Insight into Impact
By Anita Prasad
Group relations pedagogy and experiential learning in Toronto has largely been taken up through a social justice lens. The collective of social justice organizations engaged in this work, recognized the need to examine the unconscious processes underway in our organizations that resulted in unhealthy manifestations of power and authority and were directly contrary to our values of equity and shared leadership. Despite our values, in some ways, our organizations continued to manifest the very things we were trying to change out in the world. It is this dissonance that brought us/me to group relations work.
Working with the unconscious brings up challenging truths because when I fully commit to the work involved, it always surfaces my own valence - my hopes, fears, desires and tendencies. It unearths both contradictions and patterns long buried and provides me with the opportunity to look at the shadow self, the part that is always present but may not always be visible. The exploration takes place in a fluid way that is often hard to predict and can feel bewildering at first. Over time however, these GRC spaces that were initially fraught and frightening have started to feel like familiar ground. The knowledge of self and others that one can build in this work is limitless and that feels empowering. I always come away from conferences feeling exhausted but ALIVE, on fire, more connected to myself and others around me. This work of unearthing my own subterranean experience and offering it to the group as data to be shared in understanding what’s happening in the “here and now”, is an act of trust and intimacy. It helps to build community among practitioners and enables the group to work through difficult challenges especially when facing large systems of oppression that generate disparity in the world.
This methodology has enabled me to carry myself with honesty in my work, build authentic relationships, given me the tools to grapple with hard conundrums and conflict, and it has made me aware of all the areas of both my potential and my pitfalls. This awareness and capacity to self-reflect is so crucial to the work of social change and justice as we try to envision new ways of thinking and being in a world experiencing much chaos, difference and disruption.