Focus: Leaving the Group
The basic structure of this meeting is the same as Meeting 1.1 - refer back for more information.
Some issues may have come up during check-in that the group may wish to spend more time on rather than moving straight into the 'focus'; or perhaps some issue is still to be dealt with from the previous week. When it is appropriate the leader moves the group into the main focus for this meeting.
5) The Big Bit in the middle - the leader announces the focus of the meeting
Focus: Leaving the Group
"Leaving the Group can happen in many ways - the group may lose energy and decide to wind-up; or a man will find he's enjoyed the support he's received and given and is ready to move on to other challenges that are calling him; or perhaps the way a group is developing is not what he wants; or perhaps an issue has come up that the group can't or won't resolve and is intolerable or abusive for one particular member; it is even possible for one man to create a conflict, not wanting it resolved, in order to destroy the group, or get rid of someone else (typically to avoid dealing with 'his' issue)."
"The question becomes 'What obligations do we have towards each other?' "
"In short, the final obligation each man assumes is to tell the group that he is leaving - and - if he is able - why he is leaving. This helps the other men to understand his departure. This may actually be a difficult thing for any man to do - he may be judged or blamed in many ways - he may even be shamed."
"If a man has been subject to abuse in group, whether shame or any other kind of abuse, and the group avoids the issue or is otherwise unable to stop it from occurring - then the healthy choice is for that man to not go to group - they may not be ready to hear him - he need not oblige himself to attend group or communicate with them in any way if he will only receive further abuse."
- What obligations do we have towards each other?
- Where is the energy in the group - right now?
Compare to a few months ago, or earlier.
What has happened to the energy? Why?
- Can you envisage a picture of what a healthy graduation from group looks like? Who decides?
How do you decide what a healthy graduation looks like?
- What's a worst case scenario for group collapse?
- How do you decide if/when a conflict could lead to a break-up of the group? What solutions are there? (See Meeting - Conflict Resolution)
- How do you recover when a man leaves - does it help if he says why he is going?
- How do you recover when a man leaves group without saying why?
If it is possible, and if it's appropriate, is there a respectful way of asking him? Are you ready to hear his words?
Are you ready to spend a meeting considering his viewpoint?
Are you willing to respond, respectfully?
- How do you 'call' a man who is acting out?
Is there a procedure you could establish?
Notes for Meeting 3-7
- Over the months that a group has been working together, emotional bonds have been developed and trust established between the men in the group. In fact this is what enables us to dig into our 'stuff/emotional baggage and do our work. The deeper we go, the hotter it gets, the higher the emotional stakes and investment; the more tense and volatile group can become.
Group can sometimes successfully navigate this journey, and men find support and healing with each other and the bonds remain intact. A man may decide he's ready to move on and deal with his stuff independently now - he's grown and is ready for it, and makes that choice for himself - that's healthy - and the group may feel a sense of loss but wishes him well on his next journey - that's healthy too, as opposed to 'codependent' ideas of 'you owe us…' or' you should stay and do x, y, or z…' or 'you're not ready yet…'. Group needs to grieve the change (not blame), and be ready to react and define itself out of those men who are ready, willing and choose to be there. In other words - Group sets up/allows a successful and healthy way for a man to graduate and leave the group.
Too often a man is unfairly judged and blamed when he decides that the time is right for him to depart. This often includes projecting our own unfinished business/issues onto him. A man will learn the lessons of his own choices and sometimes all he needs is support, which translates to courage, so he may begin his journey - this is a great gift we can share with (or deny), each other.
- On the other hand - sometimes it gets so hot during group process that the bonds break, friendship and trust is broken - what else is left to fall back on? Well, if the group has set-up its rules and guidelines, and is willing to enforce them, each man knows he is obliged to follow them and be respectful and non-abusing. If this climate has been established then a resolution to any issue is much closer than it might otherwise be.
And yet, if clarity is achieved through respectful group process, a resolution may still mean that a man decides to leave - this just isn't for him, for his own reasons, which he may or may not be able to share. It has been said that any change, good or bad, has sadness attached to it and needs to be grieved - each group will find its own way of doing this. It is of course out of this sense of sadness, that we may sometimes blame that other man, after all he 'caused' the sadness by going away - it may bring up deep abandonment issues - again this is projecting our stuff onto him and more appropriately needs to be owned and worked with.
- If a respectful and non-abusing group process has not been established, then a group can get itself into all kinds of mess with projections and non-ownership of 'stuff. It may indeed get very volatile, even hostile and abusing. It can be very difficult to achieve clarity and pick your way out of the mess towards a resolution (See Meeting - Conflict Resolution).
In fact, this is a frequent and unfortunate scenario for group demise. Once it gets this hot, and no tools/guidelines are in place to work with, a man can get into his 'dysfunctionality' so deeply, that there is no hope of pulling us/it all back together again. He may even be using the lack of guidelines to get his own way, knowing that he can push and push and 'act out' because there is no model of appropriate behaviour to pull him back, or to be applied against him. Psychologically he may be 'acting out' of a deep resentment or need to release this energy - this is true and real for him as it's happening, and he/we may not comprehend its source or even a deeper underlying desire for it to be controlled/dealt with by a smart enough group.