Therapy Friday – Group 2

Kandinsky Circles PostI’m at home nursing a cold. I was feeling very sick Friday and Saturday, but now I’m much more lively. It’s unusual for me to kick off a cold so fast, and I’m wondering if the Paleo diet I’m on is benefiting my immune system. It could be.

I still went to my session Friday, as my cold didn’t really start until later in the day. I must have been very infectious, but luckily Ron and I don’t shake hands, so hopefully I did not pass that on.

Still too muzzy headed to describe the session in detail.

I was still angry and obsessed with the last two group sessions. I told Ron I had been angry with him that week. My thoughts were clearer than the previous week partly because of writing here and some of the comments I got.

One of the strong feelings I had was that Ron had not offered me any support when so many negative comments were coming at me.

R. What would my support have looked like?

E. You could have asked me how I felt, instead of just asking how A felt. You could have asked why I left early the previous time. Any comment to me whatsoever would have helped.

R. I felt I was supporting you by exploring what A felt. In group, we get triggered into our own feelings by other people, so what I try and do is explore that with them. What A felt was about her and wasn’t caused by you. At the start of the group, A led strongly with this, so I went into it with her.

Huh. I’d been thinking that when Ron talked to A about how she felt, all he was doing was reinforcing how awful a person I was for making the comment she objected to (I’d said I thought borderlines were explosive, yet she was so quiet). I like seeing it this way – that he’s exploring her own emotions that are not caused by me. Even though I’m sure she didn’t see it like that herself – she still felt just as badly about me after she expressed all that. To tell the truth, I can’t remember much about what she said at the time – it was like a tsunami of emotion, mainly.

Thinking about how I’d wished he’d have spoken to me that difficult evening, I ask Ron what makes him say something in group. He says he speaks if he thinks he can deepen the conversation. Which made me angry at the time. Because it’s a theory, and I don’t feel like he lived up to the theory. And because I want to know specifically about that evening, not what his theoretical opinion is. Because I think he just lost sympathy for me that evening. It happens. Ron doesn’t agree though.

Ron says that group becomes like our families, and that’s why it’s so difficult. He says he’s had clients say who each person in the group represents for them in their family – mother, brother, sister, etc. I can see the sense of this, though I didn’t explicitly see people there as my family members. But one person did remind me of my mother, and I’m sure my father issues came into play in my reactions to Ron, though he does not remind me of my father at all.

There was a way group was just very painful and difficult apart from what people talked about there.

I had a bunch of problems with group before anyone even said a word, I tell Ron. One, I was extremely scared to be there. The fear didn’t really ease over time, so every evening, I had this huge anxiety to deal with right from the start. Two, I lost trust that Ron was on my side, every single group, almost no matter what he did, so that was very difficult to deal with. And three, I didn’t have even as good a grip on parts as I do now, so I’d feel, if a part started to speak (internally), that I’d have to do something, while now I feel like it’s OK, I can let them speak internally and I can just sit there. Nothing external is necessarily causing that.

Towards the end of the session a very young part came out to speak with Ron, about toys and the apartment where we lived when I was a young child. It doesn’t make sense to me, but Ron said it’s all important.

My main surprise from this conversation was how I changed my view of Ron’s behaviour in the last group. I’d been so sure he was encouraging A’s feelings because he thought they were a valid response to my ‘awful’ comment. I can see now that to him, he was just doing therapy, exploring the strong emotion that came up. My whole feeling about that has shifted.

Ron never did support anyone in group by saying much to that person, so it’s not as if he was displaying unusual behaviour. And he is very focused on doing individual type therapy with everyone there. He doesn’t focus on group dynamics at all. To me, group dynamics are very interesting. I see them in action at work all the time, have suffered from them, and would like to learn more. However that wasn’t the focus of Ron’s group at all.

I think I could have been more on top of what Ron was trying to do during group, instead of figuring it out long after group ended. It’s amazingly difficult to formulate the questions somehow. I guess because I get so caught up in how it all feels.

Not sure how much sense I’m making. I’ll blame the fuzzy head cold.

Art: Kandinsky, Circles

  1. Cat said:

    I imagine it must be extremely difficult for Ron or any Therapist to meet people individually and then facilitate their group therapy. Each member must feel a connection with him, it can’t be easy to be everything to everybody. It really sounds like you have moved forward with this.

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, it must be difficult. He also knows everyone so much better than anyone else does. And we’d all discuss the group in our session, and he is not allowed to say anything about another group member that wasn’t said in group, even though he knows so much about them – it’s a very odd situation. Thanks Cat.

      • Cat said:

        It is a little odd that so much is expected of him. I mean, that is a lot for Ron to take on board. I would probably forget what was mentioned in group or what is said in one-2-one and blurt everything out!! Something else keeps coming to my mind about what you said re the person from the group who is living with BPD. I have BPD but I am what people refer to as a “Quiet Borderline”. Instead of “acting out” that rage, quiet borderlines turn it inwards and obsessively ruminate about it for days, sometimes weeks and months. I wonder if she was similar because, when we let it rip, it usually comes out in a huge emotional mush and can often be directed towards the wrong people.

        • Ellen said:

          It’s a very odd situation. And it didn’t dawn on me for a few months of group that this was the situation either. I’ve never been in a similar situation. Ron of course chooses to do this – he is his own boss entirely.

          Thanks for the comment about the quiet borderline – I didn’t know that. She might have that – it would totally fit. My comment really was partly motivated by wondering about her diagnosis, and having you respond to it factually helps. Not everyone would have been offended as she was. I hope the emotion, though directed at me, wasn’t caused by me. Still trying to put this all behind me.

          • Cat said:

            I’ve never thought her or Ron’s behaviour at group was a reflection on you

            • Ellen said:

              Thank you. 🙂

  2. weareonebyruth said:

    I found that sometimes in sessions I don’t know enough information to know what question to ask. Learning a new way to interact with people takes time. I can see why it was hard for you to follow Ron’s process in the group. Interesting how different Ron’s perspective is from what you thought was happening. It seems that he felt he was showing support to you by demonstrating to A that she came to the group with her reaction and it wasn’t about you. You saw his actions as validating A and not supporting you. I wonder how A saw the situation. I think you are right that group dynamics is a subject all of its own. Hope you feel better soon.

    • Ellen said:

      It does take so much time to learn new things. It is interesting. I wouldn’t say he was demonstrating that her reaction wasn’t about me though exactly. I wish he had clearly done that. It was more that he supported her expressing everything she had to express. I don’t think he indicated in any way that it wasn’t about what she thought it was about (me) – he just thinks that eventually she’d come to that conclusion. I think probably the rest of the group saw Ron’s actions as supporting A, not me, as I did, and I think she did also. Which is not nice for me to think about, but at least I can see where he was coming from – that he was not necessarily taking her side. I am feeling better. Thanks for the comment Ruth.

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