5 Warning Signs Of a Wobbly or Leaky Container and What To Do About It

After interviewing hundreds of women on their resistance and fears to leading circle, the #1 thing is not being able to create enough value and not being able to handle a difficult situation.

What this comes down to is creating a powerful, solid container as outlined in Chapter 2 of our How to Lead Circle eBook.

Even though women’s circles are “feminine” in nature, they need a masculine backbone of support to ensure the safety and flow.

The value of the experience is directly proportional to how solid the container is.

Upholding that container is what then becomes a challenge. When a container becomes wobbly or starts to “energetically leak,” things can fall apart very quickly and get really challenging. This validates anyone who experiences fear around not being able to handle a difficult situation. I’ve been there myself where a circle blew up and fell apart. Luckily, I’ve learned a few things about preventing that from happening and in the case that it does, what to do about it to restore the integrity of the container so women become even more connected than before.

First, you have to read the signs of a wobbly container to know what it is. Here are 5 warning signs:

Your container has started to leak or is wobbly if …

1. Women are not showing up on time or needing to leave early.
2. Women are no longer showing up, cancelling last minute, or want to quit.
3. Women are falling asleep or checking out during circle.
4. Women feel unsafe to share what’s really going on and instead pretend that everything is fine.
5. Women are sluggish, low energy, or just feeling like something is “off”

It’s easy to shrug off any of these signs and make excuses for them. There may even be legitimate excuses for a woman cancelling last minute or leaving early. But ultimately, it is a reflection of the container. A wobbly or leaky container feels unsafe and there is an energetic resistance to being in it.

A solid container feels really grounded. Everyone is present and feels connected. The energy feels high and alive, even if there is strong emotion moving in the room. Everyone is eager to be there and doesn’t want to leave, no matter how intense a process; they want to dive in, push their edges and go deep.

So what do you do if these signs are present in your circle? How do you restore the integrity so that the container is once again solid and safe?

Here are three steps that you can use when any of these warning signs present themselves:

1. Review the agreements

Every circle needs to have agreements; these are like the rules of conduct that are designed to create connection, safety and responsibility. When you have solid agreements, you have a solid container. So as soon as there is a warning sign, go back to your agreements and see which one is out of place. In Sistership Circle agreements, we ask women to be on time and commit to every circle meeting. If there is one they know they will miss due to travel or an existing appointment, they need to communicate those absences upfront. So if someone doesn’t show up or cancels last minute, they are breaking an agreement, which means something is up. This brings us to #2, what to do about it …

2. Call it out

You are not serving anyone by staying quiet. Yes, this is a challenging part. If an agreement has been broken, it needs to be brought up to the person who broke it and when appropriate, to the entire group. However, it is important to note that this does not mean you should clobber this person and make her feel bad. There is nothing “wrong” persay, just something underlying needs to be addressed. So when calling out that the agreement is broken, coming from a place of compassionate understanding and asking this person to share what is really going on. This is the time to get curious. Is there a fear coming up? Resistance to someone or something in the group? A withhold from a previous circle experience? There is nothing to fix here; just an opportunity to hold space and listen for transformation.

3. Look at the mirror within yourself

Typically, before I call someone out, I call myself out. I look deep within how I can be responsible for the agreement being broken. I look at my own fears and insecurities and try to uncover my own shadow. When I take responsibility and call myself out, I then give others permission to step forward to take responsibility. This is huge. I will share in the group that there is a broken agreement, I then share vulnerably how I am responsible and what I am recommitting to, and then open it up for others to share where they too are out of integrity.

This requires practice. The more that you look at yourself, the better you become at facilitating circle because the circle is always a mirror of your leadership. It starts off as scary, but once you start owning these reflections, it becomes very empowering. You become empowered and the women in your circle also become empowered. Your container becomes solid as a result of your own integrity and women feel safe in your presence. This is the value you seek to create and it starts within you.


Take Action

Have you experienced a wobbly or leaky container (as a leader or participant of a circle)? If so, which warning sign was present and what was done about it? As a facilitator, which of the 3 steps feels most challenging for you?

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