Group Therapy Dynamics, the effects of narcissism

The update on our hot-headed beer delivery driver from my last post concludes that he will not be representing the company again, oh shit! This news tinges any satisfaction with regret. I’ve always felt responsible for other people’s feelings and their misfortunes, which raises one of the biggest challenges I’m about to face in group therapy tomorrow…urgh.

I was the only member to show face at last Friday’s group session. I understand why some of the others find commitment a challenge, but their absence can affect everyone else’s therapy. It was a rather odd experience, although I was equally pleased to speak to the two group Therapists alone.

While I am careful what I write about group, I do feel it’s acceptable to discuss an issue from the perspective of how it affects my own therapy.

I perceive one of the group members as extremely vulnerable and I’m always fearful ofth74HYDPIJ tipping him over the edge into deeper depression or suicidal feelings. Since the beginning of this programme, he has irritated me on a number of occasions by talking for large amounts of time during the session. It doesn’t seem to matter who is talking, everything will eventually revolve back to his plight and he will think nothing of interrupting with similar tales of woe.

While I was talking to the Therapists on Friday, I realised this group member represents my own mother. Everything had to revolve back to her and I bore the brunt of those temperamental moods, while accepting blame for many misfortunes too. If I had the audacity to speak my mind or show any kind of negative emotion, it would ultimately lead to disapproval with some form of rejection thrown in for good measure.

Whenever this group member talks incessantly, I seem to experience a weird fear response and rather than exert my own contribution, I withdraw and start to shut down. The adrenaline soars through my veins in seconds and it feels as though I am trembling from head to toe. My heart pounds so hard against my chest, I will come close to losing my voice completely.

I’ve only ever experienced this kind of response in the group. I can be as mouthy as the next person can, but I go to great lengths to project a calm and confident persona and this ‘fear response’ blows my cover completely, which feels humiliating.

The last session I attended with this “talkative” group member, I started to lose patience. I was so terrified of imposing on his vulnerabilities, I quickly became overwhelmed with fear of stepping on his toes. When someone noticed I was quiet, the only words I could squeeze from my voice box were, “I can’t contribute… it wouldn’t be very nice.”

Apparently, my fellow-groupy is very upset because my response suggests I am annoyed with him and his topic of discussion. Of course, I only perceive his response as ‘poor me’, which almost expects some kind of explanation at our next session. Once again, everything needs to revolve back to him.

Children of narcissistic parents grow up believing in their own selfishness. We quickly learn that the parent’s needs and feelings come first. If the child shows anything resembling a free will, the narcissist will tarnish the ‘ungrateful little brat’ as rude and ungrateful. Punishments can easily escalate from verbal abuse through to physical assault, or the silent treatment might hang in the air for days. Both responses carry the ultimate message of disapproval and rejection if we dare speak out against them.

thCRZ1VW5DGroup therapy represents our mini world and that includes certain family dynamics, which is why it can be such an uncomfortable and painful experience. It’s one thing to identify the cause and effects of a problem, but overcoming the most challenging aspects often depend on action. No one is asking me to confront these fears by speaking out, although the very nature of therapy invites us to act upon whatever pulls on our conscience the most.

I need to face my fear of rejection whenever I am unwilling to please another person. I have no other choice but to tell this man how I feel at tomorrow’s group, but I am not looking forward to it. This is something I need to do for myself. After all, this is my therapy too.

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48 thoughts on “Group Therapy Dynamics, the effects of narcissism

  1. Ellen

    I think confronting your fears by speaking up is just what the doctor ordered. 🙂 That is what group therapy is for – you are really not there to help others feel better by cheering them up, the way you might in other contexts.

    The only word of advice I have, from my own sorry experience, is express your own feelings, but try not to attack the other person. One thing I found in group therapy, that I hadn’t realized, is how very easily people are hurt. However if you let that stop you from even trying, you are cheating yourself.

    I think by speaking up, you’re not so much confronting this other member, as you are trying to work through your feelings about your mother, which are being triggered off by this other person.

    Cheering for you. Good luck.

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    1. Cat Post author

      I think out of all of this, I am learning how to think before I lunge forward in what appears to be an attack. Unfortunately, when tensions are high and I feel defensive, I can easily slip into confrontation mode. But, this really isn’t about him, it’s about how I respond to him and as long as I keep that top focus, it should go okay.

      This comes from mum for sure and maybe I will reclaim control by confronting the fear in the group, but it’s still terrifying all the same 🙂 Thank you, Ellen, I knew you would understand from your own days in group therapy

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  2. Priceless Joy

    You are always so thorough about describing your thoughts, feelings and experience regarding your mental health and therapy sessions without compromising anyone’s privacy. I am always so amazed at that when I read your posts. You just seem to “have it all together.” I understand how you feel about this person in therapy. I hope you can relate how you feel to him without him taking it defensively. Because he sounds to me like he has that type of personality (to be offended). I’m in Albuquerque and going to be leaving soon to drive home. If it is okay, I would like to read this again and comment more on it later, but it takes three hours for me to get home so it won’t be until tomorrow.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thank you, Joy, that is a nice compliment, but together is not quite how I see myself. I try to offer some glimmer of hope in posts and this probably comes across as knowing more than I do, if that makes sense.

      He does have the offended personality – poor me – but I guess that may well be the baggage he needs to attend to in his own therapy.

      I hope you and Bria had a nice trip and arrived home safely

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  3. sensuousamberville

    Part of the group dynamic for MBT is to release those strong emotions/reactions so as to practice coping with them, not just for you but the others in the group, the therapists should step in if a group member finds a reaction to be very powerful to the point of concern for safety. They should step in if they notice that a member is struggling with a reaction. Reactions should be encouraged, so, though it is nice not to want to speak with the fear of transferring powerful reactions to another member, it may not necessarily be a bad thing. Even starting off with a comment such as Sara’s comment struck me and has triggered some anger in me, then this can be worked through. It is not a comment against Sara but that there was a transference to you of either her emotions or they triggered a transference from perhaps your mother to her.

    When you sit quietly, simmering in powerful emotions, others will expect this could be directed at them, as seems to be the case. Tis better to say yes, that triggered a strong feeling in you, the way you talk reminds me of my mother when she was tormenting me, I am not saying it is you, but it just triggered this response in me.

    It is harder when you are more criticizing of an individual in the group, as an example, that he talks non stop, but you can still use this as an example, it has triggered something in you, point it out. My mother would not stop talking the way that X is doing now, it would make me feel _____ just as I feel now.

    The Beer driver received his due, though it is nice to feel sorrow he lost his chance to do it to someone else… it is not acceptable behaviour and perhaps he will ponder on that now. Do a fist pump and go oh yeah!

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    1. Cat Post author

      Only 3 of us turned up today at the group, but Mr Talkative wasn’t one. My attitude and curt words during that last session we were together seem to have had an impact. As you point out, leaving him guessing what my problem might be was worse than him actually hearing it. Today, we looked at how I might approach him in the future. I am conscious to phrase my words carefully and more like “This is how I feel” rather than “you make me feel this way.” It is not a personal attack on him, I don’t dislike him in any way, but it’s my own feelings that I need to be more open about.

      Apparently, I have already told this person in the early months that he reminds me of my mother, although I have no recollection. The leaders have tended to allow him to overflow at times, but I wonder if they were allowing the triggering experiences to happen to a couple of us… waiting for one of to reach this point. Thank you, Amber, appreciated 🙂

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  4. New Journey

    You have to think that you did the business a huge favor and thanks….would you want someone like that representing you?? He got what he deserved, he was a bully and needed to taught a lesson…..I would of hated my mother or any women to get a note like that, especially since they didn’t do any thing illegal…..if he did it once to you, he’s done it hundreds of times and gotten away with it….on top of it how stupid to write a note on the back of a company invoice pad…LOL…no guilt tor doing the right thing…maybe he will be a better man for it….we can only hope…good luck in therapy, remember to breath…..

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    1. Cat Post author

      This is what everyone says and the fact I had a disabled badge in my window kind of makes it worse. Yes, he’s a bully and you’re probably right, I may not have been his first. I must say I have laughed about the note being written on official paper, what a moron! Thank you so much 🙂

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  5. Anxious Mom

    Glad to hear that the driver won’t be representing again. No sense in acting like that.

    And the thing with the other person in therapy sounds like a tough situation, so good luck with it. Like you said, it’s your therapy, too. ❤

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  6. mychildwithin

    Group therapy is extremely helpful and at the same time nerve-racking. I have been in your situation too and barely managed to say what I needed. It was good practice though. I grew up with narcissistic parents so always kept quiet too, so I wouldn’t upset them. I can relate to your feelings a lot.x

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    1. Cat Post author

      It’s extremely helpful, but very triggering all the same. You’re right, it’s good practice, but it’s just hard sometimes to be completely honest. Thank you 🙂

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  7. Priceless Joy

    The beer truck driver got what he deserved. It is sad to think we caused someone to lose their job but the fact is, they caused it, not us. Hopefully he will think now before he bullys anyone else. I have little sympathy for bullies (because I have had so much of it done to me). I love how you describe your reactions and feelings regarding your therapy. Sometimes it is downright comical (which I’m sure you intended it to be so hopefully I’m not saying something I shouldn’t be saying). But you can always make us feel the way you felt at the time, with your ability to write your feelings and experiences. I think you are on top of it Cat and you really impress me. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

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    1. Cat Post author

      I know he did and I feel less guilty now. He’s a bully and might think twice before doing that again, especially on the back end of company paper, donut with a large hole!

      Thank you for such kind comments, Joy, and I am always happy if someone can see the black humour that can sometimes trickle through. Americans don’t often get the Brits sarcasm.

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      1. Priceless Joy

        Some Americans miss that humor, (or are like me and aren’t sure if it is said or written for the sake of humor or not) I agree, and I do too at times. I’m glad I didn’t say the wrong thing and that it was humor! lol

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  8. A Million Thoughts

    You are right in that it is your therapy too. Congrats on writing to the company, he is not your problem. X

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  9. therabbitholez

    Your right in group, you are also to benefit from therapy, and that should be made clear to all, saying that depression I think can make you a little insular, because we are totally focused on our own issue, not that were not sympathetic.

    I think this ma ha got a little carried away and if he’s allowed to do all of the talking there is no benefit for the rest of you.

    You are a very caring person I can see it in yourwords,but there is only so much a person can take, and when you have been conditioned to listen to one person, it can stir up very negative memories, and ultimately seeing it as your fault if you don’t listen and take on board every utterance.

    I think your right to speak up as it breaks another pattern of behaviour, and it proves to yourself that you too have something to say, emotional bullies, must be made to see that not everything revolves around them.

    Take care xx

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    1. Cat Post author

      Depression can make us insular and I must try to see it more from his point of view. It’s not necessarily him that bothers me but what he represents and this is what is important to focus on. Maybe he might learn a thing or two along the way! Thank you, Cay

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      1. therabbitholez

        You are seeing it from his point of view, you have little choice as his focus is entirely about his own feelings, however he’s not giving the rest of you any consideration, I wonder if others in the group feel the same way.

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        1. Cat Post author

          Lol, this is very true, Cay and I have wondered how the other members feel. As usual, I worry in case it’s just me. Thanks 🙂

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    1. Cat Post author

      hello Annie, nice to ear from you. Thank you for your kind thoughts, but I do not accept awards. There is a notice on my blog front page. It’s still a nice sentiment all the same, cheers!

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  10. emmagc75

    Cat,
    I too see how you are able to describe your feelings, thoughts and experiences, good n bad, in such a remarkable way. You are more “together” than you think. I hope you’re able to talk to the poor me person. But I’m sure you realize his response will be as it has been, all about him. People like that annoy most of us. I know I run in the opposite direction from them lol. Be well xo

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    1. Cat Post author

      That is very sweet of you to say, thank you. I am usually the last to notice any kind of change. Yes, me-me’s are always hard to bear. Thank you so much for your encouragement, it helps

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  11. cardamone5

    Good for you. I am glad you see that it is as much to your benefit to speak up as it is to his (he sounds like he needs a check once in a while even if he is sensitive.) The facilitators should mitigate any emotions that arise from this exchange. That’s their job.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Elizabeth, yes, he probably needs a kick up the bum! I am sure the Therapists will help to process the exchange. Thanks, nice to hear for you

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  12. Glynis Jolly

    You don’t need to feel rejected when you don’t feel like pleasing someone. Yes, I know, easy said than done, but Cat, most people don’t mind pleasing those who are kind and friendly. If you don’t want to please someone, that person needs to take a closes look at how he/she is treating you.

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    1. Cat Post author

      That’ so very true Glynis and this is the valuable lesson I am in the process of learning and comments have contributed to that process, thank you

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  13. manyofus1980

    I hope you were able to tell him Cat and you felt ok in the doing of it. I send you my support. I hate the “poor me” senario. Some people are very good at manipulating things so everything revolves around them all of the time. XX

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    1. Cat Post author

      He wasn’t there last week, Carol Anne, but expect he’ll show face at tomorrow’s group. Always lovely to hear from you, thank you

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  14. dgkaye

    That’s a tough one Cat. I can imagine that sharing intimate issues in group therapy has got to be difficult. For some it’s hard enough to even communicate their feelings, but to do it in front of others is another thing. Besides the discomfort, like you said, you don’t know how much you can freely say without tipping the edge with another in a group. And about the beer guy, so your efforts paid off with sending the note to his company and now that ‘old instilled’ feeling of remorse has taken over. You did right, don’t feel bad. 🙂

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Debby, sharing is not as bad as meeting difficult people and that is actually what is meant to happen in group therapy. It represents both our outside world and our family dynamics, which can be extremely challenging and triggering (I’ve met my mother a number of times in a couple of people, mmmm not pleasant!). Tipping the edge with another is one of the scariest things. Children of narcissists grow up believing we are selfish and we were discouraged from expressing our negative emotions or opinions. That dynamic can play out in adulthood when we worry too much how other people are feeling about us or being affected by our actions
      Yes, the beer guy was an ugly scenario and I know now I did the right thing, I probably wasn’t his first
      Thanks, Debby, you’re a star

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      1. dgkaye

        I hear all you are saying Cat, especially the part where you said, “That dynamic can play out in adulthood when we worry too much how other people are feeling about us”, that is so true. 🙂

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