Therapy – group

Still having trouble communicating, but I want a record of my therapy, otherwise it seems like it will be lost. Maybe a summary will do.

I have absolutely no idea what Ron was wearing. Not a good sign – I probably wasn’t seeing him.

First we discuss the previous night’s group. I’d gone to group racked with anxiety, which I’d talked about in group. It helped to talk about it, but no one really responded, and I didn’t find out why I was so anxious.

R. Just because no one said anything doesn’t mean they didn’t have responses.

E. Well, how would I know the difference?

R. That’s true.

I’d talked about how I’d felt the group boundaries were not being respected by suddenly having a new person there….and how in general, I’d been struggling with feeling violated by the surgery, even though I agreed to it. And I said also how the last group had upset me, but at the same time I hoped M would benefit from the group, and how I was worried that something I said could make her feel worse than she already did.

No one responded, but I felt better for getting it off my chest.

E. No one said anything to me – and you didn’t say anything to me the whole group. You responded to everyone else who talked, except for A….

R. What does that mean to you, if I don’t say anything?

E. I think that maybe what I was saying wasn’t very interesting….or that I’ve been taking too much group time.

R. What almost always governs whether I respond to someone or not is whether I think I have something to say that the rest of the group may not say. Otherwise I like to leave it to the group.

E. Oh.

I guess this makes sense. I’m relieved to hear Ron’s lack of comment wasn’t about not being interested. In fact, he seems to be saying he thought the group had things to say about what I said, but were holding back. He’s said before that a big hindrance in our group is the amount of holding back that happens.

After I’d talked, E took over and the rest of the group focused mainly on her. She felt very depressed about the group and her life. She said that she had cared very much about the group last year, at the Christmas break, and been so upset that perhaps everyone wouldn’t be back, but now, she no longer cared about anyone in it and didn’t think we cared about her.

This drew a lot of response, so people went back and forth about caring and authenticity and such. I told E that personally I did care about her, not as much as for my own child, but that I did think about her sometimes during the week and wonder how she was doing.

E. Well, with E saying she used to care so much, and now she doesn’t care about anyone – I don’t know. It’s like she’s in a bit of a dream. That’s black and white thinking.

Ron nods his head. Huh. He never usually agrees with me about anything, so I’m surprised.

E. And A, bringing up our fight again. I was thinking about this on my drive over. I actually can’t think of any kind of relationship with him that would be comfortable.

R. Comfortable?

E. Yeah. It still hurts that he dropped me. But getting together again to be friends, that would feel kind of fraught also. It’s all uncomfortable.

I don’t think Ron says anything to this. I really don’t know what could happen that would make me feel OK about A. It’s one of those awful tangles that nothing can put right.

E. And D said nothing all evening. I’ve given up on D.

R. Does it make you angry, that she said nothing?

E. No, I just give up. If she’s going to sit there, after a year and a half, and be afraid to talk – I’m not going to try and draw her out anymore. I’ve tried, and that’s it now.

Actually, now Ron says this, I do feel angry / irritated with D. I think it’s actually a choice she’s making, to abstain from comment or participation. It seems safest to her, most likely. As this is my mother’s tactic in life, yes, this does irritate me. I mean, why then go to group, if you’re going to try and stay completely safe?

…to be continued

  1. Why indeed. My counselor said pretty much the same thing at the beginning of my counseling when I let my husband do most of the talking. It is safer to stay quiet. Perhaps she opens up more to Ron in her private sessions.

    One possibility that you might want to consider about no one commenting, cancer is big, sometimes people don’t know what to say that doesn’t come across trite or not quite right. When I did my photography show about cancer, not very many people talked directly to me about my cancer. Most of the comments were written in my sign in book.

    I think you are doing terrific. I also think you have some great insight that part of the reason D irritates you is her retreat into silence which you noted is similar to your mother’s silence. Seems to me you are making great strides.

    • Ellen said:

      Well, if she doesn’t open up to Ron in her sessions, that would be mind-boggling. I also used to be very quiet, but with encouragement I think I always did wish to talk.

      Good point about the cancer – could be too hot to handle. I know I used to feel more like that, before I’d been through it myself. Interesting about your experience.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. laura said:

    you make a good point about D, it’s surprising she hasn’t really pushed this button before (and that’s why group therapy is good, right? because people challenge us by pushing our buttons). what if you were to express your irritation? describe it. describe what her silence says to you.
    I have realized, in my group, that it’s much easier for me to talk than it is for certain other people. We’re not all at the same place. some of us have better coping strategies. some have more traumatic histories. But with my talk, I don’t make myself visible (you’ve noticed this about me, and it makes you nervous because you don’t know where I’m coming from). I’m talking, but it’s safe for me.
    Maybe you’ve stayed safe in your interactions with D, by sticking to the “helping” role, at the cost of being authentic.
    I wonder too if this is a comfortable dynamic for you, re-enacting your family, where you’re the outspoken one, always rattling the bars, and frustrated by the remoteness of people around you, the seeming impossibility of connecting with them. but maybe it makes you feel alive, maybe you get something good from that contrast between your apparent DARING, and their fearfulness.
    anything in there ring true?

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, I could do that. I actually hadn’t been conscious of how I felt before Ron made his comment. There is usually a fair amount going on in the group, so it’s easy not to deal with ‘absence’.

      I kind of think our process is different, but it’s definitely true that I could not choose this path of silence even if I wished to – I couldn’t remain in the group under those circumstances, I must talk. You could be right about my role with D so far. This whole issue of silence is definitely fraught for me because it is my family’s tactic, so that’s likely why I’m getting mad instead of some more gently emotion. I do reveal myself when I talk though. I do feel good about my level of working in the group compared to D – so I do get something out of this I suppose.

      Interesting to hear your take and thanks for the comment!

  3. laura said:

    so interesting that you say that you MUST talk. D’s silence doesn’t trigger you (not that much), but your own silence might. Talking is easier for you, silence is easier for her. There’s much to explore, there.
    I actually decided to step back, and stop doing so much facile talking and helping, and it’s been a revelation. I find that I feel comfortable with someone like D, because I will always be taking the lead. The attention will be focused on her, and not on me. Are you saying that you are self-revealing when you talk to D?

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