How the Peterborough Dialogues Drove Me Crazy

Surviving PPDD (Post Peterborough Dialogues Depression)

With ionospheric expectations, I joined the Peterborough Dialogues in April. My full exuberance unleashed, I leapt into my first Saturday morning dialogue, ready for an instant conversion experience. At last, a place to build community! At last, a forum in which to find co-conspirators to advance my revolutionary plots! Somewhere to be and someone to do it with. Intoxicating phrases burbled like vintage wine from the skillful tongues of our charismatic hosts: ‘let’s hold this field’, ‘let’s create a space’, ‘let’s share our gifts and offerings’, ‘let’s go with the energy in the room and see where it takes us’.

It all sounded so optimistic, so positive and oh, so easy. I really didn’t have to do much. All I had to do was show up, participate, and all manner of warm and fuzzy treasures would spontaneously spring forth, like hot, buttery popcorn, into my lap. I had reached for what I assumed would be a paper cup of Kool-Aid and discovered instead a crystal goblet of fine Chablis. I was an easy drunk.

Ten weeks later, bitter reality has set in. The earth has not moved. The fine Chablis turned out to be grape Kool-Aid after all. I’ve sobered up. The issues that brought me to the Dialogues are still unresolved. I made a few connections, but everyone has busy lives and the way forward is murky. Why the let-down?

My complaints boil down to issues of my own agency. I have forgotten that I am in charge.

First, a confession: I am a survivor of a stifling education system that does a pretty thorough job of eradicating the notion of having any agency over my own learning. Not only did I go through elementary and high school, but then I succumbed to 8 years of post-secondary schooling that burdened me with two degrees and a teaching certificate. To add to this millstone of sin, I taught school for 6 years and still teach contract courses at Fleming College. So I am very skilled in matters of passive education. I can dissolve your motivation and bore you to exhaustion with the worst of them. But what has this sorry tale of woe got to do with my bad case of PPDD?

Simply this:

I have forgotten how to learn. I have heard (and voiced) a number of dis-satisfactions with the Dialogues. In my case, these complaints boil down to issues of my own agency. I have forgotten that I am in charge. If I could press ‘rewind’ on my life, go back to April and restart the Dialogues, I would memorize the following the following 8-Step PPDD-Prevention Protocol:

  • I am responsible for my own learning.
  • If I want something to happen, I must make it happen.
  • I have agency.
  • “Someone should” is henceforth banned from my vocabulary.
  • We co-create our logistics. Ptbo Dialogues Hosts are equal players, not Ringmasters.
  • The Hosts provide the kitchen and the pots. I have to make the stew myself.
  • If I make a commitment, I need to keep that commitment.
  • This is not like school — the learning happens bottom-up, not top-down.

My hope is that this 8-Step Process will help other PPDD sufferers come to terms with their own afflictions. Don’t let the Dialogues get you down! I have a hunch, and I am pretty sure I am right on this one; there are lots of other kindred spirits out there. We are not alone; together, we can rise up and take charge. There is hope. There is a cure. But we’ve got to do it for ourselves.

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1 comment

  1. Nora Smith

    This article is SO fantastic! A truly delightful read and very spot-on. Kindred spirits exist in Alberta too, hence your 8-Step PPDD-Prevention Protocol is widely applicable. Thank you for adding a few chuckles to my morning!