Encounter: The Spiral 01 Awareness. And furniture. Just the lumpy cushions.

First is a woman in her early forties, many others. When 1 visited Cotd Mountain in attractive in a brittle, tight-lipped way. She feels like "working," she says. The mid-March there were about 50 people who were halfway through the three- group leader signals the woman to take month resident fellow program. The her place in the centre of the circle. She begins with a psychodrama, trying resident feHows are the elite at Cold Mountain. Each has paid $2,400 (not to ' to resolve two conflicting sides of herself, mention the loss of three months' Income) and she alternates between sitting on two for the privilege of living in each other's cushions. On one cushion she speaks in a i laps. They sleep seven to a tiny room. childish voice, not quite baby talk, and Three times each day they meet in acts out the part of a cloyingly sweet changing subgroups to have their person- Pollyanna who wants to be loved by alities torn away, and to submit to the everybody. Just a poor little fortyish abrasively painful, nakedly revealing intro- flower child. Then she sits on.the other spection and scrutiny of the group. It is cushion and responds to the little girl, -merciless but compassionate. During speaking in a harshly patronizing, martyrthese three months the resident fellows ed tone of voice: a bitchy, manipulative, cannot get away from each other; they calculating shrew. It seems contrived at cannot get away from themselves. There first, but then the dialogue becomes fluid and convincing as the two personalities is no privacy. At first I was treated civilly but distant- interact. The shrew wants only to shelter ly; I was an interloper. An intruder. Sitting and protect,the littje girl. The little girl uncomfortably on a lumpy cushion on the admits that she needs sheltering but floor, trying to be inconspicuous, I waited warns that it is costing them both the for an encounter group to begin. A man love they crave, and at this the woman spoke to the group bitterly, glaring at me. sobs heavily. She has admitted to the "I feel as if I'm talking to two million group that she needs love. The group waits, silent and tense. The looks on their Weekend readers," he said. faces fairly drip with compassion. "Would you like me to leave?" A man speaks to her quietly. He is an "No," he said. "I just wanted you to airline pilot, on leave of absence, and he is know/' acting as an assistant to the group leader And with that the session began. today. He tells the woman to go around There are about 25 people in the meeting the circle, speaking dfrectty to each room. It is a circular building, with a member of the group, looking each in the wigwam-style skylight at the top. It is eye, and to confront her meanness- by circular deliberately: there are no corners saying something totally devastating to to hide in. And of course there is no each person in the room. He spells it out

for her; she is to say something to each person which will threaten, frighten or humiliate them. The woman, her sobs subsided, rises and begins but it doesn't work and she cops out by paying each, in turn, the most extravagant compliments, until finally a nauseated blonde woman in her twenties retches loudly and says disgustedly, "You sound so nice.1" She makes it sound obscene. And then there is another participant, a redheaded New Zealand woman, in her late twenties or early thirties, with her hair tied in pigtails arid wearing a short, little-girl skirt. She had been instructed to regress, to be an eight-year-old brat far the day. Jock Mckeen, one of the two psychiatrists on the Cold Mountain staff, later told me that she "had never explored or expressed herself as a bratty little girl." The scheme wasn't entirely successful. She became merely, "cute," but she did comprehend, for the first time in her life, that she had been repressed as a child and that it was still inhibiting her. Self-awareness. The name of the game. People come to Cold Mountain for many reasons and there seemed to be no pattern in age, which ran from midtwenties to mid-sixties, nor in occupation. I spoke with a British systems analyst, an airline pilot, a labor negotiator and then I quit asking what and asked only why. 'Again there was little pattern. It could be anything from a broken marriage to career-success/ennui. One person was looking .for strength to face terminal cancer. What they get is a close, often painful, examination of themselves, with a

candid expression by fellow participants andleadersofhowtheyappeartotherest of the world. An encounter group, I was told, "is a safe place to risk removing our masks and sharing our insecurities." And of course there is much hugging and walking with arms around each other. This is encounter: touchy-feely therapy which sometimes seems to be selfindulgent, intimacy artificially generated within a closed group. The jargon is annoying sometimes; the goal is to be "together." Together is good. Grounded or centred is better. But the jargon is necessary and if the participants seemed overearnesf and somewhat neurotic, the leaders tended to be fairly earthy, pragmatic people without pretensions. "What we are trying to do," said Jock McKeen, "is make part of yourself available to you. You've seen the encounter. It's fundamental. The sharing of self with others, with other selves. This underlies all the other techniques and principles — psychosynthesis, acupuncture, body work, bioenergetics. People learn to express themselves." There is a link between physical and emotional pain, and one must learn to let go of inhibitions. Learning to ride pain is one way. Encounter, sensitivity training, call it what you will, is another. But for a demonstration for me they chose pain. Body work, according to the Cold Mountain Institute Journal, "is a combination of.shiatsu thumb massage and deep abdominal breathing designed to release blocked mental and physical energies. Release of rigid character armor and

13 W»k«nd M»a«ln«, *U» 1,1976