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September 1, 2003

People Need People: The Healing Container of Community

I just returned from the annual IPA Convention. "Convention" isn't the best word for it. There's no fancy hotel. There are no delegates with suits and briefcases. There are no power lunches and stuffy lectures.

The IPA Convention takes place at an art camp in rural New Jersey. The participants are in shorts and T-shirts. Workshops are informal, experiential, and secondary to the main purpose - people being together in community.

As time passes, I see that the safe, loving, human container of friendship, family, and community is the essence of healthy change and transformation. Good therapy attempts to create that in the most minimal way. To be even more effective, we need to create it in the more encompassing manner of community.

Janov informed us that feeling pain is healing. He was correct. He also preached isolation and independence from the therapeutic relationship and the community at large. Unfortunately, this was his great error, both therapeutically and professionally. Without the relationship, the primal process is incomplete. The safe container is what we needed as infants and it's what we need as adults.

Family and community seem like anathema to many of us because dysfunctional families and communities are our experience. But a healthy community - one with true acceptance, love, and mutual respect - is a different matter.

Such a container does not require personal perfection, whatever that may be. It simply requires that we own our feelings and allow others to be what they are. It requires that we do not abuse others nor accept abuse. It can be done.

This year, I saw the IPA community evolve into that container. I saw wonderful things happen within it. I am delighted.

Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow.

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