Group

At last, a weekend where I can function. I went out with a friend yesterday, and again out with a group for dinner. This morning I’ve been sorting my closet, packing away winter clothes. Got half way through anyway. I’m wanting to make use of the ability to function while I have it. Kind of a frantic doing of the most essential things, because I know I’m apt to lose energy again very fast. I did need to go to a dentist appointment Friday, which is a trigger for me, but it was not too bad. Some after effects which seem to have receded today altogether.

Group was difficult. I was full of fear and anxiety about what seems to me my two frenemies now, E and A. I really wanted to address two things, both my fear of groups and past bad experiences, which are being stirred up by being on bad terms with these women, and also my anger with E, that was so intense it woke me up one night. However, this was not to be. And I understand that – I’ve used up my share of group time, especially on the E issue.

Y started to talk almost immediately, and basically remained the focus the whole evening. I was having huge issues calming down enough to get interested in what he was saying. Especially since to start with, he talked for a long time about how he’d not been wanting to engage with the group, he wasn’t sure it was worthwhile, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to talk.

I got irritated by this, because for one thing, I really wanted to talk. Y has a very removed and intellectual way of explaining things, and it makes me kind of frantic sometimes.

After about a half hour, there is a pause.  I say, well, if you don’t want to talk, I have some things I want to talk about.

At which E bursts out with ‘Oh come on! No way is Y finished with what he is saying!’

So Y continues. He explains some issues he is having with R. The way he explains is so convoluted, I can’t follow, and can’t determine what those issues actually are.

So then I say something I wish I hadn’t.

“I’m feeling really bored.”

To which Y replies angrily. At least he is trying to talk, he is trying to express himself, he says. I reply that I hadn’t meant to say that he is boring, it was just how I was feeling at that moment. And I feel so bad about what I said, I apologize and say I wish I hadn’t said it.

In the middle there, somewhere between E’s outburst and Y’s defensiveness, I feel so miserable I almost start crying. Ron says something to Y about how we are to respond to how comments make us feel, rather than rushing over them…or something like that.

Y keeps going about his topic of R.

Ron kind of holds my gaze for a while there, when I am about to cry. I’m not too sure why – it’s unusual for him.

Towards the end of the group, R is saying that he is upset by Y’s comments about him….and there is another minutes long pause. So I ask R if he is finished with that part, he says yes for now, and I give my feedback, that I feel dismissed and ignored by Y, and that he looked at me as if I were stupid, and that this reminds me a lot of how I’m treated by my family. They tend to be intellectual, and make me anxious, and then  I blurt out things I don’t mean, and get kind of ditzy, and then they ignore me.

I actually can really see that I’m bringing this to the interaction. Y is not much like my family. I just got the feeling of being ignored and discounted….

So Y immediately says he doesn’t feel like I’m stupid, and that he likes me, and then he recalls one time I was ‘in distress’ in the group, and he saw R give me a hug afterwards, and how he’d wished he could also comfort me.

So I tell him he is very sweet. Also that I was feeling extremely disliked, and was glad to hear he liked me still.

Group is almost over, and that wraps up my part in it.

I almost leave about half way through, when it becomes clear I will not get to talk at all. I kind of pack up my purse, zip it closed, and hold it in my lap. But the forces of wanting to belong hold me there, beyond the forces telling me I need to escape.

I give R a ride home again. He says I ‘dumped him’ last time. I laugh and say I thought he might be worried about my driving. Or that he needed space. Or that my personality scares him. So I left him. He laughs and says no.

We talk a bit about friends….then he asks if he thinks we might be friends. Why not? I say. Well….could I get your phone number or email? So I give him my card. R tells me he’s had this fantasy about us studying psychology together….We both do read about psychoanalysis, and talk a bit about that. I tell him probably that won’t happen…shades of my academic family.

So our fantasies are not matching. He he. But I’m not imagining a connection. He feels it too. A friendship can be a really good thing…

So who knows. Perhaps we will be friends. There are only two more groups left, so after that, a friendship wouldn’t interfere with the group.

After the group I feel very anxious. I feel guilty and bad about telling Y I was bored. However I’m not dissociated. I write Ron a quick email about how I was sad I didn’t get to say what I needed to in the group….and then I’m able to sleep.

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8 comments
  1. Laura said:

    Armchair quarterback would like to suggest that you MIGHT have said: 1) I'm full of fear and anxiety about my two frenemies now, E and A. and also my anger with E, that was so intense it woke me up one night. 2) I'm having huge issues calming down enough to get interested in what (Y) is saying. Especially since to start with, he talked for a long time about how he'd not been wanting to engage with the group – and I feel irritated, because for one thing, I really want to talk. 3) Y has a very removed and intellectual way of explaining things, and it makes me kind of frantic!Why NOT say what is going on?Saying that you were bored was the least of it! I thought that was perfect, and perfectly fine. Probably everyone else was bored too, and you took the heat for saying it. And maybe it's not a bad thing (at all) that he hears that. He's in therapy for some reason, right? Maybe he doesn't connect well with people, maybe he bores them when he tries, maybe he could use some honest (versus polite or well-meaning) feedback.It was great that you were aware of your FOO overlay on the situation, and could see how it didn't really fit perfectly.I wonder why Ron's support (guessing he meant it that way) was just puzzling, it seemed as if you might have needed it – but you weren't looking for it?

  2. Ellen said:

    HI Laura, Armchair quarterback may be correct. Didn't occur to me to say that as I felt I should stay on topic and not switch the conversation to my own concerns. Number 3 is what I meant when I said "boring' actually. Thanks for thinking what I said was OK. I felt bad about it, especially since it wasn't exactly what I meant. Y is actually an interesting person – just he is scared of talking about how he feels. Yeah, that FOO overlay – I was kind of proud of realizing that actually…I guess it was supportive, that Ron locked eyes with me like that….Yeah it was. I was totally not looking for him to do that. Thanks for commenting. Made me feel better about my efforts at group therapy actually. Cheers

  3. Ruth said:

    One of the challenges of group is that taking turns doesn't always seemed balanced. I understand the frustration of trying to express an emotion that you haven't had time to really analyze. Emotions can come with so many layers and sometimes one mascaraed as the other. You called it boring but it was more of a reaction of how you family intellectualizes everything and your frantic feeling hiding behind boredom. I am really impressed that you stayed for the whole thing. Good for you.

  4. Laura said:

    "Didn't occur to me to say that as I felt I should stay on topic and not switch the conversation to my own concerns."don't get me wrong, I think this would be difficult for me, too, as it goes against everything we are taught about being good girls and boys, and not interrupting, and not being selfish, and that seems to be the rule that everyone else is following – but isn't it the rule IN GROUP that you give your response? not when it's old and stale and you've thought about it for a few weeks, but while it's fresh and hot? (an unconsidered response might teach you something, as well as teaching your listener.)A wider view of "the topic" is not what Y has to say, but the reason that you're ALL sitting there – to learn about yourselves! Seen in that light, YOU CAN'T switch the conversation, you don't have that power, you can only contribute your piece to it. Think of frogs in a pond chorus. What Y and the rest have to say is no more important than what you have to say. All are important, all need to be heard.I think I'd want to say this to the group – say, I plan to give my responses as they happen, and say what I want and need, and I really hope everyone else does the same. And repeat as necessary – because they WILL think you're grabbing control of the conversation any time you say anything, and they'll cede control and get angry! It's the one-speaker, one-topic rule that is at fault. Everyone hides behind it. E was enforcing it by barking at you.And it'll take getting used to – like when you said you were bored, and Y's response seemed angry and E was hostile – we're not used to that, but we can learn to tolerate it, and we need to. the conversation moves more like pinball, than a tea party. You might say (1), and no one may have a response to that, because they're saying what they're bringing in. I think with time, we'll develop a thicker skin – and what we'll gain, is that we and others can share what's real and in the moment, including emotions.I loved the image of you sitting there, all zipped and ready to depart. I'm hoping you'll unzip, and fling your contents around the room, like confetti.Hugs….

  5. Laura said:

    … while the first half of your post generates red flags, the second half doesn't at all – your feedback to Y seemed excellent! you were in the moment telling him you felt dismissed, and that he thought you were stupid, while also mentioning your associations which might lend context to your response. Plus, you said you were bored when you WERE – don't YOU get all convoluted! Aware of your feeling almost evenly divided between staying and going, and your conversation with R, maybe helped to soothe the frantic feeling.

  6. Ellen said:

    @ Ruth – Yes, this group is very free form, and it's difficult to determine when it's OK to talk. It's supposed to be 'when you need to talk you talk' but then there's real life….Emotions are completely tricky. I actually feel I'm getting a bit better at figuring out what I'm feeling though. Thanks!@ Laura – Those are great observations Laura. The group is almost over at this point though, just when I'm figuring out what I want to do with it! The frog's view is funny. 🙂 I can see the value of this. E is intent on enforcing the one speaker rule, but luckily Ron is not. So I think I can learn to tolerate her problems with other ways of having a group. I felt fine about the feedback about feeling dismissed actually – especially because I wasn't blaming Y for that. It seems like that kind of thing is what group is for. I almost feel like I'm getting the hang of things at this point. I'd given up on saying what I wanted, so then I let myself be affected by what was actually happening – which is what I want to do. I'd be really curious as to how you find group therapy, once it starts. Hope you can let me know about it. Thanks for the comments.

  7. Laura said:

    I'm looking forward to group, I'll definitely let you know how it goes, and hope you'll comment. I'm sure I won't have the perspective that I'm able to have with YOUR therapy, though! I don't hang in there the way you do. If anyone is mean to me I'll just cry! I'm thinking of debuting with "I intend to give my responses as they happen…" I'll bet that all out-patient groups start with a "polite" phase, and it seems like the first person or two to depart from those rules will get resistance (hopefully, there will be internal rewards). I'll bet there will be folks who see something they want as well. Even E – we know she wants to talk. And the people who are happy just listening, will have more to listen to.that's cool that you gave up on your "set piece" which sounded pretty intellectual anyway (and do you want to be that guy?), and you instead went with your responses in the moment, letting yourself be affected by what was actually happening – and that felt good. You could also have shared what you've been going through, if it was present. Not sure your set piece, had you been able to deliver it, would have had the same result.

  8. Ellen said:

    @ Laura – No, you won't have perspective. 🙂 I can guarantee that. It's the nature of therapy – we can't see our own stuff very well. It's kind of like regular therapy – you can have various ideas about it, then actually plunging in – well, it all gets more complicated and painful. Not to discourage you, but I found group very very painful. Part of the pain though was having Ron lead it, and my feelings about him got involved, so that was difficult. I actually think it would be better to have a neutral figure lead the group. I bet you'll hang in when things get tough also. You won't hide in the washroom instead – not a good strategy really. I'll really look forward to hearing about it and will happily tell you my 2 cents. Well, the set piece – it was what I was overwhelming feeling actually. It is good though to be able to go with what is currently happening. Cheers

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