6-Week Advanced T-Group Cohorts
The opposite of recognizing that we’re feeling something is denying our emotions. The opposite of being curious is disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away. Instead, they own us, they define us. ~ Brené Brown
Even if we are among perfect strangers, our vulnerability is always right under the surface:
You remind me of someone I used to love; I can’t look you in the eyes very long because I don’t want you to see the well of emotion that comes up for me
I am comparing myself to you and I feel inadequate; I have an impulse to make sarcastic jokes as a way to throw you off and establish power in the group
You’re different from me and I don’t know how to connect with you; I’m keeping things light and friendly because I’m afraid of going any deeper than that with you
I’m seeing you as the most powerful person in the group and I really want your approval; I’m ignoring you altogether to try to convince us all that I don’t care
I’m afraid of you; I have an impulse to provoke you and glare at you to scare you away before you can scare me
I’m attracted to you; I can’t look at you and I feel an impulse to poke your insecurities
I feel ashamed and worried that I don’t belong here; my impulse is to align myself with the person who I think has the most power in the group
I’m convinced you wouldn’t understand me; my impulse is to write you off altogether and avoid connecting with you
If you’ve ever been in a T-Group and felt the longing to “go deeper,” this is it. It is 100% up to you to dig more deeply within yourself and gently coax out of the shadow the things that even you don’t want to see. This will show you what is really organizing your behavior in the group (and your ongoing experience of self altogether). These are the “tough emotions” that will own and define you if you choose to deny them and disengage.
The practice is to look each member of your group in the eyes and ask yourself:
How is my vulnerability showing up in this connection?
What part of myself am I protecting?
What part of my experience do I not want them to see?
What would feel really scary to reveal to them?
And what am I doing, what are the impulses I have, in response to that vulnerability?
This is what Differentiating Feedback is really about, and it’s the key to doing it well.
Working with Reactivity and Defensiveness
This practice is especially important and necessary when we find ourselves in moments of reactivity and defensiveness. If we could replay the process in slow motion, we would see that a really deep and really intense fear or pain was activated within you by something someone else did or said. We would see that in a nano-second, your automatic self-protective strategies swooped in to conceal that deeper vulnerability (even from you) and mobilize your energy and resources to immediately mount a counter-attack of some kind. Whether that’s judgment, blame, withdrawal, or shut down, your task is to work your way backwards to find the core vulnerability that felt too tender to be with (let alone share).
The thing about our self-protective strategies is that they are likely to be the very thing that activates a deep and intense fear or pain in the other person. That’s when we get a real battle, a stand-off where both people are perceiving one another as threatening adversaries. This is the meat and potatoes of all couples’ therapy, but believe it or not, it’s the same exact pattern that shows up in all our relationships, just on varying scales.
In our romantic relationships, we have to learn how to reveal our tender insides, so that our partners can connect with our humanity. We have to create the opening through which they can send their love, comfort, empathy, and care. If we don’t create that opening, they can’t send the love. This is partly because if we’re not creating an opening, we’re creating a firing squad - and that will send any human being into their own defensive strategy (and it’s hard to be kind and responsive once you’re in your defensive strategy).
How do we get out of this cycle?
What’s the deeper pain in me that has gotten plucked?
What’s the real fear underneath my defensiveness?
What’s the real hurt or pain underneath my defensiveness?
And what’s the deepest longing underneath my defensiveness?
And if you want to avoid plucking a deep pain in the other person, if you want to be heard and understood, it is critical to practice using SELF-FOCUSED language:
Instead of saying, “I’m afraid that you’re going to yell at me,” try, “I’m afraid that I’m going to feel scared and shut down”
Instead of, “I’m hurting because I’m afraid you don’t really care about me,” try, “I’m hurting because I feel hopeless and worthless, like I’m not important to you.”
To speak this way is to recognize that YOU BRING BUTTONS AND TRIGGERS to the connection that were there well before you met the person you are speaking to. This does not mean that they didn’t do the thing you think they did - it’s just that you won’t ever get very far telling people about what they did wrong (they’re humans, after all - and none of us are particularly good at remaining open and receptive in the face of criticism). If what you want is understanding, compassion, and reconciliation, you have to stay on your side of the fence. This isn’t about a right or a wrong way to do things, it’s far simpler: it’s how you can get the result that you actually want.
Speaking directly from within your own experience is illuminating (you learn things about yourself), empowering (you get a chance to empathize with and validate yourself), and connective (because when you speak from vulnerability, others are more likely to also be moved into a space of empathy).
Dates: every other Sunday night from 6:30 - 9:30 PM (start dates vary by cohort)
Location: Berkeley, CA (the same venue as the regular Sunday Night gatherings; a separate space will be designated for closed group)
Size: each cohort is open to only five people
Attendance: you must be able to attend at least FIVE of the six sessions
Facilitation: I (Crystallin) will be present for each session and though I will be engaging fully as a participant, I will also be engaging fully as a facilitator; I will be offering more guidance and coaching throughout the sessions than I have done in the past, so this is an opportunity to learn from both your experience of the group and from my support