Forum is a social technology for practicing honesty in community and relationships. It enables us to become conscious of what happens within and among us, and creates solidarity through mutual empathy. It’s one way of transforming the collective trauma we hold as we realize that we all share the same longings, joys and difficulties. These are not just personal but global issues. De-identification and full transparency allows healing to take place, as to be seen is to be loved.
“Fear disappears when you reach the core of truth.”
We all share the same original drama of devastated love, solidarity and trust – a collective trauma – as a result of an era of violence and destroyed community. We can only create peace in our external environment if we learn to create peace within ourselves. This is why the healing of trauma is such a high political priority. New societal vessels are needed for healing to take place, in which insight about our own unconscious automatisms (thoughts and intentions) and true compassion for each other and the world can arise.
While therapy only addresses individuals and cannot but send them back to the society that has made them sick in the first place, Forum contributes to building a new society in which trauma will no longer have an effect on us.
Forum has been essential to the cohesion of the project and an essential part of building a functioning community. In this ritual, which we’ve held on a daily basis from the very beginning until today, we address issues we wouldn‘t be able to raise in normal conversations, topics that would immediately trigger conflict, or feel too embarrassing, beautiful or moving to be told over dinner.
Forum provides a protected space to reveal conflicts to the community without being judged and to openly reveal love while having free space to explore. We can turn our mistrust, fear, competition, shyness and apparently unspeakable desires into theatrical art pieces, rather than endlessly circling around them in an overly serious manner.
One participant at a time steps into the center of the circle, supported by a facilitator who is trusted by the group, to dare to reveal themselves. Beyond the purely therapeutic level of establishing truthful communication, the person in the center is an artist who goes into “creative distance” to their problem by performing it. This de-identification enables meaningful self-reflection. With this new consciousness, we’re able to take responsibility for behaviors that are acted out unconsciously, and understand the global issues they’re part of.
The Forum is about learning solidarity on a deeper level. When people recognize each other in their shared difficulties they feel less need to disguise themselves and develop the desire to support each other. In every deep Forum, all participants – both performer and those supporting – experience an astonishing transformation. Whenever people dare to lift their masks and reveal themselves, they change and the circle is able to “see” them. “To be seen is to be loved,” is a basic experience, fundamental to building lasting solidarity among people.
Forum also includes learning to give feedback to each other, to say what we perceive in each other, and what we like and dislike in a way that is mutually supportive. After the performance, the people from the circle who bore witness get up to give “mirrors” to the person who just spoke. Every living being needs feedback and resonance to be able to know its specific place in the whole and to develop themselves. By learning to speak truth and receive truthful feedback from others, people can find acceptance for who they truly are. This is a turning point while entering community.
Whatever is spoken in a Forum is confidential to people who didn’t participate in it. It mustn’t become gossip matter.
- Social transparency is indispensable for establishing a sustainable fabric of solidarity and trust. Truth is a requirement for trust to develop but it can often be explosive, and so needs conscious, spacious ways to be expressed for it to lead to healing.
- Difficulties can be overcome with lightness in a playful performance format. This makes it easier to share thoughts and feelings that are usually hidden, strengthening trust and the integrity of the community. What matters isn’t the external style, but the authenticity and the creative distance to ourselves. If things become heavy, the Forum leader understands how to turn it into a creative atmosphere through, for example, music, drums, songs or a cheerfully deep prayer.
- By witnessing the healing of the person in the middle, we see that we all carry the same issues. Shifting from a private self-understanding to a communitarian or even global one opens our organism for new healing powers.
- When the performer reveals themselves fully in a circle of trust, they’re liberated by their truth and the self-healing powers start to work. Liberation is a matter of self-revelation.
- Practicing Forum only makes sense in a group of people who have a higher goal than just community itself and want to lift their personal issues to a global level, who are prepared to study the intellectual and spiritual foundations of community building and are ready to speak the truth with each other, including in sexual issues. We don’t recommend practicing Forum outside of this context.
- You learn to facilitate Forum by immersing yourself in it. By becoming transparent and self-reflective in your own life, you acquire the knowledge and compassion and earn the trust you need to accompany other people performing. This requires long-term study and practice – it isn’t something you can learn in workshop. If you’re serious about wanting to facilitate Forum, one way is to join our Healing Biotopes Student Program.