Group Power

Any group, from a 3-person triad to a team, or a tribe, has a magnified effect upon it’s individual members as well as upon the outside environment in which the group exists.

Group members become accountable to one another and can offer empathy and support; and this has all been shown to result in greater focus and effectiveness of the group.

We are placed into a group as soon as we are born. It is not until adulthood that we actually decide which groups we want to belong to.

We are members of a family group, and maybe a religious group, an educational group, a peer group, a hobby-based group, a social group, a political group, a community-based group, and of course, a society, and national group.

As we mature we can then choose those groups that we want to affiliate to. Those groups that we perceive as being similar to us in some significant way – perhaps through our interests, or our enforced and/or shared experiences.

As a psychotherapist I am particularly interested in the therapy group; and, as the founder of ‘The Ripple Effect’ Process, I am also interested in the small group involved in learning and changing as a result of Psycho-Emotional-Education.

In any group we cannot help but re-create our earlier experiences of other groups; such as in our family, or at school. We then overlay the present-day group with aspects from the past and react and behave ‘as-if’ we were still in that older experience.

This may show itself as mistrust, withdrawal, and shame; or alternatively perhaps as being pompous, arrogant, theatrical and over-bearing.

The group size is very significant. We can all ‘hide’ in a large group of 12 or more. Smaller groups of around 6 people become more intimate, intense, and thereby more rewarding as we become more attuned to others; and we involve ourself more in the group – which we perceive as a separate entity in it’s own right and more than just the sum of it’s members.

A group takes on it’s own life if given the time and fertile ground in which to flourish.

Safety is established by a respected and experienced group leader/facilitator – although challenges may well be made to this leadership during a group’s lifetime.

Having clear ‘ground-rules’ about what is, and is not, permitted; and having this agreed to by all members is crucial. Boundaries associated with time, venue, confidentiality, self-care and respect, also give a robust ‘container’ for a group.

The dynamics within a group are rich and inevitably varied. Everyone brings their own expectations, fears and needs. Everyone is trying to work out where they belong in the group and the role they will either assume for themselves, or that they will allow others to assign to them.

A group may witness, in it’s members, the emergence of several ‘roles’ in the group; such as a leadership challenger, or a ‘top-of-the-class’, or a ‘silent observer’, an attention-seeker, a vocal ‘hungry-chick’ in the nest, a verbal ‘sniper’ and many other remnants of the past stories of the individual members. They will all sub-consciously try to re-create their own ‘past-story’ within an ongoing group – either to reinforce the outcome of their ‘script’, or in the hope of changing the ending to a more favourable one.

An experienced group leader will sensitively and firmly challenge these old-script behaviours and invite a more healthy and positive way of relating – with the added opportunity to actually try out new ways of being with, and relating to, the other group members.

A leader must be able to maintain clarity between what is real and what is being imagined and ‘projected’ onto the group or onto an individual within that group.

Being on the receiving end of someone else’s ‘projections’ or ‘transferences’ onto you can be detrimental if these are simply accepted, unchallenged and absorbed ‘as-if’ they were real. That accepting of what others said about us is something we all did as children and it has shaped our self-concept. We do not now have to accept any restricting judgements, labels, or opinions. Instead we can evaluate their truth and relevance; and we can now choose to reject and discard them, in a way that we couldn’t do as a child.

In a group we have the chance to check-out what is really ‘me’ right now, and what is just ‘your stuff that is being dumped on me’. We can learn to monitor our own reactions and responses and to discard what doesn’t ‘fit’ our actual experiences.


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