The Intervention

In this long-term group of eight, five females and three males, aged thirty to fifty-two, members had developed a real facility for deep exploration of problematic or affect-laden situations, including situations in their daily lives as well as powerful experiences within the group itself. I viewed this group as an extremely high-functioning, successful one in which members routinely addressed core aspects of their lives, and worked hard to take responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It was also a group in which members commonly got in touch with very painful dysphoric affects, with tears common in many sessions. Typically, after a member had begun to cry, other group members were attentively silent, with some of them tearing up as well in empathie support. The member who had been crying might then continue his or her discourse, and then respond to

Norm Repair

comments or associations from the other members. At times, however, when a member was experiencing acute emotional distress— sobbing or wailing, for example—the members remained silent, seemingly not knowing what to say. At such times, I often felt a need to be overtly supportive to the pained member, and would make one of several comments. These comments ranged from "take your time," suggesting there was no hurry to stop crying, to "how painful this is for you and perhaps for others in the group," to "when you are able, perhaps you can put your feelings into words." These interventions typically resulted in deepened emotional expression by the group member after which the member would begin to speak, and to elaborate on the experience.

Although I felt satisfied with these kinds of interventions, there were a few occasions where I thought that it would be better if the other group members intervened first, either with empathic statements, or questions, or their own associations. So, I let the silence linger. And it lingered, and lingered, and lingered—as the group waited for me to respond. I then realized that I had inadvertently shaped a complicated group norm: when a group member is in deep distress, Dr. Shay will respond in a compassionate way. And I don't need to respond because he will.

Recognizing this, and feeling uncomfortable with it, I decided to reshape the norm. At first, I tried outwaiting the group members as they were watching me and waiting for me, but this not only felt uncomfortable for me—because I was changing the norm without articulating this to them—but also uncomfortable for them, and more importantly might be experienced as abandonment by the acutely distressed member. I finally decided to use a more active intervention to reshape this norm.

At the start of a group, after the usual announcements about attendance and upcoming absences (another group norm), I said, "I want to begin by apologizing to the group for having made a mistake which I am now aware of. And I want to change this. As we saw last week, and in many previous groups, you all work very hard in this room and have developed a real ability to support each other, challenge one another, and feel deeply for other people in the group. When one of you becomes distressed in here—last week it was Ann, two weeks ago Bill, and last month Dave and Carol, but most of you have been there— I realize that I have often been the first one to speak when there is high emotion in the room. I think I have accidentally "trained" you to wait for me to be the first to speak, and I think that is my mistake because we now have this as a norm—wait for Dr. Shay to break the silence and then others can speak. This is a mistake on my part because I believe that you are capable as a group of being as supportive and helpful as I try to be, and in fact, my responding may have gotten in your way. So, I want to own responsibility for having shaped this norm, and now I'm owning responsibility for telling you that I'm going to try to change it. At first this might be uncomfortable for all of us, but I think this is for the best and I'm glad to hear any reactions."

Power Of Positive Thoughts In The Post Modern Age

Power Of Positive Thoughts In The Post Modern Age

The Power Of Positive Thinking In The Post Modern Age Manifest Positive Thoughts In This Fast Pace Age. Positive thinking is an attitude that admits into the brain thoughts, words and pictures that are conductive to development, expansion and success.

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