|The narrative that
may be told ...
… in the self-helpgroups JON* en JORis** West
[*] JON is the
Dutch abbreviation for "NVSH [**] Workgroup JORis [***] Oost Nederland"
(East of the Netherlands).
Version 4b *
Frans E J Gieles, PhD, August 2016
Since 1981 have I been the chair of self-help groups for people with pedophilic feelings. By doing so, 35 years long, I have developed a methodology, which I now try to put into words. This is the fourth version. A theoretical and philosophical basis will follow.
Table of Content
Self-help en the JORis-groups
The JORis groups are self-help groups. The members help each other. There is a chairman and mutual help, but not 'a therapist' with 'clients'. Each member may give help and, if needed, receive help. There may be no explicit request for help; being there, speaking there, having an audience, this can be help without an explicit request for help. Individual help is also possible with the same principles, but can sometimes more or less look like therapy. "More or less": there is a limit and an intermediate area between self-help and therapy.
JORis organizes for each group a monthly meeting. Smaller subgroups and individual contacts are also possible. For individual contacts, the coordinators travel through the country. Also professional therapy can be asked. Both groups have professional therapists connected with the group, for members who ask for therapy. The professionals and coordinators of both groups form a team, with a squad of three professionals, including me, the central coordinator and the writer of this essay.
The aim is being able to live in a legal and social way, to accept one's feelings en to responsible cope with them, thus without the risk to cause harm and within the limits of the law - and yet to live meaningfully.
There exist conditions to be able to live legally, socially and meaningfully. Three pillars bear the self-help:
Who has reached this point, is able to find a style of living, a way to cope with one's feelings in a way that can be accepted by person and society. In this respect, members can be positive models for each other.
JORis takes the ethical view that sexual contacts with children should be avoided. If someone yet has such a contact, there will be neither a judgment nor exclusion, but help to return to the correct way.
Just so reads the start of the home page. This page reads more: JORis knows ... acknowledges, ... and more: see there.
Also people who do not have this kind of falling in love, but have an open mind, and who are able and willing to give help, can share the group.
The groups are private. One may share the group after a kind of screening. One has to appear in person, with the real name and address, controlled by an identity card. This is to keep out undercovers, and to keep the group safe.
In a first interview with al coordinator we discuss if the person is able and willing to share a group, or that individual contact might be the best option.
We ask the person to tell his narrative, the real and authentic story. We listen without any judgment. If someone ever has passed the law, he will be welcome if he endorsed the ethic view of the group. Than, the group will be there also for him. The group consists of human beings, not angels or saints.
During those first interviews, nearly always fear is expressed by the candidate member. Fear of eavesdrop, hackers, fear of becoming known as 'a pedophile'. For people with very strong fear, there is a possibility to share the group under a pseudonym, provided that the coordinators know the real name and address.
JORis is a group within the NVSH, the Dutch Association for Sexual Reform, but pursues its own policy and finances. The group is free of charge; the members who are able to give some money bear the costs. Members may receive subsidy for their traveling costs.
The narrative that may be told, listen to and replied
The basis is the own and real narrative of the conversation partners. They are asked to carefully listen without any judgment, let alone condemnation. The conversation partners may ask questions about what is told - especially about the feelings of the narrator. Only by exception a judgement can be given, but after the question to the narrator's own judgment about himself.
This is the narrative methodology. A narrative is a story about oneself. Not the behavior of the other is central, but his own and authentic narrative. Neither the narrator, nor the narrative need correction. The narrator is who he really is and his narrative is accepted as his or her story. The mere telling itself of a narrative, maybe a petrified story can give much relief, and can start a development. By conversation about the told narrative, the narrative can develop itself, through which the narrator develops himself.
One should ask only real open questions; one should not give veiled comments or advises. In that case, the chair may correct this by rephrasing the 'question' in the form of an open question.
It is not allowed to react with "Yes, but my opinion is ..." or "OK, but then you must ...". Advises should be avoided, unless there is an explicit question for advise. Only suggestions are just possible.
However, it might be good to tell a contrasting own narrative, be it only after the first narrator has told his story an after some conversation about it.
'Teaching lessons', 'pointing to thinking errors', un-called for and unqualified diagnoses should be avoided. Diagnoses - nowadays obligatory for the care assurer - are meant to indicate the help giver some direction, not to provide the client a label, let alone an identity.
Diagnoses, even given by a qualified person, are able to paralyze the own responsibility for one's own acting or leaving. "It is my Asperger / autism / PDD-NOS ...." - "But what did you yourself?" A label must not become an identity (White 2009, Ch. 1).
Speaking about identity: You may have pedophilic feelings, but by that you still not are 'a pedophile'; your identity is much broader. Living broadly is often mentioned within the group: do have lots of interests, actions, relationships. This will prevent or cure obsession.
Living broadly may also include going about with children in accordance with the usual norms, including keeping a certain grade of distance. Avoiding each contact is never fruitful; it might rather call up obsession. Time and again in the group has been said that, the more and the more normal one goes about with children, the less any desire becomes obsessive. By the normal way of going about with children, it will quickly be clear that children not only are 'little angels', but often also 'little devils'. Any possible romanticizing will quickly be away.
In the JORis-contacts, group and individual, we strive for reactions with understanding and recognition. This might help the grow to self-acceptance, often a first step to responsibly living.
Understanding pedophilic feelings? Self-acceptance? Yes, wit the notion that the person has to search to a responsible way of living with those feelings - just like heterophile and homophile people, even just like any human being.
Speaking about 'narrative', it is not 'The Great Therapist' who does the work, it is the dynamic contact between people that does the job. The narrative itself, told and listened to does the work (Olthof 2012).
The contact and the narrative does its work by means of reactions to the story. No no, not in the form of 'Yes, but in my case...' of 'Yes, but you must ...', but in the form of carefully listening and reacting by referring to the essential elements in the story, especially the feelings that have been told - repeat these by preference in the same words. 'I heard you saying with a dejected voice ...'
Names en metaphors
The members or the conversation leader of the group may be advised to give a name to those essential elements of the told narrative. Such a name would by preference be a symbol, a figure or a metaphor. Such a reaction starts with silence, followed by words as ".... as if ...". "I see the figure of a turtle who withdraws himself into his carapase ..." - followed again by silence.
A figure, known by the group and used by the group is figure of a storage reservoir, representing often very old feelings that never have been told, never told narratives, feelings often without words and often with a great tension - and the fear that the dam may break down and will start a destructive stream. But a storage reservoir has also a tube through which the water transports in a controlled way, and even can generate energy. The tube is the group who listens to the words of the narrator, his seeking his words, or the silence or the tears of the narrator. This is good, including the periods of silence.
Another metaphor is the figure of the lonesome cyclist in a empty desert - but now you have a co-cyclist. Come on, we search an oasis! Such a metaphor should offer room, and should end in a positive figure. The lonesome person said later on "Yes, now I see that I should give content to the emptiness of my life ..." and again later on: "Now I am a volunteer in a ..."
There are lots of figures, symbols and metaphors. E.g. sports, cycle racing or a mountaineer - with the notion
A metaphor now and then used by me is the inner Parliament, with political parties: 'the Party of Lust', 'The Part of Common Sense', 'The Party of the Law' ... "All voices within the inner of one person" or "the polyphony of the inner", as Olthof says (2012, p. 498).
Canal (stilll standing water) or river (streaming water) may also be useful. The animal kingdom offers us a plenty of useful metaphors.
Also the human body can offer us metaphors: "It sounds as if ... the words stuck in your throat ... as if ... there is a queue of words waiting ... words that want to be said and heard ..." - "This sounds as if ... a stone heavy lies on your stomach ..." - or: "Can you tell us/me where in your body are these feelings housed?"
Old untold feelings and never told narratives may be petrified, but it is possible to awaken them to life, movement, change, grow by asking to tell them as yet. Telling more with the help of metaphors is more easy than telling more bare facts: "... It was/is as if ..." - thanks to Olthof 2012.
Some narratives are difficult to tell. We know that people with pedophile feelings, especially young people, may have intense feelings of shame, guilt, even disgust concerning themselves. A metaphor may help them.
There are more metaphors of this kind used in the group: monsters in all kinds of forms:
Here we see that the path to self-acceptation may be a long long way. Being accepted by parents, friends or the group is only the start of this path, this long long way. Members of the group who have reached that point, may be able to help the members who are still on the way.
Monsters with diverse kind and figure review, sometimes in a swamp "in which I will sink".
Well, up to Saint Joris, the dragon killer ... or to the group JOris, not a saint, and not meant for 'saints'. However, can this monster be killed? Must it be killed? Or is it better to go to Saint Francesco, about whom is told that his town was plagued by a wolf who stole and ate the chickens. Francesco went to the wolf and talked with him. The wolf and the people agreed that the people would lay food for the wolf in the wood and that the wolf would stop stealing and eating chickens. You might acknowledge that the monster is a part of yourself - and then start a talk with your own monster ...
The dynamic of the group
The more the group is dynamic, the more often new members come in or come back, the more there are changing subgroups, so often the own narrative has to be retold. What we see in the long term is that the narrative develops itself, thus that the person develops himself.
The development of the self may be stimulated by asking to introduce the self into the narrative: "Well ... you are not able to change that neighbor, boss, the parents, the media, society ... The only thing you are able to change is your own reaction, how you cope with them, how you act yourself ... Please, tell u how do you do that?"
Leading the group conversation
As is already said, the leader of the conversation is not 'the therapist', let alone 'The Therapist'. He is a fellow human being. Just as one of the members may lead the catering, just so the leader leads the conversation into the right path. His (or her) aim is to reach a good conversation - no preaches, no lessons, but a dialog, rich in content, between humans, not the same, but equal.
The members are requested to be there as a person, thus not as a member or representing some other group. Also the leader is present as a person.
A narrative like 'They ... and they ...' may be replied as "Well, and you? You self? Would you try to start not with 'They ...', but with 'I ...'? Accept the silnece that will come; this might be a fruitful reflective silence.
Ask and stimulate the members to tell their own and real, authentic narrative; by preference the actual narrative. It is not asked to start at birth or at the little lonesome boy on the playground, longing to friends - that story might later on be told. Ask the members to carefully listen, while they, by preference, look at the narrator (not to heaven, floor, smart phone or leader).
A new member might still not be able to tell his narrative. Firstly, ask the member to shortly present themselves. The new member may get accustomed and he knows between which people is has land. If the new member is speaking, the leader might express understanding and might connect the members with "Well, what you tell us now, we have earlier spoken about the same. Your fellow members will surely recognize what you have told."
Do not accept that someone interrupts the narrator. Naturally, the moment will come that the narrator has told enough - for the time being. Then, ask for reactions. As already is said, not 'Yes, but I ...' - 'Now listen to my case ...' or 'Then you must ...'. The narrator needs question, real open questions, not hidden comments or advises. The leader might correct such reactions by changing, reformulating the 'question' into a real and open question: "OK, thanks. If I have listened well, there is a question here and now: ...."
The other members may ask for details ("How old was that little boy?"), but is is better to ask for the feelings belonging to the just told narrative. Avoid suggestions and advises, let alone uncalled-for advises.
The best reactions are: an open question, a sign of recognition and understanding, without directly telling one's own narrative; this may come later on. Some people react looking to the leader. Ask them to directly speak and look to the narrator.
The leader might be able to stimulate contact between the members he knows quite well: "Well, there are more married people here" - "Well, John or Peter has recently spoken about the same topic."
One of the best reactions is: silence! "We all felt silent!" Such a silence is not an emptiness, it is room, space between the people, full of fruitful content, maybe used for moments of reflection. The is not happening nothing, there is happening something.
The narrator, who will react, and all others who want this will get a chance to speak. The leader is attentive to this: "Well, I hear that you have something important to tell us. Now, John's narrative is the center of our conversation, but you will have your change also later on."
The greater the group, the more chance that members want to break the tension with humor, side paths, sometimes also cynicism or provocation. Only humor works. A tiny tempt to speak might help the narrator to tell more.
Often, the leader already knows the narrative, told to him or her already earlier. Then he or she is able to playfully tempt the narrator to tell more, the whole story, including parts of it that he feels as shameful. If this is correct, he may share this difficult feeling with his fellow members. In other cases, the group will tell him that shame is not needed here. This happened when a member doubtfully tried to tell that he sometimes masturbated while seeing a picture. He did not dare to use the word; he said "Hm hm eh .. yes .. well ..." and used a gesture.
The limits of this methodology
Working with this methodology, its limits became clear. One limit is quite simple and resolvable, another one is more difficult. The domain of working is just on and especially in between both limits.
The simple limit is: if you omit to explicitly give guidance to the group, subgroup or individual contact, the conversation will soon become 'empty'. We could observe this during the pauses and the dinner during the group meetings:
Yet, those phases of pause and dinner are meaningful, just because of the second limit:
Members of the group:
This is the second limit, that learns us that those pauses with 'empty' conversation are fruitful and meaningful. It is good to speak about men's interests, football, cars, work. As a 'deviate man', you still are accepted as 'a normal man'.
Both limits might be seen as both borders of a canal, in which you might land into the reed with your sailing boat. The secret is to tack while seeing both borders.
The second limit may also imply that some problems better could be discussed with coordinators, individual members, the therapists or a small subgroup. By doing so, you do not burden the group.
Quit often, one or more members "I can (or could) not come to the group, because of my depression." In such a case, one or two coordinators visit the member. In more cases we choose this way. E.g. conversations with a marries couple are possible.
Sometimes, albeit not often, a member does not dare to come to the group, or does not dare to tell the whole true narrative. He feels ashamed about something that has passed. We ask firstly to come and tell the whole narrative, but the member still does not dare it. In these cases, one or two coordinators visit the member.
Such a conversation, between two or three people, starts as a matter of course with asking questions, listening - do not judge, and so on. At the most you may ask how the narrator judges himself. Then repeat what you have heard and select the crucial words. You may offer figures, symbols, metaphors. Listen very attentive. The core of the matter or the solution of the problem is often 'abusively' told in subordinate clauses, half sentences or slips of the tongue.
The more heavy the problem - quite often we have met suicidal tendencies - the more such a conversation may go from the form of self-help to the form of therapy. In the self-help option, the narrative of both persons may be told, but now, the coordinator does not expect any room for his own narrative. At the most minimal, to express recognition and understanding, or to leave the position of a therapist and return to the position as a self-helper, maybe at the very end of the conversation. In this kind of conversations, the other person may stay central and even react with 'OK, well, but I ...'.
Such kind of conversations start and end as self-help; in between start and end, one may land into the domain of the therapy. Therapy does not have the mutuality of the self-help; therapy directs itself to the client only, not to the therapist.
Within this phase, as well during individual therapy by our professionals, the narrative methodology keeps being the guide. The own and authentic narrative of the client is the frame of the conversation. There is no judgment. It is not a cognitive behavioral therapy, in which "thinking errors" are pointed to. The client does not thing 'wrong'. The client is who he is.
A coordinator who himself is trained and so qualified as a therapist or to a diagnosis, as is the writer of this text, may go a bit further that his fellow coordinators who have not such an education. For them, it is enough to exert oneself to listen, not to judge, etcetera.
In practice, they might meet up with problems. Also trained helpers report that they experience their conversation partners as a castle with big walls or as an ivory tower with the gate locked and the windows closed.
"Ah, autism/narcicism/Asperger" is what I silently mat think. Silently, becaus I never give any diagnosis or label in this kind of conversations. Quite often, the client himself tells about his diagnoses, quite often a list. The may have already have passed a series of therapists - thus a series of diagnoses. The way to go is to leave the level of 'This is my diagnosis' to the level of the self, that thinks and act himself on the basis of motives and reasons. Such a process might ask for a long period, a long way to go.
In those cases, patience is needed. Do not expect and even do not want quick success. Acknowledge your own limits. A professional therapist might coach you, or could take over the contact.
We have told about the two limits, the domain in between them, and about the usefulness of 'empty conversation'. This also concerns the individual contacts. By simply going about with the other, walking, cycling, going to somewhere, sitting on a terrace, talking about men's subjects as football, you are able to help the other, just by going about with him as a normal human, and explicitly just not as 'a client'. The self-help group may not be able to cure each depression, but isolation, a quite often uttered problem, can surely be resolved, also in individual contacts or small subgroups.
There may be also other helpers
We have mentioned 'therapist and client'. Well, quite often, the person has already somewhere asked for help and has - let us hope - found it. Usually (in the Netherlands) in the "GGZ" (Dutch for Mental Health Care), quite often also in an institution for 'Outpatient Forensic Psychiatric Care', because the "GGZ" can not manage it.
We, the JORis groups, will not hinder those therapists. We may ask critical questions. "De you experience help?" is such a question. Thus, no rivalry, possibly addition.
According to our experience, a self-help group is not able to cure severe depressions, especially not neurological based depressions; we can do no more than a bit relief. Here, we acknowledge our limits; it is reality. Psychoses and borderline personality structure are also outside our limits. Autism, Asperger, narcissism and PDD-NOS are inside our limits; also depression, if not too heavy, and obsession. We have often met suicide inclinations - each of those people is still living: it was a cry of distress.
Well known is the complaint that the regular professional care firstly and mostly gives diagnoses, labels, often without a clear explanation. So, autism, Asperger, narcissism, PDD-NOS, depression, avoiding personality structure, and more reviews. The client says: "That is the cause!" Not: "I am to blame."
In those cases, explanation of the labels may be good, but do not present yourself as a person qualified for diagnoses, unless you are qualified - but even than better avoid it. Give at most your own experience in normal words: 'Well, you mention autism ... than you should be concentrated on yourself, but in the group I see you quite well concentrated on your fellow members.'
By acting so, you may be able to go back from the labels to the person himself, who feels himself responsible for his acts and not-doings. I myself never use diagnoses or labels. I only speak about them if the other person mentions them. Even if I see a person shrink to only himself, the word 'autism' does not pass my lips. At the most, I say "As I listen to you, are you a bit lonesome and in a mess? Is this correct?" Or, "Well, there you was, standing lonesome on the schoolyard ...". I give words to the persons feelings, not to his diagnoses (in the letter case possibly Asperger).
Several people, clients of the professionals, complain that they receive labels, but no help.
Regularly, we hear critics on the cognitive behavioral therapy, nowadays the mostly used methodology in this domain.
The cognitive behavioral therapy uses narrative force, JORis uses narrative freedom as its basis (Gieles 2000). "The narrative that may be told ..." is the title of this text.
Often, the person himself tells what he is missing and asking:
Thus, we, the visiting coordinators, carefully started with this question. Here the domain of the self-help draw near the domain of the therapy - we knew that this is not easy. We know that self-help often is not able to resolve the underlying problems; thus actually might maintain them. If we have enough time and patience, our client might, sooner or later, acknowledge his underlying problems and start to examine them and search a solution.
As an underlying problem, we often have heard the narrative of a suddenly forced breaking off of the relationship with a child. This can result in a long or very long time to cope with, a period of mourning, sometimes during many years. The adult is in such a case suddenly alone and thrown back to himself.
Sometimes, I think to see or to may suppose that such a relationship works, or has worked, as a pain killer - for a pain laying deep in the inner.
Such a relationship and the pedophilic desires for friendship might be a blanket that covers the underlying problem(s). This may be the reason of the panic that comes up as soon as that blanket suddenly is drawn away - or if it looks like to happen, for example if someone is obligated to undergo therapy. Such underlying problems are usually not reachable, thus not resolvable by self-help. This is the domain of the real therapy - no, not the cognitive behavioral therapy, but a real narrative therapy. Thus, professional therapists are now connected with the group.
In the meantime, the group will be able to diminish the isolation of its members, to stimulate the self-acceptance, and so on. For most of the members this will be sufficient. Many members do not have an explicit request for help, other than "I want to tell my narrative; this is nowhere possible, only here". This is the notion behind the title of this text: "The narrative that may be told".
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Behoeftepeiling rond informatievoorziening, voorlichting en
hulpverlening voor jongeren met pedofiele gevoelens, onder pedofiele
jongeren en enkele volwassen pedofielen.
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