Community and Chaos
Chaos is a Difficult Barrier to Get Through
More groups would easily glide into community if they did not have to pass through the stage of chaos. This seems like a bad thing, but, in fact, this stage is a crucial and essential stage in the community building process.
In stage one, pseudocommunity, everything goes smoothly because everyone is, naturally, on his or her best behaviour. But pseudocommunity is not a real community: It’s the way we relate to a group of strangers or any group that is not yet a community. It’s not authentic because we are not authentic. We are acting out of our conditioning, our experiences in life, our desire to protect ourselves from the pain of rejection, our need to be liked and to get along with others.
The Way Out is Through
Just as with any problem we face in our lives, the way out is through, the way out of chaos is through it and into the next stage in the community building process. We can’t avoid chaos, we have to face it. Besides, there is value in chaos.
Chaos uncovers the things we would rather not face, the problems we’ve kept submerged so deeply in the well we can almost convince ourselves they are not there. Chaos removes the most important barriers to communication, the masks we wear to hide who we are. And it shows us the judgments we hold, the fears we hide, the need we harbour to have control so we can avoid the chaos of our feelings. We project it all outward while exonerating ourselves. We point the fingers at others when we know – don’t we know so well by now – that the only person that we can ever change is ourselves? Changing ourselves changes everything. But chaos is about our interaction with the members of the group. It’s about how we see the others, how we judge, fear and want to control them so we ourselves don’t have to feel uncomfortable.
These things, our judgments, fears and our need to have control, show us what we want to protect. Often, what we want to protect is our way of seeing things. By the time we reach adulthood, we have a fully constructed set of beliefs about ourselves and about the world. We have everything in tidy boxes, set safely on shelves. We don’t like to have those boxes disturbed. We don’t like to have our beliefs challenged.
When chaos triggers us, boxes go flying. It’s time to do some clutter-clearing. It’s time to open the boxes and take good stock at how we’re being triggered. Chaos prepares us for the next stage, of emptiness. If we didn’t go through chaos, we wouldn’t know what it is we need to release so we can take that final step into community.
Now We Have Begun
Most people feel chaos spells the end for the group. That beautiful camaraderie we’d been enjoying, that harmony, peace, and fun – are all disintegrating. What’s the point, we wonder, of remaining with this group?
The point is this: we’ve left the first stage, pseudocommunity and we’re further along on the path. We’re on your way now. In chaos, we can get real. Now we can say what we really think and hear how others really feel.
The most important thing, the thing we must never do, is to give up now. We must stay with the process.
Many groups, upon encountering the disputes of chaos attempt to back peddle to pseudocommunity. They soon learn that it doesn’t work. It’s the wrong direction. The way forward is through chaos and on to the third stage, emptiness.
Photo Credit: Nik Stanbridge