Is There Anybody In Here?
At group therapy tonight, the guy who almost quit a couple of weeks ago, who would say ‘sorry’ every time he wanted to say something, who expressed his discontent that every time he said something during our hour and a half did not feel as though his words carried any weight or were ‘heard’ by anyone or fit in…he spoke first thing sharing his concerns and frustrations, and talked for almost 60 of the 90 minutes.
Super awesome. He finally felt some sense of entitlement in a group of which he is a part, and exercised it.
I have 2 things to reflect on about this…
1) I feel something a little wonky about his approach today and in previous meetings. It was like he needed someone to ‘approve of’ or ‘give him the go-ahead’, or like he needed an ‘introduction’…or maybe he needed some kind of ‘insurance’ that everyone would ‘really’ listen to and validate him before he ‘decided’ to keep going with the group. He needed some assurance that he was going to be cared about before he actually invested himself in 9 months with 9 people he didn’t know.
I feel as though that was manipulative in a way. He was implying that it was others’ fault that he felt (like an outsider). And although I am super happy for him that he found the comfort to ‘take his place’ tonight, in so many words or not, and ask for support from the group by sharing what is going on with him, I think that he is looking for people to make an investment in him before he makes any investment anywhere. [I think my perspective on this is accurate, but biased…because I have, in the past, been someone who has been influenced by people like this, and ‘invested’ in them before they ever ‘invested’ in me…With sad results for me.]
2) This guy continued his sharing for most of the meeting, and others contributed some of their own stuff in the last 30-40 minutes, but the thing I noticed – and it stood out to me because of the contrast to my own personal work these days – they all focused pretty much exclusively on how they were bothered by all of the crap things going on outside them. The first guy was pissed off at people giving him compliments on how he looked (on the outside – he wore a suit today) because he felt they weren’t acknowledging how bad he really felt ‘inside’. Another guy hates all of the crap things that are happening in the world in relation to politics, etc., a woman is really irritated by all of the mask-wearing we have to do in society and is pissed off at how the world rejects her when she doesn’t ‘go along’ with the status quo. Another woman was so pissed off at her friends for judging and even potentially(!) judging her relationship.
I asked a couple of quick but pointed questions about a couple of people’s own (as opposed to the outside world’s) impression of themselves, and people answered quickly without elaborating and then went right back to venting about how difficult ‘outside’ forces (‘other’ people) are to deal with and how ‘stupid’ people are.
So, I spent 85 minutes listening to people rant about things they can’t control…without virtually any reflectivity whatsoever…
I listened, and listened, and continued to listen, because their conversation had some momentum and they all seemed to feel good exchanging all of this. But I was sleepy, and was getting more sleepy, and every once in a while felt a resentful voice creep in, exasperated with what I could have considered a simple waste of an entire session. But, the group therapy thing is something I want to get something out of. So I just listened. And tried to pay attention to what I was feeling, while also trying to imagine what I would respond to myself if I had said something out loud. I also tried to think of my own examples of things I would rant about that I can’t control…but that is exactly what I have been learning to curb and shift from.
In the end, 5 minutes left, everyone looked at myself and at the guy sitting next to me who had also said pretty much nothing the whole time… I ended up talking that last 5 minutes, and saying that I would like to have heard more about their inner stuff – not the outside stuff that they are dealing with. Because I have been going inside lately, and finding that I feel pretty barren inside, and kind of needing to hear other people’s experience as support. I did not express any dissatisfaction I had with the meeting. I focused on expressing my interest in what the other people didn’t say, hopefully leaving a positive vibe. I also said that although mostly what I heard was people struggling with outside forces, it helped me to listen because it simply reinforced and re-encouraged my goal of going inside myself to look for support and emotional resources.
When I left I felt some lingering frustration…I think with the fact that the meeting did not go how I imagined (having control over that would be nice 😉 . But that was the case last week as well. It is becoming a salient lesson in reliquishing control. I think sitting through the discussion today was my own exercise in accepting things as they are, and that I will not learn the things I seek to learn in exactly the way I expect to or desire to learn them. For example, looking for a sign that I am doing the right thing by practicing being with myself and learning to listen to, respond to, comfort myself first and foremost before others resulted in me sitting in a room of people who were looking to the outside/others for that comfort, acknowledgement, affirmation, certainty, attention. And it was my group mates’ frustration and sadness that impacted me. Not their actions per se. It was the fruitlessness of their actions. A good reminder for me. Shantelle, you are on the right track.
So, driving home I felt some weight lift from my heart. I can depend on me to pay attention to me, or at least to try really hard to do so. Others’ judgments of my actions (etc.) are becoming less important to me, and will. And I plan to continue to move in that direction.
It’s funny, in another context I may have abandoned focus on myself, just for that 90 minutes, or likely even for longer, just to participate in the conversation, just to not feel left out, lonely, as everyone else worked up a ‘sociable’ lather and seemed to ‘bond’. In the past I would have felt like I was doing something wrong, like I was inadequate, so I would have started to participate in their rants and abandon my personal journey. I think I felt sad for a moment or two, because people were not interested in me, weren’t getting to know me, didn’t need my input to have what they felt was a good exchange. But almost immediately I left those thoughts behind, because they were, at that very moment, reminding me of how lonely it is to be complaining about the little reward that comes from wishing for approval and acceptance from outside ourselves.
I went into that meeting safe. And I came out of that meeting safe. I am a whole person right now. I am even more of one than I was going in – because I was, little did I know at the time, open to the (unexpected) ways others’ plights can contribute to my growth. I am ever so thankfully shedding the desperation for affirmation, appreciation, and love from outside myself. Thank you, me
<sigh of relief>