When I orient a new person to my therapy groups, I do a 30-second speech about The Group Experience, which goes something like this:
One of the most healing things about working with a group is realizing that you are not alone in having certain thoughts and feelings. There will also be times when you’ll realize you’re the only one who has had your unique experience. When that happens, know that you are not alone with that, either.
Because I’ve been experiencing disappointment — in myself and in others — I’ve been feeling alone and isolated lately, even while surrounded by other people.
My thoughts have turned negative. Challenges and obstacles seem overwhelming.
Why bother? This is too hard. I’d like to think that what I’m doing and what I have to offer matters, but — ultimately — it doesn’t. People let me down. I let other people down. I’m tired of trying, with so few results. Other people seem to have it easier. Other people don’t really care. Even if they did care, they can’t help me in any real way.
I’m alone in this. And it feels like it’s too much for me.
When other people express thoughts like those to me, there are lots of ways I respond back.
Sometimes, I just listen.
Sometimes, I point out “cognitive distortions” in that kind of thinking (such as fortune telling, mind reading, comparisons, all-or-nothing thinking, etc.).
Sometimes, I reflect back how it makes sense that the person is feeling depleted, less hopeful, discouraged, and disappointed — because of stressful external realities as well as the person’s internal memories, assumptions, and experiences. (And I do have several stressful things I’m dealing with right now, including creating and presenting a new workshop this weekend at a conference for “experts”, which intimidates me.)
Sometimes, I just try to make it safe enough for the person to have all their feelings when they are in a difficult, darker place.
I guess that’s the best we can do, sometimes, for ourselves and others. And to know that even when we feel most alone, we are in the presence of others.
Thanks for being present today.