Oh no! This is not what you expected. Another group member reminds you of your manipulative ex-boyfriend, or your raging father, or your codependent mom, or that cousin that you had a crush on in middle school and then hated when she started dating your friends…
Believe it or not, this is exactly what’s supposed to happen.
One reason Group is so powerful is because there’s an opportunity to work through something from your past in vivid, living interactions.
You may not realize just how hurt you were when your 7th grade teacher called you out.
Suddenly a group member says something in just that particular way and you are slammed with the exact feeling you had when you were 13. Unknowingly, this pain and rage inhibited you from trusting higher-ups and getting critical support from supervisors at key moments in your career.
In individual therapy, you could talk about this inhibition and how it’s cost you opportunities. You could explore the past memories and associations. If you’re lucky, your therapist may momentarily remind you of this teacher and you could hash it out in the moment.
In Group, that happens all the time.
You have the chance to express all the feelings evoked in you by this group member. You hear their response. You learn who you are reminding them of, what underlying pain prompted them to lash out. Over several weeks, you can develop a more nuanced understanding of each other and of yourself. And more likely than not, the next time you need to trust and open up to a supervisor or boss, you’ll find yourself doing so more easily.