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Peer groups: Cumbria autumn group – reflection

Wednesday morning - about 36 hours since we got back to Edinburgh and less than a week since we began the group.  The last half day started as usual with some of the "self-care practices" that quite a few us use (Tai Chi, meditation, running, and so on).  Good breakfast, then sadly one of the group needed to leave early due to a crisis at home.  He asked if we could meet ten minutes sooner than usual as a full group so he could voice his appreciations and say goodbye to us.  Moving.  Normally we're pretty tough that anybody who bids in to come for the group should make sure that they can stay for the full time - obviously though there are exceptions to these loose "rules".

Then the last meeting of the small support groups.  So warm and honest and reflective.  Lovely.  I got some feedback on my feedback!  I asked how it felt when I made pretty challenging remarks to people.  I said I didn't want to produce "unnecessary hurt", but I wanted to be honest in a sensitive, empathic way.  The old saying "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs" came to mind, but I didn't want to spill egg yolk all over the floor as well.  Good to have a range of people saying how they felt about this aspect of how I am with others.  I've talked a bit before on this blog about interpersonal challenge - for example when I and a group of friends were trekking in the Sahara earlier this year and again in a post on "Conflict & disagreement, in and out of therapy".  Barbara Fredrickson, in her research on positive emotions, suggests that a ratio of positive to negative emotions/interactions roughly between 3:1 and 11:1 seems to be associated with optimal flourishing and resilience whether one looks at emotions in an individual, interactions in a couple, or interactions in a group.  There needs to be plenty of warmth, encouragement and support - but occasional challenge too.

Then the full group.  Lots of appreciation.  We revisited issues around the different generations here.  One of the younger people said some really generous things about how helpful it was for him to see how some of the older people behaved and lived.  I was certainly moved to tears and so were others.  We talked too about how the influence and gifts flowed both ways - old to young, but also young to old.  I had a blessed chance in front of the community of this group to tell my son how much I deeply love and appreciate him.  I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to do that in this environment.  I'm sure he already knows that I feel these things but saying it clearly and publicly can have an additional power.

And eventually the full group came to a close too.  Hearts full, wrung out, deeply happy.  And individual partings, a brief lunch, clearing up the Mill.  Then driving home with my son and his friend, talking about what we'd experienced.  Great.  And home and a meal with Catero.  The three of us speaking easily, fully, still blessed, lit up by what had happened in the group.

The next morning I took Kieran to the airport to catch an early plane back to London.  Driving home again the words of a song came into my mind - song words so often float into my head and often they are an accurate commentary on what's going on.  It's a lovely tune about a " ... peaceful, easy feeling ... ".  That's certainly me just now.  And back here, I wrote Kieran an email saying more clearly how I feel - both to be known more fully by him and to say how much and why I'm so proud of him.


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