For a long time now I’ve held the view that it’s what’s NOT being said or seen in a group that is the most interesting and zesty part. It’s what can potentially offer the biggest opportunity for transformation and change for everyone involved.
Recently I attended a workshop that left me with mixed feelings and lots of post-event reflections. Yes, the content was interesting but there were some real disconnects going on between the financial investment required to attend and what was actually being delivered. This led me to view the experience very much through a commercial lens of sales and marketing strategies and group dynamics.
The opportunity to fully immerse myself in the actual material was lost as my fascination and annoyance grew in response to what was really going on.
So why didn’t anyone else seem to notice what was going on at the time, or if they did, why wasn’t it talked about?
Group dynamics ARE powerful. When groups are run well, they accelerate and catapult our growth and learning.
Groups have the potential to be powerfully transformative.
When they aren’t run well, they also provide learning experiences, but more of the annoying kind. One of the gifts from the latter type of group experience is the wake-up call they provide. They snap us out of a collective trance, or rose-tinted admiration fest.
Groups bring up family of origin dynamics and the feelings associated with these. When we join a group, subconsciously we experience the group leader as ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’ in some shape or form. We also slide back into roles we played in our families growing up.
If a group is projecting idealized versions of ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’ onto the leader, then no one wants to upset or criticize ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’ – even when obvious flaws start to appear.
It’s as if everyone is under a magical spell – and we are really. It feels good when we think someone is amazing and has special value to offer. It offers us a sense of safety and certainty in uncertain times. We like to feel intimacy, acceptance and connection with others, it’s one of the great things about being in groups.
But when what needs to be talked about isn’t, invisible fields grow and become ‘pink elephants in the room’ that aren’t being acknowledged.
The tension and discomfort that this creates is usually picked up most intensely by the person(s) seeing and thinking about things in a different way to everyone else. This can feel lonely if that person happens to be you.
It takes courage to speak out and break a group spell. Raising what’s being avoided and left unsaid often evokes strong reactions. I’ve experienced this and if you have too then you know it takes internal fortitude, belief in yourself, and risking being not liked by ‘the group’.
Not always though.
Talking about what’s being avoided can come as a collective relief and release, enabling others to see and think about these invisible fields too. You might even make some new friends in the process.
Have you ever dared to break a group spell?