Today was the first session. My relief and gratitude was tinged by nervousness: Would the internal work I have done before unravel and leave me depressed and helpless again? I know the road to healing is like an onion; there are layers of issues to work through. Personal growth is life-long learning, not something that is ever complete. Is the peace that I feel really solid? Am I deluding myself?
My apprehension was also because I knew that we would work in groups. I am really not always my best in group situations; I tend to become loud and bombastic.
I knew that the groups would include experienced counsellors, so I had faith a safety-net would catch me if I was just brave enough to jump.
One presenter described the Lifeline course as a journey; sometimes hectic and busy, sometimes seeming too much, sometimes quiet and sometimes wonderful. Before we split into smaller groups, we paired up to do an exercise. I was to listen first, without speaking or interrupting, and my partner spoke for a short period about his journey to this present moment. I found myself thinking of interrupting, as I normally would – to confirm my similar experiences – but I tried to focus instead on what I was hearing, ignoring my tendency to compare it to my own journey.
When each person had both spoken and listened, we described our experience. Some described feeling “naked” talking about themselves to a stranger, others felt comfortable. Some felt limited when required to listen silently, some had been uncertain if they had been heard when they received no response. We were told to observe the body-language of both speaker and listener for clues.
Then we split into groups of eight – in which we will remain for the rest of the course – with two counsellors.
Before we began our work, we were encouraged to relax and to ensure that our entire selves were available to engage. This exercise became the starting point for each session. Then the first thing we did was look at Group and Personal Goals for this Module of the course, and then to decide which Group Rules would allow us to feel safe in this group. My goals were:
Next, each of us was given paper and crayons with which to describe where we are now. This was something I would enjoy; portraying the spurt of growth that I am feeling. Each person revealed and discussed their present position in life, their hopes, and their relationships.
One of the things that soon became apparent during this discussion was how easy it is to distance myself from what I am describing: Using “one,” “we” or “you” when I am really explaining what I feel. It is a form of disassociation, and I learned that using the “I” word helps me to take ownership and responsibility for what I am going through.
The next exercise was writing down what I think about the others in the group in a few words. Then we handed in our notes about each other and the first session has come to an end. Though I had felt uneasy during some parts of it, I felt both excited and curious about what the rest of the course would reveal.