Day 1124: When somebody leaves the room

Recently, at a therapy group of people who had all never met  each other before, somebody left the room and stayed away for quite a while.

I noticed the absence.  The other members of the group didn’t seem to, as they talked about everything but the missing person. However, because of my experience with groups, I knew that everybody was as aware of the absence as I was.

Sure enough, when I invited feelings and thoughts about that — simply by asking  “Is anybody having any reactions to ___ leaving the room?” —  that triggered an outpouring of thoughts and feelings, including worry, concern, projection (“___ looked very upset”),  personalization (“I figured it was something about me”), and wishes that I would do something (“Maybe you should go after them and see if they’re okay!”).  However, I know enough about group work NOT to leave the room, no matter what people’s worries and concerns are.

While people were talking about the person who had left the room, the door opened and that person came back in, bearing bags of food for the rest of the group.  Why?  Because several people had mentioned earlier in the group session that they were feeling hungry.

No matter how many times I’ve facilitated groups, I continue to be amazed at what happens there, including

  • unexpressed thoughts and feelings
  • people’s willingness to share, if they feel safe enough
  • projected fears
  • cognitive distortions including mind-reading, personalization, and catastrophizing
  • generosity  and
  • countless other beautifully human reactions.

As I said, a week ago today, at a presentation about group work to the Massachusetts Psychological Association:

When I watch the news, I despair for the future of this planet.  When I sit in my therapy groups and observe human behavior, I have infinite hope and optimism.

Before you leave the room today, here are some photos I took yesterday, inside and outside of therapy rooms:






What feelings and thoughts might you express, before you leave this WordPress room?

Thanks to all the human heroes who helped me write this post and to you — of course! — for visiting here, today.


Categories: group psychotherapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

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29 thoughts on “Day 1124: When somebody leaves the room

  1. Thank you for letting me join you in the group therapy room Ann. Lovely insightful post!

  2. Such a contrast… the image of the world presented to us by media vs. our personal experience with the goodness of real life folks. Well observed, Ann. 💖

  3. Perfect response from you, as I would expect. As you would expect, I wondered what you did with the return. No need to answer.

  4. Thank you, Ann! I just received bad news regarding my Mother’s health so I struggle today to get myself back into optimism and together again. How can I do that when my Heart is breaking? How to cling to Hope when the future looks so bleak? Do I begin the letting go process now or do I jump in and enjoy my Mother right NOW for as long as she is with me? Perhaps in the jumping in and reaching out, I can both enjoy her and begin the letting go process by verbalizing how I feel. In fact, come to think of it, I did so today. I’m seriously angry with the medical system who holds empty promises or waves a pill that says this will help you live but it costs $10k a MONTH. Humanity is seriously screwed up, but when I joined this group and “saw” this person bring food for the group, my Hope rekindled. Bless you, my dear friend, for relieving some of my aching Heart. (((HUGS))) Amy ❤

  5. At first I wondered if the person leaving the room was intentional and meant to be a test of how people would react. I’m glad it became one and that it was really a spontaneous moment of generosity. If you don’t mind I’d like to stay in the room but I’m going to ask my uncharacteristic suspiciousness to leave.

  6. This made me smile and feel better. Thanks, Ann!

  7. I think that was a very nice surprise. I think people have tendency to project the for the bad cases first.

  8. Maureen

    WhaT a lovely, heartwarming post. Thank you.

  9. Ann, in reading this I was reminded of a post that my cousin shared. It was some kind of list that told us what not to do to be happier. I think the reason I thought of it was while reading your post, and you asked the group how they felt, then you listed some of the things they were thinking…. it made me remember the ONE thing from the list I retained. “Do not assign intent” to what someone else did. That struck a resounding chord that plays over and over in my head. And I really like that lesson. I just wanted to share that with you.

  10. hello ann koplow its dennis the vizsla dog hay wen sumbuddy leevs the room i yoozhually git up and follow them!!! espeshly if its mama!!! ha ha ok bye

  11. A gamut of reactions to the person leaving the room! So glad it ended well and what a generous gesture! I also like your last photo – a positive and hopeful ending! Go well Ann! 👍🏻😊

    • It took me soooo long to notice how gracefully you had entered my blogging room over a year ago! Thanks for the wonderful comment.

      • Oh my Ann! How on earth did you find my comment when it has been over a year since it was posted? You’ve got me intrigued. And I’m also wondering why I have not been receiving any of your posts. Hmmmm….

      • I discovered your comment when WordPress linked me back to this post after I published today’s post. I don’t know why WordPress sometimes makes my posts leave the room for people. Perhaps you should ask to receive emails when I publish each post? You’ve got me intrigued, too!

  12. I was receiving them regularly but it was only after I received your comment that I realised I hadn’t been receiving your posts. I will investigate. 🌹

  13. Pingback: Day 1757: Don’t take it personally | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  14. Pingback: Day 2029: Leave | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

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