Over the journey of a lifetime we face many diverse difficulties and dilemmas. Today the location of the human thresholds of initiation is internal, not external, and personal growth workshops provide a milieu where we can meet the thresholds of life, by exploring anxieties, dreams, repressed desires and unresolved personal issues, through the practice of shared reflection.
In growth groups we meet a new paradigm, a model of caring cooperation that can bring out the best in us, through pooling wisdom from learned experience for mutual benefit.
Why people come to personal growth workshops?
People come to personal growth workshops for a variety of reasons. Some seek a sense of belonging, a sanctuary from feelings of alienation and loneliness. Others feel the need for contact, relationship, intimacy and nourishment. Still others come out of despair and disappointment with their life or some aspect of their life. Some seek a sense of self or meaning that will empower them to meet the world successfully. Some are searching for authentic relationship. Most people commonly share feelings, some of which may have been repressed for a long time, in a safe and supportive place free of judgment and criticism.
The workshop environment creates a temporary community of souls searching for one or more of these things. Each person has a need or at least a curiosity - and some trust that his or her needs could be met. Workshops are a shared healing space, which answers a deep inner question arising out of the individual’s experience of life.
Defending our isolation
People today feel isolated, separate from and rigidly defended against each other, very distant from a sense of cooperation and sharing and remote from their own feelings and emotional life.
We defend ourselves against each other because our needs are great and many and we often feel ashamed to have them. We may crave love and intimacy, friendship and familiarity, to know that we are not isolated and alone and perhaps that the world is, or could be, a happy place where our fulfillment and satisfaction are possible.
In the West we have learned to defend ourselves against our emotions, to cope with them by ourselves, and we believe that to be strong we must deny our vulnerability.
These defenses leave us alienated from each other and ourselves. Therapy workshops create a microcosm, a temporary community where closeness and intimacy can thrive. They bring us closer to ourselves and each other by accepting who we are, both inwardly and outwardly.
The dynamics of group work
The dynamics of group work are powerful in several ways.
First, personal issues can be stimulated by group interaction, a certain individual or an exchange in the group. A look, a remark, someone you like or dislike may be enough to re-stimulate repressed emotional reactions.
Early family relationships are commonly projected onto the group and individual members. People see someone that looks like their sister or their mother, or reminds them of their father or brother, and they transfer the dynamic of that relationship onto a group member.
This can lead to examination, re-experiencing and healing of deep emotions like rejection, betrayal and jealousy. In a workshop there is a tacit agreement that we are here to heal and to talk about issues that we can't talk about elsewhere.
Second, the group provides emotional support and encouragement; you get the feeling that you are not the only one grappling with inner work and its challenges. You can see that your struggles are shared by others and you learn from each other’s experiences and share in each other’s successes. The group intensifies relationships; through open and honest sharing, people can become close in a short time.
Third, the group provides acknowledgment and a testing ground for new insights. With a group of like-minded souls you can expand in imagination and vision, and risk thinking in new conceptual frameworks. All of this is integrally connected to healing, change and transformation.
Relationships that encourage us to grow
The depth and breadth of emotional experience in groups is wide and varied. In friendships, relationships and intimacies of all kinds we are often invested in the relationship being firm and stable, so we maintain it in ways that become personally limiting. In groups, the relationship is subordinate to our desire to grow and change. So relationships can be uncertain because everything may be risked and surprisingly it often leads to accelerated intimacy and emotional connection.
The natural inclination to heal
The therapist’s role is to facilitate the process. He or she creates an encouraging, compassionate, nurturing space through awareness and acceptance. The facilitator-therapist holds the boundaries to enable positive interactions and encourage the participants’ natural inclination toward personal, emotional, mental and spiritual healing. The therapist meets the group participants where they are in a collective, mutually growthful process.