Now to remember back a day and a half….
Ron is not especially dressed up today. I’m hesitant to go in. I’m afraid as usual, but a little less than I have been. Also, I wrote Ron an angry email after the group outlining my feelings, and now that I’m no longer furious, I’m feeling awkward about it.
I sit for a minute, and then Ron launches right into the email.
R. I got your email this morning about the group.
E. Oh. Um…it was kind of hostile.
R. Well, I don’t know about hostile. You weren’t attacking me.
E. I didn’t have a good experience in the group at all.
R. You had trouble staying.
E. Yes. I ended up feeling I had to leave, and then I was so anxious I had some body memories come up….
R. One thing you said was that everyone was young. What does that mean to you, that they’re young?
E. They’re really young, your clients.
R. Not really. Well, A is.
E. So are R., and E., and that guy who doesn’t talk.
R. They’re all in their thirties.
R. What would it take for you to be able to stay?
E. Well, I’d have to talk. But I feel hostile. I want to say all these angry hostile things. So then the group wouldn’t like me.
R. Z talked about how she expressed anger with another group member in the last group I ran, and how that was fruitful. Everyone in the group is there to be affected by everyone else, however that may be. And to work through that. So if someone expresses something, the other person gets to respond, and they might go somewhere they wouldn’t have gone by themselves, or just with me.
E. But I’m in parts. I dissociate. That group isn’t meant for someone like me. And there’s no room to talk – they talk so much. And that R, when he talked about A, I just wanted to slap him. He really bugged me. As if talking about some fantasy he had with a knife one day meant he knew what it was like to self harm.
R. What about him made you angry?
E. I don’t know….He does engage people, which is good. He intellectualizes…Young people do that.
E. He talks so much, and I still don’t know what his problem is. Is it depression? Or what?
Of course Ron doesn’t answer this.
E. I just don’t have anything in common with anyone in the group at all. And that one time I was a tiny bit angry with you in the group, you were asking me questions – that was nothing. And still Z thought that meant I’m ‘reactive’. She doesn’t like me. And I wouldn’t be like that with the group members, just you, because you know me.
R. sighs. Where do you get this from? That she doesn’t like you.
E. And I’m sitting there, with voices going on…Why would I talk about that? And what if I talk and it’s a part?
R. Especially if it’s parts, you should talk.
E. It just seems like I have to cope with the group just like I have to cope with work, and it’s so difficult. Managing the parts, trying to fit in.
R. You do need to do that at work, but not in the group. The group is a place to explore what’s real for you.
E. No it’s not, I just have to cope. I can’t start making hostile comments and interrupting people. No one will like me. And I don’t want to harm anyone, to do damage….Like A, she takes the least comment, and goes off and feels terrible for a whole week about it. I can see how it’s good to air real feelings in the group, but then to go home totally traumatized…that can’t be good.
R. You feel the same as A expressed last night. You’re afraid your real self will harm people.
E. You know, I do have some things in common with A.
R. You also take comments very hard.
E. A. switched….first she was a frightened child, talking to you about what R. had said. Then she totally switched and was a kind of joking adult, having a fun conversation with R.
Ron nods his head but doesn’t say anything. I feel a little better thinking I might have something in common with one other person there.
R. You are there to be true to yourself. I’m there to help you do that, to hold a safe space for you. Say in the worst case scenario, you are angry, and people don’t like you. At the very least, I would still support you in being real, and you would be holding on to who you really are. The group might support you as well.
E. You know how I stayed in the group last time? I hung on to the thought that you liked me and wanted me to be there.
R. And this time?
E. I couldn’t feel that.
R. What was different?
E. I don’t know…maybe my state of mind? You didn’t look at me once though the whole evening. I just couldn’t feel that you wanted me to be there. I hadn’t realized before last time that it was a trust issue – that something hinges on whether you like me or not.
R. I think in your family, when your father didn’t talk to you for days and weeks at a time, and you family was complicit in this, it cemented a kind of distrust. A part of you sees the world as malevolent, a place where you will be hurt.
It was actually years, not weeks, when my father ignored me. But I don’t say that. It’s kind of hard to believe looking in from the outside. But my family is just weird like that.
E. Malevolent is a good word….
I just like the way it sounds. I don’t think it’s a good thing to feel. There is a lot of truth in this though. That would explain why I am so afraid of the group – it reminds me of that rejection….and I do see rejection everywhere.
R. I wouldn’t want to stay in a group if I thought the therapist didn’t like me….
to be continued….