In Disney’s Aladdin, there is a scene I’m sure many of us can relate to.
Aladdin has just flown his magic carpet to the Palace and is dressed as Prince Ali. He is hoping to convince Princess Jasmine to give him another chance after she was turned off by his ostentatious first impression. She is all set to reject him, then notices something that reminds her of the street-urchin Aladdin. He is quick to deny the resemblance, despite the genie’s prompting him in his ear, “Just tell her the Truth!”
Prince Ali is Aladdin’s persona, the person that he shows to the world hoping to impress and succeed. The persona hides and protects Aladdin, the street-urchin, ashamed of his poverty, scared, seemingly unimpressive and vulnerable.
Jasmine is turned off by Prince Ali and fascinated by Aladdin, but it takes Aladdin the whole movie to realize that he needs to be himself and that as himself he is lovable and worthwhile.
This realization is what we are aiming for in Group.
Everyone comes to Group with their persona, their honed set of behaviors and attitudes that have allowed them to survive in the world. They have ways of keeping the peace and avoiding conflict, ingratiating themselves with people who have power or authority, ways to seem likable, trustworthy, safe. These are all useful and important.
They can also become obstacles to intimacy.
Group is one of the rare opportunities where members are invited to put their persona aside. They’re encouraged to say, “I want you to like me, I’m scared you will judge me, I want to impress you and I’m worried that if you get to know me you won’t like what you see.”
As the film depicts, this vulnerable honesty is almost always compelling, inspiring, heart-warming and attractive.