Circling 2.0, Postscript

Posted on November 4, 2019

My blog post Circling 2.0 received some interesting feedback, on my own FaceBook page and on the FaceBook page of the Circling group.

I have received a number of private expressions of agreement with the contents, from senders with experiences in different circling schools who felt too vulnerable to voice their support in public. There were also some public notes of appreciation. The gist was that establishing the links to earlier approaches to conscious connection has the potential to deepen the practice. Less glamorous, perhaps, but more profound.

Major influences that I missed in the article are integral theory, experiential body-oriented therapy (Peter Levine, Gabor Maté) and non-violent communication (Marshall Rosenberg). Someone also mentioned Existential Phenomenology (Martin Heidegger) as an influence on Guy Sengstock.

Of course, I am aware that within the Circling community there is an infatuation with integral theory. Maybe I left this out because of my personal unease with Ken Wilber. Wilber presents himself as an intellectual, but he lacks the key intellectual virtues of open-mindedness, intellectual humility and respect for his critics. Perhaps I should have put him under the “dubious ancestors”. When I first found out that certain circling leaders that I know admire Wilber I was a bit shocked. These things are very personal, of course, but I did not want to sign up for circling training with them anymore. But yes, I should have mentioned integral theory. As one commenter put it, most circling communities are drenched in it, and one school even originated from an Integral community.

Another important influence that I failed to mention is the toolset of ownership language as taught in Nonviolent Communication (NVC) to create positive connection. What NVC teaches is the ability to express how you are (your observations, feelings, values, requests) without blaming or criticizing others, and the ability to listen to the expressions of the observations, feelings, values and requests of others with compassion and empathy. These are key circling skills, although there is less emphasis on a precise method in circling. In any case, learning NVC, or as I prefer to call it, Compassionate Communication, has made me a better circler. Indeed, I believe that Marshall Rosenberg’s book Nonviolent Communication should be on every circler’s reading list.

There was an accusation from a Circling leader that the post gives incorrect information, voiced in rather strong language, with a suggestion that the post is misleading and that the author does not know what he is talking about. And then someone else contradicted that the information was incorrect. An interesting confusion. There was also a suggestion in the discussion that the article is based on too limited experience with the different circling styles.

So let me state here that I have only a slight acquaintance with non-European styles of circling: participation in events with Andrew Venezia, Anke Verhees, Miriam van Groen and Sara Ness, and participation in a number of online circles with people from a variety of schools. And I was never ordained as a Circling Europe priest: I was a regular participant in their Amsterdam events for about a year, I went to the Circling Festival in 2017, and I fell out with them in December 2017 when I put a link on the Circling Europe community page to this blog post where I describe how I had come to view circling. The following paragraph incensed the CE leaders:

Offering circling courses is fine, but there should be no suggestion that anyone needs to go through such a course to be an adequate circling practitioner. Circling, authentic relating, radical honesty, compassionate living, are all invitations to enter into genuine contact with ourselves and with each other. These practices do not belong to anyone, or they belong to us all. They are all invitations to enter into the sphere of the miraculous of what we can experience together. Nobody has any claims of superiority to make here, and the spirit of competition is completely out of place.

In the course of the interaction that followed this post, one of the leaders of Circling Europe asked me to leave the group because he felt that I was undermining him and was harming his business. I then removed myself from the group, because this was their group and they have the right to determine who can be part of it. So we parted ways. The short of it is that I got disappointed with Circling Europe before they could recruit me for their SAS training. And now I am a do-it-yourself circler.

I have experienced huge differences in skill of facilitation in circles, ranging from clumsy to amazing. In some cases, I did not know the training background of the leaders, so I cannot simply put it down to differences in schools or styles. I acknowledge, once more, that my circling experience is limited. In all cases, my sense was that the differences I experienced were not so much due to differences in training as to differences in personal emotional maturity. For me, the essence of facilitation is the capacity to hold space for people showing up in their deepest vulnerability, together with the ability to see through one’s own projections and the shadows that they cast.

Someone made an interesting comment on the Pickup Artistry culture and how it connects to circling. She observed that in France Pickup Artist training (or Seduction Coaching) is a socially acceptable excuse for men to engage in personal development work. In connection to Pickup Artistry, I might also have mentioned NLP and similar “interpersonal manipulation” approaches. NLP is based on a form of therapy designed in the nineteen seventies. Before you decide you want to go into this slightly tricky stuff you might wish to read Frogs into Princes by its inventors Richard Bandler and John Grinder.

It would be great if the male founders of the various circling schools would answer the question whether they started out as pickup artists. There is nothing to be ashamed of here. Mark Zuckerberg started FaceBook as an easier way to extend his range of potential connections to women. Also, I would love to hear the comments of Marco Beneteau, who is a trainer at Authentic Singles Dating, on the relation between circling and the development of dating skills.

Finally, a mature school for personal development work was mentioned to me, namely Thomas Huebl’s Timeless Wisdom Training. I have watched a number of video’s where Thomas Huebl is interviewing various people involved in body-oriented trauma release work, and I was hugely impressed.