For this session our group was whittled down to 9. We’ve had two leave us permanently and a number taking early holiday. It felt quite cosy and encouraged those who tend to be less verbal to speak out a bit more.
We started off with a lengthy skills practice session, with twenty minutes each rather than our normal 10-15 minutes. This is long enough for the session to have a noticeable beginning, middle and end.
I started off as the listener (aka practice counsellor) and was observed by our tutor. This was the first time she had observed me, other than as the listener in the one and only fishbowl that we have done. This observation made me feel very nervous and the fact that we started off before she joined us and had to start again gave us a false start which all just felt wrong. Then she wrote a lot and you are sitting there wondering what you have done now.
I do have a problem with being examined, whether it’s in an essay being marked or observations noted. It does take me back to school and feelings of inadequacy and being found wanting. She started off her comments by asking me how I’d felt I’d done which is an uneasy question, especially when you know you’re about to be told how you’ve done.
I said, and this was echoed by several other members when we fed back as a group, that I felt very unsure of what I could say, in a way that wasn’t directed and wasn’t reading too much into what wasn’t being said, into the undercurrents. Because I felt unsure, I preferred to say nothing or be minimalist. Also the previous week we had again discussed that need to sit back and not intervene as much, that as listeners we were spending too much time talking. So I thought I had been better at not saying too much and had been tentative. Apparently not. Those paraphrasing remarks I had made seeking confirmation of my understanding did not come over as questions but as statements. I though I use rising intonation with a statement making it into a question (as in “you miss your dog a lot then”) but apparently that didn’t come over. I didn’t intervene enough early on, didn’t do enough basic reflecting and then finished on a clanger, which I totally accept. It’s very hard to not say something that is there just to be reassuring. My tutor said I should say more, be courageous and intervene. If I say too much and get it wrong then that is what all these practice sessions are for.
I said in the feedback that it would be good to have a fishbowl with the tutor as listener. I do feel confused by the right level of intervention. We’ve had comments in triads that people say too much, don’t see enough or say the wrong things and I’ve lost my ability to sense what is right in this. In some ways the further we go forward the less I feel I know. It’s left me feeling uncertain and confused, with an awareness that we only have a month or so before we’re supposed to do our audio recordings of a skill practice. I wasn’t a happy bunny.
In personal development someone picked up on a previous session, when a member who wasn’t present talked about being bullied at school. It turned out that we all had. Maybe that was because we are a self-selecting group but that 100% agreement was still a surprise. I felt very uneasy and emotional about talking about it and it took a while before I said anything. It seemed clear that some of us had been more deeply affected by it than others. I sat there with, well with what bubbling up? Anger? Fear? Was it just how I felt at the time, that feeling helpless, angry and bewildered? I think it just all came back and I really didn’t want it to. I felt slightly resentful at being dragged back there. It wasn’t my choice; it was where the group went and I didn’t want to go along with it. It’s still there, all that emotion. It’s not resolved and I haven’t let go of it. It’s the opposite of feeling empowered, of feeling able to control my own destiny and it also comes back when I get criticised, however constructive it is. It all joins up and that made for quite an emotional day.