From Your Editors at The Group Psychologist
The role of language, particularly how we use language to teach children about emotions, was recently featured in the New York Times Family section (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/15/well/family/talking-to-boys-the-way-we-talk-to-girls.html?smid=fb-nytimes). This struck a chord with me when thinking about several adult male clients (ranging from 20s to 50s) that I see for individual therapy, both who I am preparing for going into an interpersonal process group. These clients struggle to express their emotions. We’ve explored what norms and expectations were set by their parents regarding feelings and what’s “appropriate”. Now, as adults, they struggle tremendously with vulnerability; intellectually they know it’s a path towards connection, yet emotionally the fear and aversion to it is immense. Becoming a member of a psychotherapy group is one way I’m hoping they can have new experiences of what it’s like to witness and share their own vulnerabilities. We know group therapy is a way to have corrective emotional experiences, and what are more powerful corrective experiences than those dealing with emotional vulnerability?
Integrating interpersonal process techniques creates a powerful and effective group process enabling participants to address problematic situations with support of group members. Students and clinical populations respond well to the combination and find them helpful in becoming aware of their habitual dysfunctional thought patterns and belief systems that play an important role in mood regulation. As group members recognize the usefulness of interpersonal process techniques, intimacy and spontaneity tend to increase, creating and supporting a safe space for sharing.
As Brené Brown said, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” So, as we move into the summer months, we challenge you to explore your own darkness. Who can you confide in? What story can you share that hasn’t seen the light of day recently? Who supports you in your path towards opening up to more belonging and joy? Finding friends who can listen empathetically, respond with their own vulnerability, and hold space for emotions that we might have once been taught are “bad”, are precious. Do those friends know what role they play in your life?
I know several of those friends have come from my membership in Division 49. And as we look forward to gathering again at the APA Annual Convention, I’m going to be sure to tell them how important they are to me. We hope you’ll be able to join us in Washington DC in August. Throughout this newsletter you’ll find updates about what to expect and how to best participate.
We look forward to seeing you there!