10-17-2017

It is one thing to recognize and understand what is being felt and the natural inclinations in a particular situation. It is another to act according to the best interest of others. The analysis of the way someone might be influenced, or the expectation of what acting might incur, can be paralyzing with the shift from experience to analysis.

Some of tonight involved a consideration of this occurring a couple weeks ago. We explored some of the ways our experience was different from others and some of the factors that contributed to the way we reacted. Some of this evolved into a consideration of needs. Awareness of needs in the moment encourages the meeting of those needs. When we are unsure of what others need, or we need, it can easy to move into our head as we attempt to calculate.

The following is feedback for individual members:

Jen – You left a message that you wouldn’t be here tonight.

Jim – I appreciated the way you identified your feelings around needing from others. You were willing to explore it and recognized that it is somewhat of a defense mechanism. I’m curious as to what that means for relationships. My reaction as I considered such a relationship was that I might see myself as dispensable due to not being needed for anything. I’m really interested in your continued exploration of your needs and others’ needs in relationships.

Maria – I was sad to see you physically hurting tonight, and I hope that the symptoms have been alleviated as quickly as possible. I have a bit of an internal conflict over wanting you give you the time and space, and being concerned that not working through it might cause undue distress over time. You mentioned that there are some areas that you would like to explore as you have not yet come to full awareness. I am hopeful that you have the opportunity to address your own needs in this, and when that opportunity arises, that you are willing to lean into the potential discomfort that might arise.

Melissa – You have begun using this entire experience to explore and become more aware of the ways the past continues to influence your present. Some of the feelings from the past are still powerful when they arise, perhaps even more so as there is less occasion for them to be experienced. There are still some very present needs for you in all this, but you have been willing to put some of them aside for now. It seems as though the continued processing of this will provide opportunities for everyone involved to grow, explore, and take risks.

Tom – I’m interested in your thoughts of being curious and interested in what was occurring a couple of weeks ago. You saw that there was work to be done, but seemed to be wondering about how that work would be approached without completely interrupting the process. Is sounded like you went a bit into your head.  Dr. Scherz mentioned the paralysis that can come from not perceiving ourselves as

Tomás – You were not in session tonight.

Trish – You described a lot of the feelings you have experienced. I am happy to see that you are reflecting and expressing your feelings without much reserve. I’m interested in what the feelings mean. Dr. Scherz mentioned that feeling scared about progress might mean that you need something to feel safe and secure, and he encouraged you to consider what that might be. You mentioned hoping for greater understanding. I wonder what other needs might be met through this. I think that the continued processing of this could provide opportunities for everyone. I’m hoping that you find them and take them when they arise.

10-10-2017

One of the remarkable qualities of this group is trust. Trust is a necessary component in life and is involved in pretty much everything. Without some element of trust we wouldn’t eat food grown or made by other people, drive a car or fly in a plane, or even go outside of our home. Everything requires some degree of confidence in someone or something else. Trust is on a continuum – there are many people we are comfortable going to dinner with but to whom we would never impart our deepest secrets.

A very common (perhaps most common) approach to conflict is avoidance. Tonight Tom mentioned his inclination to avoid conflict by placating or ignoring issues. Others have mentioned this inclination as well in the past. Jim mentioned cutting people off or dismissing others in the past, and having gotten better at attempting to work through conflict as much as possible.

The current conflict demonstrates the trust that exists in the group. Despite the intense emotions that are being elicited, there is a willingness and perhaps even a desire to lean into the discomfort to work through it. The trust is in other people but it is also in the process. The levels of trust may vary, but the very fact that people are present and engaging is revealing.

The following is feedback for individual members:

Jen – You were not in session tonight.

Jim – You have contributed some secondary feedback on the process, which Melissa seemed to receive and consider. There is a lot of value in providing such perspective. It seems as though you are providing some space to Melissa and Maria before addressing your own needs or feelings in all of this. You mentioned some of the feelings that have arisen throughout this, and I’m looking forward to further exploration.

Maria – I’m looking forward to exploring more of us. My perspective has already begun expanding, and I’m excited about learning more about you and what you need from me. I believe that I can work toward meeting those needs, but one of the first steps for me will be gaining a greater understanding of both your needs and the needs of the group in general. I much prefer doing so in person, but if you need something from me throughout the week I will make sure that I check the blog and respond more quickly.

Melissa – You were much more intentional tonight. It seemed like the relationship was more primary (process was prioritized over the content). What happened and the way you felt (and feel) is important, but you were willing to step back and take a different approach for the time being. At times it seemed as though you were fighting the urge to more directly address the tough feelings you have been feeling, and I am interested in what peace looks like for you going forward. I am looking forward to a more in-depth exploration of your needs and the ways they can be addressed.

Tom – I appreciated your willingness to be challenged and confronted tonight. You accepted it and used it for self-reflection. There can be value in maintaining an objective perspective to provide secondary feedback on the process. The one concern that I have is that it become too objective and your own feelings and experience become more analytical and less experiential. Last week you mentioned some of your reaction and feelings and I’m curious as to what happens with them in such situations.

Tomás – Thank you for providing your feedback. It was helpful in exploring my part in everything. You were attending to the process and escaping some of the content. While you are investing yourself in the process of working through the conflict, I am hopeful that you will find some of your own needs being met and your own growth facilitated.

Trish – I really appreciated it when you mentioned your feelings surrounding everything. It showed your awareness of your experience and your willingness to bring that in. While the way you process and experience your feelings might shift over time, the feelings might be experienced similarly. They are windows to exploration. You mentioned you found it to be scary and expanded on it a little. Like I mentioned to a couple others, your experience of everything can lead to exploration and personal growth. If this becomes more of a arm-length support group for someone else, some of the personal value could be lost. I’m interested in what the feelings evoked in you, what you’ve done in the past when scared or in conflict, and how you tend to process and work through such things. Hopefully there will be opportunities to explore such things, and other things, as time progresses.

10-3-2017

Contact begins with awareness. We become aware of a feeling and there is an excitement or a rise in energy that typically leads to action. However, that action might not occur when we encounter resistance. The exploration of resistance can provide valuable understanding of the factors that inhibit acting in manner that is genuine and congruent with our needs and feelings.

There was a lot of emotion and energy in the room tonight, with intense feelings. Over the past week Melissa’s energy grew and, similar to the way Maria’s energy grew throughout last week’s session, needed a release. While Melissa expressed the way she was feeling and some of the reasons that she was feeling that way, others encountered more resistance to providing their genuine experience. There was a noticeable dearth of secondary feedback and genuine response under the influence of resistance.

There is a tendency to ruminate after a session like tonight. One of the potential areas of exploration is the feelings that arose and how those feelings influenced the way we expressed ourselves. Inhibitions might have been raised or lowered. Our posture could have become more self-protective which can look different from person to person and across situations. Such exploration can produce a greater understanding of the forces that influence the way we act.

The following is feedback for individual members:

Jen – You were not in session tonight.

Jim – You mentioned that you felt shame and disappointment in yourself regarding lack of secondary feedback or attention to process. Lately I have seen growth in providing feedback that is grounded in feeling and awareness. It can be a bit more difficult to be aware of a contextual interaction and find a way to move it toward process. I’m interested in your exploration of the source of feelings, as you described your feelings of shame and disappointment as being from within. I’d be interested in the exploration of where and how such feelings are elicited and the factors that contribute to them.

Maria – There were some intense feelings directed your way tonight, primarily by Melissa but also less directly from others. You were understandably defensive and resistant when you were confronted with the feelings of shame and judgment others experienced. Such occasions provide wonderful opportunities for exploration, and I’m interested in exploring what your “stuff” was in all of this. It’s easy to focus on outcome in these situations, but sticking with the process can provide valuable understanding regardless of the ultimate outcome.

Melissa – You had a lot of energy coming in and you noted that it was difficult to manage all the emotion. You felt judged, shamed, and belittled and it was not difficult to see either the effect this had or the reason such feelings were elicited. You did seem to have some mixed feelings about the process tonight (some of which Tom addressed as we considered it further). Exploring from this approach might provide the opportunity for greater understanding of your thoughts and feelings. I got the impression that secondary feedback would have been quite meaningful to you in those moments, and I am hopeful that there is more of it (and less resistance to it) in the future.

Tom – You quickly noted the role that you often take in conflict – that of the peacemaker. I appreciated your self-awareness and willingness to share when you considered the way you typically approach conflict in relationships. You took a similar approach both tonight and over the past week on the blog – maintaining a distance from the actual conflict. It did seem to provide some opportunities for exploring self but seemed to become more introspective rather than relational. Lately you have really stepped up with awareness and understanding of process and I’m excited as you grow in your willingness to lean into the discomfort and provide feedback even when you encounter resistance.

Tomás – You had a valuable place tonight as you were able to take on a more objective and impartial role having been away last week. I appreciated your feedback, as it was very much process-based. You did a great job providing your own experience of the interactions, which I believe helped process became more of a focal point. I’m interested in seeing whether you can take more of this approach even while relating to a topic or as things become more contextual for you.

Trish – I was impressed with your willingness to engage despite it being a tense atmosphere. You were willing to address your feelings and experience. I’m curious as to what motivated you to make yourself a larger part of the group process tonight even as some others were less inclined to engage.

9-26-2017

Just two weeks ago we had a session that was marked by high energy, attention to process, and staying in the “here and now”. It was described as a fairly ideal session. There was an excitement and satisfaction at the end. Tonight was a different experience. One factor was that it was lower energy. How is energy created and maintained? Maintaining energy is an easier concept. Remaining present, reacting genuinely according to feeling, and attending to process are some factors that will help maintain that level. However, it is a bit more difficult to identify what creates energy.

Tonight, Jen came into the session with some needs that she wanted to address. Melissa was willing to engage her and provide some insight from past experience. The focus seemed to be more on skills and strategies to build trust and work through insecurities which was a bit more theoretical than experiential. While the session’s energy level was low, Maria’s energy level seemed to rise continually throughout the session. At the end of the session that energy burst forth as she expressed her displeasure about a lower energy, more content-driven session.

Quite often we have seen energy levels tied into emotion. When interactions lacks emotion it becomes more cognitive and analytical. While there can be benefits to such a discussion, it moves away from experience in the moment. This ties into a bit of what has bothered me about shifting focus and getting in group mode at the beginning of the session. It appears to me as an effort to clear the mind, but of what? Of thoughts? It seems more like clearing away the emotion of the day, with the deep breathing and closed eyes. If emotion is a part of high energy, perhaps getting ready for group leaves some of the energy behind as well.

The following is feedback for individual members:

Jen – You were aware of some of your needs coming in. I was glad you stepped up and made the effort to address them. It can be difficult to bring outside content and still focus on process in the “here and now”. At one point you differentiated the feelings you have outside versus those inside group, but you stuck with the feelings outside. I wonder if exploring the reasons you did feel the trust, security, and safety here would help identify the characteristics that elicit those feelings in you.

Jim – Tonight you primarily reacted to what others were bringing into the room, particularly when it came to maintaining or cutting off an imbalanced relationship. Initially, I wasn’t confident that you were providing opportunities for exploring the conflicts you encountered but I was encouraged when you mentioned that you provide opportunities to work through. You seemed to be engaged and I’m curious as to whether or not you were satisfied with the course of the evening.

Maria – I understood your frustration with tonight. It was lower energy and more content-driven.   Yet your energy level seemed continually rise. Yet that energy remained trapped until the last couple minutes. As I considered it, I found myself wondering what elements need to be in place for you to address your needs. I’m accustomed to you reacting to others, but it often seems as though you are waiting for something to react to. Being present and exploring reactions is important, but it does not always encourage meeting unique needs. I’m curious as to what it would look like for you to create the energy and address a need that is present for you rather than reacting when others raise their needs. Of course, this begins with identifying needs and setting goals and I’m curious as to the needs and goals that you seek to pursue.

Melissa – Jen specifically addressed you for help in addressing some of her needs, and you obliged by relating some of your own experiences with trust and building understanding in relationships. It was a bit content-laden and advicey at times, but it seemed to be what Jen was looking for. It was a different approach to a session, with less process and presence in the “here and now”. Similarly to Maria, my experience of you is largely in reacting to what others bring in. I’m curious as to your goals and needs for group.

Tom – Towards the end of the session you mentioned that you were initially uncomfortable with the course of the interactions but you overcame the discomfort by investing yourself in the dialogue. It seemed to help that you were able to identify with the topic and I wonder if you derived value for yourself. You did recognized the discomfort in Maria at one point, and I’m curious as to whether dissatisfaction emanated from inside you or more from your perception of Maria’s discomfort.

Tomás – You were not in session tonight.

Trish – You seemed to relate to much of what others were experiencing or have experienced in their relationships, particularly with the idea of an imbalance. You mentioned having experienced that imbalance in some of your relationships and I found myself wondering about some of the parallels with your relationship with your mother. You mentioned her a few times, and I’m interested in your continued exploration.

9-19-2017

How do we know what someone else needs without being explicitly told? Quite often it is difficult enough identifying and understanding our own needs. Attempting to address a need that is not actually what is needed can be wasted, or even detrimental if it exhibits a lack of understanding or closeness.

Tonight Jen came in shouldering a burden. She was willing to share her thoughts and feelings, which demonstrated a trust and comfort from the closeness that has developed. The natural instinct seemed to be to support and comfort, but I was impressed with the willingness to give her some time and space to express herself. Eventually the comforting and reassurance came. Melissa mentioned “going down into the depths” with her, and, while it seemed that there was a natural inclination to alleviate the discomfort, there was also a willingness to allow her to feel and experience that moment in the “here and now”.

It’s difficult to see someone suffering when we care immensely for them. It seems natural to alleviate and fix. In a post since the session, Jen expressed her appreciation of others resisting that temptation. If we alleviate the feelings too quickly it can be difficult to explore and understand all that is occurring.

The following is feedback for individual members:

Jen – this was an emotional night. My initial thought was that you would have left feeling drained and depleted, but the support and intimacy provided by this group can be a real source of strength. I imagine that there were a plethora of feelings by the end. In your post since the session you mentioned a number of thoughts that have come through exploring more of the thoughts and feelings that arose. I am excited to see your willingness to be open and willing to stay in the moment despite it being tough.

Jim – You related to Jen’s experience, having been there at one point yourself. Your shift in perspective from uncertainty and insecurity to excitement and hope seemed to be encouraging and appreciated. When you were thinking about addressing Trish and decided not to because you didn’t want to pry, I wondered if there was a different way that you could interact with her without asking more questions or even requiring anything from her. I’m curious as to whether you had any feelings toward her or her experience in that moment.

Maria – I appreciated your honesty and openness about your relationship with Jen. It is easier for a lot of people to avoid the tough considerations in a relationship. Things are ignored and people drift apart because there isn’t open dialogue. When you were discussing the issue of creating and maintaining a friendship with Jen you mentioned having to keep your armor up. That stood out to me. I still have the “zone” on my mind, and I wonder if it is something of an armor. I’m still a bit bothered by the thought of leaving everything behind when entering the room. There have been a few times that you have been surprised by a feeling that was difficult to stay with and work through. I wonder if in those moments you are pulled out of that zone and things get real quickly.

Melissa – I was impressed by your emphasis on going into the depths with someone and just being there with them. My impression is that this would have been unnatural and uncomfortable for you in the past. There was still the inclination to comfort and reassure, but you resisted most of it. I was interested to hear that your experience of Jim was quite different from Jen’s. I wonder why that was.

Tom – As odd as it sounds, your willingness to sit and resist reaching out was exactly what Jen needed. It’s similar to something I’ve learned about working with people in grief. Sometimes you just let others know that you are there for them. It allows them to simply emote, which can be a cleansing experience. When Jen was ready to others to step in, you were willing to do so.

Tomás – I was glad to hear you provide your perspective regardless of the fear of being criticized or coming across in a way that was received as helpful. Ultimately, what you said seemed to be appreciated. I have been impressed by your willingness in the past, as you seem to be one who receives some tough secondary feedback at times. It hasn’t held you back and I’m excited to see the continued progress over the coming weeks. After your vacation of course. Have a good time and we’ll see you when you get back.

Trish – Thank you for coming out tonight. It really showed the importance of group to you, and the commitment you have made to each person there. It was a really tough day and you could have come out with many good reasons to go home. I know others appreciated it as well, and it will only help us feel closer to you when you are again ready to fully engage.

9-12-2017

One of the things that we explored tonight was the difference between dialogue, discussion, and debate. Discussion and debate tend to be more intellectual. Tonight was marked by more of a dialogue, which kept everything in the “here and now” and encouraged understanding and awareness of both self and others.

Tonight was marked by a significantly greater attention to the “here and now”. This resulted in more secondary feedback, a heightened awareness of feelings and reactions, and an emphasis on the process. It seemed as though everyone left with a certain satisfaction with the results of the dialogue. Dr. Scherz encouraged making interactions more personal – directly focused on experience with others.

I came across a table provided by Dr. Scherz in the past. It could be helpful in understanding the difference between discussion and dialogue. Take a moment to look it over if you wish to further understand the nature of interactions.

 

DISCUSSION DIALOGUE
Breaking the issue/problem into parts Seeing the whole among the parts
Seeing distinctions between the parts Seeing the connections between the parts
Justifying/defending assumptions Inquiring into assumptions
Persuading [through declaration and assertion] Learning through inquiry and disclosure
Gaining agreement on one meaning Creating shared meaning among many

 
The following is feedback for individual members:

Jen – Tonight I got a great glimpse into the intimate and trusting relationships that have developed here. I was glad to see the closeness of your relationship with Maria. Not feeling free to reach out to her was clearly distressing, and there seems to be some more exploration around that topic. I’m curious to hear your experience of the blog, and your reaction to Maria’s assessment of your blog activity. I appreciated it when you told Melissa that you wanted to hear the word “choice” in her activity. It showed your care and concern for her ability to do what she feels best for her, regardless of circumstance.

Jim – I appreciated the way you ended the session with your willingness to be open even though you perceived yourself as being the outlier. I’m excited about future opportunities for you to experiment with being direct and personal in the way you interact. Dr. Scherz encouraged you to step away from the hypothetical and become more concrete and direct. I’m curious as to whether or not Tom’s example was helpful.

Maria – I was excited about seeing your excitement and appreciation for the way everything went tonight. You have mentioned your frustration in the past, and it seemed as though some of that discontent was alleviated tonight. When you first came in you took a moment to “get in the zone”, and I recognized a reaction in me. I found myself wondering whether there is a side of Maria that never, or rarely ever, shows up for a session. I’m curious as to what it would be like to bring all that into the room with you. You deal with all of that every other day, are you as fully equipped to do so without experience and experimentation in sessions? I think I was also a bit surprised because you are generally willing to be yourself in the “here and now”. People can expect a genuine experience from you. Which they did when you took a bit of a risk in telling everyone your perception of them when it comes to blog writing. That was something that provided others with plenty of exploration if they desired to continue with it.

Melissa – You were really open and inviting tonight. There was a slight inclination to protect and defend early on, but you recognized it and quickly shifted to curiosity. I saw it as a great example of thinking and acting in a way that can create intimacy with others and facilitate growth. There seemed to be some skepticism early on around your ability to be more active on the blog. Some thought that you might have had the ability to do so. Jen and Maria mentioned that they would appreciate hearing that you are taking that time to do things that are important to you or that will encourage self-care. I believe that is the case, but when you said you just aren’t able it sounded inhibiting and constricting to me, which could have been where the concern came from.

Tom – Your stepping in and providing a personal and direct statement to Melissa stimulated quite a bit of exploration. That kind of openness can provide numerous opportunities, and it seemed to be appreciated. I remember wondering what it was about the statement that elicited exploration. It seemed as though the goal was to be less hypothetical and more personal, but the way you approached it still seemed hypothetical to me. You mentioned that someone saying that work is getting in the way is understandable but that vacations and family time seems less restricting. I wondered if that was specific to your experience of Melissa or if it was more applicable to anyone in those particular situations.

Tomás – I related to the desire to contribute something in an extremely impactful way. I find that to be an obstacle for me as well at times. It is easy to look for that “aha moment” that could provide something that might change a life or a perspective. It seems as though you’re spending a lot of time in your head. I wonder what it would be like to simply say what you are feeling at a certain impactful moment. One of the wonderful things about this group is that there are plenty of others to explore with. It seems as though your tendency is to try and provide the results of exploration in an enlightening comment rather than engage in the process of getting there with others.

Trish – You were not in session tonight.

9-5-2017

Several complex topics were raised tonight, including ego, sensitivity, insecurity, and criticism. Each of these are related to each other in some way. It is unreasonable, and unhealthy, to expect ourselves to live entirely unscathed by feedback from others. It would necessitate an emotional detachment. I am reminded of an old proverb – “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”. We have repeatedly found that a willingness to react honestly can bring about the most valuable exploration. Sometimes the feedback can sting. But it seems as though this group has gotten to the place of trusting that the feedback that is provided is intended to stimulate growth for everyone involved. Better to receive constructive criticism from a friend than be patronized by someone who is uncaring or not invested, even when the latter hurts and the former is ignorable.

This concept first arose for me with the ideas of ego strength, sensitivity, and insecurity. Tomás was challenged early to explore the way that others experience him, and Maria sensed some hesitation to do so. She hypothesized that the hesitation was, at least in part, influenced by not wanting to hear the feedback that might be difficult to hear or process in his current state. Later Melissa differentiated between “criticism” and “constructive criticism”, and Jim reacted to the word criticism. I remember wondering where our sensitivity to the thought of being criticized comes from.

Every so often someone clearly avoids saying something that would be tough to hear. Sometimes, not always, there is a fear of being confrontational and appearing “critical”. Perhaps some of this stems back to past experiences of criticism without care and concern. I believe that the current state of this group could encourage constructive criticism that will provide a genuine experience of each other.

The following is feedback for individual members:

Jen – You were not in session tonight.

Jim – You shared a number of thoughts tonight that others found rewarding. I appreciated your perspective on “winning” an argument, and the importance of defining a personal idea of exactly what we are trying to win. The need to dominate an argument can diminish if our victory is found in increased closeness. I did find myself wondering if you are more hesitant to provide feedback that might come across as harsh with this mindset. You have said in the past that you are trying to learn how to avoid conflict, and I’m not sure that I have experienced you often express a reaction that might come across as “critical”. I thought of this when you addressed Maria, as you came across to me as warm, supportive, and caring, and I realized that this is a way that I generally receive you (which seems to be always appreciated). However, it may not always be the most ideal way to increase intimacy in a relationship.

Maria – I think we all had the same thought when we entered the room and it was you and 5 guys. I appreciated your willingness to address the situation and mention the feelings that arose. When I considered the proverb I shared, you were foremost in my mind. You are willing to be the friend who “wounds” to encourage growth in others. People would benefit greatly from more friends who were willing to share their honest experience despite the potential of it stinging a bit at times. I’m curious as to whether your experience from last week is something that you would like to explore further in group. You mentioned that there are aspects of it that you don’t understand, particularly factors that might have contributed. Others also seem to be interested in whether they played a part in it, particularly Tom as that was quite a bit of his reaction last week.

Melissa – I appreciated your relatively newfound perspective on “debating” in your relationship. Sharing thoughts that differ does not have to create as tense and unyielding a situation as it often does. The thought of coming across as “critical” seemed to be extremely aversive to you. I’m curious as to whether such a reaction influences your willingness to express an idea that might come across as confrontational or harsh. I have seen you address tough topics and make honest, genuine contact in the past, but I found myself wondering if you allow some of those moments to pass.

Tom – One of the things I have seen you do quite frequently lately is to clarify and encapsulate what others are saying. You take what someone else is relating and add your own experience and reaction to it. It provides additional depth and stimulates exploration. I was intrigued by your thoughts on hating in others what we hate about ourselves. You related it a bit to your relationship with your sister. You mentioned that you have pretty much completely dismissed her, but I find it interesting that you are actually exploring some seemingly new thoughts and ideas in the past two weeks that stem from your relationship with her.

Tomás – You benefited quite a bit from listening and relating to others’ experiences. Tom mentioned some things about his relationship with his sister, and Jim mentioned closeness rather than winning. You expressed your appreciation and I remember thinking that it was pretty much exactly what Maria had said at the start of the session. You wanted to hear what others had to say so you could use it to clarify and further understand your own situations. I didn’t think that it was wrong or pass judgment on it. I just found it interesting. However, I can see where others would experience that as taking in and not giving back as much. Your mind seems to work well with concepts and ideas. I remember you discussing your exploration of motivation for work. You came in to that session trying to apply the concepts you had learned to the interactions within group. I saw this as being similar – taking concepts and applying them to relationships. I’m sure that it can be beneficial but I wonder if intimacy suffers as a result.

Trish – You were not in session tonight.

8-29-2017

Unpleasant feelings are so often perceived as negative. The idea of sitting in discomfort has arisen numerous times, and some have expressed their desire to be allowed to experience feelings and experiences that would often be perceived as “negative”. It is much easier to approach this cognitively than emotionally in the here and now. It can be difficult to have any sense of appreciation when those moments are occurring.

There were a few moments that this arose tonight, and in different degrees with different responses. My impression is that using the terms “unpleasant feelings” or “discomfort” would greatly underestimate Maria’s experience. However, they might be more appropriate for the reactions that others felt toward that experience. Tom, Jim, and Tomás had different feelings from different perspectives that, while only briefly explored at the time, demonstrated the potential value in developing relationships. While each felt uncomfortable during that time, the discomfort emanated from their care and concern for Maria, which she appreciated when Jim relayed his reaction to her. In fact, the experience has seemed to create greater intimacy.

Often our tendency is to continually reach out over and over again in an attempt to develop intimacy. This might be through repeated efforts to relate or identify with someone, as Tomás and Tom mentioned that they are inclined to do at times. I find that some of the most intimate, relationship-building moments necessitate few words. The value can be in openness, vulnerability, and willingness to share in feeling.

The following is feedback for individual members:

Jen – You were not in session tonight.

Jim – I was a bit surprised when you reached out to Maria and expressed your feelings of discomfort. It seemed like a bold move at the time. You were willing to immediately engage in exploration with her. It seemed like Maria sincerely appreciated your feelings toward her. Often people try to fix situations to ease their own discomfort, but my impression tonight was that you wished to “fix” things out of a care and concern for Maria. Towards the end of the session, Tomás mentioned the value that he has found in letting things sit and I wondered if that is something that you would be willing to experiment with, as you have frequently have been in the role of fixing and taking care of others.

Maria –For quite some time it seems as though you have been coming in physically and emotionally drained. At the start of the session I remember experiencing you as less inhibited, more enthusiastic, more engaged, and more at ease in your contact with others. At some point that shifted. It was hard to hear that you were so disappointed and I was curious as to wherein lay the disappointment. I felt similarly to the others when you were upset in wanting to reach out and make things better. As I considered the night, I found that I appreciate being present to experience that moment as I think I know you even better, and, as the others mentioned, I feel closer as a result.

Melissa – You were not in session tonight.

Tom – I could relate to your belief system regarding family. I would have similar thoughts regarding my “responsibility” as a brother or son, and I believe I would experience similar guilt for not being entirely giving of myself. You mentioned that you believe you distanced yourself from your sister a long time ago. You also mentioned that she has surprised you in the past, although very infrequently. Jim wondered about the opportunities you have provided, and I found myself curious as well. It seems as though the last time you gave her an opportunity she came through.

Tomás – I am interested in your relationship with your brother. I thought it was quite introspective and perhaps humble to consider your brother’s perspective regarding being supported or reaching out (you don’t feel supported but you haven’t supported him either). I appreciated what Jim said to you regarding sticking with the feeling. Tom mentioned the guilt he feels in not reaching out to his sister (or perhaps being okay with not reaching out), and his disappointment in their relationship. Those feelings stood out to me, and I wondered what they elicited in you (if anything).

Trish – You were not in session tonight.

8-22-2017

One of the elements of tonight’s dialogue that stood out to me was the subjective nature of experience. Dr. Scherz stressed exploring the source of reactions, whether they are coming from within or without. Often, the thoughts and behaviors that we initially perceive to be helpful can later be found to be inhibiting. An example would be denying someone the opportunity to experience discomfort. It may seem wonderful to rescue another person from such an experience, but an important process can be lost.

Tonight Tomás expressed a dilemma that he is facing. Several different perspectives of that dilemma were provided. Some of the unique characteristics that influenced those perspectives became apparent as we explored. Melissa and Jim mentioned some of their childhood experiences that impact the way they would think and feel in such a situation. I suspect others might also identify childhood experience were we to explore further. Trisha related to Tomás based on a similar recent experience, and her perspective was impacted accordingly.

Another thought tonight that can be greatly influenced by perspective was that of the selfish-selfless continuum. Sometimes things that seem selfless might actually be selfish, and vice versa. I think of the parents who give up all of their time for their children to engage in a certain activity (sports, theatre, hobbies, etc…). It may seem as though they are selfless, but exploration of the motivation might reveal a bit (or a lot) of selfishness. Determining in whose interest we are acting necessitates exploration of the core motivations that drive us.

The following is feedback for individual members:

Jen – You were not in session tonight.

Jim – You have gotten much better at expressing the feeling early in your reactions. You caught yourself early with Tomás and shifted from telling him your opinion to expressing what your worry and fear would be. I did wonder about the ways that the guilt you continually feel continue to influence your relationships with your kids. You mentioned several times that many of those experiences were in the past or primarily with your oldest daughter, but you also mentioned that the guilt is still very present in your life. I’m curious as to the way you have changed despite the feelings all still being there. I also have to say that your comment to Trish at the end seemed really heartfelt and encouraging. I have had similar reactions to her pushing through despite some of the feedback she has gotten.

Maria – You provided some secondary feedback to Trish and Tomás that seemed to bring some energy to the dialogue. I sensed that you let a few opportunities for secondary feedback go by, but appreciated it when you did have the motivation to engage. I did have a reaction to your thoughts on the selfish – selfless continuum. I began to wonder how difficult it is to ascertain whether we are acting out of selflessness or selfishness. There are some who would say that everything anyone does is selfish in some sense, as there is some sort of reward involved (particularly behaviorists). When you said that you would never be more than 10-15 minutes from your daughter when she is home alone, I wondered if she needed you to be in such short proximity or if you needed to be so close. The moment that I really appreciated you as a selfless parent was in your allowing there to be great distance between the two of you tonight, rather than the closeness you mentioned earlier (although I can certainly see an element of selflessness in that as well).

Melissa – You got a bit teachery with Trish, but I found myself appreciating the motivation I perceived to be behind the teaching. There was also the potential for it being helpful. I found myself wondering what your perspective was on whether or not it was a right or wrong approach. You were then questioned about expressing an opinion being right and wrong. I wasn’t sure which way you would go with that, and it seemed to create an inner conflict for a moment. I’m curious as to how you reconcile not teaching as a teacher, and the idea of right and wrong in the ways we make contact with others.

Tom – You did a bit of a “mind over matter” experiment in creating energy tonight. The effort you invested brought back some dividends. Toward the end, Melissa mentioned that she “really loved” what you told Tomás regarding “complaining”. It felt caring and considerate to me. It seemed as though you identified a need that he had to express his genuine experience, and you gave him permission to do so. There’s no denying the physical ramification of lacking sleep and being exhausted, but I am curious as to whether boosting your energy through effort is something that will come more easily in the future.

Tomás – You came in with a big decision to make, and you mentioned that you left with some valuable feedback. Dr. Scherz mentioned your tendency to relate your own experience when others offer you something. Your interaction with Maria seemed to be an appropriate back-and-forth as far as a general, social interaction would go. However, in a setting that encourages deeper exploration, it did diminish some of the potential. I appreciated your openness and selflessness in considering a way that you could have better related once you were confronted on it. Towards the end of the session you expressed your appreciation for the different perspectives that were provided, and I imagine that you sense the support you will receive regardless of the decision you make.

Trish – I related to Jim’s experience of you receiving secondary feedback. Despite receiving some tough constructive criticism at times, you are motivated to work hard. I see that as a quality that will greatly facilitate your growth. One of the things that I have mentioned in the past, and am excited to see you try, is to stop yourself early on. Sometimes it seems as though you’re trying really hard to say the right things and to be impactful. So an inclination is to make a point and then provide support for it until you either get an agreeable reaction or don’t have anywhere else to go with it. I’d love to see you simply express a feeling and get ready to explore the feeling further, rather than the analysis or opinion that quickly presents itself. Tomás mentioned his appreciation for what you said to him. I think that if it was just presented in a slightly different way it would have been perceived differently. For example, you said things like “I think you would come back as a better parent”. With that wording, it seems as though you are telling him what his experience would be like. Perhaps if you stick with your personal experience it will come across as your perspective rather than explicit advice.

8-15-2017

The was a certain flow to the session tonight. Attention to one’s own feelings and thoughts can promote a natural flow to the experience. Secondary feedback comes more easily as reactions are more clearly identified and understood. There can be a lack of judgment when the feeling is prioritized. Instead of attaching moral or ethical beliefs, responses can stick with the feelings that were elicited.

This was evident tonight. Tomás remarked on it, and I had a similar perspective. There seemed to be less inhibition in supporting, challenging, confronting, exploring. While there seemed to be a freedom of expression, it was not done in a demeaning manner. There was some confrontation and unpleasant feelings, but such feelings were approached with a mindset of seeking to understand and explore. The exception to this flow was Maria and Melissa’s inclination to continue challenging Tomás. There was some inhibition there, based on a certain cautious sensitivity. Later Tomás considered the possibility that challenging him in that moment might have helped maintain the flow of the evening.

It is important to consider another’s state. There will be times in which someone can handle direct challenging, other times they might not be as open. The difficulty can be in knowing where that person is at that moment. What is the feeling in that moment? Perhaps it is a caring concern regarding their willingness to be challenged. Perhaps it is confusion, self-doubt, fear, any of a number of potential feelings. I wonder what would happen if we expressed those feelings rather than going straight to the challenging or confronting.

The following is feedback for individual members:

Jen – I appreciated your openness when you considered your feelings regarding relationships. Much of what is practiced here is more difficult to implement outside. Others often don’t have the same understanding or perspective. I related to what you were saying. There will be moments that you experience a strong reaction to something, and I am excited about the opportunity you will have to explore your inclinations.

Jim – There have been times in the past that you have expressed a reaction and then softened what you said based on reactions, and you have mentioned that being liked and understood are both important to you. Tonight you mentioned something that Trish reacted to and you let her sort out her feelings. I thought it was great. You let your words stay out there and others were able to explore their reaction.

Maria – You were discerning and cautious with Tomás early in the session. You approach seemed appropriate for the situation. Ultimately, he indicated that he probably would not have been in a place to continue and push forward. Your perception had merit, and it demonstrated a sensitivity to the situation and an understanding of Tomás. At one point you considered a post that Jen had left in which she expressed a need and subsequently checked in with you. It felt manipulative to you, and I wondered where that came from. I’m curious as to whether you would be comfortable with someone meeting your needs without meeting their needs in return.

Melissa – You and Maria were similarly supportive and challenging with Tomás. You demonstrated a sensitivity, which seems to come somewhat naturally for you. When you held back with him, I wondered how much your perception of the way someone is feeling influences the way you approach them. I’m curious as to whether your reactions are often constrained. On another note, I’m found that I am having a more difficult time being constructive with you than I generally have with others. I’m curious as to whether that is from me or from you. I’m wondering if I am having a hard time understanding the goals and work that you are undertaking at the moment.

Tom – I enjoyed watching you have your epiphany tonight on beginning with feelings. I saw a good deal of wisdom in it, and Melissa mentioned how important it has become for her. I thought that your relating to Jim’s approach to relationships has a lot of potential for exploration. Such inclinations can open doors to understanding oneself in a deeper way. Dr. Scherz mentioned that he has appreciated your spontaneity lately. It certainly seems as though you are more present in the here and now.

Tomás – I thought that I saw a bit of your care and love for others when you mentioned being drawn to those who are hurting or in need. It did not feel manipulative to me; I didn’t feel anything unpleasant toward it. Of course, whenever there is a position of power there is the potential for manipulation. Such is the risk of vulnerability. I appreciated your trust in allowing yourself to be vulnerable here. Even though things went well after session (getting your stuff), the feelings you experienced were real and valid. The here and now contains a lot of potential for exploration, and the feelings we experience can be explored regardless of our perception of them later. Also, have to mention the apology for being emotional. Your willingness to be open led to exploration for everyone and was a valuable experience.

Trish – I was excited when you were reacting to Jim. You were willing to express the unpleasant feelings you were experiencing. While it was analytical at first, you ended up considering the source of those feelings within yourself. I am hopeful that such exploration continues. I noticed that you frequently say “I feel like” and then follow it up with an opinion or analysis. Perhaps noticing those words could be a reminder to follow up with an actual feeling.