I am torn about describing my group. It really affected me strongly this week and I’d like to make sense of it by writing it down. I’ll keep any details that aren’t my own out of it.
This week, E takes centre stage once again. There are a few minute’s silence at the start, where we wait for someone to start. This is a very very shy group, so no one jumps on it, so then E, who has lots to say, gets the group for the evening once again. Sigh.
E describes problems she is having with hubby, and describes how she finds it difficult to speak to him when there is conflict. She talks about this for a while, and there is little response from the group. A few questions are asked, then this peters out.
Ron. So does this conflict remind you of your problems with Ellen, especially last week?
So E turns to this topic. It’s actually difficult to remember what happened here, for one thing because I lose focus when E is speaking, for another because things became kind of emotional.
Ellen – So why don’t you practice the conflict with me? I don’t matter, I’m just here in the group and not a part of your life. You can practice on me. It’s fine – I won’t melt. I don’t even care that much – I have other things I’m worried about besides you. It’s OK.
E starts talking about how she is worried about my relationship to Ron being affected by her, as I’ve mentioned that.
Ellen. It’s fine. It’s not your problem. It’s true a big concern I have is that Ron will take your side, but it’s OK. Just go ahead.
Then E tries to tell me how she feels, especially about my calling her ‘mean’, and she can’t.
Ellen. But it’s really stupid. I was thinking about this during the week. You’re a (particular profession). What I said to you was just stupid. How come you don’t give me an argument, say something about this?
E. So you think I’m stupid??
Ellen. No, I’m saying what I said about you wasn’t really intelligent or anything.
E. Then why did you say it?
Ellen. I think I couldn’t articulate what it was that actually bothers me, so I said that instead. I do feel that E. is taking up most of the group time. Why are we always talking about E’s problems? I wish the rest of the group would speak up more.
E. We sat for four whole minutes at the start and no one spoke up. I come here because I want to work on my problems. I want to make this time worthwhile. So I talk.
That actually makes sense to me. I feel less resentful of her taking so much group time, now I’ve said it out loud. However somehow I don’t mange to articulate this.
Ron. E, why don’t you try and respond with how you feel….
E. Well, Ellen, right now I’d really like to kick your f’ing head in.
Ellen. Wow. You do? ……. That feels really strong. You want to do that?
I’m shaken by the violence of that image and I don’t like it.
Then E. explains that she can’t think with conflict, that she shuts down. She says she’s really afraid of me, which shocks me.
E. I can’t even go there, I can’t, I just can’t….
Ron Why can’t you go there?
E. Because it’s too much….
E is very emotional, she starts crying, and she is really angry. Me, I’m having trouble feeling much. I don’t feel very connected to this for some reason.
E. So are you enjoying this? It feels like you are manipulating me, and now you’re sitting back and laughing at me.
Ellen. I find that insulting.
Ron. Why do you find that insulting?
Ellen. Wouldn’t you be insulted? That you’re intentionally causing someone pain and then enjoying it?
Ron No, I wouldn’t be insulted.
Ellen. Well I am. No, that’s not what I’m doing.
That’s all I can remember. E talked a lot more. I did encourage her to keep talking, and I did not retaliate. I made a gesture at one point with my hand, meant to convey – keep going –
E. What’s that for? Are you making fun of me?
Ellen. No. Not everything I do or say is an attack on you.
Anyway. At one point E. says she really wants to change how I feel….and she gets feedback that people can only change how they themselves feel.
Towards the end of the group Ron says that neither of us are really hearing the other.
Ellen. I think I’m doing a lot of listening actually. Maybe I should reflect back to E what I hear her saying?
I’m ready to plunge into this. However Ron wants to open this up to the group for their input, as there are just a few minutes left.
Y. It seemed as if you, Ellen, where trying to line Ron up onto your side at one point there. Do you think you were doing that?
Ron. Are you going to respond to Y’s comment? Here he is, so sensitive and perceptive. Maybe you should pay attention to him.
E. Well, maybe I was doing that…I wasn’t aware of it. That is so bad….
Y. I don’t think you’re bad. I also can see why being called a sadist basically would bother you – that is a bit much.
E. Yeah? Thanks…..I wish you guys would talk. I feel like I’m out here, the only bad person, and everyone else just watches…
A. (very angrily) I hate how you’re (moi) always telling us we’re not participating. I can be sitting here quietly and still I get a lot out of the group. The other day, I was out with my mother, and I was able to stand up for myself, all because I’ve watched you and E….I think the group is fine.
A said some other things, I think supporting E (the two of them are kind of bonded), but which I can’t remember.
E. Thank you A. That’s exactly it.
A. And why are you always saying you’re bad? And we should be too? Do you think we’re all bad?
Ellen. I think I say that to get a handle on it. We all have dark sides to our personality. By saying it, I want to kind of acknowledge and name it.
A. You’re just saying that so people will tell you that no, you’re not bad.
Ellen. OK, that’s fine. That’s good. I want to hear it.
A. And I don’t need you to approve of what I say!
Ouch. She’s really angry with me. I feel chastened and sad, and don’t say anything else.
Now R (my pal) says some things that are supportive of what I was trying to do. Really nice, and I’m incredibly relieved that someone sees I’m trying to help here. This whole thing really hasn’t been about me, I’ve been trying to help people express themselves….And R totally gets that, and I almost cry with relief.
D. (who rarely says a word, says very softly) So the sadism part….that reminded me of my father and my brother…they were sadistic….so it was difficult….
Ellen. So it upset you?
D. Yes a bit….
I really like D for some reason, and she never talks, and it always bothers me that Ron doesn’t try harder to bring her into the group. Ron does ask her some question here, and she says a tiny bit more.
Then our time runs out.
Ron. So I really think some things broke open here today, and a lot happened. We have to stop now.
So I leave. I don’t rush out, I walk out with dignity, I hope. I feel upset, but I don’t feel I did anything wrong. I don’t look at Ron as I leave.
R walks out beside me, and I give him a lift home. At first, I am about to cry, and thank him for his support, in a shaky type voice.
R. I hope you believe it. It’s true.
Ellen. Thanks. Oh dear…
R. You know, we don’t have to talk. I can be silent the whole ride home.
Ellen, smiling. Oh, not necessary. Thank you though.
I like that about R, he doesn’t diminish emotions. I’m not sure why now I want to cry, while I didn’t while in the group. A’s unusual outburst, where she was really angry with me, caught me off guard. And having E say she wanted to kick me in the face – that shocked me as well. And that E took everything I said and turned it around to make it an attack on her – that surprised and upset me as well.
R. says in the car that it was the best group he’s been to. Then that he can see how it would be hard for me, especially the last part…
You got that right.
Then we talk about what it’s like to be in therapy. We end up cackling and laughing hysterically, at what I can’t remember.
Oh yeah, I remember one thing.
Ellen. It’s so nice to talk to you. I don’t know why, but it’s so difficult to explain things to Ron. It’s the transference I bet. It’s like entering the twilight zone – spooky music should start playing when I walk into his office!
We both giggle hysterically.
Ellen. Oh man, sorry, I’m obviously off my medications….
And we laugh some more.
Ellen. Actually, Ron’s a great guy. I don’t want to seem like I’m bashing Ron. He’s been great.
Then R explains his theory of therapy – about how the ‘bad’ parts of ourselves get lost, because they’re disapproved of, but then those are the real us, so we end up being fake….and therapy is about finding those parts again.
At home, I am incredibly wound up. I don’t even try to sleep until after midnight, and don’t fall asleep for hours. I start taking pills to help, and with two anti-histamines, and a xanax, first one half and then another, and a glass of wine, and a meditation tape, I finally drop off around 3:30. I wake up again at 6:30, and don’t return to sleep. I feel as if I’ve been punched in the stomach – kind of shocked. Not depressed, and it’s driven all the usual internal dialogues right out of my mind. I feel kind of super alert and shocked basically.