aloneIt’s a steam bath today in the city, cloudy with wind and rain threatening.

Friday I learned more about groups. Because I was asking how is this helping me? And, thinking of my altercation with A, if I take away what it’s all about, take away what he says and what I think about it, what’s left? I can sit with my feelings and that’s about it.

Well, here’s the deal according to Ron. Everyone is affecting each other all the time. Yet, ninety percent of what we feel about other people is really about us. So the value of group is that when we get into a particular situation with a group member, we get to consider how this makes us feel. When we consider that for a long time, moving away from the content or story about it, we can see connections, and we change. Then, the next time in our life we are in a similar situation, we are free to respond in a different way.

The other part was that we really do not have control over how other people perceive us. For instance, Ron pointed out, different people in the group may experience something I say in completely different ways. I cannot control their reactions. We can control a bit of it, maybe ten percent, over time, he thinks.

The ninety percent part was about specifically how A is feeling about me, is ninety percent him. I was relieved that Ron thinks this. In fact, I liked the whole concept. Because several times people have responded to me in ways that were hurtful, but if I consider a lot of it is about them, it makes me feel better.

We talked about how I often have felt attacked in the group. Which is true. And the part I add, is I then lose trust that Ron is on my side. I imagine that he sees me the way the person I’m having an issue with sees me. For me, that is the horror of conflict. If it was just with one person, and I felt my relation to Ron remained intact, I feel I could deal much better.

Ron said a problem with this group is that people have pulled back when they’ve met with criticism in the group, instead of staying with it to learn what we can. He said he felt he’d had to carry the group, because people weren’t interested enough in learning what other people thought and then ‘chewing on it’.

I feel that I’ve actually handled this latest problem with A better than usual. I did argue with him a bit, because I didn’t remember events happening the way he said they did, and I was trying to figure it out. But when Ron advised that doing this wasn’t going to help, I did stop and just sat with the confusion of it.

Plus, maybe a quarter of my mind started to believe that Ron saw me the way A does, and thought it was my fault, and liked A and not me. But over half of me no longer believed that. It helped that A was kind of over the top – I didn’t for one moment believe I had wrecked his experience of group all on my own. Especially since as far as I can remember, we just haven’t interacted much.

So, at this late date, I see more of what Ron is looking for the group to do. He said a little more about it, but I have of course forgotten. He felt that in the last months, the suppression and pulling back in the group has become worse, not better. Both E and I talked about how we’d made the decision to pull back….while the rest of the group sat silently, lol. Ron pointed out how our decision was problematic, and I pointed out how E and I were talking about it, but the rest of the group was acting it out.

I no longer feel angry with A. He is obviously very angry with me, but I don’t feel that about him anymore. I was glad he told me how he felt, and I said that at the end of group. I’m not obsessing on things I want to say to him….I’m glad I didn’t apologize when he said I should. Why. But I did listen carefully to what he had to say and didn’t escalate.

Here’s a bit of the session after discussing the A situation, moving on the how upset I’d been last weekend.

E. I don’t understand why I got so upset about group ending. I mean, I quit like three times. I was really struggling with the group. At one point, I even said how alone and disconnected I felt sitting in the group.

Ron nods.

E. I was wondering if it triggered other losses. Like when we moved when I was a child. I was seven, and we moved to a different country, and I lost all my friends, everyone I knew, my language, my culture. I don’t understand how my parents could not have discussed this with me, ever. It was as if the past had never happened. How can you not know that a kid might be worried about a new school, new language, missing a different country?

R. I think your mother especially, and your father in a different way, were very fragile people. All their resources had to go to themselves…and there was very little left over for you.

I mull this over.

E. So do you think that’s what made me so depressed? It reminds me?

R. I think you overtly struggled with the group, and felt you didn’t know the other people there really, that they were like strangers. But I think that underneath, something else was happening, you were growing attached to people. It’s a good thing.

I hadn’t thought of it like this. My struggle with the group was pretty open, especially with Ron.

We sit for a while. It feels peaceful there in Ron’s office.

E. What do I do next?

R. What do you mean?

E. Well, I’m not here by accident, sitting on your couch. I’m supposed to be healing all kinds of stuff I suppose. Just I don’t know how to do it.

to be continued.

Art: Carousel II by Gosia

  1. laura said:

    I’ve never heard the 90% rule – that’s useful! It also means that when you have a strong reaction to someone, it’s 90% about you, too.
    Given that, I wonder how you figure out what the 10% of someone’s reaction to you that you should be concerned about in group, and chew on, is….?

    you were able to talk about parts, and about your anxiety with group, in a way, you could be more real with them than with others in your life, so that would make it a kind of refuge for you – and make it hard to lose.

    • Ellen said:

      Not sure if it’s a rule or just Ron’s opinion, to tell the truth. I think the idea is not to worry too much about the other person, rather, to concentrate on what comes up for you in response, and what that says about you. It’s a tall order.

      Yes, it’s true, the group members are the only people who have witnessed parts of me out, and had a clue what was going on. I do care about them, apart from that though, and will wonder for a long time I think how they’re doing. Thanks.

  2. Ruth said:

    My counselor worked at teaching me the same thing, how I reacted was about me and my past and my experience. Fortunately, I wasn’t in a group trying to do this. It is interesting that in a way you and the others that were talking and interacting were closer to heading in the right direction than the ones that withdrew into silence. I suspect it is frustrating to have group ending just as you were starting to understand the benefits.

    I think it is another interesting point that Ron said about you were starting to connect with others and that was part of the reason you wanted to leave the group but now that group is ending you are feeling distressed. This is powerful healing if you are feeling connected to others.

    I agree with you that knowing which way to get to healing is difficult. My theory is if I keep moving I get there eventually even if I don’t understand the route.
    Take care,

    • Ellen said:

      It must be healing to start feeling more connected to people. thanks Ruth

  3. You reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, by Anaïs Nin – “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

    I love that you were able to let go of your anger too toward A and sit with your feelings and confusion.

    Sounds like you’ve really had some big realizations/connections lately.

    Think of you often, hugs, Christy

    • Ellen said:

      Hadn’t heard that quote. Thank you Christy

  4. Gel said:

    That you could sit with your feelings (in group) seems like a big thing, a progress. That you didn’t appologize to A when he demanded it seems strong, standing up for yourself.

    Send warm vibes your way.

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