ZEGG-Style Forum

What is the ZEGG Forum ?

by Dolores Richter, Achim Ecker

Forum is an artistic way of organizing sharings, a stage for whatever is happening inside ourselves. Here one's true motivations, one's deep feelings, longings, ideas and emotions become public. This focus on transparency, sharing and clarifying unsolved situations of daily life make it an invaluable catalyst for one's own growth. Because we believe that each one's personal issues are exemplars of a general human issue, Forum elevates these personal issues, by putting them onto a common human stage. A meaningful Forum needs a mental-spiritual basis among the group utilizing it. Forum is designed to work with people who are living together, sharing a common vision and who are committed to certain values such as trust, truth, love, solidarity and responsibility. A central and essential value for Forum is trust.

The individuals making up a Forum sit in a circle. One person goes into the middle as though going onto a stage and the others form the audience. The presenter gets the full attention of the group, with the power and the space to speak and act without being interrupted by the others who initially play the role of perceiving spectators. Each Forum, usually lasting about 90 minutes, is guided by a facilitator. The facilitator alone may intervene in the presenter's process. The qualities of a facilitator include a high awareness of ones own emotional character, motives, thought forms and feelings. You could accurately characterize the facilitator as a channel focalizing the energies, issues and processes. In the beginning it is important that everyone in the circle, which contains the potential presenters for the session, delegate to the facilitator full trust to direct the process. Facilitating is far from a neutral moderation because the values underlying Forum imply a partisan position. Forum supports what is authentic, alive and true. It supports what comes into the light beyond politeness and the daily games of hiding and disguise. The ideal of Forum is to bring out the beauty of the person revealing their highest potential.

When the "presenter" has finished, then others can step into the middle to give feedback and express what they perceived. Now the presenter can learn what others think about him and what they have to say which supplements, broadens and sharpens the personal issue he or she brought forward. The discovery of what others think and value about us, what perhaps keeps them from loving us, what meaning we have for them provides the essential social feedback.

What comes to the surface when we begin working in Forum is not always nice. In the beginning, the suppressed and the hidden emerge into the light of awareness. However, an effective and skilful Forum will bring out the dark side with humor, or in some other theatrical way so that it can be perceived without judgement. Forum wants to lift the energy level, wants to trigger the life force and its expression. When the energy can be successfully raised a change of perspective on both the body and soul level happens. Sometimes this energy shift can be very simple, as when the facilitator invites the presenter to move faster, or to exaggerate gestures, or to put a sound to the feeling. Trying out different ways of behavior and theatrically acting out emotional processes is an important step toward dis-identification. I come to see that I am not this anger, I am not this fear, I am not this jealousy. To lose identification with these passing states means that you have found an inner position of witnessing what is going on, of standing back from it. You have found your unchanging center. At the same time Forum is no substitute for each individual's ongoing inner work.

There has recently been an interest from other communities to use Forum as a "method" for building interpersonal structures strong enough to withstand the conflicts that arise out of living and working together. To assist their work we began to offer Forum courses and seminars. This working paper attempts to compile some of our experiences of the last 20 years. The formulated rules and forms cannot be used in a rigid and fixed way. Through actual experience a group grows in competence and unity and eventually it leaves the rules behind in the way a child learning to ride a bicycle eventually leaves the training wheels behind. Once understood well and internalized, the forms become a kind of ceremony that raises the energy and magic of the moment.