I am currently running a number of therapy groups. Being in a group for therapy is different to being an individual in therapy and the dynamic is different. Where in individual therapy, the relationship between the therapist and client is paramount, the emphasis in group therapy is less on that and more on the relationship between the group members. Much insight can be had by realising that others share similar issues and the therapist becomes more of a facilitator.

There is always insight to be had from any group of people who get together and discuss anything. However, when people start to discuss issues that they have hidden or avoided for their whole life, then it can be monumental. It is always important that a space is created where people feel safe sharing. I discuss this issue in a recent article. When this can be had, the effect can be amazing, inspirational and gels the group together.

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From the groups held so far, we have learnt that childhood is an extremely important stage for many people. We have heard stories of disconnection with caregivers, open abuse and neglect and some of the protection measures brought in to counter this. We have discussed how the family system and the rules present in that system cause children to comply or rebel against those rules. We have learnt that those who comply are not guaranteed parental validation and those who rebel are seen as the scapegoat allowing the system members to avoid their own issues by projecting them onto the alienated member.

We have also heard sad stories of adult children trying their whole lives to connect unsuccessfully with caregivers and others who are happy that they finally did. Some people expressed their frustration at their constant need to involve themselves in relationships that are similar to their parents and feel that the cycle will never end. Everyone in the groups were/are codependent or counterdependent as a direct result of early experiences.

The overwhelming topic in the groups is the subject of shame. This mirrors my individual clients where shame work is a major part of therapy. We all carry toxic or social shame and it dictates the way we see our lives. Being a tentacle from our past and the dysregulation with our parents, it makes us feel not worthy or unlovable on a deep level. Worse is, we blame ourselves, shame ourselves for being that way. Shame not only affects our lives but being relational in nature means that it affects our relationships too. It is also a key factor in codependency and this has been borne out in stories told in the group.

Many of the group participants have talked about adopting a sense of shame concerning not meeting their parent’s expectations, not doing what is expected of them by society in general or going on a different path in their lives to what was expected of them. Some members have discussed the subject of trust in asking can a shamed person really trust themselves or others in a relationship.

These are the issues we are currently dealing with. As the groups move on, we will be moving more towards finding a way to deal with some of the issues mentioned above. This will include boundaries, using mindful techniques and how to bring shame from the dark into the light.

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