Last updated on 22nd November 2010
It's the first morning of this four day, peer-run Men's group. We've been meeting like this every autumn since 1993 - a collection of friends & friends of friends & friends of friends of friends! I've written extensively about these peer groups on this blog. For example, five posts on last year's group and half a dozen on the year before. There would have been 36 guys here this year, but sadly 2 dropped out at the last minute. We're a real mixed bag - ranging in age from our 20's to our late 60's (maybe early 70's), ranging in experience from people who have been to large numbers of these kinds of groups to people for whom this is their first experience. There are four father-son pairs - three where fathers invited their sons, and one where the son invited his father.
And we're at Ravenstor Youth Hostel here in the Peak District, somewhere very approximately in the middle of the United Kingdom. It took something like five hours to drive down from Edinburgh yesterday and a friend said it took him a pretty similar length of time to drive up from near the south coast of England. That's good - it's the main reason we're down here, to make the difficulty of travelling to the group more fairly distributed. In the past (and no doubt) again in the future we've met in Cumbria and the Scottish Borders. This new location feels more equable. But it's unknown, fascinating. Now at a bit before 7.00am, the dawn is gradually coming. I can see inky clouds, the beginnings of blue in the sky and a new horizon dotted with trees that I don't know. We arrived in the dark yesterday. What fun to wake up in a new place, new discoveries.
And we met for supper last night. Gradually latecomers joined us. After the meal we got together in the main group room. Tricky - for me anyway - to meet in a group of 34 (after a long day of work at home and travel) to begin sorting out how we want to structure the next day's time. I guess after all these years of peer groups, I'm very familiar with what, to me, often feels a tentative & frustrating beginning to our four days together. I also believe that this "not knowing", "it's all up for discussion" approach has a lot of health in it. I've talked often on these blogs about "Self-determination theory" (SDT). I'm a big fan and I frequently focus on trying to help clients increase their levels of autonomy, competence & relatedness - the three needs that SDT highlights as being particularly important to satisfy for high levels of wellbeing. The further post "Handouts & questionnaires for self-determination theory (SDT): an upgrade" gives some useful assessment tools. I guess we're typically very good in these peer groups at honouring autonomy & relatedness (especially as the group progresses). Some of my frustration with the start of these big groups, I think, lies in feeling I'm not being particularly competent at contributing to the meandering discussion. A challenge for me for this morning then. How to be here in the full group of 34 in a way that feels good, "competent", respectful of others, respectful of myself?
This is rich territory ... a good challenge! Time to stop writing and get involved ... see tomorrow's post "Peer groups: Ravenstor autumn group 2 - warming up".