Damien said he was looking forward to the group, curious about what he would learn.
This is a passive position - it doesn’t declare anything about himself.
So I asked him to imagine looking back on the group, and be specific about what he might have learned that would be interesting or helpful for him. He said he would have liked to learn about dealing with rejection.
So he was set an exercise - to go around the group and name who was safe and who was unsafe. Then to pick 4 of the people who were unsafe, then to pick one of those. Damien sat in from of him. He said he was expecting to be rejected. When asked to be specific about how that might happen, he couldn’t - he reported feeling confused. I took this as being a sign of dissociation - that is generally the case when someone reports confusion and cant focus on details. I asked how much in his body he felt - 10% he replied. This confirmed the level of his overwhelm, and made it clear that the therapeutic work had to proceed with a great deal of support.
So a small circle was created in the group, to increase the safety level for him. Each person made an attempt to understand how he was feeling. This helps take the focus off him, and provide a sense of being seen. I was in the small circle, and I also spoke to him about my understanding. I said - "I guess that you might be feeling in a kind of soup, of rejection, shame, and bruised feelings.” He replied this was true. I knew this because all the symptoms he showed were those of shame, and I know how difficult it can be for anyone when they are in the midst of such feelings - how lost you can get.
So next I invited each person in the small group - myself included, to share with Damien about an experience we had at some point in our lives of feeling shame. This again took the spotlight off of him - very important in working with shame - and gave him a sense of the support that comes from feeling you are not alone. I then invited the group to hold hands, including him. I asked how much in his body he felt - he reported 60%. This was a major change, and indicated the work had been effective. I pointed out that he was no longer alone. We then did the same thing in the larger group - hold hands, and I asked him to really look people in the eyes. In this way, he was able to stay grounded, to really feel the connection, and draw strength and nourishment from it, rather than be scared of it.
Posted by Steve Vinay Gunther