A cake, dinner and group

Cs2_sI’ve been wanting to write and especially to describe group this week but feel extremely lethargic and resistant. Eating a fairly large chocolate lave cake probably didn’t do my energy levels any favours either. Why did that seem such a good idea?

Socially my world feels more comfortable. I went to the dinner, which was OK. There were eight of us. My friend who talks however came early and was seated away from me, so I couldn’t talk to him. The man sitting across from me wouldn’t speak at all, to anyone, unless you asked him a direct question. I asked him what he did, he said nothing, and that was the end of it. I didn’t feel like extending myself in his direction at all.

Some of the other people there are what I think of as ‘spiky’. They are never relaxed enough for me to feel comfortable talking with them, so it’s always this jumpy, start and go process that never feels very good. It’s maybe a part of social anxiety. It’s like talking to someone who cannot attune to anyone else.

But then, I talked with V, the organizer, and she talks. She told me about her grandchildren. And there is an intriguing, very young man, J, who sat diagonally from me, and whom I kind of like. He does make an effort to respond and engage. He has this dreamy, off centre expression, almost an ironic expression, and seems bright. He is a physics student, going to university. I always think he has a lot of potential and am interested in drawing him out. I know he is probably looking for love, and is held back by extreme shyness, but he does have good looks going for him. I’ll bet he’ll find a girlfriend at uni. However, it was too loud in the restaurant to talk much with him this time.

Overall I’m glad I went. There’s not a lot of potential for friends there, since people tend to be in the mainstream mental health system and medicated….and I’m not in that place. But it’s still OK. I like that I can be effective and somewhat helpful by engaging people and chatting. I’m not usually a social butterfly, so it’s a good feeling.

Yesterday I’d called two friends to go for a walk with me, and today both wanted to see me. So I’ve gone for a walk with one, and had coffee with another, as well as the sinful lava cake. And I feel more connected again. We don’t have really deep discussions, but I follow their lives, and they follow mine, and I like that feeling.

Group last week was good. I’m thinking at the moment that group is helping me more than my individual sessions are. I’m learning to think about people’s emotions and motivations, and learning to tolerate my own feelings better so I don’t feel as compelled to react all the time. I feel like some of the time, I can let people have their emotions and see that it is about them.

As usual, I’ll mostly describe what concerned me specifically in the interests of privacy. Most of the evening was not about me.

Z talked for a long time about her feelings of shame and feeling not good enough. She’d been criticized in a class she was taking and that bad feeling spiralled into days of agony. Then she’d been yelled at by a bus driver. Then she brought it back to the group by getting into how disturbed she’d been by E’s frustration with people not talking in the group, which she’d expressed several weeks ago, because Z felt extremely implicated in that accusation.

It’s easy to empathize with feeling criticized and then feeling self-loathing. I said some things to show I sympathized. Then I immediately felt that Ron must think I’m saying something stupid or wrong, so I said that too. Why not. I actually felt that every time I said something in group, that Ron was feeling silently critical of me. I said that every time. I know it was repetitive, but I didn’t care, I felt I had to get a handle on that really disturbing feeling.

Ron never responded directly to what I said about feeling criticized. At one time R asked him directly if he felt critical of me, and Ron just said no, and left it at that.

Ron did say in response that he feels that groupies are feeling criticized or awkward and they then silence themselves, which leads to a lot of silences in the group.

Back to Z and E. E became extremely upset that Z was upset with what she had said. She then spiralled off into her own very serious concerns, cutting, conflict with her father who said hurtful things to her. It was difficult to see how that exactly related to what Z was talking about. I have this experience of E that when you say anything disapproving to her, she spins off immediately into how awful she feels, and the issue never gets a hearing. But it could be that’s what Ron wants to happen. I know he wants us to get at the deeper issues in our lives. To me though it’s odd, it seems like missing the other person altogether.

I couldn’t formulate this at the time, but I want to ask the question next time – is this what is therapeutic? I just said that it reminded me of my conflict with E last year, how she was using some of the exact same phrases as she did then, and how I was glad I wasn’t in the present conflict.

I don’t think that was a very helpful response. It was a complex situation.

Another thing I’m interested in is why Z has taken such offense at E saying some groupies aren’t talking, and not with me, when I think I said pretty much the same thing the following week. Another thing I want to ask next week.

The other main thing from my perspective was that conflict re-surfaced between myself and A, much to my chagrin. I’d thought we were burying the hatchet, but it seems not. It was brought on by something I said by accident, so perhaps my fault.

A was saying something in response to Z about feeling implicated when E has said people aren’t talking, that it seemed to be about him too. Then out of my mouth slipped the words ‘darn right’. A very odd sensation, because I hadn’t had any thought of saying anything upsetting to A at all. I hadn’t been thinking about him even.

A took offense, and I reflexively felt terrible – why would I say that, when no one was talking to me, just out of the blue? So I explained about parts, and that I didn’t mean to say this. A said he found my explanation very annoying, or me very annoying, and some other negative things about me. It all happened so fast, I didn’t get a hold of what it was at all. In fact, at the time, I couldn’t remember what it was that I’d said to A to cause this.

We had our little spat, then the conversation moved back to E. Then with only five minutes left, I felt I couldn’t leave things the way they were. Though E was very upset about her issues, I asked for two minutes and talked to A.

E. I have no idea what just happened. I’d thought things were getting better between us, we were becoming reconciled…so I’m upset about this. What on earth was that?

A. Yeah, what do you think is happening between us?

E. I can’t even remember what I said.

Then Ron wrapped up the group, bringing it back to the conflict between Z and E. I know he wants to be careful not to support taking attention away from E when she is in the middle of things. I was OK with that, I can see that it is fair.

I think next time, I want to go back to what happened with A. Instead of repudiating it, like I did at the time, partly because I couldn’t remember what I said, I want to stick by my guns more. I did include A when I complained about people not talking in the group. He hasn’t talked for months, though he’s started to again now. There’s nothing wrong with saying it IMO. He does get very angry with me and becomes quite personal, so it may be a tough slog. I’ll see how it goes. I don’t want to walk into a complete train wreck – my experience with E has taught me the futility of that.

The two things that were different this time were that one, I kept bringing up the feeling of being criticized silently by Ron, and saying the wrong things. That helped me feel less overwhelmed by those feelings.

Second I looked at Ron a lot. It was reassuring to me to do that. The kid part of me likes to look at him….and I can see that really he is the same, basically kind, low-key individual I know from therapy – he hasn’t turned into a harsh critical monster.

I wonder if the looking had anything to do with having had therapy the previous day, so I was still raw from the feelings stirred up then, and seeing Ron without having to do therapy directly with him was comforting.

I mentioned this in my email to him and asked whether it was intrusive or disturbing. He said no, it’s important for me to feel connected, and I should look as much as I liked.

Art: The Fractal Bargain Bin

  1. laura said:

    hey Ellen,
    a lot going on there, it seems like!
    Do you feel that you have the frustration with non-speakers in common with E? Or does it seem like something different in her case? It seems like your experience of E ( “I have this experience of E that when you say anything disapproving to her, she spins off immediately into how awful she feels, and the issue never gets a hearing.”) is exactly what Group is for sharing. Could you, have you, shared this?
    I liked your transparency, bringing up the feeling as it appeared, interesting that it enabled you to release it instead of bottling it up. doing this is beyond me – altho I can bring up thoughts as they occur.
    Great that looking at Ron was soothing, too, since sharing him with the other group members can be so painful.
    It might help to consider in the conflict with A that what he said may have come out of the blue, also, and mystify him as well. How do you take your ‘darn right!’ remark? was a part of you in agreement, or was a part of you still angry at A and feel like getting a poke at him? When you say that you thought you were burying the hatchet, I get the feeling that you are a passive observer in this – more that you are observing that HE appears to be less angry with you these days, say. Not that you’ve both exposed and worked through your feelings.
    sounds like fun.

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, it was interesting. I do feel I share that frustration with E. We are the most vocal members of the group. Yes, I’m thinking of sharing that, maybe phrased differently though, because E will see that as a complete attack.

      It was good, bringing up the feeling criticized. It’s kind of hard at first, but I’d determined before hand that I need to get a grip on this feeling, so that helped.

      It was an angry comment to A, but it happened unexpectedly for me, so I was shocked, and it was difficult to get a grip on what was happening. I am in agreement with the remark though, at this point. Feelings between us run high for some reason. I actually feel quite betrayed by A still, and now he says mean things about me at the drop of a hat, and it’s very hurtful. I don’t think pointing out that he doesn’t participate much is really an attack, but he lashes out at me in return. Working things through is a long tricky process I’m finding – it doesn’t just happen in one cathartic session. If ever. My feeling was I was over it, he wasn’t, but it seems we’re both still raw.

      Fun it is not. But interesting, yes. Thanks Laura

      • leb105 said:

        so it was good to find out that you’re still raw over A, feel betrayed. this must be something that you have to go through, not paper over. We always think too much about (what we think) the other guy is feeling – and we’re out of touch with what WE are feeling and needing.
        I feel compelled to suggest that you are pushing his buttons too and he may be no less surprised – maybe that might make his attacks feel less painful. it’s good that he’s sharing his responses openly, so that you can both figure this out. It’s kind of unusual that anyone says something impolite.
        You had such a strong response to him when you were friendly that it doesn’t surprise me that feelings run high.

        • Ellen said:

          I suppose. Sigh. IMO I am being a lot more open than A is. A lashes out at me, but doesn’t get into how he feels. It was up to me to say how our interaction upset me. Still, it’ll be good for me to deal, like green vegetables. 🙂

  2. weareonebyruth said:

    You stayed with what you were feeling. You didn’t discount it or brush it away. You acknowledged how you felt. That is a great step. I wonder what or in your past had you feeling silently criticized.

    • Ellen said:

      That’s easy – my father was extremely critical, then silently critical. Thank you Ruth.

      • You may want to explore that with the group or Ron…your choice.

        • Ellen said:

          I might do that Ruth, thx.

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