Diversity, Dominance, Power, Authority, Gender, Age… These are themes I have been through myself in various parts of my life, and observed in many people as we learn to be authentic in groups. In the view of Gestalt, the learning of group dynamic is not simply about learning how to deal with groups, thus one should not expect to attend a Gestalt Group Dynamics workshop and walk off with a set of tools and/or solution to on how to deal with group. Gestalt values experiential learning; learn from experimenting, learning through experiencing. Thus, to learn about group dynamics, one have to experience group dynamics. Of course we have all experienced group dynamics in our life, in our family, school, work, and so on, but Gestalt have an obvious but unique expectation of experiencing groups which we often neglect, and that is the mindfulness of our authentic self in group, or simply in Gestalt’s lingo, awareness of self.
Due to all the different way we have experienced life until this point of time, many of us had at one point of time or other chosen to bury a part of ourselves, drown bit of ourselves, and we call them changes, growing up, letting go or even growing out of it. But without being awared, those part of ourselves might still be there imprisoned in the depth of our unconscious mind feeling angry, injustice, grief, demoralised, sad, lacking in self esteem and confidence and more. In my opinion, many of these emotions and sensations which are often deemed negative socially, are often the clue that a part of our self have been compromised and care of it being neglected. Gestalt embraces all sensations and emotions as they are all part of our self, just like in Taoism which embraces Yin and Yang, the negative and positive, as both elements are part of the whole. The idea is not to judge, but to hold both of them paradoxically.
Gestalt in Group Dynamics have the foremost objective of encouraging participants to be fully present in group, and to do so requires setting perimeters to ensure safety for the participants. All conversations among participants are strictly confidential and most importantly, all participants, led by the facilitator are, and should be mindful that the ojective of any Group workshop in Gestalt is about being being fully present and supporting each other to be fully present.
Ocassionally, there will participants whom are not ready for work like these. They felt they are highly competent individuals with prolific experiences in coaching others, and would present themselves in the group coaching other people, but by doing so they create distances between themselves and others; perhaps a distance to make them feel safer about themselves. Why is there a distance where they are helping? They are not present as themselves, but as a coach, an executive, a teacher, a parent, a sister or a brother, etc. But not as themselves.
Sometimes the reason we carry roles into the group is because we might been playing these roles for so long, so successfully in our existence until now that we might have relinquished the existence of our self. Sometimes, the role(s) surfaced to the present as we see or hear something that is related to our past experience. It could be seeing a certain behaviour of other participants that remind us of our younger sister, mother, father, teacher, etc.
Playing ourself being roles are common experiences in most of group dynamics setting, sometimes to position ourselves, or to protect ourselves. This is a reflection of the world we lived in, where we compare ourselves with each other since we were brought to this world. Whether we are smarter than our siblings, taller and stronger than our friends, whether our grades are better than our classmates, if our salary are higher than others, if our house are bigger, if our children are smarter or more capable. This constant rat race have conditioned us to be always competing. I do not think competition is a bad thing, but after competing for our entire life, we might sometimes forget to live life for ourselves as life no longer about ourselves, but if we are better than others.
Gestalt Group Dynamics groups and workshop have helped me to take a small step backward, into my being and relearn the self. It helps to identify the needs of the self and encourage each other to fulfill the needs, because there is no point in winning a race if it does not gratify yourself. Know yourself, and be yourself.