Facilitator as disruptor

September 30th, 2008

Back in July, after the World Open Space on Open Space gathering in San Francisco, I reported on one of the ‘new edges’ appearing in Open Space: the Joker/difficultator role of the facilitator. I can’t remember who said this but can still remember the feeling of ‘YES’ that I felt when it was raised. I now want to explore this a bit more.

Caveats: I went searching for info on the Joker archetype and found all sorts of stuff – lots of analysis of The Joker in the Batman movies, but not much useful about the archetype itself. And I’m too impatient to go and read Joseph Campbell again. I did find this from the site www.crystalinks.com (unverified, but interesting nonetheless). This post is not an academic article, just a few random thoughts. Nor do I want to get too ‘new age’. I’m sure there will be people out there who know a lot about this. Please, feel free to comment.

The trickster is … the wise-fool. It is he, through his creations that destroy, points out the flaws in carefully constructed societies of man. He rebels against authority, pokes fun at the overly serious, creates convoluted schemes, that may or may not work, plays with the Laws of the Universe and is sometimes his own worst enemy. He exists to question, to cause us to question not accept things blindly. He appears when a way of thinking becomes outmoded needs to be torn down built anew. He is the Destroyer of Worlds at the same time the savior of us all.

Trickster is a creator, a joker, a truth teller, a story teller, a transformer linked to the spiritual frequency changes humanity is experiencing at this time.

We seem most accessible to the synchronistic gifts of the Trickster when we ourselves are at or near boundaries or are experiencing transition states, periods of major life transitions seem to be occasioned by an abundance of meaningful coincidence. As an archetype, the Trickster, the boundary dweller, finds expression through human imagination and experience.

So as I continue to explore the role of facilitation in the world, I wonder if there’s something in this Joke/Trickster role. And then I remembered one of my favourite books – just hang on a sec while I go and get it. Here it is. It’s called The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler.

There’s a whole chapter in the book on The Trickster. Here’s a few quotes:

The Trickster archetype embodies the energies of mischief and desire for change. (pp 77)

Tricksters … cut big egos down to size, and bring heroes and audiences down to earth. They are the natural enemies of the status quo. (p 77)

Tricksters are often catalyst characters, who affect the lives of others but are unchanged themselves. (pp 79)

I like the descriptor ‘difficultator’. It appears initially to be opposite to ‘facilitator’ and the common definition of ‘making it easier’ or ‘enabler’. When I’m at my most effective as a facilitator, I think I exhibit many of the qualities of The Trickster – questioning, putting people off balance, challenging the status quo, taking risks, breaking the tension by making a joke (often at my own expense) and asking the ‘obvious’ or ‘dumb’ question. I can do this because I am an outsider – and because people are not sure what to expect, they might be a bit off-balance. A good position, I think, to explore alternatives and new directions, if that’s what they want to do.

I’d be interested in your thoughts – and experiences – of bringing the Joker/Trickster/disruptor role to your facilitation.















6 Comments so far

  1. Janine Ogg on September 30, 2008 9:47 pm

    hi Viv,

    Have you read Angeles Arriens book “The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and Visionary?” some great stuff in there relating to this trickster role,although i don’t remember if that is what she calls it….fascinating stuff!

  2. Viv McWaters on September 30, 2008 10:09 pm

    Hi Janine – Interesting that you mention The Four-Fold Way as it’s also the basis of Open Space.

  3. Andrew Rixon on October 1, 2008 9:30 am

    Interesting post Viv.

    You know my love and interest of Archetypes.

    There is another book you might find interesting (if you’re looking for more reading) and that is “Fools are Everywhere” by Beatrice K Otto. It explores the history and historical role of the jokester and the trickster.

    In our facilitator archetypes model – which I’ve unashamedly drawn from Angeles Arriens work and actually have been commended by her on my ‘synthesis’ ability 🙂

    The archetype of the warrior is an interesting one. For facilitators who struggle with being a warrior – I recommend that they do some stand-up comedy. Finding ways to use humour will put you right in touch with much of the trickster and jokester stuff – but also will touch on the fears of doing that too.

    Like you say Viv, facilitating with confidence is being able to work through your fears.

    In terms of the warrior archetype – our research and experiential activities have drawn up a list of facilitator fears like:
    a) Being over-taken and undermined
    b) Encountering a challenging beast
    c) Having to tame a challenging beast
    d) Authority issues

    These fears relate to the shadow side of the warrior.

    I reckon the trickster and jokester archetypes might just be good antidotes for many of these…

    Whatcha reckon Viv, what are some fears you’ve noticed that circle around the “Facilitator as Warrior” ?

    Warm regards,

  4. Viv McWaters on October 1, 2008 9:37 am

    Thanks Andrew

    I knew you would have some wise and insightful words about this. I like what you described about facilitator fears – all of these are very relevant, and I’d add another one: not being liked. Everyone likes to be liked, but when facilitating our role sometimes means we need to hold up a mirror to behaviours or values that are not so pretty. Who to blame? The facilitator of course. And then there’s the role of the facilitator as filter – all that ‘stuff’ goes through the facilitator. We have to learn to hold it and then discard it – a bit like an actor playing a role. Like you suggest, I think stand up (or at least improv or playback) are great ways for facilitators to meet their fears face to face and have a way to deal with them.



  5. Andrew Rixon on October 1, 2008 1:00 pm

    You talking about me Viv!? 🙂

    “Being liked” sure is a big one.

    I reckon you’ve just inspired a blog post in me (some time) about more of these fears.

    Thanks again Viv!

    Warm regards,

  6. Facilitation - Evaluation - Beyond the Edge - Viv McWaters on January 19, 2010 6:43 pm

    […] in 2008 (that long ago!) I wrote about the facilitator as disruptor. This has captured my attention […]

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