The Dark Side of Communes

by Paxus Calta

from his blog Your Passport to Complaining

(Editor’s note: There is a link to the full presentation at the end of the post. – Raven)

I have 10 minutes today to present on how communes can help us move away from money centric economies. I love this topic and have quite a bit to say about it. So much to say, that it does not all fit into the time i have.

I think recruiters have an obligation to talk about the shadow sides of the things they are promoting. Here is the slide i did not have time for on the disadvantages of commune life in general.

  • Press your buttons
  • Sharing work, home, and money with a large group can be intense
  • Less autonomy (health care, kid care, snap long distance trips)
  • Less Privacy
  • Romantic breakups can be harder
  • Insular – reduced access to urban culture
  • Small social circle
  • Dramatically reduced chance of getting rich
  • Maybe shunned by family and old friends
  • No 401k (although there is phased community retirement)

Most of these points are self explanitory but i want to elaborate on the first one. Joining a commune is going to push your buttons. If you know what your buttons are, then you are signing up for a personal growth class by joining.  You will be confronted with this and have to grow, or suffer.  But the second possibility is that you do not actually know what your buttons are, and then coming to the commune can be a difficult and disorienting wake up call.  You could find out that you are crazy jealous and the partner of your dreams is polyamorous.  You could find out that you need much more alone time than you thought (because it had not been much of an issue before, because it happened “naturally”) and you need to adjust your schedule accordingly.  Maybe you like to make your own choices about which brand of shampoo or kind of desert you want, this could require some adjusting.

There are lots of advantages to living in a commune, but contrary to other peoples reporting, we have no illusions that this is utopia.

It maybe better than how you are currently living, but it ain’t no utopia.

My complete slideshow on Decentering Money

The Dark Side of Communes

Validation Day

by Raven Glomus

I just wrote a post on Communal Culture.  Here’s another example of the difference between mainstream and communal cultures.

The communes have decided to reappropriate many of the holidays.  This weekend the mainstream world celebrates Valentine’s Day.  East Wind Community decided years ago that this holiday was too much about traditional couples and they wanted something that would celebrate everyone.  Thus Validation Day was born.  Validation Day is celebrated in many of the communes now instead of Valentine’s Day–and we just decided to have a small version of it here at Glomus Commune.

On Validation Day, cards are made up for everyone in the commune and positive messages are written in by many folks.  Each card is filled with lovely messages–as someone said, it’s a natural antidepressant.  Often folks work on the cards for weeks and pass them around so lots of folks have a chance to write something.

Working on Validation Day cards at Twin Oaks, 2007

I think that it’s an amazing way to take a holiday that has been commercialized and that elevates traditional couples and uses it to create good feelings throughout the commune.  It’s one more thing that society could learn from the communes.  Of course, making homemade cards wouldn’t benefit the economy, but that’s the point.  We are building another world in the communes.

Validation Day

Mental Health and Community

by Raven Glomus

Mental health is a somewhat controversial issue in the communes, where mental health challenges sometimes flare up but it’s also claimed that communal living improves your mental health. I decided to put the issue out on Facebook.

As you might note, I only got four comments, but they were all detailed and thoughtful:

As they say, it’s complicated. Still, these are issues that need to be addressed in many communities. At what point is the community helpful and at what point does the individuals mental health threaten the community? There aren’t any easy answers but at some point many communities will need to deal with these issues.

Mental Health and Community

Emotional Flossing: Personal growth, social hygiene, and being triggered the commune way

by Liv Scott

Illustrations by the author

“What is the biggest challenge of living on a commune?,” I asked when realizing that the regenerative farm I was spending my COVID days was just that. It was as much an icebreaker as it was a question to ease my nerves, as I was taught growing up to proceed with caution when it came to communes. I awaited the answer.

“We trigger each other.” It was so human and so true for moving through life, commune or not.

Without a car, in a pandemic, for five months, I was submerged into the small commune. What struck me most was the awareness of social hygiene of the community: the meetings to form a collective understanding of an individual’s growth and role within the whole. We certainly got on each other’s nerves, but we also held each other, bonded, and evolved as people together. 

Every human has baggage or “areas of improvement,” which we so often cannot recognize until a sudden disruption forces us to stop life, in order to see the pattern of ourselves. Our own pattern of responding when under a stressor ripples out affecting others. We trigger each other. Perhaps in the hectic pace of life we can, overtime, put our pattern together make it conscious and actively “work on it.” It takes time to see that pattern when interactions are brief and often shallow.

However, in the community, these ticks are apparent immediately, where we are constantly bumping up against people’s ups and downs of life. I saw how we quickly learned what each person needed on an emotional level during their ups and downs. It was remarkable to see how people got vulnerable and held each other through COVID anxieties, moods, disagreements, and mournings. Personally, I learned how to communicate my own emotional needs and to trust people in sharing my needs rather than bottling everything up until some idealistic romantic love comes along. I learned how to lean on and be held by others. I was flexing my emotional intelligence muscle.

All the emotional flossing, holding, trigger-induced growth on that small commune, I found beautiful. Yes, at times it was frustrating, but it was also special. It was how strangers coming together to live together can live, work, and build together. It is how basic needs of survival can be met, so the collective can be rooted in their ability to offer something outwards. 

This experience opened me up to a whole new way of thinking about the so-called emotional underbelly of human interactions – being triggered. We live in a traumatized and traumatizing culture, but safe collectives can be catalysts for our own self-awareness, emotional growth and trauma healing. I am grateful for my time living in a commune. Like any real challenge, it is where the true learning lies, so I am glad to have cast my caution aside, built relationships and experienced some healthy individual growth.

Emotional Flossing: Personal growth, social hygiene, and being triggered the commune way

Eco-Village Research Request

This is a short survey from a university student in Quebec.  The Commune Life Blog staff think that one of the most important under-reported benefits of living in intentional communities (and especially income sharing communes) is the positive and nurturing mental health impacts of this lifestyle.  This survey only takes about 10 minutes to complete and you might get lucky and win a small cash prize.

Research Thesis
Help me by filling out an online survey
If you are currently living in a community or active in a group that is nature-oriented (e.g. eco-village, WWOOF, community garden), you are invited to participate in an anonymous online survey. Participants may enter a draw to win one of three $75 cash prizes. The survey takes approximately 25 minutes to complete.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

researchposter_image (1)

My name is Simon Stankovich-Hamel. I am an aspiring community psychologist finishing my undergraduate degree. I am working on a research thesis that explores how nature, community, and mental health relate to each other. I am looking for people who are currently living in a nature-oriented community, small or big, to fill out a questionnaire. This is an anonymous survey that asks about your level of agreement with certain statements, or how often you felt a certain way in the past weeks, such as:
“When I fail at something that’s important to me, I tend to feel alone in my failure”
or “I feel optimistic about the future” (Disagree strongly – disagree a little – neither agree nor disagree – agree a little – strongly agree).

I look forward to sharing with you my work when I am finished, but for now I cannot tell you more about it.

If you choose to participate, please click on the link below and read the consent form on the first page. Thank you for your time and consideration and I hope that my survey will spark valuable self-reflection.

Go to this webpage to participate.

Eco-Village Research Request