Diary: 'Validate!'

IssueApril - May 2024
Comment by Cath

Since communicating with each other and ourselves honestly seems pretty critical in a fully income-sharing, revolutionary community, our commune has decided to undertake co-counselling training. 

Co-counselling is sometimes described as egalitarian counselling, where both parties get to talk for an equal length of time. But it’s not really counselling at all – the witness shouldn’t ask leading questions or delve into what’s being said/not said. Instead, their role is largely to say nothing, except for a few nudges to open up different ways of the sharer seeing their stuff.

There are three key benefits for us:

  • we all learn a bunch of tools which we can use to prompt our own personal analysis, regardless of whether anyone’s witnessing us
  • we develop a shared language/concepts which will help us to help each other 
  • we gain access to a global network of co-counsellors, so that if any of us needs to process difficult stuff they can do it with a complete stranger who doesn’t know anyone else in the commune.

Here’s some sample self-counselling:

[What’s on top?] As usual, I feel stretched, overwhelmed [where do I feel that in my body?]

Our baby commune has got a short window of financial opportunity, for maybe a few more months, where we have enough reserves that we can put a lot of time into recruiting new members, policy-making and developing the skills and ideas for our collective commune businesses. 

But that window is slowly closing and we don’t seem to be making the progress I’d hoped at this point. Soon we’ll have to start selling our precious time to capitalism, and development will surely slow. [Contradict! Use ‘I’ statements]

One frustration I’m personally struggling with (obviously common across our group of activists), is that there are so many non-commune things that seem to need me...and I feel called to do something to help:

  • a housing co-op potentially being repossessed
  • a workers co-op facing an existentially bad cash-flow
  • a long-standing music camp determine its future without rent-free property
  • a friend’s accountability process
  • researchers and students with their various questions
  • address upset between squatters and the worker co-op they shoplifted from
  • develop a small federation of housing co-ops and recruit a worker
  • recruit member co-ops to the workers.coop federation
  • tackle the lack of affordable finance for community-led housing
  • write something encouraging for a student housing co-op publication
  • prepare the accounts for a co-op with no paid staff 
  • attract investment to our co-op network Radical Routes so it can lend to more co-ops
  • find touring activists places to stay or visit
  • publicise various vacancies, loanstock offers and opportunities

[Validate!] Most things, whether big or small, can be justified (at a stretch) as strategically important to the commune in some way – creating working relationships and gaining commune kudos, introducing people to each other or to ideas which will catalyse something excellent, building or maintaining useful co-op infrastructure, trying to save bits of the commons which are useful to the revolution. 

Sometimes it’s just trying to prevent people getting massively disillusioned with co-ops, so they don’t forever-after talk about how awful they are. 

[Celebrate!] Yay, mitigating co-op disillusion! Saving the commons!

To be fair, there’s some quite stretched justification there.

There are a few common threads in that list: 

  • there’s only me or one or two others that could do the task
  • there’s no money in it
  • it’s not local 

Here’s a Venn diagram: the checkerboard segments are the work that would directly benefit the commune – either making local links and relationships or making money. 

Venn diagram

Spiral work is tangential at best and the maze is stuff I should stop doing altogether – but how do I say no to it? 

To be faced with the horrors of war, climate change, etc, etc, and then to see that something tangible could change if I get involved – it’s guilt-inducing to say no. [Put that feeling on a cushion and talk to it]*

[30 seconds left

The answer: get better at collectively deciding where each of us is putting our energy and being brave enough to challenge ourselves and each other about that.

[Repeat!] We can challenge each other!! I will challenge myself!!

More local stuff! Some income!! 

[Time’s up – do you want an attention switch? Pat your head, rub your tummy and whistle like a bird]

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