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The Wheel of Consent ≠ Permission

I’m not in a ranting mode today, so this will be a different tone than my Wheel rant. ;-) I do want to explain myself and my perception on working with the Wheel of Consent a little bit more. Maybe you’ve heard me say before that it’s important to get proper training on the Wheel of Consent from people that are trained by the School of Consent or from the School of Consent itself. I remember I thought I understood the Wheel after watching the video’s on Betty’s website and having a session with Matt. I’ve heard many other people state this as well. And then I did “Like a Pro” with Betty Martin. Wow…I started to see the implications of what it would mean if I would really integrate the Wheel in my life and work…. I needed to turn the way I worked and what I was offering upside down and make a huge shift if I really wanted to empower people in the best way I could think of. Shit… my sessions were going really well. My clients were very happy. Why change a thing that was working? I felt quite some resistance. But that little spark was lighted and my inner voice was strong. Trust in this and change the whole set up. So I did and after a little learning time, my sessions became a breath of fresh air for most people. I’ve witnessed many tears of people feeling and getting it in their body when the empowerment came from them instead of from me. When they re-learned this skill and could really feel they have a choice in everything. Not just knowing it, but really experiencing and feeling it in their bodies. That’s a big difference. Most people think the Wheel of Consent has to do with asking and getting permission. But that’s not what it is about. Working with the Wheel has to do with CHOICE. It teaches you how to choose and you’ll practice all the little steps that are needed for that. Choosing seems simple, but it turns out to be quite the art. As most of us have been trained since we were babies not to choose, to follow what was told, to do as the rest of your classmates did. To be honest, to change this is not as easy as it sounds. It’s BIG, it’s a revolution. As soon as I was getting my first glimpses of this, I realized there was more depth in working with the Wheel than I could have imagined before. It was turning all my thinking and relating structures upside down. I could not feel entitled, like a victim, being in my healer/rescuer mode anymore without my alarm bells going off.. Shit! Now I have this intern moderator that really wants me to behave like an adult and really take responsibility for my shit. And shit there was.. and it was pretty dis-encouraging the first weeks. Where to start turning all of this behavior around? It has been there for years and it feels normal and safe to my system. So again I wanted to trust in this and change the whole set up of my behavior. And I knew that if I stopped learning, practicing and interacting with other people on this path, it would be so easy to forget this again. I know how that works. So I decided to not let that happen, but to continue on this path that I’ve had a glimpse of. When I continued doing ‘Teaching the Wheel in Groups’ and a year later the Facilitator Certification trainings, I got a new shock when I realized even more implications of really integrating this in every cell of my body, every little detail of my sessions and workshops. Really, I said to myself… are you going down this road??? This will be a huge mess. This means I cannot expect people to participate in the exercises I took so much effort in preparing. I even have to let go of the idea that it is better for people to do an exercise instead of opting out and sitting at the side or going for a walk during exercise time? I even encourage them to do so, over and over again. It means that if people feel like taking a nap while I’m explaining something important, I’ll encourage them to do that instead of listening to my marvelous explanation…. But….but…but…my mind (that has been a schoolteacher for 14 years) said, can’t you just do a little part of it and continue like you were doing…. The shift in my thinking could not be returned anymore. I knew this would have huge implications. Although at that time I still had no clue about the impact this would have on the way I teach and live my life. And maybe that was a good thing as I’m not sure if I would have had the courage to do so. ;-) I feel grateful now for the practice I had in my life to shatter the way I was living and everything I believe in and to start from scratch again. As it felt like doing that again. I changed my thinking, the words I use, the way I measure success in a workshop and in private relating as well. It’s a REVOLUTION, a huge inside job. To be able to offer it to others, I feel it needs to be woven into every cell of your system as it cannot be taught from another perspective. I have to think of what I say and how I build up my workshops in a completely different way. It takes more organizing and improvisation skills. As I never know before how many people, if any, want to do an exercise. I need to be aware of my old speaking patterns that might ask “Is this OK?” instead of “What do you want most?” I needed to re-invent the way I teach, to re-invent the way I am. I’ve recently heard a workshop facilitator say when she was starting an exercise: “If you dare…” which seems like a normal, maybe even fun thing to say. But my body told me different. It was pushing the group into the exercise. Because you don’t want to be perceived as ‘afraid’ or not as ‘mature’ as the rest of the group, there is this little push. It’s small, but it’s there. Using group pressure, wanting to belong to the group. to give people a push. And by that appreciating doing the exercise over making an empowered choice. This is where the Wheel chooses something different. I always choose empowerment and choice over action. The choice is much more important than the action. The transformation happens on a totally different plane. So now I have this radar that is constantly switched on to catch myself when I use words or exercises that don’t not support choice, that use ‘normal’ group behavior to manage the group. I’ve stopped hoping for a certain outcome of an exercise. And still working on it. This is how we are trained to do it, how we grew up, how we see others do it. This is how I was trained and raised.

So it takes a lot of awareness and practice to do that differently. So if you are touched by the Wheel of Consent and you want to offer it to others, I recommend to check out the trainings the School of Consent offers: Just so what you are teaching as the Wheel of Consent really has something to do with the teachings of the Wheel. My colleague Michael Dresser created a beautiful animation that’s also about Choosing. You can watch it here. with love, Marielle

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