One of the classes I'm taking this semester is Counseling for Groups. It's weird because not only is this a class, but it also works as a task group. On Wednesday was our first class and all the chairs were in a circle, as if we were in a big meeting room at a community counseling agency of some kind.
There are stages to all groups: initial, transitional, working, and final. After the instructor introduced himself there was a pause and one of my fellow students jumped in with one hell of an introduction. Due to confidentiality I won't disclose any of the details here, but it was WAY more than name, rank, and serial number. I've gotten used to these types of introductions in my classes: my name, how many classes I've taken so far in the program, what track I'm on (community, higher education or school counseling) and what I hope to get out of this class. This woman went beyond that and actually shared information on who she was and what was going on in her life that day.
A couple of other students shared the superficial stuff (the name, rank and serial number type of information)then I decided to speak. I thought I would share about how it was 7 years and 1 week since I had abused drugs and once I said that, the waterworks started. I didn't plan on nor want to cry and I told them that as I wiped away tears with the sleeve of my shirt. Then I went into working for Dr. Dick and the harassment we suffered at the hands of the pro-lifers in Milwaukee (the 24/7 US Marshall protection, people picketing in front of our house on Thanksgiving Day, those sorts of things) and I started crying harder. I explained our relationship as employer/employee, lovers, and dealer/addict. Then I said something that I thought I had long put to rest: that in my head I know our relationship was destructive and twisted, but in my heart I still believe him to be my soulmate. Good grief, this was a class remember. I was practically sobbing by this point. The young woman sitting to my left who I know pretty well from some other classes was rubbing my back to comfort me. My shirt sleeves were soaked.
I was very afraid of being judged, partially due to admitting I worked at an abortion clinic, partially for blubbering like an idiot in a classroom. We did some fear-relieving exercises and I felt a lot better after I admitted my fears and what they were.
The instructor seemed to be pleased that some of us shared to the extent that we did. He thought we were moving out of the initial stage and into the transitional stage already and seemed impressed that as a group of 18 students we could do that during class one.
I've had a few days to "process" what happened and I still feel a twinge of embarrassment, but you know what? I got what I needed. If this wasn't going to be a traditional classroom setting, why not get the shit on the table and not dance around it? Everyone in that room, in the world, has "issues" that need to be worked on. I just happen to lay mine out for everyone to see. That's why I've been so candid in this blog too. If there's something on my mind and you ask what it is, I WILL TELL YOU! I wish honesty was always rewarded the way it is in this classroom and in the therapeutic counseling process in general. How many times a day does someone ask casually, "How ya doin'?" And we smile sheepishly and respond, "Pretty good," or "Not bad." When we really need to cry until our shirt sleeves are soaked?