Out of Spiral (notes from the underground)

Out of Spiral had been Youth Exchange financed by the Erasmus+.

It was focused on young adults (18-30 yo) who are struggling in addiction, or any unhealthy behavioral pattern they would like to change. It involved 35 people – 4 participants + 1 group leader (youth worker) – from 7 countries of the EU – Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Romania, and Spain.

It had to be moved twice because of the covid pandemic, and in the end, it took place from 11th to 20th of September 2021, in Hopeland, Argos, Greece. 

While preparing the project, we took in account following…

 

Theoretical foundations

Addictions

Physician Gabor Maté established the concept of trauma as a result of something that happened (or didn’t happen) to you in the past and left a painful scar inside of you, a hollow place. To fill this emptiness, people are adopting different strategies, usually very unhealthy.  This is the most common reason for different addictions –  addiction to alcohol, cigarettes, drugs,  but also sex, porn, ICTs, toxic relationships, etc. 

The addictive substances is not an enemy at the moment. It is a solution to our inner pain. The problem is, the addictive substances and toxic behavioral pattern can bring a relieve in a short-term, but are damaging and potentially deadly in a long run. 

Therefore, it makes not sense to demonize the substances. Instead of that, in OOS we focused on recognizing and healing the trauma in us which makes us use addictions as a coping mechanism. 

Pain of being free

Common pattern for addictions is losing part of a personal freedom. We are becoming slaves of our urges, patterns, compulsive, automatic behavior. We are loosing awareness and the control. We tend to follow what is given to us. 

For that reason, we set up the VISION of the project as a FREEDOM and decided to provide to participants as much freedom as possible.  Such an amount of freedom has actually its downsides as well and can be pretty uncomfortable and unpleasant, as psychologist Barry Schwartz is explaining in the following video:

Methods

Community

How to create a space in which one can reach the trauma deep inside, share it with others, and let it heal? 

We used the approach of M. S. Peck, based on his book the Different Drum. In his learning, community needs to have following characteristics: inclusivity, commitment, and consensus, realism, contemplation, safe space, laboratory for personal disarmament, graceful (peaceful) fights, group of all leaders, spirit. 

It also needs to pass through following phases:

  1. Pseudo-community
  2. Chaos
  3. Emptiness
  4. Community
  5. Death of the community

It is somewhat (even though not fully) aligned with the famous steps of group dynamics: forming, storming, norming, performing, adjourning. 

Accountability

Personal accountability is more an approach than a method. Yet,from the beginning, we had been promoting personal accountability of all participants. It follows the logic of Victim/Accountable Chart.

An alternative to this model is provided by Launder Zander.

Participants have been given freedom which also entangled responsibilities. You choose your program. You take care for shopping. You take care for cooking. They have a freedom to ask for a support any time. Mostly, they didn’t. They found their way. 

Still, there had been limits…

5  unbreakable rules

  • no alcohol
  • no drugs (meaning, soft and hard drugs)
  • no meat
  • no ICTs (information and communication technologies)
  • no leaving (without persmission)

I have been questioned if it would not be better to set up these rules as an agreements. To give to participants a choice if they want to follow them or what type of limits they want to impose on themselves. It could support their self-confidence. “I am not drinking alcohol not because I have to but because I choose so.”

I don’t know. Possibly. Yet it wasn’t the intention. 
The intention was to simulate the conditions of the outer world.

In a real-life, there is always some system, there are always some laws. Even if you are living off-grid, most probably you are part of some state and its rules are implied on you, like it or not. You can break the rules if no-one is watching but if you are being caught, there are consequences. 

One participant blamed me: “You are the part of the problem! You are the system.” 
Yes. In the given context, I was a system and it was a purposeful choice. 

Life and death of the community

Community is being created towards the common goal… even though if the goal is to create a community to establish a space allowing a healing as it was in the case of Out of Spiral. It was really hard for participants to understand this concept. It took up to 5 days for some of them to get their heads around it. Interesting was, they haven’t ask a direct question – Why is this happening? What is the purpose? – they were only complaining in couples. But slowly, the understanding arise. 

Second challenge was accepting the amount of freedom provided to them, and the responsibilities coming together with it. There was a resistance of course, complains things could be done better, but the advantages of our approach started to manifest soon. 

Day 1

Participants had been introduced to the Hopeland, the to community concept,, and informed the creation of the community had started. It took them several hours of discussing, sharing, and twisting their heads around the concept. Yet they ended the session with the group hug and proposed an evening sharing. 

Day 2

Days started by coming to the nearby village Malandreni to support them with cleaning. 

Participants came back full of positive energy. Yet, I have called for a community meeting which lead to another long discussion. I have been criticized a lot for it. They told me I am intervening with the process and I should let it flow. They might be right – the Peck is advising to interfere as little as possible. My intervention might have slow down the process.

Day 3