Sense8 and Group Therapy

I just finished watching Season 1 of Sense8, a Netflix show about eight people who are telepathically connected, able to share experience, skills and perspectives instantly with each other, no matter where they are geographically.

I thought about Group.

For about a year and a half, I’ve been a member in a training group for Group Therapists which is a combination of supervision and therapy. I’m noticing more and more that the other members are living inside my psyche, that their attitudes, strengths and insights are available to me when I’m thinking about a challenge in my own life and work.

It’s not the same as being able to immediately access the lifelong training of a martial artist, but it’s something–a feeling of being more powerful than I would be otherwise, more supported, more balanced.

I don’t know how to end this post, so I’m letting my mind glide over the members of my group, imagining their reactions. They’re urging me not to leave out the unpleasant parts of being so connected.

The people in Sense8 often feel invaded, swept up in the feelings and experiences of another member of their cluster. They have to learn how to regulate, to focus and maintain their own self even as they are constantly joining with others.

This is also true for Group, just as it can be true for life. Connecting with other people means being affected by them. Their pain and sorrow touches on my own, activates desires to help, to be in control, to change the situation. I’m reminded of my powerlessness to “make it all better,” I may feel rage, fear, despair.

Many of us spend a lot of energy suppressing these feelings. They certainly are uncomfortable. They are also crucial to truly feeling alive.

Why isn’t there a structure in Group?

Why isn’t there a structure or a theme or something in Group? It feels like there should be…

A colleague of mine likes to joke that we try to avoid “shoulding all over ourselves.”

Why should there be a structure? What kind of structure would you like?

Some groups are more structured than others. In the groups that I run, other than a designated start and end time and an agreed upon contract, I try to be as unstructured as possible.

Why?

The short answer is Here-and-Now.

What is Here-and-Now?

Here-and-Now refers to the immediate thoughts, feelings, sensations and intuitions that you are experiencing in the present moment. In Group, we try to understand these reactions as interpersonal communication–some kind of information that you consciously or unconsciously want the group to know about you.

Imposing a structure, such as turn-taking or spending a certain amount of time on a particular exercise, suppresses the Here-and-Now.

Here’s an example. The group decides to go around and “check-in,” each person sharing whatever is relevant to them. Suzy talks about her fear that the other people at the barber shop are judging her. This reminds you of your sister calling you judgmental last week. Your curiosity is piqued, you’re intrigued, wondering if an interaction with Suzy might help you with your strained relationship with Sis. Before the thought if fully formed, Roger is talking about his dog needing pancreatic surgery. That’s less interesting to you because you want to speak with Suzy. Then William is talking about his mother again and now it’s hard for you to remember what exactly you wanted to say to Suzy. Even if you do remember, you’ll need to wait for five other people to share before you can explore your desire.

Now, this may happen even in an unstructured group. It can be very hard to break into the flow of conversation and say what you need to say. But at least in an unstructured group, you’re allowed and encouraged to do so. Every piece of structure hampers the immediacy of the group. Sometimes structure may be necessary, but it’s in the immediacy that we feel most alive.