So, the annual conference of the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) is done. It was a day with a great lecture, a fun lunch at which the Capital Steps performed, and a long large group session. Afterwards, there was a reception which provided a chance to say goodbye to anyone who hadn't hopped on a plane already. I went out to dinner with a few people still in town and have made it back to my friends' house fairly early. I'm exhausted and will save my more detailed recap and other writing for later. Perhaps I shall get some good writing done on the train home tomorrow. If you are someone coming as a result of meeting me at AGPA, please check back over the next few days to see if I've gotten a chance to write anything more that a few quick recaps.
For those of you looking for my writing about Second Life and Politics, I hope to return to those topics after I get home, perhaps as early as Monday, depending on how over loaded my email box is. The rest of my writing about the AGPA conference can be found in the psychology section.
Perhaps the AGPA dance is a good metaphor for the whole AGPA experience, or perhaps my whole relationship with group psychotherapy. People asked if I would be going. I thought it would be fun and said I would be interested. However, I didn't have a ticket. There is a board where people leave messages and share information. People told me that I could check the board to see if anyone was had a ticket to give away. I could even leave a message on the board to see if someone would respond.
I checked the board several times,but nothing turned up. I was dubious about getting a ticket by leaving a message on the board, so I prepared myself for returning to my friends' house and spending the evening writing. Yet I ran into some people that I knew from the mailing list. We sat around having coffee and talked. People drifted in and out and at one point it was there was a lively discussion with quite a few people. A discussion came up about people having extra tickets and I expressed my interest. Before I knew it, someone had given me a ticket, not only for the dance, but also for Saturday's lunch. I am truly grateful. As I expressed my thanks, someone made a comment about how it showed the power of family. The idea of AGPA as a powerful second family for many people is a theme that keeps coming back during the conference.
So, I went to the dance. I arrived early and found a place where I could sit quietly, far enough from the music to be deafened. It was a good vantage point to watch as people arrived. Slowly, people I knew began to show up. I spoke with people I knew from various sessions I had attended.
This is not a shy group and many people approached me. Some to talk about my writing, others to talk about our shared experiences or to invited me to the dance floor. Just as I had not intended to attend the dance, I had not intended to write about it, but as people asked, my thoughts coalesced.
Everyone joined in the Love Train. It was a very much a large group experience, but the experience was much different than the discussion of killing off leaders in the large group session. Instead, as the train of dancers weaved its way around the dance floor, it frequently shifted shape. People would reach out to bring others in. They would move from one place in the train to another, attempting to keep the train whole and connected.
Other songs jumped out at me during the night. "Respect". "I will survive". There were others that seemed to communicate something special about AGPA and the members at the dance. Perhaps the song that tied it all together was "We are family"
So, now the dance is over. I've tried to capture my experiences and share them in words. Now, it is time to move forward, to see what experiences this new day will bring.
It is just after midnight and I'm back at my friends house after a long day and night at the American Group Psychotherapy Association annual meeting. There was a lot of great stuff today. The president's speech was very powerful and deserves a blog post of its own. I went to a dance therapy session that was marvelous, which also deserves a post of its own. Even the dance in the evening deserves a post of its own. Then, there is the summary where I try to tie it all together. That is taking shape in my mind, but will have to wait. Before I do any of that, I feel that I need to process some of how I am being treated here.
I am wearing a press badge. I'm getting the sense that this is something new and there is probably some good discussions about how AGPA can better deal with the press going forward. Yet it is Friday night and I'm not ready for that either. Instead I want to talk about my own experiences as 'the press' for a moment. You see, for very few people I am 'Aldon'. For some, I'm 'Aldon from the mailing list'. That's pretty good, it still touches on my humanity. Yet for many, I am 'the press'. The press, an object that invokes fear in some. What will I write about? Will I respect confidentiality? Will I see and reveal something that people don't want revealed? Yalom talks about how one of the key feelings that groups help recognize the universality of is feelings of incompetence. Will I observe and reveal the incompetence of some group psychotherapist? Even worse, will I get the story wrong, and report some falsehood as if it were truth?
Others see the press as something beneficial. There is much that group psychotherapy can offer our country and our world. Unfortunately too many people have little or no idea about group psychotherapy. I do hope to go into this, especially as I write up my thoughts about the President's keynote, as well as about an open session I went to on Thursday.
Yet with that, just about everyone is approaching me in terms of my role, and the task of writing that goes along with it. This evening I went to the dance. Everyone asked why I wasn't writing, why I wasn't taking notes, was I going to write about the dance, what was I going to say. You will have to wait for that. I do hope I can take my experiences from the evening and write a good entry about it.
This is where the thought really came home. I am an object. I am a role. The Press. I seem to have lost my humanity. In the large group there was a recognition that in that role, I am a container for anxieties about boundaries and confidentiality. It was noted that anyone can break a boundary. Anyone can write a blog post, some people might even be able to write scholarly articles for peer reviewed journals. Yet I am the one that is expected to write about it. I am the container to hold those anxieties. I was glad that this was recognized.
Some people have fantasies. Will this experience awaken some deep longing or need that I might have to become a therapist? Whose fantasy is that? Is it mine? Is it people from various groups I've been part of? Is it a fantasy that should be acted upon? Another topic for exploration.
Back at the large group, I am not the only one who has been stripped of my humanity. Others have lost their humanity to the large group as well. The leader? The ex-leaders? Large groups are great at killing off their leaders, but these leaders, like the press aren't humans. They are objects, roles, containers for all kinds of complicated feelings. Perhaps this ties back to the great session on how we deal with political persecution that I still need to write my blog post about. And with that, what are our fantasies about our leaders? The leaders, past, present and future of the large group at the AGPA conference? The leaders, past, present and future of the United States, and other leaders we run into in our daily lives.
Saturday will end with a three hour large group. It will be interesting to see what unfolds.
I'm too cheap to pay for the WiFi at the AGPA conference, so I wrote my articles yesterday, saved them on the laptop, and only this morning, uploaded them. It will be interesting to see what sort of reaction they generate. Some people seem unsure about how to deal with the press at the conference and I'm trying to walk a fine line between observing and participating and between reporting and respecting confidentiality and privacy.
Last night was the Group Psychotherapy mailing list dinner. There were over fifty people there, many of them were long time friends from the list, that I've never met face to face. People asked how they looked compared to the expectations I had developed from meeting them online. The one general difference is that everyone seemed much younger than I imagined them. I suspect that a lot of this gets to standard expectations, stereotypes and exemplars. From the list, I've developed a great respect for many of the participants. I view them as kind and wise, attributes that I normally associate with older people. One of them has recently had knee surgery, something my mother had last year, and a friends mother had the year before, so I particularly expected her to appear much older than she did.
In order to keep the front page of my blog balanced between many of my interests, I am only leaving this post on the front page right now. My other recent posts about the AGPA conference have been filed in the newly created sections, Conferences and Psychology. I would encourage people interested in the AGPA conference to follow these links to read my other articles about the AGPA conference.
AGPA - The Co-Creation of Leadership: The Interface Between Psychotherapy Groups and Large Group Political ProcessesSubmitted by Aldon Hynes on Fri, 02/22/2008 - 07:48
A panel that was of particular interest to me was about the co-creation of leadership. The first presenter was by Dr. Hala Tawell, President of the University of the Middle East Project in Cambridge, MA. She spoke about her work bringing together Arabs and Jews. Her talk can best be summarized by a comment she made, "We all knew the conflicts. We didn't know how much we had in common." This was followed by a paper by Dr. Rosemary Segella, in which she focused on complexity theory as it relates to large groups. She spoke about her years observing large groups and the cycles they go through. This was followed by a talk by Dr. Howard Kibel looking at projected fantasies and the political process. He explored how such fantasies might explain some of the strong reaction some people have against Sen. Hillary Clinton.
During the break, a few of us stood around and talked about the 2008 U.S. Presidential elections.
This was followed by a demonstration group. They had problems getting people to volunteer to be in the demonstration group, so in the end, I agreed to join. Eight of us sat around in a circle. We were asked to enact a meeting of leaders in a community that has been on an emotional roller coaster and now had the angry crowds at the gate. We were to explore the nature of the creation of leadership as we attempted to address the particular issue. We only had half an hour to act and there was a lot of anxiety in the group as they worked towards a solution, while at the same time, observing feelings about the emergence of leadership.
In the discussion that occurred afterwards, parallel processes with the leadership of the open session, the leadership of the AGPA and the leadership of the country were explored. Just as the demonstration group did not manage to arrive at a solution for our hypothetical community, it seemed like the issues of how leadership emerges and the role that large groups play as was not fully explored. Many of us stayed around afterwards to explore our own feelings and what we were learning from the demonstration group.
To me, it seemed clear that this is a very large subject worthy of much more exploration. It is worth noting that I cannot capture the intensity of this group in written words, in part due to the limitations of my own writing ability, and in part out of respect for the process.