What is Process Work?

Process Work is the philosophical basis of Worldwork Paradigm, a psycho-social-political theory and methodology. The term Process Work was developed by Arny Mindell in 1988 and first appeared in Leader as Martial Artist (Mindell, 1992). Mindell, a physicist and Jungian Analyst, has researched and written extensively about how awareness interlinks with reality and how we perceive it on different levels, creating different frameworks of reality. An example of this is how we perceive time: the measurable reality of the seconds ticking in a clock, the dreamlike "subjective" perception of time as it passes during an encounter with a lover - or during a conflict with an opponent - and the sentient essence of timelessness at the moment of sunrise that transcends "known" time (if only for a moment) and replaces it with the concept of a hopeful future. Mindell calls his paradigm Process Work. He formulates these principles and demonstrates how they can be used to facilitate individual, relationship, and group transformation in many of his books. 

Process-oriented leadership can be focused on groups, organizations, one's own inner experiences, people in conflict, etc. Allowing oneself to take seriously seemingly unimportant events and feelings can often bring unexpected solutions to both group and inner conflicts.

Although the term and the concepts of Process Work are now being used by various groups in different ways, Mindell formulates their common denominator: Process Work is the experience of a process of flow in which all actors on the stage are needed to create the play that is being watched.

Process-oriented leadership is a natural process that occurs in all community building processes, but often goes unnoticed or un-used. Process Work goes a step further in the effort towards fostering a deeper level of dialogue and inclusiveness that makes space for all people (with the individual right to vote) as well as all various and competing views, tensions, feelings, and styles of communication - in a way that supports awareness of relative rank, power, and privilege, and the potential of these forces to marginalize other views, individuals, and groups.

Evolution of Process Work

”The most fundamental forum is your own heart. Both as a facilitator and as a human being, you must learn to hear yourself there.” Arnold Mindell, "Sitting in the Fire", 1995

Process Work has many aspects, many of which relate to philosophical concepts derived from quantum physics. Process Work at its deepest manifestation refers often to an openness towards the views of other people and groups. It also embraces emotions and personal experiences that are most often excluded from conflict and rational public discourse (Mindell, 1992).

Process Work has crossed over into many fields and has been picked up by many authors, some using it as defined by Mindell, others using only particular aspects. 

One of the primary concerns of process-oriented leadership is the use, maintenance, and awareness of metaskills, a concept developed by Amy Mindell (attitudes and feeling tones underlying our skills). The concept of openness to diversity and dialogue between various views doesn’t mean that the facilitator goes along with what the group wants—that is only one metaskill (although it often reflects a lack of awareness). Facilitators must also practice, embody, and express other metaskills such as toughness, anger, intractability, love, detachment, concern for the well being of the others, and a genuine desire to achieve consensus. Some of the metaskills in the above mentioned list are organic responses. However, when a facilitator uses her internal organic responses to better inform her intervention, she is using a metaskill. This is why the human development (the internal psychological and spiritual growth) of the facilitator is so important.

Process Work involves not only openness to other individuals, groups, and diverse views, but also an openness to experiences including feelings, dreams, body symptoms, altered states of consciousness, and synchronicities as well as an awareness of signals, roles, and the structural dynamics of the interactions between parties involved.