As always there is something good in it and it should be, since a support group is meant to help. But what is in my eyes a problem which could be part of it?
Before I start with this random brainstorm whatever, I have to add, that except for an idea of it and a concept experience the clinic I was in some years ago, I never was in or have experiences with actual support groups. So what I am writing here is more what I heard and read from other people, saw in movies, read in books and how I imagined it. Both, how I would wish it to be and how it probably is in many cases, but of course not all.
Now, since I write a lot of weird things, make comparison of things which seem to be not compareable. You know what to expect, so basically you have no idea, but that it will again be very strange, I guess.
And yes, in theory I have “no right” to write about anything, since I have nothing to proof my claims or experiences (at least in many cases) or actual experiences in a lot of fields. At least from a conservative or common perspective and way to see and do things. (As always, but I guess I should write this more often, so I won’t later be sued or something. You never know.)
So the topic.
A support group or a common german word for it “Selbsthilfegruppe” which is support group in english, but means more something like self-help group. So it is supposed to give you support (however this might seem or be) to make you able to help yourself. Great. But how does this work?
And the questions start to come in.
Well, usually people are quiet at this point, I assume, since from experience people usually stayed quiet when such questions were asked. Especially in a class room or big audience. Sometimes of course someone said something or had to say a thing, but often even the one who asked had to answer or no one knew a thing and there was dead silence. At least it felt awkward.
Actually, like usual, the answer(s) to this question should be very simply. At least for something to start with. Of course you can’t answer this with a simple: “You just have to do <enter-easy-solution>!” Like many or at least still a lot of people use to say or also live by. Maybe in their case it actually works, could be.
In case you are listening to this video or maybe even watch it parallel to reading this, from my point of view, what happens in this video is one of plenty ways to help yourself and in this case even others. The “key”… this way of comparing actually scares me because the word key scares me. Okay, let’s take another word maybe. When you have a problem and know about it, no matter what it is, you could probably find a way to solve it or help others to solve it and so on. The worst thing, but usual approach, is to avoid it at all cost. But the actual worst thing is, when you don’t want to avoid it, but everyone else wants, so you feel awkward or even bad for not ignoring it as well.
Why is a “classic” support group actually not all that supportive, but can of course still help some people, with more or less success?
First of all, everyone in the “room” knows that all have some problem, be it an actual room, like a church, a theatre room, you name it or a virtual room, like a video chat. This is a good thing, since it lowers the level of expectations or at best even eliminates the whole idea of it. Not that you then totally ignore everyone, this is not what I mean, but this bring be to one of the problems of these groups. Ignorance.
Someone: But I have been in a support group and neither of us ignored each other. We actually paid close attention to each other.
Then this is a good thing, I hope, but it often is that people not have to ignore each other, but simply feel scared to say anything.
Someone: Yes, but on the other hand, if you say something about someones experience, this could maybe lead to them closing up and hiding again.
Very good point and I agree. This is the actual “dilemma” of support groups.
Someone: Why dilemma?
Because there often still seems to be a certain weight or expectation hidden in the “room”. Either you share too much or to little. Or if you say nothing about something or to someone, it might be bad, but if you say too much, it could also be problematic.
And I also noticed one very important, but usually ignored detail of these groups.
Someone: What is it?
The one who leads or manages (or however you say it) the support group.
Someone: What about them?
Well, it of course depends on the support group and whether it actually is a “full self-help group” (I made that up, but I hope you get it) or a guided one.
Someone: I have no idea what this means.
Oh, well, okay, you hopefully remember, that I wrote, that in a support group you know that everyone in it has a problem (or maybe multiple). In support group which is not really lead by anyone, this is pretty obvious, since then all actually know that every member has something they are working on. But when you have someone or maybe multiple people managing or guiding this support group, there could be confusion. It could either be that the others think the ones “guiding” or “managing” are perfect or aren’t comfortable with everything you might need or want to share. And then the problems start to fall in like a thunderstorm. The people are either fascinated or scared of the “leader” of this group and then the whole thing is more or less pointless again. Since people consciously or subconsciously compare each other again and especially to the “leader” or manager or whatever. This is nothing you can really stop doing when you do it, since it is a more or less common or normal thing to do. But not everyone does that, so there is hope.
Now that we figured out, that there shouldn’t be someone leading a support group or at least not in a way of “I am the one who is in charge.”. Because someone of course has to start a support group. It should just be understood that just because you were the first, doesn’t mean you were the best, nor the worst, you are always someone, but you shouldn’t put yourself above others. This is something a lot of us know, but too many people still don’t really understand it, do they, do we?
As soon as you or someone put someone else or themselves above others, we have a problem. Especially when then the position gets confused with the power or importance of the one in it.
For example, if you take Eminem, he made his own version of a support group and also used his music to help himself and others. Or at least tried, while he knows that he is not perfect and also has a lot of things he could have done better and should do, but maybe can’t or are not allowed to?
There is one music video about him being in a “classic” support group, with a lot of chairs and one speaking, while everyone else is quiet and such things. Then he just starts to sing, instead of talking. I sadly don’t remember the name nor the video, but it is somewhere here on the blog or at least in some of the “The Almanac” playlists (sorry, they have between a few hundred up to 5000 videos each xD oopss).
Okay, well, but you get an idea. For you this might be something completely acceptable and even cool or interesting. Singing as a way to open up about your insecurities, problems, trauma and so on.
Someone: But this usually doesn’t happen in my support group.
Someone else: Wait a minute, does this mean, people who sing are actually opening up about what I just talk or write about?
Yes, at least some of them. The ones who don’t “just” do it for the money or maybe no money at all. Because there are people who just put some “cool” or generic beats in a line, write a few standard lines, like: “I love you and you love me. All night long.” Okay, well, I don’t know about the example, but you know what I mean, right?
And no, not everyone who sings about things which hurt them or such things, have to always do that. But I hope this gave you an idea of how complex this or these “support group problems” actually are.
For some people their band might be their “support group”, since they share a lot of time together, play together and often know sides from each other, others might never get to see. This brings me to the expectation problem again, but this time more as a question again, rather than talking about “expectations” are not worth it.
So the question is, what do you expect of a so called “support group”? Especially now, that you know, that there actually shouldn’t be such a thing like “the” support group (meaning, the one and only, perfect thing).
Of course I can’t answer nor ask your question, since I don’t know it at the moment, so I am left with myself again. But I will try to come up with both again.
John: I would like to be able to have both, a physical room and a virtual room. But for me this doesn’t mean, that I would always just want to stay at one place or do the same thing over and over again. When I think about how different we all might feel or think, we should all be able to speak up for ourselves at some point. Or if not speak (like talking with the mouth) then write or paint or sing or whatever. Some people actually can better sing, than talk, so they preffer singing what they need or want, but if people think it is “just” music, they don’t understand why the singer never says what they want when they speak with each other.
My mother even told me about a case (I don’t know whether this actually happened or was just an example), in which there was a burning house. Then the one in it had a problem with speaking, but called the fire department and then sang that the house was burning, but in a funny seeming way. Then the fire department sang something back and hang up the phone, leaving the poor caller alone with the fire. Again, I don’t know whether this actually happened, but could have happened in such a way. Not only with singing or fire.
John: Someone in the support group has to make the start and given that the one who made the group possible is usually the best candidate for it, they should start with their story and problems first. Otherwise you can forget the whole thing in the long run because then there is no real trust in the room because someone will always stay hidden or could send expectation signals towards the others.
So when the first one shows the others that he/she/they (etc.) are not perfect and want to trust the others, they might feel more comfortable to actually speak and share everything or at least way more than usually. I personally have problems with secrets in multiple ways. I hate it when others have secrets, especially ones which hurt themselves and maybe a lot of other people as well. And I hate it, that I was kinda expected to keep things as a secret. Even if no one really said a thing or the things were no secret for them. This means, that I have actually a trust problem and in a way a lot of people have some level of trust issue, which often started in their childhood. Either with friends, parents, siblings, relatives, school and so on.
This is why I feel often more comfortable when I know someone is an asshole or even a criminal etc., when they are obvious or you know about it, although they might try to hide it from others. For you this could seem weird, but for me this was actually a solution or part of the solution of my trust problems. They are of course not healed and can’t be at the moment because I am in a place and with people, who I can’t trust, since they often don’t even trust themselves. Like I wrote in my post about This is why I like Putin or at least tried to explain or maybe later on, that I of course don’t like what he did and does, but that knowing him helped me to get some kind of trust. Because in my childhood and actually my whole life, I never really felt safe or that I could trust the people around me. But I knew who I could trust to be cruel and do evil things.
So I had at least something towards I could validate the concept of trust. This is why sometimes an obvious enemy, could help you more, than a friend who never was your friend. This “obvious” enemy (at least for me), gave me some kind of security because I didn’t expect him to actually step down of his throne nor change his overall tactics. It gave me stability, as weird as it sounds. And I mean, of course I didn’t thought about him my whole life, but it was still an important factor in the back of my head. Because I couldn’t really trust my own government, although they often played calm, nice and kind, as if they were on my side. I couldn’t trust school, since it wanted me to do things I couldn’t do (at the moment) or simply didn’t want to do in this way. And also not my parents, since they often expected me to do things their way. Or my father even punished me for good things… Result trust and logic broken. And yes, I wrote about it multiple times, I know.
Back to the support groups.
When you imagine a support group or think about whether you need one or not, what do you feel, think and maybe see?
I usually see a room with people. I feel anxious, uncomfortable, want to leave or if not leaving, then just stay quiet and do nothing. Maybe listen and watch others, but I would probably never speak up or do anything alike.
The “logic”, or whatever it is, tells me, that I could just say something and everyone would accept it. The experience told me, that they won’t, even or especially when they don’t say a word about it. Not meaning that this is always the case and for everyone, of course not, but this is how it usually was and seems to me. Then this comes together with something I learned about through some movies and other stories here and then my own. Which is CPTSD. I just had to take this explanation and diagnose for myself, since it made a lot of sense, but it doesn’t mean that this is all I had and maybe still have sometimes. It just means, that even if I should speak up in front of others, that I might not say the truth or what actually happened. Not because I want to lie or think I lie, just because there is or was a blank where should have been something, so my brain tried to come up with a solution (or I wasn’t sure about it). This is especially problematic when others expect you to represent and express yourself in the way you feel. Because then it could be, that they think you are a liar, make fun of something or such things. While in reality it was the pressure to find an answer to an actual fact, you couldn’t handle or find at the moment. So the brain came up with an alternative version or maybe even a mostly invented story, instead of the actual thing.
So when then people think I told them about what I went through, they might get confused when I suddenly should change the story or even come up with things which make no sense in the context. At least when you expect that everything always has to be clear and linear and so on.
There we had it again, this evil little word “expect” or “expectation”.
Okay, so the support groups…
The goal for such a group should be to slowly make everyone comfortable with themselves and the others in the group and at best even turn them into friends this way or even more. While an actual true friendship is actually the best thing you can ever have. Sadly the meaning of it got lost in the “noise” of events, rules and ideologies.
So the goal of a support group should be, to build up an actual friendship (honesty, support, trust, love, acceptance, fun, change, sharing, …). Basically make the group fight for their lives side-by-side and (maybe even literally) go through fire for each other. Not meaning, that this should be necessary, but that at the end the people would do that just because they care for each other so much, if necessary (let’s say in a forest fire or storm).
And when you “hear me speak” about these things like this, it could already scare the shit out of you. Trust me, I know what it feels like, in case you should be scared. If not, great! 🙂
Because when in school there were these “Arbeitsgruppen” (working groups / extra excersise groups) or how this is called, I was in a few, but I more and more felt unwanted or in the way, due to my other problems. But you usually had to be present when you signed up for those and if you didn’t want to, at worst you might have had to talk to a teacher or school psychologist. Why at worst? Well, because for me this was a terrible thing. For one point because in the back of my head I wanted to die alone, so opening up would not have helped in this goal. And second thing, they were not able to understand my situation, so why should I even try to explain. It would have given me only more unnecessary trouble at worst.
Okay and later there also have been such things like programs to change the country for one school year, to go to the U.S. maybe or the UK. But at this point I already was so anxious and broken, that it would have been like a death sentence if I would have been forced to go there. While others probably had a fun time there or at least not much of a problem with it, maybe even dreamed or wished it. And also things like hiking and other activities some of the schools I went to had or at least made available at some point, were scaring me (to say the least). For several reasons.
And while in the beginning of secondary school I went a lot to the local open-air swimming pool of the town, in the end I also was scared to go there and then stopped going there at all. At least through the school I visited afterwards, I got a little more comfortable with people again and also swimming in public because most of the people there didn’t know me or at least not my family and past outside of school.
You have to understand, that this technical highschool (which was after my secondary school “Realschule”, since in some areas we have three secondary schools, while others have one with three different exams). Was almost a therapy, just because I changed the school location and was with people I didn’t know. Although it of course could not really help me. I mean, I liked to be around with some people in the class, but actually liked all people (some more, some less at first) in it. But I had no problems with them, not like in my previous school. Still it took me almost three years to speak with some of them and play some video games. I mean, I got friends or at least closer with some people, while the school time together was almost over (three years). Only to leave them again, for the most part.
This is how scared I was and still am sometimes or anxious or simply broken to sum it up. Not always of course, but depending on the situation and maybe whether something triggered something in me or not.
So when I write or talk about things like: “We should have support groups which go swimming, play video games, do music, arts and hiking or maybe even jumping out a plane with parachute. It doesn’t mean that I am one of these “Let’s just do it” people or “Life is great!”” Althought I was and am one of these people by nature, which doesn’t mean that right now everything is great in life, but it could be and should be. 🙂 I hope you understand.
I talk about these things because I feel the need for it and also think these things should be experienced or at least some of them. And considered as some form of fun and or therapy, rather than something scary, painful or unnecessary or even impossible etc.
It should always start slow and with someone making the first step. Trust me, I am really trying hard on doing so, probably too hard, which also wasn’t good for myself. Since at some points I was and still am freaking out and feel and think as if the whole world just waits for me to do something. As if I am the problem or only one who can help. Which makes no sense and is also not true, but often seems this way for me. And it makes me want to do all kinds of things, but doesn’t give me a good feeling about what I am doing here sometimes.
And each time I think about something which might be too far out, I want to vomit, die or just get rid of myself. But I can’t help it, it just happens because I didn’t really have much in my life which gave me safety, security and a sense of normality. Which was good, since it made me question a lot of things and question “normality” and denied a lot of “normal” concepts in the process, but often makes me feel lost. Because I feel as if I am responsible for everything which is wrong, especially when I just do one move out of the expected behavior I developed to protect myself and others and also don’t bother them or annoy them.
Everything seems as if I should be gone or not exist, while there are of course people who have completely other thoughts, lives and might not be affected by me at all. At least so far. And some people might even love me for being here and would be very sad or lost without me. I know, but I sometimes just have to tell myself this, so I won’t completely freak out each day. Because not many things naturally tell me that. Usually things around me tell me the opposite, be it family, neighbors, internet, some friends.
My biggest problem is the trust in anything, even myself. But if you trust me, then this is more I can ask for. And I just have to trust me sometimes, to actually be naturally good, although I wouldn’t say that I am. I have done things out of this confusion, fear and broken mindset, which I am definitely not proud of, but on the other side I also did stay focused on my good side, besides all what is and was. I just couldn’t fight against everything, especially when I was alone and couldn’t trust anyone, eventhough they might trusted me or actually didn’t or wouldn’t have judged me. I couldn’t trust it, since it happened too often or if it wasn’t, still felt like this.
What others might talk about in support groups or with their therapist, I had to do with myself. In form of either distracting myself or writing some things down, like peotry or such things.
And this is why this blog already has reached shortly more than 900 posts within the time of one year, well except for the 30 or something poems I posted between 2012-2014.
I know, you know a lot of this already. But we try to find actual solutions here, no?
If not, then I am sorry.
Thank you! 💜