Dear Reader,

We think it is important for you to know the history and the development of this article. It started with an interview between a psychologist-process worker from Poland and a psychologist-process worker from Switzerland, talking about men, women and not only… Very soon it became more and more a dialogue – we once called it a „feminine spiral” – with its own process of circular movement around some issues that are a deep concern for both of us.

The first part of our dialogue took part in Poland in Summer 1997, after the big flood that damaged a big part of the country. We had the feeling, that this „flood energy” was present both in the form and in the content of our work. Something was trying to get out of its known, regulated course. We were puzzled and fascinated by this force, trying to understand it as a part of the field and to include it.

Thus, the article that we invite You to read has been created out of our knowledge and experience, our academic background, but also our openness to unknown, to the flood energy and other unknown forces that were in or around us. We were struggling with the form which occurred to be far from strict and linear interview. As a structuring element we decided to subdivide the flow of our conversation into „cycles” with titles.

Before we start: how hard it is to bring up gender issues/ edges, denial, fear and power/ how we avoid looking at our edges

Bogna: I noticed a moment of hesitation before we start. I wonder how people would react to the fact that we bring the issue of men and women. What do you think – why the moment you start talking about man and women issues, and feminism, there is so much tension, and so much denial, and jokes that would immediately ridicule the issue before it is even said?

Ursula: Don’t you think it is just an edge? This happens with every really heavy loaded issue. For instance, in Switzerland the subject of our involvement with the Holocaust and the financial aspect of our behavior during second world war comes up again. And already people say „Oh, not that one! Are you one of those…”?  I think it is the way of labeling things you do not want to deal with: you joke a bit, or you make fun of it, or you put down the people who brought it up and that’s the way of avoiding it.

Also, when you mention abuse, very often people say: “Oh no, that one!” – and it is a way of putting things under the carpet again.

Bogna: There is a role that is saying: Why make such a fuss about men and women? It is only making our relationship more difficult. It used to be quiet and OK, and but now, with all this feminist stuff, it is just more difficult. There are no good new patterns, no solutions, just problems.”

Ursula: Maybe we should also address that people are afraid to get hurt. That it might be hurtful because on one side traumatic experiences could be touched, violence and deep feelings might come up and put some of us into an altered state. And on the other side it is very painful for all of us to be categorized as “male” or “female”. To be put into a certain role and not to be treated as individuals.

I don’t know – why don’t we just start with what we experience and perceive and see where we get.

Ways of accessing an issue/ Methods of thinking and avoiding/  Understanding versus feeling

Ursula: So, let’s do it this way. Ask me the questions that you have, let’s discuss some more, but let’s just take it that we don’t know what will happen. Maybe you can use it, maybe not, it is not a problem for me. Because I want to be… free. I do not want to have a process oriented program.

Bogna: That’s great. It is the same with me. Actually, I was not even able to prepare the questions as I usually do.

Ursula: So, there is something really deep about it. We are not allowed to do it in a conventional way. Let’s just do what we like to do.

Bogna: Conventional way would be – to make clear, intellectual statements about the problems. But we also feel these problems, we have them inside, we suffer, we get lost in doubts – it seems to be a very important way of …dealing with them in our lives. And yet, in our still very rational times, things that can be understood are valued much higher than-

Ursula: than those that have to be felt or suffered. As soon as something can be expressed, given a clear form, worked on or at least analyzed we feel much more at ease. But just be with it is really difficult. Sometimes it is not even possible to already know what “it” is about at the beginning.

Bogna: These kinds of feelings are easily pathologized, you think you immediately have to “do” something about them –

Ursula: Or they are easily dropped, if you have a choice to go with something more convenient for your value system or paradigm.

I know this process for myself: if I have some problems, for instance some depressed or “inadequate” feelings, I am often not able to consider these to be interesting and important. I am putting myself down for being in these situations and having these feelings. I don’t know what it exactly is, I just feel something, I hardly get access to it. To really go deeper would mean to be deeply democratic towards a part or parts of myself I don’t feel like going into.

Bogna: I know it too, I often think I need to quickly do something about strange moods or deep feelings instead of trusting them. As if “trusting” was not a good way of dealing with such parts of ourselves.

To go deeper is also a cultural edge: not to analyze, understand intellectually means to go against the dominant paradigm in our culture.

Ursula: Yes. It reminds me of a myth of the Indians if the Brazilian Amazon. Besides of many other aspects this myth gives an impressing picture of the dynamic of having to cross limitations of your culture in spite of the fact if you like it or not. The myth tells in different variations the story of a young women living in a village, married happily, sleeping in her husband’s arms every night. But every night her head is leaving the rest of her body, the husband, the hut and the village and flies away looking for food in other villages and eating it. She needs that food from the other villages in order to survive.

Creating space for another kind of wisdom/ The two creators

Bogna: So somehow living in our rational paradigm we are looking for another kind of “food”, perhaps some other kind of wisdom that is often denied…

Ursula: The well-known mythical pattern of creation with the male hero cutting an undifferentiated original (mostly feminine) being into pieces – cutting mother earth into pieces – has shaped our ideas of civilization and sciences. Only today many people, especially women, start to perceive the one sidedness of this picture and the subtle sexism in the fact that consciousness- which is valued higher- is referred to as being male, and unconsciousness – which is consider less valuable – is referred to be as being female.

Bogna: The wisdom we get diplomas for is finished and structured. This is looked at as scientific, known and therefore valuable. But often it leaves very little space for dialogue and for our immediate experience, for what wants to become at this very moment… And it seems we are trying to re-discover the wisdom that lies in openness. I like the way you said it once, that it is an attitude of “being ready to get pregnant”. This wisdom is being created in the very moment, by being open to something that is just trying to happen.

Ursula: Maybe we should mention how many times in our conversation we said “I don’t know”. It is so important to stand up for the fact that this can not only be seen as a sign of insecurity, but also an attempt to leave open space for ourselves and the reader to react, to think and dream, to create a vessel for a living process, for “pregnancy”, which should be a different type of a creation myth.

Process Work has a female attitude in this respect. It is waiting for things to develop and going into what Arnold Mindell calls the “dreaming state”, being open for the “sentient level” where mere tendencies towards something develop.

Bogna: I am thinking now about Mindell’s first book “The Dreambody”, where he writes that if you approach the body with questions about the temperature or disease, the dreaming body will not answer, because it is not its language. It is important for our conversation, that if we want to remind open to this kind of receptive wisdom, the structure cannot be too rigid, and our questions – now I understand it better – need to be more open than in conventional interviews.

Ursula: Before we go on, lets mention that both types of wisdom are important, the American Indians pictured these two ways as twin creators: maplesprout, the one who is following the ways of nature, and firestone, the one who is cutting it in order to get what he wants.

The difference in perception between men and women

Bogna: What is personally important for you around men/women topic?

Ursula: Process Work and psychology in general is interested in perception. For me it is very important to realize again and again, how deeply being a woman and being socialized as a woman in my culture has structured my perception. It has structured my way of thinking about life, my mythical background, my expectations, my sense of history. All these can work like a filter not allowing me to perceive from another perspective, if I am not aware of it. For instance, all the heroes of my childhood were men: Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Carl the Great, Socrates, Plato, all the men who wrote the books in my parents’ library. A woman friend of mine, who grew up in a catholic town in Switzerland, was absolutely shocked when as a girl she first realized that baby Jesus, whom she loved so much, was a boy and a man Jesus. “Human being” meant “man” in the history of philosophy and science for centuries. It does something to our perception and our deepest feelings about ourselves and our role in the world, if we get born as a woman.

Lately a colleague who is working with young women mentioned how difficult it is still for female adolescents to develop their own grandiosity ideas and not project them onto a man. For instance, to fantasize to become a pilot or a millionaire instead of marrying one –

Bogna: – and if she fantasizes to be a millionaire, or someone really big and important, she immediately thinks that then nobody would like to marry her.

Ursula: Yes, how sad. You might probably fantasize to be Madonna or something, but then it has certain social implications. This has to be considered, it is a really deep thing. Of course, there are people who want to deny that and say „Well, with this feminism, we have enough of this, we have other models, what do you want more, it is like 30 years”. But it is so deep,30 years is not enough, it is nothing.

So, for me it is absolutely clear and crucial that if I look at my country, or if I look may be at yours, and also if I look at my very good friends, I have to say what we discuss here is an issue of half of humanity.

Bogna: So where are we now? Where can women look for new patterns nowadays?

Ursula: The children books and the stories we tell our children are really important. In Switzerland we have all kinds of new books for children: about little witches, who have magical powers and can do what they want for instance.

Bogna: And what about grown up women? I am thinking about the questions that my friend Hania Wieloch who works a lot with women asked. There are women who feel so much responsible for relationships, even if they are really bad, they believe that their life is about maintaining their relationship…

Ursula: I think part of our ideas come from the inside, through dreams or fantasizes. Another part is more connected with the society: social patterns and belief systems about relationships, love, what life is about. And the outside life conditions are of course also very important: the relationship between man and woman also has to do with money, social security and rank. If a society creates possibilities for a woman to live alone and be socially recognized and protected – with or without children – this is a big thing.

Of course, being psychologists, we have a big interest in inner life, but also a change of laws is very important. For instance, in Switzerland women have been working for years to make the state pay and go after the father, if he is not paying maintenance for his children – now we have the law and regulations, but more and more the state doesn’t have money any longer.

Bogna: So, the old patterns are very much rooted in laws and the social and economic situation of women. I think it is very important to remember this – or else we easily pathologize women for being not independent enough, whereas they first have to survive.

The future of the family / How will our children live

Bogna: For me the main personal reason to talk about men and women is that relationship patterns are changing so rapidly. Traditional roles of “man” and “woman” are collapsing – and I have a lot of feelings around it. Sometimes I am just frightened, I wonder what will happen to the children if we break the old safety structures without knowing how to create new ones. Sometimes, on the other hand, I am full of hope, I think there is a lot of space for creativity and dreaming. I feel relieved thinking about children and adults who are now freer to leave structures that bring them suffering. It seems to be an incredible chance: hopefully some new patterns of being together will emerge.

Ursula: But everything goes so fast! It might well be the biggest experiment in some centuries to change so many things so quickly regarding roles and genders.

Right now, many people don’t fit any longer into a traditional family system. In Switzerland we have a divorce rate at 40% and a huge number of single parents, mostly women, bringing up their children alone. I really don’t see why we don’t take care of their needs, find new ways.

Bogna: I am thinking about a “safety system” for children. They do need to grow in a system where they feel safe. The part in me that supports the traditional family system is the part that thinks that the traditional family system is the only known one in which the children in this society feel safe. But I also know, that it is not nature that has arranged it that way once and for all, in part it has to do with patriarchal control-

Ursula: Yes, you even see it in the way the cities are built – where the needs of children, housewives and community are very often neglected.

Bogna: But if destroying of the family structure is going in the direction where children are lost in chaos, I wouldn’t like to support it!

But perhaps some other kind of safety is needed. First of all, I am thinking of more awareness. With hundred years of psychotherapy we became much more aware about the parental power and the amount of abuse that happened to most of us in our childhood. The authoritarian way of parenting has been challenged. Still, we try to cling to the known, the clear structure, the stability. So, I sometimes fantasize that some other concept of “safety” is needed, for children and adults. In addition to some basic stability and regularity, I would say that the real danger is in losing your true energy. So, the most unsafe kind of life would consist of sitting and watching TV – because it sucks your energy, and goes against some of the basic needs connected to curiosity and creativity. So, in my fantasy the concept of social security or safety would somehow include growing and developing. Then we could start to create a new kind of social support systems that would take it into account…

Ursula: This is beautiful!

Bogna: Our ideas of social security, or even perhaps safety in general, are so much based on states. They are very state-oriented. We feel safe when everything is still. It is like when you learn to ski: at the beginning you feel safe only when you manage to stop.

I don’t know, perhaps we should learn more from the children, who just follow whatever is to be followed. They need repeated patterns, they ask us to tell the same fairy-tale thousand times, but they also let their curiosity lead them…

Ursula: What you say creates an open space for so many new ideas. I like your creativity a lot.

Women’ security systems / how women can help each other/ how we stop each other from growing

Bogna: My friend Hania Wieloch, whom I mentioned before said that there is a mysterious moment when a woman got married or gets into a stable relationship. Up to that moment women seem to be kind of free – free to grow, learn, have a social life. We support each other and we have deep friendships. And the moment we get married, something changes. There is an expectation that our marriage should work out, or else you are a looser… And we are slightly cut off from your mothers and sisters and female friends. Even when we meet, we are not as open as before.

Ursula: We are probably hiding something…

Bogna:  We are hiding something, we are showing another face…

Ursula: That’s a good point. I am thinking about two aspects. One aspect is that you are changing your security system. In order to feel safe, you have to have social security support. And in our society, as soon as you get together as a couple, you belong to another system. So, the main interest that you have is to make this system work.

Bogna: And sometimes it works, and it is beautiful, but sometimes it might be such a trap…

Ursula: Yes. So, I think for this aspect the only way to relieve the situation is to… I cannot say devaluate, but to make the social impact of marriage less important. I think marriage is a beautiful thing, and I am married myself for 29 years now, but I think in order to really give people a chance to revolt in their own way, it would be a good idea to give them an opportunity to split without being punished so hardly.

For instance, in Switzerland we have now the split rent system. So, until now for a woman it was existentially difficult and dangerous to leave her husband at a certain age, because she didn’t have the right to get half of the rent. Another thought is that in a society I always try to work on the fact, that you shouldn’t always be seen as a couple.

Bogna: Yes, so one thing is the financial level and it is really difficult. In Poland sometimes, people don’t split just because they wouldn’t have anywhere to go. The other side is that marriage give you a status. It is still worse to be an unmarried woman.

Ursula: I think a man is still a resource. It has to do with the economical aspect. If a single man is around, it is good, because one of my female friends might like him and get married. But if a single woman is around, she may be a rival, she may like my husband… So, I think it is also us, women. We are not socially safe. Another aspect is that women are getting another status when they are getting married. You see it also in indigenous societies.  Rites de passage – you will never be the same as a married woman. It really changes you.

Bogna: It seems this change is really needed, but it has the aspect of putting down others.

Ursula: Because not everybody goes through it.

Bogna:  So, if you did not go through it, you are less valid. And this is much more important for women, because many of us still feel deep down that women are just „less”. So, they need something external to give them value.

What do you think, how can we best support each other?

Ursula: I think – it is for human beings in general – if you believe in the field, it would be the biggest help. Then you cannot forget the other point of view, because every part belongs to you and has an effect on you.

There is also another thing. I just remembered the exercise I have done in the women’s’ group. I think it is very supportive when women work on their edges among each other. And one big edge is to get out of the „sister trap”. You know, there is a part that really enjoys just being together, being among women, having sisters. And there is another part that has to do with really confronting each other, being clear, transparent. And I think by doing this, we can support each other a lot. Women are weak, because they don’t bring in their negativity. So, I think it is big, to bring in our critical remarks, our negative feelings – as well as our harmonious behavior.

Bogna: Somehow it seems that women work on their abuse issues much more than men on their power…

Ursula: Women have to work out their stuff because they have less rank, and men quite often can go on how they are. I think this will only stop when enough people really realize this. And when we as women are not willing to pamper all men. Because as long as man will always find a woman which is willing to help him with his wounds and works it out for him things will never change. So, I think it is really important that there are more women confronting their partners and if they want to be with a man who has been lately divorced, that they say: „But did you have it out with her, and what was the issue”. Because as long as you are welcomed next door, why should you change?

The development of Process Work around gender issues/ the war between men and women/ mythical and psychological background

Bogna: If you look back – what have you learnt about men/women issues through Process Work?

Ursula: I think I have to differentiate. On one hand when I look to the beginnings of process work I didn’t feel supported much with finding my way as a woman. For a long time, I was the only or almost the only woman with kids and felt left alone as a mother. I had the impression that at that time the group and the theory didn’t really care about women, mothers or even nature enough. Since a few years there have been changes in this respect. I have the impression that some of the new perspectives come through Worldwork, especially the close contact with non-white and native cultures all over the world. But there is still some kind of roughness in the background sometimes, I don’t quite know what it is.

Bogna: I can’t define it either, but I feel it too –

Ursula: On the other hand, I always got a lot of support for being myself as an individual woman. And the attitude not to judge, not to pathologize and to look at things and people with a phenomenological attitude was what I fell in love with from the very beginning. For me this is still the most beautiful and most relieving attitude I can imagine.

Bogna: Thank you for sharing it in such a personal way. In your experience, what is coming up and what is changing over time when we work on men/women issues during Process Work seminars?

Ursula: After the limited experience I have, I would say that a lot of hurt, suffering and pain around the way how women are treated, around violence, abusive behavior such as rape, around gender rank and privilege are coming up. There is such a lot of unprocessed anger and rage hanging in the air. If it goes well it is at least a relief. It is a beginning to see what is anyhow existing but normally not addressed openly, and to learn how to be less frighten with all that.

Bogna: Arny says that the third world war will be between men and women.

Ursula: yes. That war is already happening.

I think of two group processes we had on two following days in Germany.

The first day a man got so deeply into his rage that he wanted to strangle a woman. We tried to help him to go with his impulses very exactly without exposing the woman to the danger of getting killed. It was very real and deeply frightening.

The following day in the next group process at a certain moment the women become very cynical and ridiculed men’s feelings. It was so scary – the other side of the same murderous energy come out.

Our deepest hope and belief are of course that by processing what comes up and going deeply into both sides of such a confrontation in group processes we can touch something bigger – love, the source of life, God, “the wisdom of the group”, a deep feeling of interconnectedness (the Buddhist master Thich Nat Hanh calls it “Inter-Being”).

Bogna: I know we can only speculate about this, but what do you think, were does it come from?

Ursula: It has to do with oppression. I think both parts are oppressed by each other. I can only talk about experiences. I think that for women it is often that social pressure, being oppressed for being a woman. And for men it has very often to do with their mothers – or with other females, grandmothers or teachers, that the young male somehow is oppressed by grown up females.

For me this is a very important part of Arny’s findings, that he found that revenge is the deepest of all. And as long as there is unprocessed suffering, there is revenge. And that is what spoils our gender relationships. Because there is so much revenge in it. Women are put down, and so they somehow subtly give it back to their boys. And then the boys are going through this, and the give it back to their wives. And it is the never-ending story of revenge between the genders. So, there is a whole history of pain and suffering behind us.

But there is also something like an “archetypal” level to it. I remember once working with a man and feeling so paralyzed as female therapist in what I called for myself his “archetypal drama”, that I went to see Arny for an hour. I said „I don’t know if this can be done with a woman” and he answered „It can only be done with a woman”. I am still working on this paradox!

Bogna: Is it archetypal or does it have a cultural part in it?  If you say “archetypal” it makes me hopeless…

Ursula: Let’s say it is a very existential cultural dreambody phenomenon around two different kinds of energy. Some cultures have very inspiring pictures for this: think of the incredible Indian or Tibetan pictures of destruction, battles, making love, eating each other up, wrestling and dancing. Sometimes it is not possible to say if those pictures are about love or hatred. As Christians we are not used to contain these parts in our divine cosmos: the pictures in our churches have to include hell or martyrs in order to create the same energy.

What kind of group processes do you remember?

Bogna: There are a lot of different issues coming up. Some people just wake up to see that there is an issue between men and women at all, while others want to go to much subtler and emotionally loaded problems. Still other want to talk about social injustice. So, there is often a lot of misunderstanding and chaos.

But there is one group process that I remember really well. At a certain point woman got really expressive and emotional while talking about their issues. And men were shocked and scared, there was a role saying “we don’t have a chance to react”, give us time to react”. This brought up a lot of rage on the side of women who started to feel and talk about two thousand years of oppression –

Ursula: and the oppressor becomes a ghost role. …. sides and of course nobody want to identify with it.

Bogna: If it is not possible to bring in the perception of what happens in the here and now, and create connection to the deep emotional level in everybody, this becomes a really difficult and hurtful situation.

Emotional energy/ fear and longings/ are we sometimes “flood-like”

Ursula: As you mentioned emotional energy of women I thought of Odra and Wisła. Odra has been corrected much more than Wisła and her flood was much worse. Isn’t this a great picture of what happens if we control our river too much?

Such a flood, i.e. an outbreak of an energy that has been “corrected” for too long, can happen between men and women, adults and children, all kinds of individuals and groups and also between more adapted and less adapted parts of ourselves. Just think of body symptoms – sometimes we can find out and realize what wants to happen easily; but sometimes the choice between “flooding” (i.e. crossing the edges of our well-established identity) or giving up is very frightening. Arny Mindell talks about it in his books, about the fact that some deaths have to do with giving up.

Bogna: When we talk about men, women and emotions – it seems that women have some kind of emotional power. When we get emotional, we shout, we cry etc. It is a big topic, I almost don’t know how to approach it. Just to scratch the surface, on one hand “being emotional” is often a reaction to the abuse of power (like in many cases of so called ”hysterical women” ). So somehow you are forced to feel and express overwhelming feelings. On the other hand, to be able to stay in touch with your emotional core, is also a privilege. And, risking a generalization, it seems that in our culture it is more easy for most women than most men… “The boys don’t cry”. as says one of the very popular Polish songs.
So often we have the situation similar to the group process that I mentioned: women getting emotional and men not knowing how to react, or using their power to suppress or ridicule the emotional energy.  I would like to be more free to be emotional, but I also want the other side to be able to react.

Ursula: I think we can metacomunicate about it. Why not model being emotional, but also say something, before getting into a state? You can practice this with friends, saying something like: “You are my friend, I am practicing being emotional, so I would be grateful if you could get along with it, it is not meant to hurt you”.

When I work with mixed group of business people in Berlin I once told them: “Listen, this is going to be quite emotional, but I think I just have to bring this out. Otherwise I wouldn’t feel good any longer and I would have to leave. So, if you want to keep me here you have to listen.

Bogna: There is also something to be done afterwards, like to notice that the other side has a reaction, and needs time to react, and that it is OK.

Ursula: That’s right. That’s the part we are talking about now – the part which relates, the one which is willing to stay and work it out. The one which says „Look, this happened, and I am willing to relate. I am willing to explain that. The state is over now.” But if you really want to go, you should also be allowed to leave. Then you can come to it later and say „I want to discuss it. It was a bit weird.”

This happens sometimes when I work with couples. That the woman just explodes. It is also OK.

Bogna: It is also OK for the other side to say: I can’t react now. After such an explosion I need time. It is giving something to the other side.

Ursula: Normally if we really go into our energy it is a relief for everybody including ourselves – almost everybody loves it!

Bogna: Do you have the flood part?

Ursula: Yes! As far as I know it is very loud and radical and not respectful towards anything and anybody. It may flood my room and flood some stuff away to create more empty space. It may flood my agenda and my relationships… I think I am still not standing up for my own side enough in my private and professional life – and if I do it I try too much to be politically correct, which is not good for me. Lately I had some dreams about this side of me which is too conventional – half dead because of being so conventional –

Bogna: I think we are similar in this way. I also often feel too adapted, and there is this other part that wants to explode as it does not fit. Coming back from the workshop in the flood region by night, and driving the car through the empty road, I had difficulty keeping it straight between two lines… It was a weird experience, I myself felt like a river that wanted to flood out…

But I also remember a dream about being flooded – finding myself under water (quite a common motive in dreams, as we know). I was frightened and I knew I could die. But then I got these glasses that you use under water so I could see – and all of sudden I felt totally safe. So, I think it is important not to “correct the river too much”, but it is also important to be able to observe it, to remain aware.

Laws, regulations and process/ The role of rank and power/ social aspects of sexual abuse of children

Bogna: We were talking a lot about psychology, experiences and feelings. But the “war” between men and women has a very clear social aspect. To make it very simplistic we can say that there are laws and regulations that keep women in our societies in a one-down position. We wouldn’t be able even to name all the areas of social and political inequality between genders, problems like salaries, pensions, access to power, “glass ceiling” to name just a few. And it is not our goal to present the list of social problems. I think it would be good to focus on some examples and on the very process of changing legal systems, laws and regulations.

The very process of debating these rights opens our eyes to the issues that are behind them. And we have groups of people who take stands, defend their positions. It is like a social group process, the points of view are brought up, then polarized, like for example around abortion in many countries. But sometimes it seems that nobody listens, that the one who listens becomes a ghost role-

Ursula: You are right. Of course, the change of the conscious attitudes is what we hope for. But don’t forget about the power issue. As you said the one who listens is a ghost role and as we know the ones in power can afford not to listen.

Bogna: Then public discussions, political debates in the media or parliaments are more like group processes without a facilitator who would be aware of rank difference –

Ursula: To discuss this, let’s focus on the way sexual abuse of girls is dealt with, as an example which we anyhow discussed a lot. Lately in a Swiss village there was a teacher who evidently didn’t respect girls body integrity. It was known, the school board knew it, but nobody was ready to stand up against that man. There was no local mother willing to say „I support my daughter to stand up against that man”, because he was a popular, well known man, who had a family which would have been ruined, if this would have been public. Only after a woman from another town had moved into that village, the whole issue was picked up, because she could take him to court, and then all the others cases got also known. In such situations it looks as if the question would be if schoolgirls sexual integrity is more valuable than the career of a grown-up teacher who earns the life of his family and is a very popular and respected citizen, member of many local groups. People tend to forget that the true question is if what this man is doing can be accepted.

Bogna: I am thinking about how it is in our language – that we have the words indicating, that the victim of rape is the one who is “wrong” In Polish, in old Polish it was the term that the virgin was “disgraced” when she was raped.  She lost her „innocence”, as if she was “guilty” she is kind of guilty, and worth less than the others.

Ursula: This is how the things have been looked at for a long, long time. Maybe not in every culture but certainly in patriarchal ones. Even today I see women in my practice whose mothers say: “how did I deserve to have such a daughter” when they hear that the father or the older brother has abused her as a girl.

There is also this perceptional aspect which is so important. In case of child abuse the offender is an adult and has the rank to define reality. If he says “but the child wanted it, she invited it!” his description and his perception of the reality is valued higher than the description of the victim. What can a little girl do? She is in an impossible situation: she perceives that this man breathes really strangely, that the color and mimic of his face changes, that his voice and what he says is different. And she feels that something is wrong. But how can she support herself in a situation where all the social and perceptional rank is on the other side?  She will also have no other pattern of how to deal with this besides that children should do what adults tell them to do – if she has not been told and trained to trust her perception and talk about things that she does not understand.

Bogna: We started this part by mentioning about the legal regulations, so we know that there are changes that are really needed. Some rights seem to be so obvious, and still only recently women gained them, ore didn’t get them yet, like voting right, the right to be equally paid-

Ursula: The right to say „No”.

Bogna:  But you cannot make a legal rule out of it…

Ursula: You can make a rule out of it. You can make a rule out of voting, that women are allowed to vote. You can make a rule that you cannot rape your wife… And there was a lot of fighting around it, in many countries, in Switzerland also. People said „Why, what does it mean, how can you prove it, this is ridiculous, if you are married of course you are going to bed together, how could a husband rape his wife?” You know many people even do not understand what it means. So, I think it is important to have a debate about legal situations and procedures, it is a really important part of becoming conscious. Even if you are not for it, it can be good to bring it out and have a fight. Because otherwise people will never consider it to be an issue.

I think there has been a lot of development around rape by that. And also, about incest. Because there is an opinion that it has been natural in earlier days, and why shouldn’t it be natural. If you love your children you should be allowed to have sexual intercourse with them. Even if it is not acceptable to you, all existing opinions and parts should be brought out and be listened to, and then you can really start to argue. You make people listen, people start to listen also to the suffering that wouldn’t come out if it is not debated.

Bogna: That’s very true. I think about the domestic violence – it started to be discussed publicly in Polish media only a few years ago! When I am listening to you I have more hope for the changes that can happen through such public discussions.

And I still have one question – besides these almost obvious inequalities, there are things that are much more subtle. There is something about our needs, that so often women do not put attention to their real needs –

Ursula: We are not trained for that. We are not allowed.

Let’s also mention that very often we couldn’t even go to a conference, or even go to a meeting, if we wouldn’t be willing to just overlook some put downs. And this is probably not to build a certain project, so we have to decide consciously which put downs we want to address and which not. Because otherwise you would never be able to … talk to a minister or something like this. You cannot – it would be another abuse if you expected yourself to educate everybody. You have to choose whom you want to educate.

About the title. Endings and beginnings.

Bogna: I am thinking how we were struggling with the title. How it did not feel right to do „About men and women”.

Ursula: Yes. Something is wrong when you say it is about men and women…

It creates a split. I still remember my workshop on relationship between men and women at the Transpersonal Conference in Warsaw in 1997. I have changed the title because my friend Lane Arye also wanted to come, so I couldn’t do a strict women’s group. People enjoyed it and I got good feedback. But finally, a lesbian woman asked why was it only about heterosexual relationships? So, trying to include one friend might exclude another one. Splits are existing and it is important to watch for them – but on the other side, we are still all part of the same field, which we try to address as “the whole”.

Bogna: There are the issues between men and women, and masculine and feminine ways, on the social level, legal level, there are patterns in our cultures, and deep, unfinished, unclear emotional issues – the things we were trying to touch in our conversation.

Ursula: But on the other side – I think it is about minorities. It is ridiculous because women are non-minorities in quantity, but it is about minority feelings, about being socialized in a certain way.

Bogna: So „the war” between men and women is only one part of the issue. We are really longing for something else, something deeper… The world in which all the sides and parts could be appreciated, fight with each other but also love each other –

And it seems we tried to invite the reader not only to see, but also to feel the complexity of the issue. To go to any of the sides that he or she feels close to, but also but also to be aware of the other sides. That is what we have to offer.

Thank you, Ursula, for all this time: thoughts, struggle and feelings that we shared.

Polish version of this article was published in the book “On the Other Side of Troubles. Process Work in Theory and Practice”, Warsaw 2003, second edition “Process Work Theory and Practice” Warsaw 2013