The Currency of Group

As part of a larger project on how issues related to money can be worked on in process groups, I was thinking about the “currency of group.”

The first thing that comes to mind is attention. We need attention. When we’re babies, if we don’t get enough attention, we will literally die. In group and in all relationships, attention is one of the main needs we seek to obtain. This is one of the first challenges in dating, marketing, teaching, parenting and probably many more areas–how we do get the attention of the person we want to interact with?

In Group, you can actually see how well or poorly people attract the attention of the leader and the other members. Some group members leave an indelible impression after a single session. Others…what was their name again?

But attention isn’t enough. You don’t want to be the person who is “trying to get attention.” We don’t want merely to interrupt the humdrum flow of stimulation of the other person, we want their interest, their engagement. We want to connect.

So perhaps connection is the currency of group. Connection is a quite broad term, but we also can intuit what it means relatively easily. I associate to a plug plugged into an electrical outlet. If it’s in, there’s a connection and my phone is actually charging. If it’s not in the outlet, my phone is not charging. Very occasionally, the outlet itself is broken, or the phone charger is not working, but usually it’s clear whether there’s a connection or not.

Is it the same with people? I feel connected when I feel an intrinsic interest in the other person and imagine that they feel the same toward me. I think “we’re on the same page,” we’re both enjoying the interaction in this moment or if in conflict and not enjoying it per se, we’re invested in it, we find it worthwhile.

Disconnection is also easy to understand. Here we’re not on the same page. You’re not understanding me. I’m not seeing something important in what you’re saying. Maybe we’re dissociating, pretending to engage with each other but actually more interested in our private to-do lists. The feeling tone is one of hopelessness, frustration, despair. Jungians would probably say one or both of us is caught in a complex. Freudians would assume there’s a transference being enacted between us.

It’s probably the poverty of disconnection that makes us “try to get attention.” Our need for engagement isn’t being met. We’re lonely. We’re hurting. We want to be seen, to be known, to be liked or if not liked, respected. We want encouragement, validation, inspiration. We want to be attractive and desirable, to be a source of pleasure to others and someone whom others want to give pleasure to.

Group therapy makes a study of connection and disconnection. What makes it easier to connect? What gets in the way? What can we observe in the moment, in the here-and-now, that might illuminate why some people succeed in getting the connection they need and others languish?

The question I’m working on is how much does one’s ability to make satisfying connections in group correlate with their ability to attract wealth? Obviously we know some people can amass large sums without much investment in intimacy, and similarly, there are many people with vibrant interpersonal connections who are a mess financially.

So maybe the better question is, how can we use a space devoted to helping people form better connections specifically address issues related to money? If the currency of group is connection, what is the rate of exchange?

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