“The Circle provides a safe space where this deeper connecting can happen, where conflicts can become opportunities for building relationships. Today, we witness both the harm of disconnecting and the healing power of connecting. We need now, more than ever before, to find ways to connect with each other constructively, to understand and respect our differences, and to recognize the invaluable contribution each of us can make to creating community.” ~ From Chuck Robertson Sr., Oscar Reed, and Jamie Williams; “The Restorative Way”
Healing is a need that all people have in common. Many communities and individuals are deeply affected by systemic and generational cycles of violence and harm. Trauma shocks our sense of self, security, and connection with others. Trauma leaves us disempowered and disconnected. A model of justice that brings peace is a justice that heals. Indigenous in origin, and practiced over thousands of years, healing and connection lies at the very core of Peacemaking Circles.
What sets Circles apart lies in their unique process – an opening that includes introductions, use of a talking piece, setting of values-based guidelines, and a focus on humanizing behaviors, deep listening, reflection, and honesty.
Circles’ theory begins with the foundation that a universal human wish is to be connected to others in a good way.
Circles are a philosophy, a method of relating, and a healing intervention that address issues stemming from (but not limited to) poverty, addiction, trauma, and violence.
Some Circles involve dialogue whereas others simply focus on listening to the perspectives of others and sharing one’s own.
Circles can be a one-time event, or part of ongoing community, family, workplace, school, justice system, and/or organizational growth and development.
The facilitator of the Circle (Circle Keeper) is a part of the process and aims to give everyone a voice, address underlying issues, and heal potentially damaged relationships.
There are various types of Peacemaking Circles used to address differing needs/issues:
Talking Circles: A way of bringing a group together for the purpose of solving an existing problem, exploring an issue or topic from many different perspectives.
Family Circles: For family systems to build understanding, begin to heal negative impacts, and share needs and appreciations.
Understanding Circles: This is a Talking Circle focused on understanding some particular aspect of a conflict or difficult situation.
Healing Circles: To share the pain of a person or people who have experienced trauma or loss.
Support Circles: Brings together key people to support a person through a particular difficulty or major change in life.
Community Building Circles: “Community is not a place but a relationship,” (Dr. Carolyn Boyes-Watson.) Community Building Circles connect us to our community, create a sense of connection, and introduce a deeper discussion on values in order to address issues.
Conflict or Repair Building Circles: Centers around a specific conflict or crime. Spider webs of relationship connections are repaired in Conflict or Repair Building Circles.
Reintegration or Transition Circles: Brings together an individual and a group/community from whom that individual has been estranged in order to work towards reconciliation and acceptance of the individual into the group again. Can also be used for individuals and the group/community before they transition away (from the group.)
Celebration or Honoring Circles: Focuses on recognizing an individual or group and sharing joy and a sense of appreciation and accomplishment.
Sentencing Circles: A community-directed process in partnership with the criminal justice system. It involves all those affected by an offense in deciding an appropriate sentencing plan, which addresses the concerns of all participants.
Some benefits of Circles include:
Time and space to share, build and strengthen relationships, remove barriers, build trust, and respect differences.
Consistent ongoing support, advocacy, and healing from trauma.
Community-building and enhanced social and racial justice.
Accountability for negatively impacting others as well as learning methods that can repair harm.
Learning to speak from the heart without the pressure and concern of being judged, interrupted, or diagnosed.
Deep, focused, and non-judgmental listening skills.
Forming new habits of relating to others that can be used in other areas of one’s life.