The Groups Response

As I explained my observations to the group, several members began nodding their heads in agreement. Two of the members who wanted to leave expressed their anger directly at me for not being a more strict parent in the group. One relayed that his father had never stood up to his mother, leaving him feeling powerless and frightened. The other expressed that her parents had always placed responsibility upon her prematurely for her sister's care, which she felt that I replicated in the group. For both members, these earlier experiences were reignited in the group.

Another member defended me saying that it was not just the leader's responsibility to adhere to the contract, but that they had all agreed to take a role. Before the group could turn on her, however, I suggested that while that is ideally the case, sometimes it feels too threatening for a member to do this. I then asked why she had not confronted some of the contract violations, which she immediately understood was because it has always been dangerous to risk the rivalrous feelings of her siblings when joining with her parents.

Though there was much more to the vignette and subsequent group sharing that followed, the processing of feelings that resulted created new life in the group. There were no longer the stale renderings of events outside of the group, but an in vivo experience of them in the interactions in the group. Moreover, the pent-up frustration and aggression was brought into words and directed to me, where I could contain them. Ensuring that the initial burst of anger and hostility was directed at me, and not at individual members, prevented the group from electing a scapegoat, and helped to protect any individual members from too much emotional stimulation.

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