiencing personal trouble.
It can seem others have their own stuff to deal with and don’t have the space for us. Not the space that’s required to really dig into the sub-soil of a persistent trouble scratching at the core of who we are.
This human experience of isolation and despair is likely more common than we realise - a whole bunch of us may be moving around in our personal bubbles of turmoil, unaware of just how immense and similar another’s experience might also be.
Thus, the CIRCLE OF CLOSE ONES is introduced.
How to do the Circle of Close Ones
This is a tool to help an individual call-in specific support when experiencing personal crisis. It looks and feels like this:
(1) Call together a trusted group - The challenged one calls together 4 to 8 people they trust to confide in. Those for whom they feel a sense of confidence and safety. These are people that can hear the ’stuff’ without having to fix the other; nor are they easily triggered into their own turmoils. These are close ones.
The close ones are invited into a held and facilitated space. A private space, where the group will collectively deep dive together for 2 to 4 hours.
(2) Hear the one carrying the challenge - The circle’s purpose is to hear the troubled person in the deep honesty and vulnerability of their life challenge. This sharing isn’t endless - it happens in a time-range that feels appropriate to the group. Up to 20 minutes of explanation might be a good start. Having a time limit helps avoids the circle being a ‘dump and fix’; rather allowing a contribution of collective wisdom from the whole group from which the challenged one draws inspiration and guidance.
(3) Use circle rounds to clarify & contribute - The group use circle rounds to discuss and explore what they hear in the challenge, and what might be possible to support them toward a more balanced and settled place.
For the FIRST set of circle rounds, each support person describes the feelings and needs they hear expressed by the challenged one; reflecting what might be important to that person, and what feelings are presenting as symptoms of those needs not being met. The challenged one might also like to give this a go. The group collectively reflect what they feel/sense/hear from the one carrying the challenge. They might refer to their own life experience to describe what they’re hearing, and there might be several rounds of the circle exploring the feelings and needs.
For the SECOND set of circle rounds, each person describes what they feel could be valuable strategies for the challenged one to meet their needs and cultivate what’s important to them. This is the creative part - and a space for lateral thinking. Again, this might continue for several rounds as more ideas surface and emerge. The point here is not to be a ‘dump and fix’, but a vast harvest of options.
The challenged one is responsible for taking action on what feels right for them - the close ones cannot save them, and self responsibility is essential.
Rounds can happen by moving person-by-person around the circle - passing a talking stick to help guide the flow of contribution, and to support each person be fully heard in their sharing.
Alternatively, rounds can also happen in a pop-corn style - placing the talking stick in the middle of the circle where each person picks-up the stick when they feel to share something. In this case, keep it to only one contribution from each person until everyone has contributed and shared for that round. Choose the style that feels best for the group.
The essence of the Circle of Close Ones
The Circle of Close Ones happens in the spirit of sharing circle; guided by the principles of:
As the rounds progress, only one person speaks at a time, without cross-talk. This includes the challenged one. The talking stick is used to show who has the space to share - only the person holding the talking stick has 'permission' to contribute at that time. This requires a self-moderation for the time taken to share, and an awareness of fairness in holding the talking stick.
Recognition to the First Nations people of North America, and globally, who have been the longest carriers of the talking stick and sharing circle practice.
Sharings can be scribed to capture the essence of the contribution of close ones. Before the circle begins, it’s important to gain consent from all present to the scribing of the circle sharings, and to clarify who will scribe.
Having a facilitator to guide the Circle of Close Ones is not necessary, though helpful. A skilled facilitator will open and close the space appropriately - helping everyone arrive fully in the circle with a presencing practice, and leave with closure and completeness.
A facilitator will track the energy of the group - especially of the challenged one - supporting the flow of contributions and stepping-in only if a sharing seems off-track, inappropriate and/or not honouring the intention to support the challenged one.
The great beauty of the Circle of Close Ones is that all are able to benefit from the wisdoms shared. It’s possible the close ones may have their own ‘stuff’ emerge while in the circle. However it’s important to reiterate the focus is on the challenged one for whom the circle was called; supporting those in their process with emergency empathy, and then bringing it back to the challenged one.
The Circle of Close Ones allows a gathering of collective wisdom and insight from trusted kin. The spirit of this circle is to witness and see each other in our vulnerability; contributing in a meaningful and considered way.
Practical aspects to the Circle of Close Ones
Practical aspects to consider include the following.
If you're interested to experience the Circle of Close Ones for yourself, either talk to a skilled facilitator or seek the support of a friend to help you coordinate the time. The outcome will hopefully be more clarity on options, and a greater sense of support.
Please note! The Circle of Close Ones is not a surrogate for professional psychological help. Seek the support of a professional counsellor or psychologist where needed.
The Circle of Close Ones utilises the social technology of sharing circle, an age-old global practice by which humans have met and connected on deep and meaningful levels. Sharing circle is a place of respect, vulnerability and collective wisdom.
May it be used to support modern humans to connect with transparency, trust and contribution to move forward in ways that are witnessed, supported and fulfilling.
For online and/or in-person facilitation of the Circle of Close Ones, please connect with me to explore and engage. It is a pleasure to be in service in caring for each other with deep and open hearts
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