Jane: I’m feeling a bit worried about joining this group. I’ve looked at the literature and feel that I understand myself a bit better but …….?
Cameron: I remember feeling the same before I started.
Jane: So what would you say to me at this point?
Cameron: I would say, don’t underestimate the life experience you will bring to the group. In my group we all brought very different things but the important thing was that we all had lots of experience of different groups, some positive, some negative. Can you think of any groups you really liked being part of?
Jane: Oh lots, I was part of a dance team at school. It was all girls and we had a great time. I always enjoyed holiday time, you know, like Easter and Christmas with my Mum and two sisters. We’d always try to go away together somewhere……and I had great group of friends at primary school. Secondary school was more difficult. Dad left us just as I was starting Secondary. It was awful. He’d always been a bit distant but after he left I hardly ever saw him. I don’t know why but making friends seemed very hard at that point and I did feel quite lonely. I suppose I threw myself into work and was known as a bit of a ‘geek'
Cameron: I guess that would have felt difficult? You must have felt quite isolated?
Jane: I did at first but it got better. The turning point came when I went to Sixth Form College. I started my dancing again and became friendly with a group of girls who were studying the same subjects as me. Actually that was a good group! We supported each other with our work, went to bands and gigs together and helped each other when things went wrong.
Cameron: So you’ve spoken of some positive group experiences and a time when it felt hard to be part of a group. Do you remember any bad experiences?
Jane: I went to Africa in my gap year before coming to University. That was very challenging, being thrown together with others in difficult circumstances.
Cameron:What was challenging about it?
Jane: I had chosen to study Engineering at University and I joined a project to provide clean water for a small community. That was good, really interesting but I missed home, my friends and despite being with people I felt isolated, especially at first, although it did get better. I just threw myself into the work which I really enjoyed. There were quite a few guys in the group and one of them in particular annoyed me so much! He was just so ‘into himself’, like he couldn’t ‘see’ anyone else! He’d go off leaving the rest of the team to clear up at the end of the day and he’d often turn up late in the morning. It felt like he wasn’t really interested in the project, like he didn’t really care! The other guys seemed to be okay with this and in the end it was one of the girls who challenged him. Well of course he didn’t change. He never did feel part of the team and in the end I just used to ignore him. Oh, thinking of that again makes me feel really mad and quite upset too. How strange, I haven’t thought about him in ages. I’m feeling quite shaky……
Jane and Cameron do not actually exist and their story is fictitious but it can be seen from this scenario that just by talking, Jane is beginning to reflect on some important stages in her life and is surprised at the strong feelings it has stirred in her. She will need to develop the conversation she had with Cameron into one that she can have with herself. She will need to develop the capacity to reflect upon the work she will do as part of the group and to continue the reflection during the week following the group meeting.
So what things might Jane begin to reflect on after her conversation with Cameron? She is surprised at the strong feelings she is left with and continues to have an internal dialogue with herself. As someone who is not emotionally involved in this scenario you may already see some of the links in the material Jane has described. Is she just angry with the young man who distances himself in the group or did he trigger the anger and sadness she felt over her father’s abandonment?
And what about the way she dealt with it? Maybe it is not surprising that she felt helpless when she comes across someone who reminds her of her father and her relationship with him; although even in recounting the story she does not make the connections herself. Something of her 11 year old self kicks in at this point and she decides to throw herself into work. She speaks positively of all female groups she has been part of but Jane will have to learn how to relate to the males in the group. She will need to be aware of the attitudes she holds, eg. that men let you down, that they can’t be challenged, that the way to deal with the anger and frustration and sadness is to ignore it.