Lighten the Collective Burden

It’s important what we do together, the facilitators and participants of Anderson & Anderson Anger Management Classes, it can even be enjoyable.

One of the more satisfying moments for me is when I witness
a participant flush in epiphany — that glimpse, perhaps her first
glimpse of an arms-reachable reality where she is controlling her difficult emotions instead of being controlled by them. Another pleasant experience to witness is a deep, personal breakthrough. Last week a father was able to trace the source of his recent aggressive outbursts back to a tragic event 7 years prior (such personal growth is beyond the scope of the class and course material, yet welcome nonetheless). He is now being treated for PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder).

But even more enjoyable for me is when I am part of a group
that harmonizes, works together, assists, encourages and elevates each other, so that the facilitator can regress into the environment he nurtured and watch the magic show.

This weekend, George Anderson presided over a class attended by a homemaker, an actor, an island fever sufferer, a lover and a writer. Each participant had previously attended at least one class and was already familiar with the Control Log (Gaining Control of Ourselves, pg. 3). As one person shared a log entry, then another, all became actively involved in labeling Destructive Interactions and proposing Constructive Interactions. Each held all others responsible for honestly and appropriately answering the critical, paradoxical question, “What feelings were you having?” At one point even George
was satisfied with an answer but the actor wouldn’t have it, he was sure his classmate wasn’t being as honest with himself as he could be (and he was right). The classmates were genuinely interested in each other’s growth and welfare – it became personal to them, and because it did, each participant became a facilitator in the moment, and nothing teaches like teaching. Laughs were shared. Tears were shed.
Inspiration charged the air. Everyone took personal responsibility and left the classroom invigorated, with a hug from a classmate, or a phone number, so as to continue to the work in tandem.

In the middle of the last century Gestalt Theory, (gestalt is
something which when analyzed as a whole has achieved something greater than the sum of its parts), began to shift psychotherapeutic emphasis on personal responsibility and also began to focus attention on the individual’s experience in the present moment. Gaining Control of Ourselves continues that tradition of personal responsibility and likewise invites participants to re-experience the moments that
referred them to the program. And so when the facilitator nurtures a safe and sharing environment, when the participants are genuinely interested in personal development, and when a fortuitous mixture of personality and energy coalesce, you might experience a gestalt group where something greater than the sum of the parts occurs. In Berlin
it’s called gestalt, but I call it meaning, and it makes my neck hairs stand at attention.

We’re involved in great work: we encourage responsibility, we enable change, we elevate hope, and we lighten individual burdens — which means that we lighten the collective burden, which then makes the air around us more breathable, and that makes the world a lighter, airier place. Sentimental? Sappy? Maybe. But it’s important what we do.
Together. As a group. Facilitators and participants alike. It’s
important.

Shayde Christian

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