Tanya Ruckstuhl LICSW
I am a total groupie. Not for musicians though—fame oriented people bore me. No I am a groupie for groups. I am in a women’s group, a writing group, a meditation group, two professional consultation groups, and a book group. This (among perhaps a million other things) makes me a bit of a weirdo, but as a result I have a deep appreciation for and understanding of group dynamics.
This weekend was group-a-rific. My writing group and my meditation group met, and in between I attended a movement workshop specifically for therapists. The workshop was a one-time group filled mostly with lovely, open-hearted women and men. There was just one woman there with a sour look on her face who I immediately felt myself recoil from. I work hard not to indulge the desire to judge people on first impressions (what if she had had a stroke or a facial tic or her dog just died or she was just having a really tough time?) so I made a point of smiling at her and introducing myself. She barely grunted back to me. My feelings were hurt. I reminded myself that not everyone needs to be friendly to be interesting or contribute to the world. I took a seat far across the room from her.
At the end of the workshop everyone went around the circle, checking in. One man shared that during his meditation time he thought about the fact that Donald Trump is a human being. This was a welcome reminder in a room full of liberals who were all freaking out about the implications of this particular president. We smiled and nodded, except for the sour-faced woman who barked out, “Can we not talk about politics?” People looked away and fell silent. One person quietly said, “it’s not exactly political—“ and the woman loudly cut her off, “Well it’s hurting ME.” Silence reigned. The group disbanded. The expansive feelings of gratitude for the support we had just received turned into something more complicated, more deflated.
To be a good group member you have to have two opposite and equal orientations: one is for the good of the group and the other is towards meeting your own needs. People who only orient towards themselves come across as rude and selfish. People who only orient towards the group won’t enjoy them because group participation will be work without reward.
I’m starting up an Anxiety support group in March. It will meet at noon on the first and third Friday of the month and we will explore this magical mix of meeting our own needs while also serving the well being of the group. We will create a safe space to talk about anxiety and ways to comfort and manage it. We will cheer each other on and get to know one another. We will learn empirically validated techniques and exercises to decrease baseline anxiety and to deal with specific anxiety triggers. If you are interested please call me for an intake appointment at 206 375-7690.