Sylvia wrote to me, “Last night in our Real Love Group one person, Mike, directly attacked another person in the group, Brenda. It was a big display of anger and yelling. The whole group was affected. It triggered many people's PCSD issues. There was lots of fear in the room. It also seems that Mike ‘chose’ a weaker person in the group. He wouldn’t attack a stronger person that way. Our group has been talking about this, and we agree that often some hosts either don't know what to do, or they don't want to stop the attacker while they’re talking—after all the attacker is the Speaker, even if they’re angry—so the host just lets the person continue attacking. Is there anything the host can or should do when this happens? It's the host's job to keep a ‘safe’ environment for the group, as written in the group guidelines. How can they do that in this situation?”
More than one issue is being addressed here, and it matters that we address them in the right order, or confusion will result.
First, you indicated that Mike was the Speaker, and therefore should be allowed to speak until he’s finished. Wrong.
The speaker is the person talking about himself or herself in the hope of being seen and loved. Mike wasn’t talking about himself. He was attacking Brenda. It is the job of the host or wise man to determine whether it’s an attack or not.
Let us suppose that Mike said, for example, “Brenda has agreed to pick me up for group twice in a row now, and both times she hasn’t shown up, which has caused me a lot of inconvenience and made me late. Now, I need some help in how to let go of being offended and get back to a peaceful feeling.” In this case, Mike talked about Brenda for one sentence to provide CONTEXT for working on himself. No problem. Not an attack.
Now let’s suppose that Mike said, “Brenda has agreed to pick me up for group twice in a row now, and both times she hasn’t shown up, which has caused me a lot of inconvenience and made me late.” Raising his voice, he continued, “Brenda, I’m angry at you. You need to be more responsible and considerate. And you don’t return my texts either, and when I leave voice mails, you . . .” That is simply an attack, not truth-telling, and Mike is not truly the Speaker.
The issue of Mike NOT being a true Speaker has to be established by someone with experience before taking the next step. The moment it becomes apparent that Mike is attacking, a wise person needs to stop the attack. How? He or she might say, very calmly but directly—as just one of many possible approaches—“Mike, you’re attacking Brenda. You have a lifetime of experience attacking, and it won’t help you to do more of that here. Do you know what your attack is really about? Because it’s not just about her being late.”
Mike will not likely know the answer to this question, so then the host might help Mike see that before he was angry, he felt HURT, and helpless to do anything about the way he was treated—both of which conditions he had experienced hundreds of times in his childhood. So he was reacting almost entirely to his lifetime of pain and fear, not to Brenda.
The goal here is not to simply stop an attack. It’s to love and teach the attacker. If Mike continues to be aggressive, he needs to be told that he has to stop talking, because he’s causing harm to others. He can talk again when he’s ready to deal with his own pain, without blaming others.