Beginning Work in an Interactive-IFS Group

This is an excerpt from a longer article, The Interactive Group Experience.

At some point I may encourage you to initiate some interactive work—to pick someone in the group and tell them your initial impressions of them or your reactions to them. After even a short time in the group, you will have initial reactions to every person in the group, so it’s just a matter of picking someone to start with, probably someone that you feel safe talking to. The reactions you express can be positive or negative, big or little. Many people start out with positive reactions because they find these less threatening. This also helps to build initial trust and safety.

For example, you say,

“Mary, I really like the way you come across. You seem really honest, and not afraid to say exactly what you are feeling. And you say it in a way that doesn’t offend people.”

Then I ask you to tell her how that makes you feel toward her. You say,

“I feel warmly toward you, and I feel like I can trust you.”

Mary then responds with her reaction to what you said. For example,

“Thank you. That makes me feel really good. I’ve been working on that for a long time. It’s nice to be recognized. I like you, too.”

Your first interaction might begin with someone in the group giving you their initial impressions of you. For example, John says,

“It seems like you’re a nice person, but a part of me wonders if you would ever say anything negative even if you were feeling it. So far it seems like you’re mainly trying to please people.”

It is then your turn to respond. You might feel embarrassed (or hurt or angry) in response to what he said. If so, you say,

“A part of me feels embarrassed by what you said.”

Or you might respond to the content of John’s perception of you, by saying whether you think you have been trying to please people in group. The dialogue between you and John continues until it came to a conclusion that is satisfactory for both of you.

One of your first interactions might involve receiving positive feedback. For example, Betty says, “I really like what I’ve seen of you so far. You seem warm and caring and really perceptive, especially for someone so new to the group. A part of me feels happy that you’ve been so understanding and supportive with me, you know, especially last week.” You might take in her feedback, allowing it to make you feel good about yourself, and respond to Betty in a warm way.

Or you might get embarrassed or deflect the compliment. In that case, I would encourage you to examine why it was hard for you to take in her positive feedback. For example, a part of you might not feel worthy, or a part of you might feel afraid of the contact with Betty. You might then experiment with taking in Betty’s feelings and respond with your feelings toward her. A short dialogue would ensue.

 

 

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