Group thinking – what was I thinking?

I started this blog to be honest about cohousing. I got busy and abandoned the blog but now I am back. I will use this blog to heal – journal, diary, about my personal experience in cohousing and what I learned.

i wanted to write about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Well the good you see EVERYWHERE! It is hard to find the honest truth about cohousing because most of the blogs are for communities and they want you to buy, rent, or join later if nothing is available. So, I will focus on the bad and the very UGLY. For me, it turned extremely ugly.

Of course there is good, otherwise no one would move there and stay. However, like any group of people, they can form into their own way of life and thinking. I was excited to be a part of that process – making the community what we wanted. But I clashed with others’ ways of thinking or their silence as one person in particular steered the community into a strange direction (my opinion of what happened).

I wish I had known before moving in about group think. I should have known my personality – never to go blindly with the flow. To question authority. To assume people will act rationally. I forgot that people gravitate towards charismatic and sometimes dramatic personalities. I forgot that many a group of people can be quite disfunctional.

I wish I had known before moving in that even though all communities have some sort of conflict group to help with conflict they don’t always work. That it takes a long time, if ever, to deal well with small and big conflicts. I assumed we would work it out since that group was here. But humans react sometimes with running away, shunning, not dealing with it, afraid to speak up, etc.

I wish I had known before moving in that the first five years these communities start are the hardest and many do not stay and others have scars (heard this from another community)

I wish I had known before moving in what a huge commitment it is to buy a house that is way more than the market and how hard it is to sell, and even rent since most people are more wary of living in a group than I was. Naive as I was.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for my family. I am thankful that I had the means to escape and find a house with friendly neighbors who have boundaries. I am thankful for privacy. I am thankful for real friends who love you no matter what. I am thankful for learning about dysfunctional families, abusive relationships, and cults. I am thankful that I am safe. I am thankful for a blog platform to heal and hopefully add more to the conversation than sunshine and rainbows and unicorns.

About CJ

I was a Spanish teacher for 5 years in the Public School system in 3 different states. I homeschooled and taught at a democratic free school. I heard about cohousing in 2010 and wanted to move in right away. I met a group building one in 2018 and got to move in the summer of 2019. It only took a year to want out.
This entry was posted in control and decision making in cohousing, group think and cults, learning and growing, moving in and out of cohousing, privacy, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Group thinking – what was I thinking?

  1. Flower says:

    I started researching cohousing years ago. I’d saw the term on an architect’s site. Right away I searched for problems and disadvantages because of my inherent skepticism towards group and especially “group think”. It’s not easy to find that information that openly discusses problems. I did get the impression that these types of communities appeal to parents because of the “free” babysitting as that angel appears in many of the “feel good” articles, so I would surmise that these communes would attract people who want or expect “free” stuff, which comes across as entitled or people who don’t mind babysitting or being expected too. I would not want that.

    As I recall another critique I found was written by a man who didn’t like the expectation that all his free time should be taken up by being in the role of a handyman 24/7. He obviously left the group/community because it infringed upon his time and energy. He basically said that (women of a certain age) always needed help, along with other problematic behaviors.

    I’m wary of groups for many reasons including the issues cited above. Because I’m skeptical people react and accuse me of being difficult, resistant and defensive. I experience these types of people as controlling, manipulative, selfish and exploitative. I don’t see a lot of positives joining groups due to the cult like behaviors that I encounter.

    • CJ says:

      I am so glad you found my blog! I wish I had your healthy resistance to groups. I assumed that in cohousing we would be different since we had the conflict resolution team and even mediators. However, people are the same all over the world. Afraid of conflict and would rather bad things happen then get into the nitty gritty. Most conflict resolution teams are never called upon, mediators are not professional mental health professionals in most instances for cohousing and intentional communities and don’t have any research to back up best practices, and the group has to want to respect differences. What mostly happens is some sort of group think or petty grievances. I was appalled that no one spoke up on how they really felt about things and would rather coast. I don’t want to live like that. I also look back and see how silly it was to want to please the group. Some was normal neighborly things like picking up after the dog or not letting them bark, but it became frustrating when others didn’t care (and one owner let their dog pee on my garden ornament right in front of me!). I’ve seen the free babysitting too and just laugh. The others have to want to do that, which didn’t really happen where I live. And, one person who offered the free babysitting is the last person on Earth I’d want around my children. I hadn’t thought about the handy man aspect. We have someone who loves to do that – as a hobby, and mostly does it as their community hours and in the common house, but it touches on the same issue – how much is really free, how much do you want to ask your neighbors to do, and how-much should you just hire someone and stay more distant and friendly to your neighbors instead of always expecting them at your service. Thanks for reading – keep commenting! Is there an architect magazine or organization I can contact? So far I’ve only seen puff pieces in all the cohousing articles.

      • Flower says:

        I’m not an architect so I don’t know about any specific magazines or organizations, although I’m certain they probably exist. I do have an interest in architecture, environment, land use planning, etc. I’ve sometimes dreamed of building my own home. That’s how I landed at his site as I love cottages and bungalows and smaller well-designed spaces. I suppose I cultivated a love of those types of homes because I grew up by the sea along the coast of California. I always had a dream of a cottage by the sea.

        I live in an older suburb in a small home where developers are scraping off existing structures to build massive homes (McMansions). It’s become unaffordable for many people when these homes were once disparaged as “starter” homes as they represent another era. Some people have built on, but that is costly. I have concerns about my neighborhood, although I do love it here. It is not without it’s problems, but that is true of all areas.

        I agree people have issues with conflict and it’s even more threatening when it’s close to home and your neighbors, so I understand the dilemma. I’ve experienced very unpleasant neighbor issues without getting into details–one was a manipulative alcoholic. She died by suicide. The other two who live closer have mental health issues. It has created stress for me over the years. I’m a realist, so I doubt living in a “like-minded community” would be conflict or stress free. Thus I’m neighborly to a point, but generally I’ve learned to keep my distance given the types of problems that I’ve experienced. I’m certain some types of people would make assumptions and would label me as “unfriendly”. I see myself as self-protecting.

        Your insights about conflict resolution in intentional communities was interesting.

  2. CJ says:

    Thank you and again, I”m glad you found my blog. A book I’ve read twice and just bought, used, to read again is a Year by the Sea. It’s that idea of having a place by the ocean which now I have thanks to the cohousing not working out. I have good memories of being in small bungalows on the California coast as I was the support vehicle and my brother rode his bike. And my home town has been knocked down and everyone has built huge Mcmansions. I even get lost when I go there now.

    • Flower says:

      I read that book and another one called A Walk Along the Beach. I can relate to the feeling of “lost” watching homes being destroyed–many perfectly fine houses that people could make their home and feel a sense of community.

      You mentioned people pleasing in one of your other topics and there is a very good book on that subject as well. It’s called the Disease to Please: Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome by Harriet B. Braiker.

  3. CJ says:

    Great, I love reading new books and never heard of A Walk Along the Beach. I”ll look for both of these books. I guess it would be a hard balance in cohousing on where to draw the line with pleasing people too much and just normal neighborliness and taking care of common areas. Some may lean too far trying to do everything for others and then the other extreme where they care less where their dog poops or bites.

    • Flower says:

      It sounds to me like it could be very hard to find that balance in cohousing. Even in suburban neighborhoods there are conflicts. I take good care of my yard and I find dog poop that I have to clean up and I don’t have a dog. I’ve even found dog poop on the sidewalk that no one picks up. I also find trash that people just throw down or it blows in from somewhere. Many people don’t take care of their yards and homes. I have neighbors, especially one, that don’t take care of their home and it is in terrible shape. A past resident who grew up there and lives in another state visited and spoke to us. She was in tears when she saw the state of disrepair. The parents both work, but it just doesn’t seem to be a priority to them. Residents in the “hood” stop and stare. Some make comments, even visitors take notice and these homes have become expensive. They know the state of their home. I feel that it reflects poorly on the neighborhood and is disrespectful to the other residents, but I really can’t do anything about it and I wouldn’t want to create problems. They are nice people and I don’t know their financial situation and it is and has been a bone of contention for other neighbors. I suppose if it was a cohousing community there would be a lot of talking, but would there be a resolution other than incessant meetings and talking about it for 20 years?

      The same situation happens to homes that are rentals and it is not inexpensive to rent around here. There can also be conflicts and problems in HOAs, which can be expensive and I’ve heard of lawsuits.

      On the bright side I’ve had people stop and admire the front garden and it’s nice that some people appreciate it.

  4. CJ says:

    I was hoping to learn some garden skills in cohousing but left in the end of June so nothing had a chance to bloom. I’m trying on my own with permaculture groups but still not going well. My neighbor upstairs at my beach place said no one could kill a fern, she’s trying to help me. I guess I”m no one since the fern is now gone.

    • Flower says:

      I’ve never found ferns easy to grow, except maybe they do well in climates like the PNW and coastal regions. I saw a type of heather at a garden center that used to be close to where I live. I bought some and planted it and it didn’t survive or thrive like the one at the nursery. I love heather and was disappointed, but had to accept the fact that it wasn’t going to work out. The reality is that a garden changes over time. Plants die, find niches and thrive in micro-climates even in a small garden. I would encourage you to keep trying if you enjoy it. I find it soothing and creative.

  5. CJ says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. I was going to look for something to grow vine like. I was also thinking trying more flowers since they smell nice and aren’t supposed to live long, I think. We do have a thriving cactus in a terrarium.

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