Group

I am feeling anxious after my group tonight. I’ve fairly quickly drunk two glasses of left-over white wine in an attempt to come down, so I’m a little dizzy. Not a big drinker obviously. Though a frequent drinker, yes, I have to admit. A glass of wine with dinner often happens.

My frenemy E took centre stage AGAIN tonight. At one point towards the end of the meeting, both R and myself raised the issue of how the group runs. My issue was that whoever starts talking at the very start of the group is who Ron pays attention to for the rest of the time. No matter what anyone else then says, Ron will always bring the focus back to the person who talked first.

E’s issue was that she didn’t feel close to Ron in the group, while he was the most important person in her life actually. So she talked and talked and talked.

I’d had this really difficult day, and barely made it in to the group. The suicidal voice was screaming at me, and I was basically feeling like the crazy lady of the group.

I tried to stay present, giving E feedback that I too find it very difficult to share Ron with other people. Then I talked about the whole sister scenario – how my sister sucked up, how my father favoured her. That is so so painful for me. Ron didn’t pay too much attention to this – he just returned to E, asking her more questions. He kind of does individual type therapy with whoever is centre stage. I just think this is stupid – why then is there a group. Shouldn’t the focus be on our group interactions? Is it really the place to do this sensitive, personal one on one in depth therapy?

It’s hard giving my reactions, if they are negative. It’s a risk that I will be rejected. Then, Ron goes ahead and rejects me for doing that. No wonder most people are reluctant to provide their reactions. Really, myself and R are the only ones who ever venture to say anything negative.

I was feeling so much pressure from my bad day. Plus now I had to listen all evening to E’s problems as well, to top it off. Very stressful. So I asked Ron if I could have some time to talk after E had finished, and he said OK.

When I finally got some time, in the last few minutes, I had trouble using it. Finally I had everyone’s attention and I didn’t know what to say. I talked a bit about feeling dropped. I talked a bit about my family scenario. I did say that I always wonder what the people who don’t talk, or don’t talk much, would say if they talked.

Then all the people who don’t talk spoke up and talked! It was kind of cool. I think Ron’s method of having one central person per meeting really excludes those of his clients who don’t want to be the centre of attention all evening, who need to approach things a little sideways.

Then finally I go into my rant. How difficult my day was at work, how I hadn’t slept properly, how I was thinking of jumping in front of the subway on the way home, how strange it was to come to a group and everyone was scared to talk, how I had to listen to middle class problems when I was not really coping. Then I threw in the fact that I went to meetings this week without taking medication, but then I was scared and didn’t do a good job.

Phew. OK. That felt better. Nice and crazy and I didn’t care what anyone thought.

Ron was not supportive. He looked kind of puzzled and didn’t say much. In contrast to when E was talking, where he constantly asked for more info and made interpretations.

So I guess he doesn’t much like me. I interrupt his group, I criticize him, I criticize one of his clients. He doesn’t much like it.

So I’m anxious. I want to say how I see things, at the same time, I need Ron to like me. A dilemma. I feel like quitting the group.

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12 comments
  1. Don't try and guess what Ron is thinking! It doesn't matter anyway. He works for you, he is staff.I've "let rip" recently in polite ways on some people in my life. Expressing the truth as I see it. Whether they like e or not is irrelevant!

  2. Laura said:

    hey, Ellen!first impression, you said what you needed to say, and you felt better – did the suicidal voice stop screaming at you? that seems like an important positive effect of speaking out – whether Ron "likes" it or not.Ron's response was ambiguous, he didn't welcome you with open arms, but you still sound pretty solid at the end. I wonder how you're feeling this morning…you're courageous to take on these feelings.

  3. Ellen said:

    Hi Mike,I can see why you say that. In a way I agree….In Ron's type of therapy, the relationship I have with him is a key part of it. Transference. Maybe I do tend to worry too much about what he thinks, but if I'm perceiving him as critical…that is part of what therapy can address. If that makes sense. On the other hand, when I got to my 'rant', I truly didn't care what anyone thought, not at that moment. In other non-therapy relationships, I guess it depends who the person is. If it's a boss or client (trouble spots for me) probably you censor quite a bit. In other circumstances you can be more free. It does feel good to say what I really feel and think. There is a strength to that for sure, and a feeling that I'm on my own side at least.Nice to hear from you.@ Laura – Yes it did. Once I got into my 'rant' at the end of the group. It is an important side effect!I actually had a badish night with this but woke up feeling calm. It's hard accepting this E / Ron situation. But saying things I thought and felt was very satisfying. Thanks for the kind words.

  4. Ruth said:

    Good for you for getting your say in. It is hard to read a therapist and what they think. I sometimes wonder if they have a class on being ambiguous; they are so good at it. Glad to hear you felt better in the morning.

  5. upsi said:

    I've always struggled with the divide between how someone I care about treats me one-on-one and how they treat me in groups. I have a lot of pain around that – family and friends over the years who treated me differently when we were around other people than when we were alone. I have a kid part who gets really quiet and small in groups when I feel like people who usually really like me are cold or out-grouping me. Even if it's not intended as such, it feels like a betrayal. This whole group setting seems to exacerbate that dynamic. Maybe I've known some people like E who jump in right away for the spotlight and think others will benefit from it, but it strikes me as rather annoying to spend the meeting dominating because you don't feel close enough to the therapist. You have individual sessions to feel close, right? I wonder if there's any way to express the need for more democratic processes to kick the meeting off. I mean, it is EVERYONE's time, not just the person who jumped in first. Even something like a raise of hands if you're at an intense level of personal emotion right now, or something to give a group-feel to the beginning. I would be absolutely raging if I had to sit and listen to someone dominate an entire meeting if I had personal stuff going on, too – how are you guys supposed to handle these processes? Having to ask for time to talk seems really off to me, I don't know. Like, oh please sir, can I take up a second of your time? I'm shutting down just thinking about it.

  6. maybe you could flag that you need some time at the beginning of the group, and encourage others to do the same. then let ron take care of the time-keeping. maybe he let's E take over the group because nobody else is stepping up and speaking… just a thought… might be off base…

  7. Laura said:

    I like upsi's point about how someone is when you're together versus how they are when you're in a group, and how that shift (if any) might have a painful history. never really saw it that way. Does that resonate with you? And also, feeling close to someone, and being able to observe that they share closeness with other people. …and what you said to Mike, that you have the feeling that you're on your own side. that seems really significant.it seems like your rant was just what you needed to do. (armchair quarterback is taking notes).

  8. Ellen said:

    @ Ruth – Yep, they specialize for sure. Thanks!@ upsi – I find I feel completely differently in a group than in an individual session. It really confuses me. I also find groups disturbing – I've been the outsider in most groups in my life, and those feelings carry on. I don't really agree with Ron's way of running the group, though I respect his skills. But more than half the group has intense trouble grabbing the spotlight at the start of the session. I don't include myself, because I can do it. So half of the people get no attention from Ron. For me, asking for time is a compromise, but it's not what you're really 'supposed' to do. Your ideas on this seem good to me. It's difficult for me to talk about E objectively because she triggers my stuff. To me she is self-focused for sure, getting her money's worth. On the other hand, Ron looks at it that she's 'working' which takes courage and is a risk. I actually felt quite hurt that Ron didn't respond to me when I talked in the middle of the group as part of E's time, that I had to ask for special time at the end, by which time I'd shut down my feelings about those issues entirely. Anyway, it's a tangled web. Thanks for your thoughtful comments Upsi!

  9. Ellen said:

    @ brave – It's a good idea, but not how Ron is running the group. Maybe I'll ask him directly what he thinks of that. He feels that by focusing on one person, their issue can be explored deeply. There is something to that. Just I can't handle it most times. And yes, because people are so shy, there is a long gap at the start where anyone can jump in. I didn't jump in myself last time because I wanted to give space for the quiet people. Didn't work though, as then E jumped in, and she seems to take up every other session. take care@ Laura – Yes, that point does resonate with me. The closeness thing is huge – sharing Ron sucks big time. That was actually E's topic of the evening, so I could relate to it. I kind of think the compensation for sharing Ron is the possible relationships developed with other group members. A point E certainly did not make.Being on my own side – yep, it's a good thing. Quarterback away! I'll be interested to hear how your own group goes. Cheers

  10. Laura said:

    Ironic that E was talking about the difficulty of sharing Ron's attention – while she was monopolizing it.I haven't felt closeness with a therapist with whom I was in group. But I can imagine an IDEAL developmental history for this situation… an infant's original intimate closeness to her mother, and, as she grows more aware, having to share mother's attention with her siblings and other family members. how to compensate for that loss? possibly, she can hold on to the memory, the feeling of connection with mom inside herself, that nothing can take away. Plus, she has her self, is on her own side. Plus, she develops emotional connections and gets increasingly intimate attention from these same family members.It seems like Ron is suggesting that you look at why you are clinging to the tiny share of Ron that's available in group – instead of looking to the untapped potential of making emotional connections with other group members, as you've started to do with R. I wonder about the people who never speak in group, who seem to need an invitation, what are they getting out of this? do they go home every week and want to kill themselves?

  11. Ellen said:

    Hi Laura,Well, you would feel that if Howard was leading your group. It would be a whole different dynamic with someone I only knew through the group. Yeah, ironic.Your developmental history seems reasonable. I don't see Ron suggesting this actually – the idea that you compensate for losing him to others through relationships to group members is mine. I don't know what he thinks about this at all. He mainly wanted to reassure E that their connection is lasting despite what happens in the group – lots of intense eye contact between them…though I just couldn't look at that part of it. :-)I hope they don't go home and feel like that, I really do. I don't know the answer to that question, but I do feel the strong need to bring them in somehow. Which Ron doesn't. Maybe they feel OK observing, and throwing in a comment or two occasionally. Maybe that feel safe to them. I really do not know. One quiet guy, Y, was doubled over in pain at the end of the group. He said he gets severe stomach aches…He didn't say what brought this one on. Hope it wasn't me. Cheers

  12. I think you gave Ron something to think about. Is it just that you talk about E more or does E seem to take much more time in the group than other people? I wouldnt be surprised if the quieter members of the group feel the same way you do. I think you spoke well.

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