Group Therapy

As I greet everyone with a smile and nod, I take the usual seat; where I can see everyone, including the door and windows.

The atmosphere seemed tense. I wondered if the other two were feeling just as paranoid.

There should be eight of us in group therapy, but only three turned up for check in, one of the usual latecomers waltz in half way through session.

The man who talks too much wasn’t there. The atmosphere was entirely different.

In my experience, group therapy can be a little more confrontational and challenging than with an individual Therapist.

Today, less people present, inevitably means more time on each individual. Beneath the relaxed persona, I was quietly going through internal panic over fears for confronting the past.

A common theme throughout today’s session was how early childhood experiences affect the rest of our lives and how we are able to forgive and move on.

For many years, I have grappled with this idea of forgiveness and moving on. There seems to be a fairly common belief that we can only move on once we forgive.

While I can understand why forgiving might be the right way for some, I’m not entirely convinced that it is the key to setting myself free from a painful past.  That might change as therapy progresses, but this is how I feel right now.

As someone who was emotionally, physically and sexually abused from as far back as I remember, forgiveness feels like it is somehow excusing the abusers and their behaviour.

That might sound like I’m bitter and unforgiving, but I’m not. Forgiveness just doesn’t seem to come into the equation. My recovery isn’t about them. It might be about things they did or said, but it is more about the effect it had on my life.

Recovery for me means coming to terms with past trauma.  It’s about accepting the chance to be set free from both the painful memories and the subsequent impact they had on my life. Somewhere during that journey, I have become tired of blaming other people.

The anger and resentment that accompanies blame can be soul destroying. However, if I need to forgive the abusers, then they are still having too much control and power over my life.

And, what’s the alternative? I have absolutely no idea.

I am slowly coming round to the idea of allowing time to grieve, not only for the abuse/hard times, but also for the childhood we were deprived of.

The end of group is a complete mystery. I remember the final sentence the Therapist said to me, but have totally blanked out about how we got there.

I immediately knew what she was referring to – the reasons why I finally withdrew from living the life I was used to; why I no longer allow family, friends or relationships into my life, preferring to lock myself away in blissful solitude.

It was the night I trusted a stranger and almost paid with my life. I don’t know how else to tell the story other than in the usual factual recount. It’s the same one I told to police, the courts and to the press; completely void of emotion.

Frankie, the Therapist said, “Maybe you might like to park that up and deal with it at another session”.

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22 thoughts on “Group Therapy

  1. kat

    i agree with you that forgiveness may not always be required of every person to an abuser. i understand my mom was abused herself, and she was PTSD and Borderline. But she was a terrible abuser to me my entire life. I understand why she was. But I don’t forgive her for it. She was supposed to be my mother and care for me and protect me and not be the one hurting me. I don’t think I will ever forgive her. I have not had contact with her since 2007 christmas. and my life is infinitely better without her in it. i think i have moved on from that abuse, from her, but i don’t think i will ever really forgive her for traumatizing me so much and abusing me so much. but i can move on anyway. so i understand and believe that you may also be in the same way, not forgiving, but still moving on anyway. maybe someday when we have moved on enough, we will find a desire to forgive, or to let go…but i don’t know; that remains to be seen.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hey Kat… I didn’t speak to my family for about 13 years. TBH, it was bliss, but I’m so programmed into believing I have sole responsibility for how my mother feels, the guilt often weighed heavy. I reluctantly agreed to bridge the gap only to appease my sister (she too was racked with guilt). Somehow it was easier to avoid all of them. I now keep everyone at arms length. That’s quite easy because we live at opposite ends of the country. What is more difficult is pretending the elephant is not in the room (the elephant being their dysfunctional parental skills). I avoid the old conflict of opinion about our “wonderful upbringing”, but it can still be a challenge.

      Many thanks for your feedback, Kat

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  2. Priceless Joy

    Wow, very powerful! I know what you mean about not wanting to excuse other’s abuse by forgiving them. Until I learned, that our forgiveness is simply giving OURSELVES the power to not allow THEIR power keep a hold of us. We are not the great Almighty that judges. Therefore, they are still accountable to that Almighty for what they have done. For me, it was like I was carrying a sackful of heavy rocks and I was able to release them one by one. I hope your therapy helps you do this too.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Joy… Sometimes it does feel like carrying a sack of rocks. I know that therapy and blogging will help to lighten the load. Thank you for commenting… always appreciated!

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  3. sensuousamberville

    hmmmm, I don’t feel that forgiving a tormentor is a part of moving on. There are things that we don’t even need to try to understand or rationalize. We can accept that they happened, we need to understand that they were not our fault, we did not bring them upon us, they were not desired. A child does not use the no word with the same power, a child shouldn’t have to, A child does not often dare use the no word. But the child has to deal with the lasting memories. The child does not need to forgive though. Move on, yes. definitely. Self blame, no, none at all. This can be a difficult thing, a part of haunting memories. This is the thing to let go of, the forgiveness, is for the now adult to forgive the child, because the child did nothing wrong.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Amber… I was completely stuck on the idea that “forgiveness” was a necessity for moving on. It’s been a very long journey, but it is people like you who have provided the transport! I’m still only half way through the process, but the knowledge is what brings freedom. Many thanks for your feedback.

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  4. mandy

    I guess I’ve written posts about forgiveness, too, Cat, with the same questions about it you have. I got pretty hung up on it, feeling bad that I didn’t ‘get it.’ I didn’t get the “forgive not THEM or what they did, but just ‘forgive’ so you can move on.” To me, that feels the same as “forgive THEM.” Many years ago I went to my priest (when I still attended church) to ask his thoughts on it and was shocked when he said, “Heck no–it’s not up to YOU to forgive them-leave that to someone else. But do move on and create the life you want.” I loved that. So now, I’ve come to the place where I just think the word forgiveness is a little too bible-based for me. Especially when it comes to abuse. However, I feel everyone should do what feels right (and GOOD) for them.

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    1. Cat Post author

      I was also stuck on the forgiveness concept. There seems to be so many interpretations of what forgiveness actually is. I love the priest’s advice. Thanks, Mandy.

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  5. Gel

    I think it’s brave of you to do group therapy.
    I’ve already commented on the topic of forgiveness at a previous post here. And also wrote a post on the topic at my blog. ( http://gentleperseverence.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/the-most-helpful-thing-ive-ever-read-on-forgiveness/ ). It includes a link to that article that you liked about the buddhist perspective on forgiveness.

    For myself, I just think that forgiveness is a (possible) RESULT of doing my own inner work and it can’t be pushed. It’s a deep process that has it’s own timing. I’ve come to not put so much pressure on myself to forgive, but to just keep working in that direction.

    Peace to you.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Gel… Yes, I have mentioned this before. It’s a regular feature in my journey towards healing and I thank you for contributing to that.

      I remember the post on forgiveness. It certainly is a process that can take some unexpected turns. I appreciate the principles of that post, but not so keen on sitting still on my bum, visualising. However, it certainly is something that I can work with.

      What I’ve been thinking about today is my own interpretation of forgiveness. That concept is probably steeped in Christine doctrine. This might be slightly warping my understanding and my willingness to include it in my ‘journey’. I’m not sure if that makes sense, it’s only a new born thought.

      And peace to you too, Gel!

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      1. Gel

        Hi Cat,
        I hadn’t thought it necessary to sit on my bum in meditation in order to apply the principles of this practice from the buddhist perspective. I’m not buddhist and have a hard time sitting in total stillness for more than a few minutes. So I’ve just taken the idea of going deeper into my process of giving myself permission to feel my pain over what others have done to me. Gently in little bits. That’s all I was meaning.

        Do you mean christian doctrine? (rather than “christine” doctrine?). I’d be interested in hearing more about that from you sometime if you feel like sharing.

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  6. Eric Tonningsen

    I honor and appreciate “blissful solitude,” Cat, but in perpetuity? I think I’d rather step ‘out’ occasionally. Reengaging might seem challenging if not outright fearful — at first — but with the right caring and compassionate people, it might be okay to stick your toe in the ‘interacting’ water.

    Yet the most powerful words, to me, in your post were/are “My recovery isn’t about them.” That, I believe, is a huge piece of self-awareness and a beautiful cornerstone to your moving forward. Thanks for sharing that acknowledgment.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Eric… For many years I barely left home. The paranoia and insecurities became too much to bare. Initially, it seemed an easier option to retreat. Of course, that manifested into Agoraphobic type symptoms (albeit at the lower end of the scale). The longer it festered, the more my subconscious decided it was safer and more comfortable than the big bad world.
      The main reason I eventually asked for help about 3 years ago was because, deep down, I found myself resisting any kind of ‘recovery’, not if it meant building new friendships. I was completely stuck, almost locked within a false belief that I was happy and content this way.
      With the help of my new car, I have been reconnecting with life. I do still shy away from any opportunity of making friends, but the desire to ‘stick my toe in the interacting water’ is slowly returning.
      Thank you for being part of all that.

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      1. Eric Tonningsen

        Thank you, Cat, for being open to letting others support and encourage you.

        I love that your desire to begin to emerge, even gradually, is alive. It’s like a beating heart gaining confidence, slowly, before it begins to beat harder. In a good way!

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  7. RisingSong

    “…if I need to forgive the abusers, then they are still having too much control and power over my life.”
    SPOT ON!!
    I believe 100% in allowing time to grieve. To me, it seems to allow for the most complete and in depth healing.

    Liked by 2 people

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  8. paininhidingabuse

    I never blamed my abusers only myself have I continued to fight with it over and over. ..
    You so brave to even venture here!
    Lots lov lisa

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  9. ~meredith

    ‘There seems to be a fairly common belief that we can only move on once we forgive.’ It seems true when that’s all we hear. But what if someone said,
    “i ran out the back door when no one was looking and learned about something else… something that engaged my focus so vividly I forgot about the rules of forgiveness, and how I should be, and how to define my being-ness. funny… when i engaged, i found me… just me… and realized i didn’t remember what i ought to forgive. i was too content to remember.”

    good wishes to you from the runner, this morning. ~m

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Cat Post author

      Sounds like you’ve had quite a run, Meredith. I agree, we should tear up the rule book for this and many other things!

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting

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