When I think of Vitality, I think of the body. I remember feeling somewhat trapped throughout school, sitting for classes, forced to pay attention to the teacher and except when they were particularly dynamic and entertaining, feeling like my life-force was slowly draining away. I suspect it’s a similar feeling for people who are bored at work, pulled into conversations that aren’t engaging them, or experiencing a more general malaise in life in which their feelings are muted and dull.
In contrast, there is the feeling of being more alive. This is something that addicts seek in their highs. We get glimmers of it in fulfilling sex, meaningful connections, exciting challenges, risk-taking and all forms of compelling art. There is a sense of this, I’ll remember this, this is what it’s all about.
For me, this feeling comprises a certain convergence of mind and body. Other writers have described it as Flow, when an athlete is at the height of their game. But it is not only mastery. Vitality refers to the cautious movements of someone learning to ice-skate, the trembling heart and stumbling words of a first kiss, the gut-wrenching grief when a beloved dies, the fear and excitement of an argument or for some, an actual fight.
In the context of group, Vitality refers to a degree and quality of interest, without any physical risk. The invitation to be fully honest creates an opening to the Unknown. We are allowing ourselves to be surprised, both by what others may say to us, and by what we may find ourselves saying to others.
“If you’re bored, interrupt the Group and say so,” I encourage members, and the same applies when they notice a headache, a tendency to space out or any other distraction from what’s happening in the room. In this way Group inspires people to wonder: How engaged am I with what’s going on? How alive do I feel? Why?
This is a form of Freedom. Group is a space where any feeling can be expressed. This is also a form of Discovery, as by committing ourselves to saying what we would normally keep to ourselves, we access parts of ourselves that tend to stay hidden and explore new ways of being.
Belonging comes from shared dedication. Members are united in an appreciation for honesty, growth and healing. Kinship comes from struggling together to verbalize uncomfortable truth. In this context, even the most rancorous conflict can be contained in a larger purpose. Members may remind each other of hated family members, abusive partners, tyrannical bosses or despised parts of themselves. Yet we are gathering together in order to learn something about ourselves. This focus can transform bitter feuds into opportunities. We are not fighting the same fights we have always fought. We are also developing a new capacity to challenge, confront and negotiate the actual battles of our lives.