Why Self Improvement Should Be a Group Activity

You’re working on yourself and you know what needs to change.  Maybe you even work with a therapist or coach.  But months and years later, you find yourself stuck in the same patterns.  

Working on your personal transformation with a group of like-minded people is indispensable to catapult you forward.  A facilitated group provides support, encouragement, accountability and a clean reflection back to you that is necessary to activate the change you are seeking.  

For people that are serious about changing their lives for the better, there are four resources that are needed.  They are:  Meditation;  working 1-1 with a guide/coach/therapist;  participating in a personal change group process;  and ecstatic experiences.  You can read about these four here in my earlier post.

What is Group Process

Here I want to talk about Group Process.  By group process I mean meeting regularly with a group of people, (really just a handful of participants is enough), led by an experienced facilitator, for the explicit purpose of personal change and transformation.  You’re in a group, you’re led through exercises, learnings, and experiences, and then you reflect on these in the group.  You share what you are experiencing and receive feedback from the facilitator and from other group members.  Such a group could meet weekly for a designated number of months or even indefinitely.  

Why is this so valuable?  First, you receive valuable feedback from the facilitator.  So far so good.  This seems like what you might get working 1 on 1.  You also get the reflections back from your peers in the group.  This brings additional insights and gives you a deep feeling of “I’m not in this alone.  There are other people who are going through similar things.  This is very comforting and encourages you to go further.  You also receive their blessings and encouragement, and we all need as much confirmation and validation as we can get.  

By doing our work in front of and with other people, we develop courage and we learn to open our hearts, to be vulnerable and receptive to life.

The key to reduce our fear of doing this in front of others is to create a safe container.  Here I mean emotional safety.  Conditions and agreements are set up, at the beginning, with the guidance of the facilitator, to ensure emotional safety.  Things like confidentiality:  “what we say here stays here”.  Other conditions are also usually installed like no put downs, no advice giving, no interrupting, use“I” statements, and punctuality. 

The Benefits of Group Process

When conditions like these are present, it becomes much easier to share openly.  We all have a deep need and a deep longing in us to open our hearts and our lives up to others.  We usually don’t do this very fully,  even with people we love, because we learned early in life that it is not safe and we can get hurt.  Being in a safe group feeds and heals this important part of ourselves.

When we share openly in a group, and the other members are focused on us, listening deeply, with compassion, and we feel witnessed, we feel seen and a kind of deep healing comes from this.

There is also a huge benefit in being present for another person’s process.  Even if we are simply sitting quietly and observing someone else doing their work to try to better themselves, we experience healing also, because, in the end, we are all connected.  

The Family Recreated

Finally, we each began our life in some kind of a family. And most likely it was not ideal, and there were interactions that caused you some pain, hurt or even trauma, usually from parents or siblings.  In most cases, these traumas were not intentional.  From these experiences, you most likely learned that it was not really safe to be fully who you are, to express how you were truly feeling, to do the things that you were really called to do.   

A group process is kind of a family recreated.  But with the conditions that make it much more safe.  Eventually you will get triggered by someone in the group.   It could be a member or it could be the facilitator.  It is often some small thing, like being interrupted, or someone not getting your words exactly right, or someone being late, or someone calling you out for not following a rule.  Whatever it is, the trigger will activate an old wound, a pattern that has been installed in you for a long, long time.  

If the group process has integrity, then the trigger that comes up can be named, worked through, excavated in an authentic, meaningful way, different from how your original family handled it.  The benefit of working this through, owning your stuff, taking back the projection you may have about a group member, is enormous.  You learn to integrate and heal the resistance and stuck pattern you have, bringing relief, and a new way of being in the world.  The next time this pattern shows up in your life, you will be better equipped to show up calmly, compassionately and more clearly about what you want and need.  

Working one on one with a therapist or coach can be very useful.  However, there are inevitably blind spots and hidden parts of you that remain in shadow.  By doing personal transformation work in a group, these hidden parts of you get activated and you can integrate and heal them.  

I’m am facilitating a supercharged group coaching experience called Full Engagement Living and I encourage you to check it out.  It begins September 1.  Space is limited.  

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