Experiencing the AGPA Large Group

An important part of the AGPA conference for me personally was the Large Group open sessions. I've participated in large groups at Group Relations conferences in the past and I've always valued the experiences. This large group experience was different, which brought its own value to me.

Post AGPA dream

As my cellphone started chirping this morning, alerting me to my need to get my stuff together and get on the road back home, I was in the midst of a striking dream. It started in what seemed to be the parking lot of a shopping center. I was driving the car and had pulled into a parking lot. I was inching the car forward to be all the way into the lot, but I went a little too far and hit the curb. I backed up, but backed up to far. I pulled forward again and overshot the curb by a greater amount, backed up again to correct things. By then, Kim as out of the car getting stuff out of the trunk, which I'm not sure how she did it. I was concerned about hitting her and pulled forward, driving across the curb through the parking and making a grand loop back to where Kim was. She was concerned about if I was alright and I said I felt okay, just out of focus. So, she decided that I should simply drive home. She would get home some other way.

I drove home through a town that seemed very much like the town I grew up in as a child. As I drove, two women in outfits that seemed like a cross between a clown out fit and a running suit, went out for a run, crossing my path. I worried about being able to avoid hitting them. I pulled onto another street that was crowded with pedestrians. Angst filled, I drove very carefully home, where I arrived safely, without doing any damage to anyone or anything, except perhaps my own equilibrium.

In a few minutes, I will head off to the train station. I will sit on the train and process and write about my experiences at the AGPA conference. I hope to get home safely, regaining my equilibrium, and not hitting anyone on the way. I am not sure how much this is about the AGPA conference and the wonderfully varied reactions to me as a blogger and member of the press that I received. Other associations or interpretations are welcome.

AGPA Saturday recap.

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.

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The AGPA Dance

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.

AGPA Friday Night Processing

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.

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