Therapy Friday – group

Going to sneak in a quick post before cooking dinner.

Therapy took an odd turn this week, which is my ‘fault’ entirely. I was doing a tiny bit of yoga last Thursday, and all of a sudden, I felt furious. Anger anger anger. The anger continued into the evening and I couldn’t sleep. I found myself thinking back to my last group meeting, and how angry that had made me, and how abandoned I’d felt by Ron at that time.

I wrote Ron a furious email about this in the middle of the night, thinking it would at least let me get my feelings off my chest and let me sleep. It didn’t really help though.

I walk into my session the next day and Ron gives me what I call his wild eyed look. He looks kind of alarmed. So I don’t chit chat at all, but launch in right away, saying I sent him an angry email. I still feel furious – it’s like a dark force that has invaded my body. Ron asks why I think this has come up now, and I don’t really know.

I go into it all again – how he encouraged A to vent all her emotions onto me, even though it was the last session and there was no time to deal with it. How he didn’t ask me anything about how I felt, just stayed with how A felt. How he didn’t mention the group dynamics at all, where three out of five members were angry at me at the same time, and I felt were egging each other on. He didn’t have to say that, but anything Ron said would have carried so much weight, as he was the group leader, not to mention everyone’s therapist.

Ron asks me what I think he could have done. I say the point about commenting on the dynamics. Or he could have made any gesture at all to show me some care or support.

Ron asks if I could have mentioned the group dynamics. I agree I could have, but I was too upset by what was happening to be able to think at all clearly. As group leader, I think it was his role to do this.

Most of this doesn’t help me. Ron says the problem is I stay stuck in one view of this, I’m not adapting. I ask him if he ever adapts his views, himself. IMO he never does. But he says he often does change his view of things. I’m going to ask him next time for an example, because I haven’t noticed it.

I also bring up how upsetting it was when A suddenly came back to group, unannounced, after Christmas, in a severe crisis and just before she was going to check into the psych ward. That meeting was all about her crisis, naturally. I was completely unprepared for this, and it had nothing at all to do with what had been happening in the group that year to that point. And though we are supposed to be free to say our honest responses and feelings, no one admitted how very upsetting this session was for them. For my part, I’d be too afraid I’d make A’s crisis worse with any negativity at all. Since she has a history of suicide attempts and self-harm, the consequences of upsetting her seemed too severe for honesty to prevail.

Ron doesn’t say anything about this. I wonder if he’s changed his mind about the wisdom of bringing A back to the group, but he doesn’t say. He’d probably never admit something like that.

I’m trying to feel that Ron at least appreciates how I feel about being the target of so much anger at once. I ask him whether he’s ever been in a situation where the majority of a group was openly angry with him.

To my surprise, he says yes. He tells me about an experience he had in his own group therapy, though without details. That the group leader actually stood up and screamed at him, and then later apologized. That the group rallied around the group leader, probably as that seemed safe for them, and that it took two years to work out his issues with the group.

I ask if that time where the leader yelled had been the last group session, how would he have felt. He says that would have been difficult. However he doesn’t think the situation is the same as my situation.

In any case, I feel more hopeful hearing his story. I tell Ron I feel better, because the situation with group made me feel like such a loser. He says that’s a problem. I say yeah, I don’t have self-esteem. He says it’s more than that – I’m not an ally for myself. I can see that – when someone is angry with you, if you can internally not abandon yourself, you’ll do better. It’s just that this is very very hard to do. For me anyway. If people are angry with me, I feel at at fault.

Ron asks whether I think my feelings about group are coming from something else in my life. I say probably – that’s the point of group therapy. Ron nods. However I don’t get very far trying to find what this relates to. I mention my father’s birthday, and how maybe it’s about my family somehow.

That’s about all I can remember. With fifteen minutes left, I do a bit of parts. I can see Ron thinks I’m changing the subject. Maybe. But I don’t feel I can’t bear the loneliness if parts don’t get any time with Ron at all. They seem to be clamouring to speak.

Then for the last minute or so, we just sit. I’ve timed things carefully, as I don’t want to get ‘thrown out’.

For the rest of the day, I feel better, especially because of the story Ron told me of his own experience. Partly, I feel so at fault and bad about what happened in group and how people ‘didn’t like me’. When I see something similar happened to Ron also, and he feels OK about it, it cheers me up.

Then over the weekend, until now, I’m back to being mad. It’s a kind of huge anxiety. I feel completely unconnected to Ron. Kind of as if he’d died, but without my needing to grieve, since I know really he’s alive.

I spent some time journalling about what happened in group, and about each person’s motivations and issues as I understood them. I ended feeling I understood why they acted as they did, given who they were, and I could see it was mostly not about me.

But I’m left with little understanding of Ron’s actions or inaction. And unfortunately he is the most important person to me. Perhaps he just lost sympathy for me those last few sessions. I can see how that can happen. We have been getting along so well these last months, where I’ve been experiencing him as supportive and concerned, so it’s sad to plunge back into these feelings from the group.

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17 comments
  1. Ruth said:

    Unresolved issues seem to come back at a time when I feel safer. Maybe you getting along with Ron helped you feel safe enough to express the anger you felt….maybe explore if it was hurt, fear, or frustration that triggered the anger. Just responding to what you wrote….if I am totally off base, I apologize. I think you are doing a lot to analyze what occurred.

    • Ellen said:

      Could be Ruth. I will explore this feeling further I think. In a way, I hate to use up my session on events / people that are in the past, but it’s probably worth it. You’re ‘on target’ as always. Thanks

      • Ruth said:

        If it is still bugging you, maybe it is not in your past. Ron is still in your present. My perspective is I spent years talking about my past to reclaim my present.

        • Ellen said:

          Yes. It’s turned out to be quite productive to discuss this.Thanks.

  2. I don’t think there’s anyone at “fault” (you..him…both) – anger is simply a feeling and feelings are just clues, and in the clue is a call to action (at least that’s what they taught us in DBT and that model works very well for me, as I was often bouncing around from anger to sorrow to anger again). Hope you can stay with the feeling and spend some time exploring the dimensions of it.

    • Ellen said:

      Probably there is no one at fault. I agree that feelings just are, though as a call to action – there’s really no action to take in therapy or group, except to talk about it I suppose. I’ve been resisting collapsing into depression about it all, as I have been prone to do in the past also. Thanks for your insights Catherine.

      • well maybe the action is to state “i need to be respected and your behaviour was not respectful of me” or “i need to be heard and understood” or something… that’s what i meant by action…

        • Ellen said:

          That makes sense. thx.

  3. attached said:

    I think the feelings coming back are telling you that you haven’t worked through your anger about Ron and the end of group. I would encourage you to keep talking to Ron about it. When you say that you are left with little understanding of Ron’s actions is that because he won’t discuss why he did what he did or that you don’t understand his explanation. You write about him asking you if you could have brought up the group dynamic but not explaining why he didn’t. My therapist would probably tell me that he couldn’t remember exactly why he said or did something after the fact but he would discuss possibilities with me. That would make a big difference to me.

    • Ellen said:

      It’s definitely true I haven’t worked the feelings through – they came back like a volcano. Your comments remind me that I don’t press Ron much. I say how I see it, I ask him a bit, but if he doesn’t offer an explanation, I don’t keep asking for one – I just assume it’s all my own weirdness. I think I will ask him further about why he didn’t intervene in any way. Ron will likely say he doesn’t remember why he did certain things. I think one time in the past he explained what prompts him to comment in group, but I can’t remember what it is. I think it was if he doesn’t think anyone else will say a particular thing. Which if he’d shown me any support, would have qualified. Thanks Di, you are making me think.

  4. Cat said:

    Hi Ellen…. I can understand that intense anger…let it flow and let it go! That’s what I usually tell myself. In recent months, I have been wondering if my anger is actually an avoidance tactic. If we are furious about one particular thing, it can distract us from some of the things that brought us to therapy in the first place. That’s not to undermine that awful event at your group because I remember it and completely understand why this would upset you. It’s just that your sudden bursts of anger do sound very similar to my own.

    • Ellen said:

      The anger does feel overwhelming, and then I hate the obsessing that follows along. It did prove productive to discuss it, and I’m hoping I”m done with the obsessing. I still do little bits of it but not as much. Thanks for understanding.

      • Cat said:

        You’re the only person I’ve come across who also uses the word obsessing in relation to that intense anger

        • Ellen said:

          I hate that I do that, and it feels unhealthy to me. Somehow I get stuck, for some reason. It’s a pain, isn’t it?

          • Cat said:

            I’ve just had a day of obsessively ruminating…tut

  5. Ashana M said:

    I suppose one question that comes up for me in reading this–given your sense of disconnection from Ron–is whether Ron feels unsafe to connect with now. There is a moral issue involved here, and one’s moral character is a large part of what makes someone trustworthy or untrustworthy. Psychotherapy can tend to assume it’s possible to slip into a kind of amorality, where everything is viewed nonjudgmentally, and yet the kinds of actions you’re talking about are wrong in a moral way: it is clearly and obviously wrong for a person in a position in power to begin screaming at Ron as a member in his group. It’s decidedly uncivil behavior, and everyone has a right to expect basic courtesy and respect. But it’s also threatening and abusive. The first rule is “Do no harm,” isn’t it? I wouldn’t continue with a group run by leader who did that. That leader either lacks ethics or lacks self-control, and I don’t really want to be around someone who lacks either. So what does it say about Ron that he continued for two years after that? What kind of standard does he hold himself to? Is it okay for him to do that?

    It’s also wrong for several people in the group to choose you as a momentary scapegoat to dump their dissatisfaction on. It’s a form of bullying. So what kind of person is Ron that he thinks this kind of behavior is acceptable as well. When you’ve been very badly abused as a child–as you were by someone–part of the damage is to one’s sense of morality. The world is an immoral or amoral place to a child who is harmed and not protected or supported in coping with the harm–because protecting our children is the most fundamental moral directive we have. So figuring out what generally acceptable standards of behavior are for those around you–like that you intervene when you see someone bullied–can be really important.

    • Ellen said:

      As to Ron’s experience – he did say that the counselor apologized to him, so to me that was more of a slip up, being human as it were, since he acknowledged it as wrong right away. I got a different sense of that, which is that it showed that Ron doesn’t run when there is trouble. If this had continued, then yes, that would be a serious problem.

      That second paragraph is complex. One thing is, you’re hearing about this from my very hurt point of view, and it’s not necessarily the whole story. I can’t say I was being bullied, to be honest, though it reminded me of that. The fact was, several people in a small group were angry with me all at the same time, and that was difficult.

      This kind of group therapy does not have big rules to follow, because people are supposed to open up with their real feelings. This particular group had huge difficulties in doing that, except towards the end and unfortunately towards me. Yes, I would have liked someone to stand up for me, but that isn’t usually what happens in group. Ron never once defended anyone for instance. It really isn’t the usual environment.

      I feel calmer about this now than when I wrote this post. I’m still not sure if it benefited me overall, but I kind of am thinking now that it did, oddly enough.

      Thanks for your thoughts on this.

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