The Group Is Maturing

Saturday 21 July, 2001

I woke up feeling tired and fractious. I tried to hide it by singing. There is no need to do this. It must be so obvious to others that I am annoyed in some way. We had a fragmented and subdued breakfast and drove to the house for the men’s group. I felt much the same as I felt yesterday and the day before; I am struggling to take things in. I feel full up, as if I can take no more new information of any kind. Things have not stopped for me for weeks and I have had no chance to assimilate all that has happened to me.

Can I Do My Job?

We started off with a brainstorming exercise on the subject of ‘What is a job?’ The specifics of a job were summed up by Dev: a place to go, to do some work, to get some money. We spent the rest of the time discussing the subjective elements of a job, some examples of which are:

  • Defining ourselves / giving ourselves status
  • A reflection of ourselves
  • Living up to social expectations
  • Safety / security
  • Our internal drivers determine how we approach our job
  • A job provides stability, routine and focus in life

Leon had facilitated this and when Karaj returned we discussed the fact that, in its simplest form, a job has boundaries within which we are required to work – nothing more, nothing less. The only question which should concern us is ‘Can I do my job?‘ If the answer is ‘yes’, then nothing else should concern us. We do not go to work to please our colleagues, or to save the world, or to get stressed. We go there to do a job. Simple. Do not get carried away by it.

Two Truths in One Moment

Robert read extracts from his appraisal which concerned the here-and-now, and the different sides of his character. In his writing he pointed out that although he may despair at any given moment, that same moment is also full of other things. At all times, I am loved and loving, I am growing and I am safe. We forget these things when things go wrong but they are always there. This reminded me of Karaj’s words yesterday. I was tired, unable to concentrate and felt that the day had been unproductive and negative. However, when Karaj listed all the achievements we had made, we realised that the day had, in fact, been highly productive and very positive. That is our problem – we concentrate on the negatives and forget everything we are and everything we have achieved.

To compliment Robert’s writing I read from ‘The Way of Transformation’, and when Earl wondered aloud about deconfusion, redecision and relearning we talked about the existence of two truths. As in Robert’s piece where he expounds on each moment containing both love and despair, so it is with every situation. This is the paradox. Examples included my back – how can so much positivity come out of so much pain? Calvin’s experience with his wife’s family also served to explain the paradox as well as the danger of perception. He was perceived as rude and impolite, when all he was doing was being quiet. This brought up the problem that although we may be sure of who we are, if enough people tell us otherwise we can start to doubt ourselves. It would seem that this happens pretty easily.

The best we can do is to accept the paradoxical existence of two truths – confusion and clarity, love and hate, pain and pleasure, quietness and rudeness – and relax.

Be More Aware

In the afternoon we sat outside and read out parts of our appraisals. I showed the group my bound journals and Robert expressed some jealousy. Karaj tells me that the others in the group, with the exception of Ishwar, Calvin and possibly George all want me to fail. My reaction to that was an example of the two truths mentioned earlier – I was surprised by it, yet I wasn’t surprised. However I feel, I need to be aware that people would like to see me fail. It is an example of the English cultural script. We are much more comfortable with losers.

From my appraisal I read the extracts concerning our visit to Sunil’s flat to sign the contract. Sunil had been withdrawn and I had not noticed it. The message from Karaj was to wake up. I realised that not only had I not picked up on Sunil’s state, I had not anticipated it either. I did not put myself in Sunil’s shoes and I did not attempt to feel what it must be like for him being thrown out of his own house and landing in a flat in a strange city. Had I done that, had I given it some thought, I would have been able to predict, with great accuracy, Sunil’s state. It also brought home to me my own apathy with regard to other’s predicaments. If things are not blindingly obvious, or if they are not communicated, I remain unaware. I am more than capable of changing this with a little thought, attention and consideration.

A Shared Experience

Following on from this we discussed the best way to set about renovating Sunil’s flat. Karaj was insistent that he sort out the security first and foremost. I was struck by how important this was to Karaj. During the discussion we all had helped to create a few ideas for the colour scheme of the flat and how to go about decorating it. The support which such a simple exercise provides was tangible and it helped those who had not been to the flat to gain an impression of where Sunil will be living. It also brought Sunil’s situation closer to people. Sat in his flat he could easily be forgotten but now, all of us have some sort of shared experience of his new home which may also help to persuade people to visit him where they would normally have hesitated.

Into The Night

It was coming up to 11pm by this time and Leon expressed his intent to stay no later than midnight. He did so in an aggressive, whether-you-like-it-or-not fashion and Karaj told him clearly that we will all take a break and when we come back he will talk to us in a reasonable way about his issue of wanting to leave at midnight. He did just that and we were all able to understand his predicament. Before he left we all gave him feedback on his contribution to the group. He had facilitated three times and he had done a professional job on each occasion. He is gentle but persuasive and manages with ease to bring people into the forum and illicit their contributions. I thanked him for the genuine embrace with which he had greeted me this morning when he arrived. After receiving positive feedback, Karaj tried to persuade him to stay but he was adamant.

After another break, we helped Calvin to work through his performance review from work. It was very late and I found it even more difficult to concentrate than I had for the rest of the day. Karaj later said to me that I need to ensure that if Calvin has important agenda items he should raise them sooner. I have urged him to do it once and I need to maintain that support. [Karaj: Again and again, as I do with you.]

George raised the issue of some building work he is undertaking at home. After the exercise regarding Sunil’s flat he was recruiting people to help him out. Sunil volunteered, so too did Ishwar. And Kuldip was also keen to provide support next Saturday.

A Stern Challenge

We came full circle and finished the session where we had begun – with Kuldip. Karaj told him that he needs to be more private with himself – he shouldn’t go around smiling to himself because it gets up people’s nose and he shouldn’t give anybody any excuse or opportunity to bash him up. I recognised Karaj’s words because Kuldip himself had said the same thing to me in April 2000 when I was keen to send the letter I had written to Samantha. He told me there was no need to send it; it would not change anything and would more likely make things worse. I didn’t send the letter and I was glad of Kuldip’s advice.

Tonight I wondered why Karaj was having to give Kuldip his own advice. I challenged Kuldip. He told me that he sees the truth in others but not in himself. Moreover, he is scared of the truth. Apparently my challenge was seen by others as aggressive. Whilst my emotions bore little resemblance to the aggression and anger I have expressed in the past, they did correspond to how I had felt all day. In fact it was a way of using my emotions constructively because Karaj told me later that the nature of my challenge opened Kuldip up in such a way that we were able to put the final piece of what has been a confusing and frustrating jigsaw into place.

After my challenge it emerged that Kuldip had volunteered to help George in order to have an excuse not to attend his nephew’s wedding. He went on to say that it made him happy to let his sister down in this way. The real revelation came soon afterwards. Because of the humiliation he has suffered at the hands of family members, he is eager to seek some sort of revenge.

This allowed the group to climax in a way that I would never have expected. As cool, calm and mature as he always is, Ishwar simply explained to Kuldip that he does not want that sort of attitude in the group. He sees enough of it in his work with offenders and he attends the group to get away from those sorts of feelings. The group is a place of peace, not of retribution. I could only admire the way Ishwar communicated such an important point. He held everybody’s focus and addressed Kuldip directly, with a gentle but very firm tone to his voice. He did not display any emotions which may have caused Kuldip to react. He was very clear and matter-of-fact about what he wanted in the group and what didn’t belong. Kuldip had no option other that to be quiet and listen.

Karaj went on to tell Kuldip that he (Kuldip) is suffering and when that is the case he should be in his suffering, and be quiet. Suffer and shut up. That is the best way to proceed.

We finished the group with individual summaries. I struggled for my learning points. Karaj told me I need to calm down because I have been getting cockier all day. This surprised me, but I didn’t disagree with him because I have felt different all day. What Karaj’s comment did do was wake me up, and shut me up. I had been making jokes on and off throughout the day with the attitude that I didn’t care about the consequences. Karaj’s comment brought that into sharp focus and it quietened me down.

 

[Whilst editing this entry I contemplated a title for the post. As I reflected, I began to think that, after months of gentle progress, the group may have taken an important step on this day. Knowing how the ensuing months and years turned out, it feels like this was the beginning of the next phase of development for the men’s group.]


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