The coach was well experienced and ready to lead the group. Let us first thank Mother Earth for birthing us, and let us thank Mother Heaven for earthing us. Let us acknowledge the four winds and the 4 ancestors and the unborn and aged for seeking and searching us and finding us.
Next came the invitation questions- “Tell us what you are grateful for and what you are struggling with. Then listen if anyone wants to offer you support.”
All innocent enough, you might think. Who is not grateful for something, even if today I am still raging that the IRS did not give me the refund I deserved. And who is not struggling with something or someone, even if today, I have given up smoking for 3 months and feel I am no longer struggling with the cravings. Today I feel I am seeing the light.
The group sharing unfolds and some folks who are miles away from feeling thankful about anything have to switch genres and suddenly, they find themselves in a new field of grace and joy they did not chose. How did that happen? The neglectful parent is grateful for his kids, the greedy boss is thankful for his workers who work so cheaply, the girl is glad she broke off with the boyfriend because she fell in love with his sister. Gratitude sprung as an epiphany reveals lots of surprises. But the mood is not allowed to dominate. It is what you share first, as the appetizer, the warm up act.
For the main course, you are invited to enter the territory of struggle town, to fess up that your strength or your confidence are just veneers of a deeper drama, to share where according to the dictionary, you are ” making forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction.”
Once someone shares their deepest fear of waking up and finding they are a grasshopper, the avalanche begins. The unploughed territory of struggle becomes like a gold rush. I struggle with deep anxiety about the state of the world. You struggle with a gender confusion where one day you are as mad as a man, and the next, as wise as a woman. Your friend says he struggles with knowing what life is about and whether breathing the air is stealing from those who need it most in polluted cities. Another struggles with struggling, just to stay with it, whatever it is. I struggle to know what to struggle with, and that is my struggle.
The group is now well into the game. Gratitude is the softening up- who needs to out grate the grateful, but struggle speaks to struggle like a solar panel speaks to the sun. Now we can play the therapist, because around us is wall to wall vulnerability. We feel needed and we can give all the unneeded and unheeded advice that was ever invented to be given. It is a feast of the needy made to feel necessary to the shared plight. My struggle ordains me to pontificate on yours.
The group sharing feels therapeutic, feels cathartic. Some who have never shared before now share and it feels like doors are opening, that hearts are softening. But that is the point of the game. If when I am feeling bad, I can discover someone feeling worse, I am made automatically to feel better.
The witness is being led into the territory of the facilitator’s projection. What if today I do not feel grateful at all? Then there is no room for my voice. What if there is no struggle, that I feel I am thriving? There is no room for my voice. This is strugglers anonymous and the vulnerability empowers the group to step up and be grateful that everyone else is as needy as they feel they are. No shame, no gain. And lets all end with a big group hug, in celebration of our mutual weakness.
The group dynamics has been studied before and it is the most powerful means for mass indoctrination that was ever invented. Stalin and Lenin would be proud. Have a group accuse you of betraying the fatherland and you will have comrades competing for shame and guilt, one they did not feel at all till you asked the question. Or a recovery and relapse group get asked “How close you came to the edge since last we met?” So even if you are miles away from throwing your life away again, you have to move to the edge of relapse, so that the therapists can earn their pay for relapse prevention.
The whole sharing is authentic to the manufactured moment. If the questions were less incriminating, such as “Where were you at your silliest this last month? and “Where did you get serious?” we would have the same dynamic of people creating a space that is invented by the language. At least being serious does not mean you have to play weak as “struggling” does. But this process demands you sign up for the weakness and struggle club so WE can help you. We want to HELP you so please, find a struggle that makes us feel our pain can gain some value. Plus, who does not love hearing our own voice giving advice.
The session ends and we close, thanking Mother Sun and Sister Moon, and going back to our lives knowing that others are struggling and that life sucks and that we are right to feel so down and so depressed and that we need to “take a moment” to process what the sharing has triggered as a ricochet about our life.
And if and when we wake up, we would realize that we just got conned. We were hyenas feasting on the wounded and the bleeding. There was something pornographic about the whole display. Take it all off and reveal your struggle.
That is what I am struggling with. Vulnerability and empathy have become the new buzz words and anyone showing courage or resilience or “daring to thrive” is obscene.
We are talking ourselves into our own depression and demise and making the discourse of our weakness into a voluminous treatise that crowds out any story of human persistence. Needy people need needy people. It makes them feel at home. Meanwhile, the rest just suck it up and move ahead. If you have that much time to elaborate your need, you are clearly needing someone to tell you to try breathing instead of crying, and Get on with your life which is too short to waste on the tragedy of the trivial.