Photos my own – Montenegro – Lake Skadar and Bay of Kotor
What is it that makes it easier, harder, or even impossible, to integrate, to participate in, to engage with, to be “fit for human consumption” in, a group?
Not even two months ago, I wrote about a very challenging time I had had on a Swimming holiday (with the lovely SwimTrek outfit), where I had underestimated the challenge of being part of a group of people I did not know for a week. I wrote about it here:
Since then, I have had two more swimming holiday weeks, also with SwimTrek (lucky me!) – one a month ago, and one that is just finishing – which have both been fine. More than fine.
(These adjectives concern the group interaction stuff, as opposed to anything else, such as the actual swimming, which is the basic reason I go. And which is also more than lovely).
I have been curious about what made some group interactions so hard and challenging, so painful and disagreeable, and others easier and gentler. There are many variables, but I think ultimately it comes down in part to how much I share, with whom, and how early in the week. And secondly and most particularly, the response – the level of skill in the response – of the first person who “hears my story”.
In the two weeks where I have felt okay, whenever – time-wise – I shared even the broadest brush version of my story (first night or well into the trip), if that first person was able to “hold it”, my experience of the group dynamic soared. But,
If the first witness could not take it, could not hold it…
If they deflected or turned away…
If they dived in for gory details that were not theirs to hear at that fledgling stage of the relationship…
If they digressed into their own story…
Then my experience of the group dynamic plummeted.
I think it’s simply down to that. That first experience. That first holding, witnessing, absorbing. Being present. And me feeling seen.
If others I spill the beans to later in the week are not so skilled, it doesn’t matter so much. It still sucks, but it doesn’t hurt.
It is as though I have an ally. A partner in crime. A pillar. Some solid ground to rest on.
Even if they have not had anything remotely like my experiences, it is enough.