Group

I find myself really wanting to describe my group therapy, but worried about the confidentiality aspect. Even though I don’t identify anyone by name, obviously. And I don’t identify myself. And I keep my blog quite hidden – is that enough? Would I object to a fellow group member blogging the group in these circumstances? I wouldn’t actually. Why don’t I just describe what happened as it related to me.

I am scared, first of all. The fear kicks in over an hour before I have to leave. I take half a xanax to cope, and it takes the edge off. A small glass of wine – OK, I can manage.

I get there five minutes early, say hi to the people sitting next to me at least. I feel pretty awkward if I don’t even say hi, which happens if I’m right on time and Ron is already there. Ron always comes in right on time, and as soon as he’s there, no one talks any more before the group starts.

This time, the focus is on Y, who starts out with a long speech about talking, and what is the good of talking in the group, and what are we trying to accomplish. I respond that it seems very philosophical. And that Y said something about his relationship to his mother, mixed in with the philosophy, and does he want to say something about that. Or something more personal.

Y obediently starts talking about his mother and his family, and I won’t share the details of that. He’s very reluctant to criticize his mother, and feels guilty for saying anything about her.

So things go on for a long time. I’m still feeling afraid, though I interact a bit with Y and give some feedback. I don’t know why I am afraid. I feel disconnected from the group I suppose.

At one point, Y and E are talking, and R interrupts them. He says E is playing therapist, and he doesn’t know what is going on, and he wants to talk because he can really relate to a lot of what Y has been saying. Then R goes on talking about his experience. E. doesn’t say anything about being interrupted.

I’m surprised. First of all, that R feels free to simply interrupt an interaction, just because he wants to. He doesn’t apologize for that. Secondly, because E., who is the most combative person in the group, doesn’t object. No one says anything about this at the time. I mention it in my therapy, but don’t dwell on it at all. I mainly saw it from my point of view – if that had been me interrupting E, she would have attacked. Now thinking back, I’m thinking, wow, that was strange. And I’m pretty sure it will be discussed in therapy by E at least. That really was a strange interaction.

The next person to be disruptive is me. I have been steadily getting more and more stressed out. I really want to leave. So I once again interrupt, I apologize for it, and talk to Ron. ‘I really want to leave.’ ‘What are you feeling inside?’ ‘I don’t know. I feel afraid. I really want to leave. My heart is pounding.’ I’m shaking also at this point. And my voice is now a kid voice. Sigh.

R. Why do you want to leave?

E. I want to go outside. To the cafeteria. Where there’s the couch, I could sit there. I’d be by myself.’

Being by myself seems like such a great plan to me. Everyone sits and looks at me….I feel my panic intensify but then start to subside and I feel like I can again stay.

R. What do you feel about what Y talked about?

E. Sorry Y. I’m sorry to interrupt. I’m really worried people don’t like me for interrupting.

R. Is it OK if I check and see if people mind?

E. OK

Y. It’s fine. I’m glad you spoke up….

E (other E) Well I’m frustrated. Y was speaking….

E. (me) Yeah, I agree with you…

Ron So only Y can take up time this evening?

Yay, Ron is standing up for me!

R. (other R) I’m glad you stayed. I think you’re an awesome group member.

R tends to say nice comforting things to me. Not sure why really. Maybe he sees me as the underdog and wants to protect me.

E. (me) I actually really appreciated how you asked me how I was, the other night, when I wasn’t doing well…And when you said, if you phoned, I’d come over…this won’t be put to the test. But I believed you. You have an honest face I guess.

R. I would come over….

Z. Well, I could see you were really struggling to stay, so I’m glad you stayed. 

E. Thanks Z. I appreciate that.

Z. So you thought that was supportive? I wasn’t sure…You’ve never expressed appreciation before.

E. Sure, you were supportive. So I’m OK now. I feel a lot better.

Ron. How did you feel about what Y talked about?

E. Well, he seems like a nice fellow. It was fine….I felt a lot more interested once he started talking about his mother, about his life. I’m OK now. You can go back to discussing, Y.

Ron. Well, you’re allowed to bring your feelings into the group whenever you want.

E. And I appreciate that.

So then the group went back to discussing Y’s issues a bit, though the time was almost up. I felt really sad, now that I was no longer afraid. What my feelings mean though I really don’t know. Maybe some kind of experience of my past. One assumes, as this is therapy.

We leave in silence, mostly, and people don’t say goodbye, though I do if I hit the door with someone at the same time. I’m upset, from being sad. R kind of touches me on the shoulder on the way out, and says goodbye. Like he sees I’m upset, and wants to be nice. I’m touched once again.

Just to be clear, R is young, in his thirties I’d say. This is not a romantic kind of a deal. He just seems tuned into me for some reason. And he doesn’t see my interruptions as inept and bad, but as direct. You could see it either way. 

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6 comments
  1. Amanda said:

    Your group sessions interest me and I wish they were available to me with my own therapist. I'm glad that you spoke up and were able to be honest with how you felt. I'm glad that Ron stood up for you too. I'm also glad that R was kind to you – you deserve that.But enough of my "gladness" – I hope you are doing well this weekend.

  2. Ellen said:

    Hi Amanda – They interest me too more and more, so good to know that you are also intrigued. I am not a psych student of course, so I really had no idea what it was about really, to start with. Thanks for the support. And it's really good sometimes to dwell on the positive aspects, as you are – Ron stood up for me, R. keeps saying positive things about me. I don't have many good experiences in groups, but these are really validating and nurturing responses people have to me, and it's nice. Be glad any time. 🙂 thanks for commenting

  3. Laura said:

    really interesting, Ellen! I too wish I could be in a group with my therapist. I was noticing the fear you were feeling before and during, which was replaced by sadness, once you'd spoken. No clue to offer, just well-described, I can almost feel it myself. Wonderful job reaching out to Ron – I think you're helping the whole group to see what's possible.if you're feeling fear, it would definitely hinder your ability to take in analysis – pre-frontal cortex shuts down when afraid. Not an issue this week, just a leftover observation! Hope you're having a good week.

  4. Ellen said:

    Hi Laura – I wonder what the experience would be like with a leader who wasn't my therapist – very different I'd think. A big part of this for me is sharing Ron with the other members. Who wants to do that? :-)It was instructive actually to feel myself moving through the fear – it helped to describe it, and also just stay with it – and then noticing the real shift to sadness instead. Not sure what it means, but interesting. Good point about fear shutting the brain down also.thanks for commenting

  5. sounds like you are feeling a bit more a part of the group now than an outsider. Just catching up on blogging!

  6. Ellen said:

    Hi Candy – I actually like the group now and feel some caring for the people there. It's taken a long time. Glad you are back.

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