The collective issue and the individual experience, promoting healing and tranformation.

Our communities are faced with a variety of issues.  Our local non-profit St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice ( works to address teen driving, underage drinking, impaired driving, crime and conflict in the community and schools. SCVRJP recently began services to help with issues around suicide, providing prevention, intervention, and postvention services.

The unique aspect of how Restorative Justice works is the involvement of stories.  An individual impacted deeply by the collective concerns is brought in to storytell with those at the cusp of a risky behavior.

A recent presentation (LTC Cynthia Rasmussen) on trauma provided this valuable insight:

The burned hand teaches best.  After that, advice about fire goes straight to the heart.

Burned hand: your experience.  Advice about fire: someone else’s story.

Storytelling is healing.  Storylistening is transformative.

Restorative Justice Circles set people up to be in a safe place.  Structure is safe, values are safe, taking turns is safe. 

I know Circles work.  I enjoy finding places that validate that our brains are involved as much as our heart.  This slideshare by Share Bowman, is a great learning tool.  If you haven’t viewed that slideshare please do! (

I think Restorative Justice Circles are all the things, that make us remember!

Circles are a novelty, a new experience.  No two Circles are EVER alike, so that also makes the experience different, even if the process is the same.  Where else do you sit in Circle no tables, face people and get to talk about things like values, experiences and in an non-judgemental environment?

The contrast Sharon defines as “things that are in contrast to what came before”.  The reflection round in Circle often includes “i thought this was going to be us getting yelled at”, “I thought we were just going to watch video’s”, “I didn’t know you were going to listen to me”.

Meaningful and emotional are the last two elements Bowman identified as attention grabbers for our brains.  Circles are meaningful because the way they engage people.  Stories evoke our emotions because we “feel” what the person storytelling is feeling.  Our brains have mirror neurons, and in Circle we are facing each other, sharing our experiences and making meaning of our lives.

I have a two day Circle Training this week.  I love hosting the two-day Circle and helping people learn this process.  The Bowman resources will be a nice addition to our curriculum and further reason why Circles WORK!


Filed under Belonging, Circle Keeping, Circle Process, Circle Stages, personal growth, Practitioner Skills, Relationships, Responses from participants, Restorative Justice, SCVRJP, storytelling

2 Responses to The collective issue and the individual experience, promoting healing and tranformation.

  1. Novelty, contrast, meaningful and emotional–I love this as it is very tied into mentoring and why mentoring works as well.

    Keep up the great work Kris-circles are very important and we do need more and more of them in use daily!

  2. I was fortunate enough to be part of this week's Circle Training (July 14 & 15). To say that it was "Amazing" would be an understatement. First, In order for it to be more meaningful, I left behind all experiences I have had with groups, roundtables, breakout sessions and the like, so that I could have a blank slate upon which to record my Circle Training. I'm glad I did because the training was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Even after the training was over I was still processing what had transpired and putting it into perspective. I have to say, I had to create new spaces in my awareness to accommodate what I learned during my two days in Circle Training. It was a fantastic experience that I look forward to passing on.