For the first time Rob was fighting tears. He motioned to Amber, on his right. Mesmerized by Rob’s sharing, Amber surfaced and said “Uh…” The group sat quiet, expectantly, and watched empathically as her tears began to trickle. Jackie said gently, “Take your time. There’s no rush.”
Amber could feel the intensity of everyone’s eyes focussed on her, even Rob’s. She looked down into her lap and spoke softly. “I’m a new student, and live alone in a single freshman dorm, and my little sister died several years ago. My father was an alcoholic so my aunt Betty took me in for a couple of years. I’m a social work major at the community college.”
Ed nodded. “And what do you want from the group?”
She took a deep breath and said, “I’m afraid of men. I mean I hate them! All they’re interested in is swex! They just see me as a sex object!” Her voice sounded strangled now. “I hate everybody! I hate my mother and my father and me and–everybody!” Rob put his hand on her shoulder and gave a squeeze, whereupon Amber began emitting little choking sobs. The group sat and stared at her, speechless for once. Jackie passed her the Kleenex. There was still silence, as though no one knew what to say. Amber covered her face with her hands.
Finally Ed spoke. “So that means you hate me and Pete and Stuart and Rob? You don’t even know us. Somehow that doesn’t seem fair. Is that something you want to work on?”
A little laugh escaped Amber. “I don’t know. I think that’s reality. That’s the way the world is! Maybe nothing can help.” She was quiet, and so was the attentive group. Finally she spoke in a small voice. “And I hate myself too.”
Ed glanced around the group. “How many people in here hate themselves?” There was a momentary shocked silence and then slowly four hands went up, even Rob’s. Ed regarded the raised hands and said, “Do you want those who hate themselves to hate you too? Will that make you feel better?”
Amber protested, but in a lighter vein. “You’re confusing me!” She let out a deep sigh and said, “My life is such a mess!”
Ed looked around the group again. “How many members’ lives are a mess?” When everyone raised their hand Amber had to laugh.
“All right. I guess I’ll live.” She blew her nose loudly and the group moved on to other issues.
Neither Amber nor Rob had experienced group psychotherapy before, and observed with interest the variety of therapeutic techniques used in the group. As they were to learn later, some were Gestalt, some psychomotor, some Rational Emotive–whatever seemed to fit. After the deepest, most emotive exchanges, the group’s camaraderie and commitment remained.
As the session ended, someone said, “Group hug,” and there was one. Someone else explained that the group often eats dinner together at the nearby steakhouse. Amber and Rob accepted with enthusiasm, welcoming the warm friendliness of the group.
to be continued