Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A couple of the other students had a discussion with me regarding the group dynamics and what I percieved to be their feeling towards their place in the group as a whole. I felt that they did not see me as part of any clique and were at ease enough to discuss their issues. Although this was no helping session and there were no settings of boundaries – despite the topic there was no agreement to keep the discussion only between the three of us (I would not speak of it to anyone else regardless).

For the first time since starting the course, 26 weeks earlier, the immediacy and self disclosure that occurred between the three of us put me in a position to listen. In some way my prior actions, my separation from the other little groups through either my lack of something in common or the consolidation on their friendships over mine meant that the two talking with me could talk with me.

It is clear to me why these two feel excluded and are “slightly” separated from the rest of the group – one being of strong will and with a “take me as I am” attitude, whilst the other tends towards talking about herself a lot and going off topic. I have seen the reactions in the others at this, and felt the reaction in myself. I therefore was at a little odds with them. I did not think that it was wholly on the shoulders of the other groups. The actions of these two, rightly or wrongly, had put them at some odds with the others. It was not my place at this time to put this to them, since it was inappropriate. They were disclosing and any objection or counterance on my part would have destroyed what they were trying to get out. In some way, they do have my agreement.

I admitted that I felt separated from the others. Although I have built up a rapport, have had guidance from a couple in my personal life and do feel that they care about the problems I have been through, I do have a sense that the groups with whom they navigate towards at times of triad work are closer friends; be that in the belief that their agendas or their styles of learning are the same, or simply whether what they have in common allows their work together to be easier, I don’t know.

Does it bother me? In a way I would hope that someone would choose me first. Enough to bother about? No. I do not care to get in the way of what other people want because I will end up in a group to do triad work anyway. This does discount myself, since I admit that there are people I would rather be with. But, the flipside is that it is a similar selfishness to that which excludes me.

This topic led to one of the two questioning me on my two sides – the mask of humour and wackiness that ingratiates me with other people, and the real person beneath who is more thoughtful, reserved, observant and adult. I had not expected that anyone would question me on the two sides of my persona. My humour puts others at ease, but does not allow them to get close to me. Having seen the breakdown of that fa├žade over the previous month or so with my brother’s case and my lack of energy to hold up my humour, the two told me that suddenly a whole new me had come out that was everything supportive and thoughtful. Whilst one did not mind the humorous side, the other said that they hadn’t felt as if I was being sincere. It was only now that they felt they knew who I was and could trust my real identity to have… the discussion we were having.

I disclosed, as I have at the very beginning of these logs, that my humorous persona is used to ingratiate, to join me with others and give me a sense of purpose and place. If I have nothing else to add, then at least my wit will put me in their minds. I explained where I saw the origination of this in my childhood – to keep my place in my groups of friends at school, as the unique member who acted in that way, and because I otherwise did not take part in many debates (seeing that everyone has a view and also that others can always speak their mind far clearer than I can).

One of the students with whom I was disclosing this, admitted that hearing me see and acknowledge that I am the way I am and also see where that comes from was very interesting.

I was asked what I thought might happen if I dropped the mask and became the person I really was. I do not know. I am worried that I will have nothing to say. That I will become just another face in the crowd, and my inability to come up with topics of conversations will increase. I have certainly learnt that my humour, whilst I have thought it makes it easier to meet people, does not work entirely as it should, since I can be perceived as insincere and not entirely approachable.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The helping sessions were fairly difficult this week, since we’d had so much time away from actually using the skills that anxiety was getting in the way of listening.

The big thing I came up against was that I had a great sense that the helpee had a drink problem, but I got sidelined by the assertion that the problem was with the helpee’s wife, and I wished to deal with the possible relationship problems – by first assertaining what the difficulties between husband and wife was (I could see that it was clearly the drinking after the session had ended). To that end, the session was over without my investigating the drinking at all.

I was interested in advising the helpee of getting him support in the form of relate counselling, whereby he and his wife could go together. I didn’t feel that my skills were suited to supporting him, since he wouldn’t admit to a problem in the relationship although his wife “moaned” a lot. The need was for them both to attend counselling together. The flipside of my belief that I failed to identify the drinking problem is that he wouldn’t admit to any wrongdoing or failure in the relationship on his part. It is possible that he wouldn’t admit to a drinking problem, and therefore in relate, with his wife present, the issue might be raised and the more experienced counsellor would deal with it.

Observing the observers when they are giving feedback has allowed me to see that we are all beginning to have a greater understanding of the use of the skills, and what is possible in a helping session. Although we still share an anxiety, the knowledge is there, the helpers are prepared to take on board the feedback and engage in discussion on what they could/should have done better/instead.

One thing that I can see we are holding back from is our congruence. As part of our learning we have come to terms with holding back our agenda and not offering advice of what we think the helpee “should” do. We have come to an impasse and this is much like the old adage of “show don’t tell” in writing. A writer is taught not to tell the reader what is happening. This is a specific lesson in getting the writer to explore what other tools are available to them. Ultimately they have to come back to using the “tell” tool, but in moderation and whilst relying upon “show”. In helping work, the helper is not solely there to listen but to reflect and offer support. One such support being advice on referrals.

As helpers we have been taught to set aside our agendas and need to offer advice, yet, what we must learn to pick up is the skill of advising, which is subtley different from advice, in that the helper’s agenda is removed and no pressure is placed upon the helpee to follow the advice.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The topic of the Saturday workshop was very apt, consolidating on much that I had been dealing with recently and the culmination of the past 2 years – an ending that is now in sight and the possible changes that will occur because of that.

The interesting part of the day was the discovery that an amazing number of changes have been going on for whilst I have been fighting through one big issue, changes that had meant very little and gone under the radar – changes that actually show that my outlook on life, the way I treat others and my own self awareness has been altered.

I can see that it is empowering for a helpee to look back and see the changes they have made or been a part of, as it helps to show that nothing stays the same and that there is always a path to travel.

The flipside of endings is the loss and abandonment – the feeling of “what is my place in this world? What is my purpose?” I realise that there is a need to manage expectations and keep a positive, forward-moving, motivated view of things to come. From a helping point of view, the end of helping can directly affect the helpee – being sent out into the world to face it “alone”, regardless of the new self awareness and skills learnt.

For me that moving on and loss is sad, because I feel that the friendships I have, for example on this course, are of circumstance. We have something in common – namely: learning and self awareness. After the closure of the course there will no longer be anything to hold our relationships together, which to me I find quite sad. This is because I have invested part of myself in getting to know these people and that over time apart that will be eroded.

This in itself highlights something else said by a couple of those who have been through a divorce: the betrayal they have felt and the loss coming from their divorce has meant that they never give fully of themselves to their next partners. They always hold something back so that they won’t get hurt again.

I believe that I have experienced this to a lesser degree in what I believe are those friends I have invested time and emotion into, choosing to ditch, or as I see it: betray, me because they have heard a rumour regarding my brother and tied me in by association. The discussion on transitional objects and endings of things like friendships and courses and the relation back to everything changes and moves forward, perhaps, I think, is allowing me to also let go of those feelings of betrayal.

By the time my brother’s tribunal is over I might be ready to start opening up new choices, I might lose my fear of what might happen if I choose to make a big change, I might actually start living my life again.
This week has been the most stressful of my life – least of all being the stress of the exam, which I felt quite pleased with. It became a distraction from the stress of my brother’s tribunal. I had to deal with a lot of different and conflicting emotions during the tribunal itself, beginning first with listening to my father being violently sick because of the stress of going through with the case and representing my brother. In the end I represented my brother as my father couldn’t do it – a subdued stress at first since I had not prepared myself for the coming trauma as my father had done, and the anxiety had not been allowed time to build inside me.

I already felt anxious, stressed and sick, and did not feel any added pressure until the second day of the case in which a day’s break had allowed me time to realise that I was stuck in a situation I couldn’t control, that pitted me against my own employer and in which my brother’s wellbeing rested, and my father’s own regrets that he could not go through with it and now wanted to put his agenda onto me. The culmination for me was a mini-nervous breakdown in which I was ready to throw in the towel, didn’t know what I should do, and couldn’t formulate my argument for the next day – all solely down to stress and pressure. The feeling of helplessness and hopelessness was only overcome by my wife’s involvement to help reguide and refocus, just as a helper does to a helpee – she kept me in control and just highlighted the path I wanted to take.

I was forced to readdress my relationships with the respondent – all of whom I have held a deep-seated hatred for, since they began their ill treatment of my brother and my family. There I was, cross-examining them with my anger spurring me onwards, showing up their inconsistencies, bad judgements and bad practice, making them stutter and stumble and be seen for what they are, and yet at times when I referred them to evidence pages I did so with courtesy, all please’s, thank-you’s and sorry’s. I was being forced to treat these people as peers, to work with them to produce an outcome, to readdress why I hated them so. This unconditional positive regard extended to an incident when one of the older witnesses for the respondent collapsed during questioning and was carried back to a waiting room. I made a choice to intervene and followed it through – although the room was filled with the 8 people I hated in all of the world, and who I had been cross-examining, I entered the room and offered the use of my first aid skills.

Most important of all my conflictions is that the case hinges on the school and inparticular the deputy head (who hired my brother onto a full time contract) knowing that my brother’s relationship with a student had gone on. She denies it, but the evidence counters that. If we can prove she knew, then they cannot sack my brother 3 years later for the same thing. I hate her most of all, was bullied by her, and have suffered because she has lied to protect herself and her job. And yet, as soon as our proof was out, as soon as the borough councillor admitted that if it were true she would be subject to a disciplinary, and as soon as the news reporter had his key evidence and left to write up his story – the report of which is damning for all – my guilt kicked in.

I have spent the last 2 years of my life dealing with such deep anger that when it came to crunch time, I could not go through with it. She must be brought to task, but I no longer want a part of it. I don’t want to place blame, and I don’t want people to be held accountable. I don’t want it on my head. My father pointed out to me that I’m compassionate, and sure, I am, but why now?

It seems that under the cloud of anger, in whatever guise it takes hold – sadness, depression, regret, etc – our true nature is blinded, our real wishes are suppressed, much like a change in physiology brought on by drugs or hormones.