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Peer groups: Ravenstor autumn group 2 - warming up

It's the second morning.  I wrote yesterday about our arrival at this group.  Didn't get to bed till later last night and slept in for longer.  The conversations are beginning to "ignite".  As we spend more time here, get into it, hear how deeply & openly others are prepared to be, and explore going deeper ourselves ... so the little conversations (waiting for a kettle to boil, on the way to bed, in the corridor) start to deepen too.  So touching.  Lovely.  The best kind of "village".  34 of us wandering around with our hearts so much more open. 

And what were the "bare bones"?  How did we structure our time yesterday?  Up at varying times.  Some of us meditated together.  Some ran, walked, were active.  Breakfast was from 7.30 to 9.00am ... a bit earlier than we often schedule it at these groups.  We're being catered for (well), and the staff set the breakfast time (they're more flexible about times of meals later in the day).  We said we'd start in the full group of 34 at 9.15am.  We actually got going nearer 9.30am but the delay had involved deciding to use a different room from the one we'd met in last night (so there was a good deal of chair moving needed).  Precious start.  I've been to one of these UK Men's Groups every year since '93 and many other groups too.  Different groups start at different rates.  Yesterday morning we slipped into the river of group process easily and deeply.  34 men each "introducing" themselves.  Rapidly individuals' honesty, vulnerability, celebration, tears nudged others to take risks too.  In the posts "Cooperative behaviour cascades in social networks" and "Be the change you want to see in the world" I've talked about some of the evidence showing how "infectious" behaviours, ideas & emotions can be within and across groups of people.  Inspiration.  We can be very inspired by others' examples (or the reverse).  This seemed partly what was going on. 

After a couple of hours we broke for coffee and then reconvened in small support groups (7 groups of 4 and 2 of 3).  There was only about an hour till lunch.  In our little group we sat quietly together for a short while and then talked a bit about what we individually hoped for from the group ... and how we might be able to support each other in these intentions.  I guess a "four aspect" explanation covers most of the reasons why I personally come to these groups - personal growth, friendship, retreat/holiday & rippling out into the wider worldWe began also to look at how we had been relating to each other and how we reacted here, in "real time", in this small group itself.  In the microcosm, the macrocosm ... "The way you do anything is the way you do everything" ... not always true, but true enough to be useful.

And lunch and walking afterwards with a bunch of friends.  Exploring conversations.  I walked mostly with someone who I'd been in email contact with before the group, and we'd said we wanted to make time to talk through some particular life & career issues.  One of the many things that develops in these groups as we meet again & again over the years is a sense of involvement and concern and support for each others' lives.  Friendship.  About a dozen of us have come down from Edinburgh and I'll see these men more frequently.  Others I meet up with maybe just once or twice during the year ... dropping in when they're up North or I'm down South.  There are the celebrations too.  Travelling to people's birthday parties (at the major decade intervals) or wedding anniversaries or marriages.  And some I only meet up with here once a year.  And over several years we may become very fond of each other.  So much catching up, listening, sharing to do.

At 4.30pm we met in the third configuration we're using.  Three groups of 11 or 12.  A longer meeting ... we worked through to 7.30pm without a break (not a deliberate choice, it just happened).  To me it felt this group was slower to get going.  A bit surprising in some ways.  Usually these medium sized groups seem to "work" more easily than bigger groups.  Good things happened but I also felt impatient.  It's a pattern for me early in these four day groups.  I tend to push to move deeper more quickly.  Partly this reflects the continuing momentum from a sometimes overbusy lifestyle.  Sometimes the impatience can be helpful for myself and others ... it can push us forward.  Sometimes, I suspect, it can be a bit of a pain for people.  And this too is good grist for the mill.  So in the medium sized group I worked a bit on my impatience.  Interesting to explore and I want to go further with this. 

In "Meeting at relational depth: a model" I look at the sensitive process of exploring what's going on inside oneself, what one's feeling.  I give the Greenberg & Watson "Five part emotional awareness" diagram with its components of trigger, body sensation, impulse, verbal label & wish or need.  So the most proximal trigger was my perception that we in our medium sized group could work more deeply, more quickly.  Interestingly, if I'd been the group facilitator, I doubt if I would have felt anything like as impatient (if I'd even have felt impatient at all).  I would probably have introduced some initial pair exercises to break the ice and help people slide down into deeper relating in an easier format.  I nudged a bit with suggestions about structures we might use, but the group as a whole didn't want to move in that direction.  Fine.  It's a peer group ... I'm not the boss.  And we did good "work", but a bit "stuttering" I felt.  And my impatience felt like a frustration, a body sensation of pressure, compression, fluttering, itching almost in my trunk.  And an impulse to make noise ... loud noise.  And I talked about it ... and made loud noise.  Fine.  And I ask myself what the underlying need/wish is.  A real wish to connect.  I want so much to slip into the deepness of being very open, very connected, quite magical or spiritual.  And I can be greedy for that, drawn strongly to that.  And partly this seems OK for me.  Heart like an open sea anemone.  Nourishment.  Looking for nourishment ... for my soul?  That's sort of what it feels like.  The quietness and simplicity and totalness of being deeply with other people.  In flow.  Like a piece of music that takes one's breath away.  Beauty, love, deeply being oneself.  I think it's something in this territory.

And supper, then people presenting some of their creative work.  Projected photographs, a shared set of dance movements, looking at someone's carving, anothe person's photo'ed research on relationships in health care, even a short film someone had made.  Mm ... and gradually, multiple conversations later, to bed.  And in our shared room of four, even there talking about what had been happening before turning off the lights and to sleep.

And click here for tomorrow's post.

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Great blog. for your info - Emotions arriving and leaving is a blank template.

I come at groups from a person centred,experiential, emotion focused background and your summary of this is very helpful- reminds me of the theory and practise of where I come from.

Large group always controversial but truly leaderless and at Ravenstor it functioned better than the weekly large groups of 30 which are key part of person centred training.

It demands such courage to express self honestly and deeply to 30 listeners and there was such an abundance of that in mens group. Scary but exciting- Will i dare? how deeply can i risk? And the rich diversity of receptiveness and response.

So out of the stuckness and frustration come bursts of electric experiencing. Engagement.


Thanks Grahame ... I guess the group of 34 at Ravenstor worked so well partly because many of us know each other well & have shared deeply many times before ... helps our sense of safety!  It does take very real courage though.

I'm puzzled why the "Emotions, arriving & leaving" link comes up as a blank template for you.  It's a Powerpoint file.  Maybe try it again and let me know if there's still a problem.  I can try posting a PDF of it, if you'd like.

As aye