Group work

Gestalt group process

Welcome to our group! I have written a short article to make more explicit how the group operates, it is a learned process. 

The group offers a unique style of relating which differs from the norm... this is how we generate vitality, new self knowledge and growth. I have written a little about each aspect of this below.

When we step into greater self awareness, we stand on a firm platform from which change can occur. Awareness is the key and it is won through a deep internal sense of inquiry and openness. The 'paradox' is that by embracing ourselves fully, change can occur.

Please reflect on your own contact and withdrawal within the group.This is a fluid movement and I urge you take responsibility for yourself in this way. Please do not feel you must share any more than is comfortable. You are invited to bring yourself into the group or choose to sit back as the need arises. You are always being invited, not instructed or commanded! Similarly, respect others need for privacy and self directed disclosure. Please maintain confidentiality about others experience in group, but feel free to share how you have been impacted and moved by the group process.

It fascinates me that we are constantly impacting each other every moment. Even more amazing is that 90% of what is communicated is non-verbal and more than 90% of what is perceived is unconscious. Our limited, conscious world of thought is constantly affected by these hidden processes, usually out of our awareness. Freud described this well with his iceberg metaphor, we know ourselves as the 10% above the water, while the bulk of our being is submerged, out of awareness and largely unavailable, yet affecting the processes of daily life. In group you are invited to reflect more deeply on the submerged part and see if you can notice some of the subtler changes taking place within the body and mind.

One way we can achieve this is to search beyond thoughts into bodily sensations, through gentle exploration, like shining a light of awareness within. I highly recommended that you experiment with this and see what you discover! Often our minds are disturbed and busy, thoughts fly in and out without settling, and communicating from this place can seem lifeless and unfulfilling. We may be unaware of how we are really feeling until we allow ourselves to drop down and tune in to physical sensations in the body, especially the heart/chest, belly and neck. Over time you will become more adept at this and begin to recognise bodily sensations and perhaps (but not always) the emotions they represent. Most experience leads to either a contraction or an expansion somewhere in the body, watch for this, be open to it and curious about it. This is 'body process' and we will employ various techniques to help us energise the body, drop down and bring awareness to it. One of the gifts of participating in group is to develop this skill!

The powerhouse of the group is the here and now moment. By anchoring ourselves in the present moment with each other, describing experience as it arises, this energy builds. Events from the past are present with us now and often seeking to 'finish' through regaining of awareness. When we tell a story it has an impact in the present, and processing can start as we honour ourselves by slowing down and acknowledging the feelings as they arise and flow and change. We are all seeking completion and wholeness, this is the heart of Gestalt!

The other powerhouse of energy and vitality for the group is to speak from your own experience, owning it with an 'I statement' such as, 'I think, I feel, I need, I want.' This replaces the vaguer abstractions of 'you' and 'one' and brings us directly into the here and now. It is also known as the language of responsibility as opposed to the language of projection. Related to this is the idea of checking out what is going on for others in the group with 'I imagine...' Rather than 'You seem or you are...' Which are projected assumptions. You then allow the other to clarify their position and give opportunity for meeting.

As much as possible try to share your authentic feelings and direct experience, looking for what is experience near. The techniques listed above will help you to access your immediate being-ness which is exciting, present and emerging in the present moment, changing and adapting to the situation. A beautiful metaphor for this is of a river, flowing and unfolding as each moment requires, flexible and spontaneous, Dan Siegal, 2010. Practising this we may re-discover hidden parts of ourselves and press them back into service, liberating vitality and energy.

Be curious about your experience, we are aiming for exploration and allowing. You may become aware of your habitual responses in certain situations, especially when there are silences in group. Are you always the first to speak, taking responsibility for others? Do you speak out of anxiety and thereby lose your opportunity to more deeply reflect and share? Do you try to disappear and be last as you feel yourself to be less important than everyone else? These are useful discoveries and you may want to experiment with behaving differently to explore new ways of being in group. Or not! Either way you are making a deliberate choice.

We are aiming for a group dialogue. This is achieved by addressing others in the group directly rather than making abstract comments. Dialogue happens when we allow the other person to be present in our communication and notice and acknowledge them. We do not exist in a vacuum and in group we have the luxury of exploring the complexity of our relationships with other members.

Generally there is more to be gained from asking 'how' than 'why'. We can often access how something feels well before the conscious mind catches up to let us know why! Not that understanding is not important, it is, but it comes in its own time, often by exploring the how first.

Some of these concepts may not appear clear yet but as your group journey develops they may begin making more sense. This is because of the irony of trying to use words and thoughts to describe experience. Rather like using words to describe a smell or a colour. I'm looking forward to a gentle gestalt journey of exploration with you all as we develop our group process