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Counseling For Liberation by Charlotte Ellen


Charlotte Ellen, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist in private practice. She has lectured and been a frequent consultant and leader at Marriage and Family Conferences, Institutes, Woman’s Studies, and Human Liberation Programs. She also writes for use of her material by ministers and pastoral counselors. She also co-authored, with Howard J. Clinebell, The Intimate Marriage, Harper & Row. This book used by permission of the author. It was prepared for Religion Online by Paul Mobley.


Chapter 6: Techniques For Counseling And Consciousness Raising


Healthy growth involves fulfillment, to varying degrees, in all of these dimensions. We all need to be dependent and close at times; we all seek distance, self-sufficiency, and solitude at times; and we all welcome challenge, self-assertion, and even aggression at times. Each human being is a unique and creative blend of endowment, opportunity, and growth.
Alexandra Symonds

The emphasis of this book so far has been largely on awarenesses, on attitudes important for counselors and ministers as they face the ethical and psychological issues growing out of the rising consciousness of women. The present chapter suggests some specific techniques that can help people become aware of the boxes they are in and how to get out of them.

Some of the techniques described here are suitable for use with groups or individuals or couples when the main focus is on reeducation or consciousness raising with normally functioning people. Others are more suitable for the counseling situation. Some work well in either setting. With a little imagination, the counselor or minister can adapt any of them to fit particular needs.

Consciousness Raising Groups

Consciousness raising (CR) groups are usually made up of women, at least in the beginning, since it is generally women who are raising the issues. Several women who feel the need can begin such a group. Sometimes the pastor must ferret out these women, who are often silent because they fear ridicule or because they feel alone. In either case a low-key announcement in the church bulletin may attract women who have not felt free to voice their feelings: "A consciousness raising group will begin Monday evening at 7:30 in the lounge. Interested women are invited to attend." Sometimes the very term consciousness raising scares some women who would otherwise be interested, in which case the following might be better: "A group of women interested in women's issues as they relate to the church will meet . . . If you are interested come and help us decide how to proceed."

Leadership of a CR group is an important consideration. The first women's CR groups were leaderless since a major goal of the women's movement has been to challenge the hierarchical nature of our social system. But since that system is deeply ingrained, leaderless groups often have trouble getting off the ground. Often someone needs to take the lead in the beginning. Sometimes those women who have initiated the idea will do so, throwing out for discussion whatever issues are of concern to them. If there are no women willing to take the leadership in the beginning, the pastor can appear at the first meeting and simply describe the envisioned purpose of the group and ask for response -- are they interested and, if not, what did they come to the meeting expecting and hoping for? If the pastor is a man he should make it clear that he is merely taking the initiative in getting the group started and that he will not be present after the first meeting -- or maybe even through all of that -- since it can't be a CR group for women if a man is present. If the pastor is a woman then of course she can take the leadership of the group as long as leadership is needed. The goal of the leader should always be to lose her job, that is, to become as soon as possible simply a temporary facilitator and group member. Since she is also a woman with personal experience of the "feminine," it's easy for that to happen. Soon the facilitating can become a rotating function among the members of the group.(2) CR groups are most successful when all members are interested in change, both personal and social.

Men's CR groups usually begin in response to the change in women. Sometimes such a group is made up of the husbands of women in a women's CR group. Or sometimes the members are men who are feeling the pain of changes in their own lives which have resulted from the changes in women. Of course there's no reason that such a group couldn't grow from men's own awareness of need for change in their consciousness independent of women. Considerations for beginning and leading a men's group would be the same as those for women. The leader should always be a man, who should become a facilitator as quickly as possible and then share that function with other members of the group. Since he is a man, with personal experience of the male box, he can do that if he is willing to share his own feelings and experience.

Mixed CR groups sometimes begin as just that, or they sometimes happen when a women's and a men's group decide to get together for an occasional session or a series of sessions. If such a group is an ongoing one it is also a good idea for the women and the men to meet in separate groups from time to time, since women and men, at our present stage of evolution, always behave differently in the presence of the other sex. Mixed CR groups can be for singles or couples or both; they can mix ages or bring together persons of a particular bracket. Every marriage enrichment group, every church school class can and should be a CR group.

The classical technique for a consciousness raising group is simple. Each session begins with a "go around" in which each member of the group says in five minutes or less whatever is on her or his mind in response to a particular topic. The first meeting might focus simply on why each person is there and what he or she expects or hopes for. Anyone can pass. This method provides shy ones with an opportunity to speak up which they might not have, or take, or claim in a free-for-all discussion. It also limits gregarious and garrulous persons. Following the "go-around" the discussion can become less structured, with the facilitator helping merely to keep people on the subject and see that all get a chance to contribute. At the end of the first meeting the participants can decide how they wish to proceed. It is usually wise to set a limit on the number of sessions, anywhere from six to ten, and to limit size of the group to ten people or fewer. If the response to the first call has been enthusiastic, maybe two groups will be formed. Most consciousness raising groups decide each time on a topic for the next meeting and proceed each time with a go-around on that topic. There is a variety of topics suitable for women's groups that can easily be adapted to men's or mixed groups:

How do you feel men see you?

Why did you marry the man you did?

How do you feel about housework?

Do you think what you do with your day is as important as what your husband does with his? What did (do) you want to do in life?" What kept (keeps) you from doing it?

What does it mean to you to be "feminine"? Do you like it?

What does "masculine" mean to you? Do you like it?

What hopes do you have for your daughter? for your son? Are these hopes different? Why?

Do you feel you are discriminated against by the church? What was your husband's reaction when you got your consciousness raised?

How do you feel about the male "heart attack syndrome"?

How does it feel to be single in a couple-oriented society?

These topics are suitable for other kinds of groups as well -- youth, parent, marriage, pre-marriage -- and in all kinds of counseling and therapy groups. Every group will of course have additional topics of its own to suggest.

Other Consciousness Raising Techniques

I have described the specific approach to consciousness raising evolved within the women's movement. The following techniques are suitable not only for CR groups but in other settings as well.

The Fishbowl

The fishbowl technique illustrated at the beginning of chapter 1 is one of the most dramatically successful methods for providing women and men in groups large or small with the opportunity for deepening their understanding of people of both sexes. It can of course be used to deal with any issue. When the issue is female-male relationships, then it is important that the first group in the center circle be women, since it is women who are challenging the traditional relationship between the sexes.

The "fish" in this inner circle can begin in various ways. Sometimes there is a spontaneous beginning because issues have already been raised and the participants can hardly wait to get started. Usually, however, it is wise to have a particular topic like one of those listed above, or like the quotation from the restaurant plaque which Carol read to start the fish-bowl in chapter 1. The women begin with a go-around followed by discussion lasting about forty-five minutes. Then the men become the "fish" while the women act as observers. It is important that the observers be reminded that they may listen but not respond. Their turn will come. When the men are in the fishbowl they can be asked to respond to whatever the women have been saying and/or they may discuss a question such as "How does it feel to be a man in a world where you are always supposed to be strong and competent?"

Following the second go-around and discussion of forty-five minutes the two groups get together in a single circle to talk about what they have been hearing from each other. By this time feelings are running high, and women and men are anxious to talk to each other. The allotted forty-five minutes are likely to seem much too short to deal with all the pain and anger that surfaces and needs expression.

If the fishbowl is a demonstration group, as in connection with a workshop or conference, a fourth step which allows the larger audience to get involved is also important. In such a setting the inner circle groups may need to be smaller and the allotted times shorter.

Whatever the setting, the fishbowl requires plenty of time for debriefing. The people can be encouraged to continue their debriefing with each other even after the experience is over. A fishbowl experience can be leaderless, or it can have a leader who gives direction and keeps the schedule moving but actually participates only when other members of the same sex are involved. Ideal for such an experience is a female-male leadership team.

The fishbowl technique can be used in consciousness raising groups, of course. It has also been used to great advantage in singles groups, divorce recovery groups, young people's groups, parents groups, marriage enrichment groups, pre-marriage groups, marriage counseling groups, therapy groups of women and men, professional conferences, and as a demonstration at any workshop or conference on human liberation.

Role Reversal

Role reversal is another effective technique. It is especially useful for helping people get a feel for what the other sex experiences. The experience of one couple in counseling may serve as an example. Alice and Mike were disagreeing about whether to have another child or not. Mike wanted one and Alice didn't. The counselor, after listening to them argue from their own points of view suggested that they reverse roles and argue for the other side. She asked them first to switch chairs and to close their eyes and imagine themselves in the body and role of the other one. Then after a few moments of silence, she suggested that they open their eyes and talk to each other from their new positions:

MIKE: Well, gee whiz, I just can't stand the thought of that nine months of feeling awful, and being too fat, and never being able to lay it down.

ALICE: Last time you enjoyed it. You said it was an experience you wouldn't want to miss, and you were really excited about having another little life growing inside of you.

MIKE : Yes, but I've done that now, and I know that after the ninth month is over I'll be stuck at home for years with another child. I'm lust now getting back into things after being tied down with the last one.

ALICE: You sound like you hated every minute of the whole thing -- like there haven't been any good things about it, like we never should have had children in the first place.

MIKE: No, that isn't it. Lots of it has been good and I'm glad we did it. But now I just want to get on to other things. I don't want to start that whole thing over again. It's time for a new phase now. Besides, think of all the fun we can have together when I don't have to be so tied down anymore. I might even go back to work and bring in some extra money.

ALICE : Well, that wouldn't be a bad idea. But I always have wanted a son -- to carry on the family name, you know, make me feel like a real man!

MIKE: Sounds like you don't think our daughter is as good as a boy would be! Who cares about the family name, anyway!

It's interesting that in this exchange, what got expressed was not just what each had actually heard from the other at various times, but also what each other thought the other was really feeling. Mike had never said he felt disappointed about not having a son, but Alice suspected he felt that way. Alice had never said she wanted to go back to work, but Mike suspected that she did. The role reversal helped each of them to get in touch with how the other was really feeling. Their interchange also brought out some issues that each had been unwilling to risk discussing openly with the other.

An even more dramatic experience of role reversal can be had by assigning the couple the job of actually reversing roles for a whole week, or at least a few days or a weekend at home. Mike couldn't very well go home and have a baby, but he could spend a weekend taking full charge of the children and the house while Alice went off to study or to hunt a job. That would give each a taste of the other's role.

Judy and Tim both had jobs outside the home. They kept a running battle going for some time about whether Tim should share the chores of housekeeping and child care so that Judy wouldn't have two full time jobs. For a week they tried an actual role reversal. Tim took charge of the household evenings and weekends and did all the things Judy ordinarily did at home. After that he stopped talking about the house- work being "not really that much of a job," and started doing his share of it. Assignments of this sort assume a willingness on the part of both partners not only to understand the feelings and activities of the other but also to work out a lifestyle fair to both.

In a group, role reversal can also be effective if one couple takes the roles of another couple, perhaps again reversing the sexes. Or the sexes can stay the same while one couple acts out another couple's conflict. Judy and Tim can play Mike and Alice or Alice and Mike, and vice versa. With a little imagination role playing and role reversal can effectively be combined in a variety of ways.

In a consciousness raising group or youth group role reversal by sexes can be a moving and at times a hilarious experience. Asking a man to react -- as a woman -- to the statement "Woman's place is in the home" can often be funny, as well as a deeply shaking experience for all the people present. On one such occasion a young woman discovered through the role reversal exercise that

the youth she was dating was looking forward to marrying a wife who wanted lots of children. That was the beginning of a consciousness raising experience for both of them, as well as for the total group.

The role reversal technique can prove useful in any of the groups where the fishbowl would also be effective -- except in demonstration settings. It is particularly effective in conjoint and group marriage and pre-marriage counseling.

Fantasy

Fantasy of any kind can be a powerful way to get in touch with whatever is going on inside a person. It can be highly effective in helping people get in touch with their inner feelings about being boxed in and with the ways in which they stereotype the other sex. In any kind of counseling and consciousness raising it is well to begin with relatively nonthreatening fantasies such as the "Box and Meadow" before moving into the fantasies detailed below.(3)

Fantasies are done with eyes closed so that people can more easily get inside themselves. Every fantasy begins with asking the participants to get in touch with their bodies as follows (each ellipsis signifies a pause, the length of which remains at the discretion of the leader).

Body Awareness. Close your eyes . . . be aware of your body . . . notice any areas that are uncomfortable or tense . . . squirm around if you need to get more comfortable . . . take off your shoes if you like . . . now just be aware of your body again. . . . Now tighten up all your muscles from your toes to your scalp, every muscle, knees, fingers, cheeks, toes, neck, everything; hold it a minute -- and let go . . . do that again. . . . Now, become aware of your breathing . . . feel the air going in and out . . . follow the air as it flows. . . . Now take some shallow panting breaths . . . now breathe as deeply as you can . . . notice how different those two ways of breathing feel . . . now let your breathing go wherever it's comfortable and relaxed for you . . . (Then the leader can move immediately into the fantasy).

Sex Reversal Fantasy. With your eyes still closed become aware again of your body . . . how do you feel about your body? . . . what parts do you like? . . . what parts don't you like? . . . be aware of your feelings about your body in this moment. . . . Now, with your eyes still closed, see yourself in your bedroom at night . . . going through your usual routine of getting ready for bed . . . now you're actually getting into bed . . . it's dark . . . you're growing drowsy . . . you fall asleep . . . the night passes . . . morning is coming . . . as you begin to wake you become aware that there is something different about you this morning . . . as you come fully awake you are aware that you are still you, but you have the body of the other sex. If you're a woman you now have a man's body; if you're a man you now have a woman's body. . . . Be aware of how you feel about your new body . . . now get up out of bed and go over to the mirror . . . look at yourself without any clothes on . . . what are your feelings about your new body? . . . Now go about your usual morning routine for starting your day . . . get dressed . . . do whatever else you usually do. . . . Now I'll allow you sixty seconds to take yourself through a typical day in your life . . . you're still you . . . you'll do your usual things . . . but in the body of the other sex. . . . As you go through your day notice how you feel in your new body . . . how you behave . . . how people respond to you . . . be aware of all your feelings as you go about a typical day in your life . . . (the leader waits at this point for about sixty seconds). . . . Now, begin to bring your day to a close . . . you're back again in your bedroom at night . . . getting ready for bed . . . going to bed . . . it's dark . . . you're growing drowsy . . . you fall asleep . . . the night passes . . . morning is coming . . . you're waking up . . . and as you wake you find you have your own body back again. . . . Be aware of your feelings about having your own body back. . . . Now, come back to this room where we are meeting and open your eyes. . . .

After the fantasy, the procedure calls for everyone to turn to another person and for these two partners to share with one another (in about five minutes) what the fantasy experience was like for them. Then in the group as a whole the leader asks first the men to suggest words that describe how they felt when they were in the body of the other sex; these words are listed on the chalkboard in a column. After that the women are asked to suggest words that describe their feelings in the body of a man, and these words are listed in another column. The columns usually look something like this:

How Men Feel in a Woman's Body

vulnerable
embarrassed
frightened
out of place
excitement
curiosity
normal
disgust
dependent
cautious
wow!
object
childlike
fun
unreal
neat
like a breast

How Women Feel in a Man's Body

strength
strange
unhappy
awkward
powerful
barren
freedom
delight
taken seriously
responsible
muscular
respected
thrustful
newness
exhilaration
easier
not me

Participants are then asked what general impressions they get from the two lists of words. Of course it is usually quite clear to everyone that the words men use to describe their feelings about being a woman tend to be weak or negative or sexual words, while women use more strong and positive words to describe their experience in a male body. The experience confronts people with the way they themselves tend to label the sexes, even though intellectually they may say they "don't feel that way."

This fantasy also provides the opportunity for people to become aware of how androgynous (or gynandrous) they are. To what extent do I affirm and integrate my "feminine" side (if I am a man) or my "masculine" side (if I am a woman)?

The sex reversal fantasy can be used in any setting where the issue is consciousness raising or sex stereotyping or wholeness. It's an excellent "kick-off" exercise for groups large or small. In a large group it's important that the first sharing of the experience with an individual partner be allotted adequate time and that in the larger discussion those who wish be given plenty of opportunity to express their reactions. When the fantasy is used with a couple in counseling the two kinds of de- briefing are done together with the counselor. Although the fantasy experience can be anxiety producing for some people, those who are too deeply threatened by it will "turn it off" at the fantasy stage. They will be "unable" to put themselves into the body of the other sex. People who in the debriefing mention having had that problem can be encouraged to look at what that "inability" says to them, without any suggestion or accusation that they were really afraid. It is, in fact, usually the strongly "feminine" and strongly "masculine" persons who have difficulty with the sex reversal fantasy.

Woman Domination Fantasy.

Another useful consciousness raising fantasy is the woman domination fantasy. It helps women to get in touch with their own power needs, and men to feel what it is like to be one down. The fantasy is too long to describe here, but it is easily available elsewhere and can be adapted by the imaginative leader. (4) It consists of asking people to imagine themselves in a culture where nearly all the people in charge, from the President to the sanitation worker, are women, where all the "mothers" are men, and where the male body is seen as weak and unclean. The fantasy is suitable for larger groups of any kind but less effective for a small group or for a counseling setting.

Fantasy of the Unlived Life. The fantasy of the unlived life also helps people to get in touch with their feelings about their own and the other sex. (It too begins with the body awareness exercise. )

Now, with your eyes still closed, imagine yourself born a member of the other sex . . . if you're a woman imagine yourself born a boy baby . . . if you're a man imagine yourself born a girl baby. . . Imagine yourself now as an infant member of the other sex. . . . Imagine yourself being fed and cuddled and played with by your parents . . . what are they saying to their baby? . . . what are they saying to each other about you? . . . what are their plans for you? . . . Now you are growing older . . you're a schoolchild, still of the other sex . . . how do you feel as that child . . . what do you like to do? . . . what are your plans . . . who are your friends? . . . Now imagine that you are an adolescent, still of the other sex . . . how do you feel . . . what do you do . . . how do people treat you . . . what are your plans? . . . Now will you take sixty seconds to bring yourself to your present age, still a member of the other sex . . . notice what you do differently than you did in real life . . . notice how you feel about it all. . . . (The leader waits at this point for about sixty seconds.) . . . Now put yourself back into your own body . . . be aware of how that feels . . . be aware of what you're feeling right now. . . . Now, come back to this room where we are meeting and open your eyes...

The fantasy of the unlived life must be adapted to the age or age ranges of a particular group. It is especially good in counseling sessions with individuals and couples. Many women experience for the first time an awareness that their parents really wanted a boy. The opposite sometimes happens to men, but more often men become aware of how much of their lives they have spent trying to "get somewhere" instead of enjoying life. All fantasies should be thoroughly debriefed. When they are used in a counseling setting there is usually no problem about that. In a group setting it is essential that people be asked to share their experiences, first as partners, then in the total group; those who still feel stirred up or anxious or angry should be encouraged to talk with someone about it afterwards.

Androgyny Test

Another useful consciousness raising and self awareness device is the Androgyny Test.(5) It asks the participants to score themselves on a large number of traits generally thought of in our culture as being "feminine" or "masculine" or "neuter." The result determines to what extent a person is considered to be "strongly feminine," "strongly masculine," or "androgynous," somewhat along the lines of the attitudinal study mentioned at the beginning of chapter 2.

Used in a group the Androgyny Test makes an excellent discussion starter on the issues of equality, sex-role stereotyping, and individual wholeness. In a counseling relationship it can help to clarify what is going on between two people. In the counseling situation it is good to have the partners score the test for themselves and then for each other in order to see how their own perceptions of themselves differ from those of their partner.

Picture Gallery

Picture Gallery is also an excellent counseling and/or consciousness raising technique. The leader displays a collection of pictures of all kinds cut from magazines. Pictures of people, landscapes, activities, of machines -- any pictures will do. There should be enough pictures so that each person may pick several. The pictures are displayed everywhere about the room.

The participants are asked to wander about the room and choose several pictures which put them in touch with their feelings about themselves as a woman (or as a man) or their feelings about women (or men) in general. In a mixed group, any combination of these assignments would work; the women might be asked to choose pictures that speak to them about women, or the men could choose pictures which make them think about their male experience.

Then the participants are asked to take their several pictures into a previously arranged small group of six or seven persons -- or fewer depending on the allotted time -- and, using the go-around technique, share with each other what the pictures mean to them. It is remarkable to discover how deeply people can get into their feelings and experiences just by looking at pictures.

Picture Gallery can be used in a counseling setting with only one or two people; or it can be used in a group of any size. It is a helpful technique for letting people get in touch with their feelings about marriage, or about race, as well as about sex stereotypes.

Projective Techniques

The projective techniques of writing and painting are also effective methods both for individual and group use in becoming aware of feelings -- and perhaps changing feelings -- about sexuality and stereotypical roles. Asking people to draw or to write their feelings about a given subject or person or experience often brings to awareness material which was previously hidden. In a group experience, paper and crayons can be provided and people asked to draw their feelings about women or men. Couples can be asked to draw their marriage.

People can be asked to make a collage from magazine pictures and/or words, or even a sculpture.

Make a collage of yourself, of a man, of a woman. Together make a collage of your marriage. In every instance people are then asked to share their drawing or sculpture or collage with another person and/or with the group.

The writing of prose or poetry is also effective. Write the story of your life, of your marriage. Write a make-believe story in which all your dreams come true. Write a poem about yourself. Write a poem to your spouse. Write down something that describes "What is a woman?" -- or "What is a man?" Write a fairy tale. Again share what you have written with another person or with a small group.

In all these instances it should be emphasized that what is important is not the finished product but what creating it does to help one become aware of oneself in new ways. The purpose is not to discover hidden artistic talent but to uncover attitudes and feelings about self and others.

Physical Techniques

Along this same line it is a good idea to encourage people to use physical means both to get in touch with and to express the anger that inevitably arises as women and men try to learn to deal with each other differently. Indian wrestling, foam rubber bats,(6) shouting yes and no at each other at close range and from opposite sides of the room all provide effective, harmless, and fun ways of draining off strong feeling so that talking becomes possible. There are several excellent resources for those interested in using such techniques, all of which can be effective in groups as well as in various kinds of counseling. (6)


The Intentional Marriage Model

The Intentional Marriage (or Relationship) Model is an extremely useful technique for couples already in an ongoing relationship or perhaps contemplating one. It can help them to assess their feelings about each other and about their relationship, to communicate their needs and expectations to each other, and to contract for ways in which these needs can be met. Described elsewhere in this series, the method is particularly effective as a consciousness raising technique -- for making the "unconscious contract" conscious or intentional.(7) It should always be used as a technique for revising the contract rather than for reinforcing the status quo, even if both partners are satisfied with the latter. It is oppressive if it merely helps people stay in their boxes.

Assertion Training

A behavior change method which is becoming increasingly popular with women as they begin to change their self-image, but which is also appropriate for men who have not adopted the culturally approved "masculine" qualities, is that of Assertion Training, (7) Users of the method distinguish between "assertion" and "aggression." Assertive behavior is defined as an honest and appropriate expression of feelings in which a person asserts her or his own rights in ways that do not violate the rights of others.

The technique trains people in a series of graduated steps, each requiring more assertiveness than the one before, to speak up or to do things for themselves even at the risk of disapproval from others. Since women very often feel guilty when they begin to assert themselves and to make demands in their own behalf, some opportunity to deal with such guilt feelings is appropriate. In a consciousness raising group women find that they share the experience of guilt with many other women and that guilt too functions to keep women dependent and submissive. This awareness in itself helps to resolve the guilt feelings.

Assertive training needs to be carefully done so that success can be assured at each step before people move on to the next one. A typical beginning assignment for a woman might be the task of doing at a given time something she really wants to do instead of what is routinely expected of her or even what she normally expects of herself at that moment. The contract could be to spend the afternoon reading a book instead of doing the laundry. A second step might be to ask her to make the decision next time about where the couple would go out to dinner, even at the risk of incurring the husband's disapproval. Eventually she may develop the courage to enroll in a class, or go back to school, or take a job, even if her husband isn't entirely enthusiastic.

Of course men can benefit from assertion training too, particularly in relation to other men and to their jobs. Because of our culture's programming of the sexes, men are usually more able than women to be assertive without triggering guilt feelings. On the other hand, men's assertion often becomes aggression, in the language of this particular technique, and thus violates the rights of women. Assertion training may help men assert their rights without being aggressive, and women assert theirs without being manipulative.

Study Groups

From the consciousness raising point of view, study groups are among the most important means of getting at the issues raised by the changing identities of women and men. Study groups often grow out of consciousness raising groups. Study can become part of the agenda for existing groups in the church, or the focus of independent programs. Ministers and counselors can read and encourage women to read feminist literature, to explore the women's movement, and to organize their own groups for further reading and discussion.

Many of the resources listed in the Bibliography would provide excellent study material for consciousness raising and subsequent action. A study group does not necessarily need a leader; a group of interested people can read and review a number of books, or one book can be read and discussed chapter by chapter, the members taking turns as leader.

Dealing With Anger

It is almost inevitable for anger to result when traditional ways are challenged. Women feel angry when they discover they've been boxed in for a large part of their lifetimes. Some women feel angry when they think they're being pushed to give up old ways. Men get angry when they feel women threatening their positions of superiority and power. Some men get angry when they discover they too are boxed in. What do we do with all that anger?

Often our impulse is to repress it or pretend it isn't there, or to refuse to face the issues that rouse anger. But it is important for ministers and counselors to become aware of their own anger and their ways of handling it, to encourage others to recognize their anger, to talk about it, and to find physical ways of expressing it which are not harmful to other people. It is especially important for women who are becoming aware of their anger to seek out opportunities to be with other women of like mind, because being together helps them to deal with the anger and to find ways of implementing it in creative channels. One purpose of this chapter has been to provide tools and techniques for helping people to become aware of and deal constructively with their anger -- not so that it will go away, but so that it can be used to bring about constructive changes in a dehumanizing society.

It isn't possible here to review all the available techniques for consciousness raising or all possible applications of them. Other suggestions are available from many sources, particularly the Task Force on Consciousness Raising of the National Organization for Women and from Women Committed to Women.(8) The imaginative minister and counselor will find many ways to use and adapt those presented here, and in the process develop new ones to fit particular people and local situations. Counseling and consciousness raising are of course not ends in themselves. Out of them, if they are effective, comes action which will pass along to others the growth that has taken place.

Notes:

1. Alexandra Symonds, "The Liberated Woman, Healthy and Neurotic," American Journal of Psychoanalysis 34(1974) : 177-83.

2. For an excellent section on starting women's CR groups see Rush pp. 119-26.

3. For "Box and Meadow" fantasy see H. Clinebell, p. 29.

4. Theodora Wells, "Woman, Which Includes Man of Course: Ar Experience in Awareness."

Available from Women Committed to Women.

5. Test samples, along with a discussion of their rationale and validity, may be obtained from Sandra Bern at Stanford University.

6. See the note for p. 45.

6. See George Bach, The Intimate Enemy (New York: Avon Books 1968); Rush; and Phelps and Austin.

7. See H. Clinebell.

7. See the Bibliography for resources on Assertion Training.

8. Write to National Organization for Women Task Force on Consciousness Raising (addresses listed in Bibliography) as well as denominational task forces.

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