On the face of it the Forum process is deceptively simple. A group of people sit in a circle and silently offer their presence to one another as they take it in turns to step into the middle and speak about what is going on for them. A facilitator sometimes asks questions of the person in the middle or offers various techniques to encourage them to go deeper into what they are feeling. When each person finishes their time in the centre, the silent witnesses are invited to become mirrors and offer reflections. They speak in third person about what the protagonist shared, what they noticed or what resonated with them.
On the weekend I had a difficult conversation with my 5 year old. At the time I managed to put aside my emotions in order to respond to him. As is often the case I later had difficulty accessing those feelings again.
On Monday I turned up to Late Night Love Lab (the playful name our facilitators have given to their version of the Forum process). As soon as I stepped into the circle for my two minute check-in I knew that I wanted to speak about the conversation with my son. More importantly what our conversation meant for me as a mother. All the emotions came back and by the time everyone had checked in I was in tears. The facilitators gently encouraged me to take my tears into the circle and work with the intensity of what I was feeling.
There is something incredibly powerful about being deeply witnessed. Stepping into the circle was like the experience of writing poetry. My presence was amplified by the presence of each person in the group. Allowing me to see things in myself that I hadn’t previously acknowledged.
Any non-biological lesbian mother is bound to feel a little marginalised by our culture. There is so much baggage and expectation attached to the role of mother. It is easy to feel invisible or secondary to the birth mother and all too common for people to assume that your feelings for your children are somehow less. For me there is the added weight of divorce, I don’t live with my son full time and there is an awkwardness about explaining my relationship with him. With one innocent sentence my son walked into the middle of this maelstrom.
The facilitators gently supported me to explore my feelings, we hit a stumbling block when they invited me to express my anger. I was too scared to let myself express the rage in my heart. All through the process of separation I have kept a tight rein on my feelings in order to negotiate safe passage for myself and my family. One of the facilitators got down on the ground next to me and said “give it to me, I can take it.” I knew it was true so I did, I screamed with all of my body. The sound that came out of me was primal, unlike any sound I’ve ever made, years of pent up rage in the form of sound. Later one of the mirrors said that when I screamed he wanted to scream with me, sharing in my pain over the injustice I face. These are words that continue to live in my heart.
Afterwards I felt powerful, alive. I walked around the circle, looking each person in the eye, seeing and being seen. I don’t yet know what reclaiming this part of myself will mean but so far it feels good, I feel strong and whole and centred. I am deeply grateful to the facilitators and witnesses for holding the space for me and supporting me to be me.
Note: This workshop was faciltated by Stacia and Gero from The Art of Relating.