Who Attends Groups?

Every group features a slice of the population and will not necessarily include anyone you would ordinarily develop a friendship with. However in the alchemy of groupwork these strangers invariably transform into people with whom you are able to be at least as, if not more intimate with, than many people you choose to live your life with. Usually there is a mixture of age and cultural backgrounds. All groups are mixed and where possible a balance is kept between women and men. The differences between people bring into focus parts of yourself that might otherwise remain disowned.

The people composing a group change slowly. Some will be there for several years, others for a few months, while someone else may happen to join at the same time as you, depending on when places come free. Groups have been running continuously since the 1980's. After a minimum period of seven sessions you decide in due course with the help of the group and the therapist when it is time to leave.

When full there will be ten people in a group. Newcomers to groupwork or people experienced in groups are equally welcome. Members of a group are expected to prioritise attending. Deep and effective work is compromised by irregular presence. There are agreed ground rules for the safety of group members, in particular confidentiality is required.

Each meeting of a group is like a bus journey where the destination is unknown. Group members are both driver and passengers. The facilitator is usually the conductor, occasionally the inspector.

Who is Guy Gladstone?

Guy Gladstone is a personal development practitioner who has been working for 32 years with ongoing and weekend groups at The Open Centre, the long established (1977) independent personal growth centre. Guy is accredited as a group and individual psychotherapist by The UK Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners and is a graduate of three trainings - The Institute for the Development of Human Potential (2 years), The Institute of Psychotherapy and Social Studies (3 years) and The British Association of Analytical Body Psychotherapy (5 years). Guy supervises practitioners in a variety of settings. He is interested in the politics of the psy field and the cultural value of groups for personal growth.

Why Bodyspace?

Bodyspace denotes a programme of training and personal development that is informed and guided by a specific developmental perspective; namely that human development is grounded in a progressive and increasingly differentiated four-stage sequence of experiential modes: sensations > emotions > images > speech. The capacity to contactfully traverse all levels of this register both upwards and downwards is crucial to a capable, fulfilled and integrated life.

Why Bodywork?

  • Bodywork in a group mode builds the group as a safe container providing reassurance, support, solidarity and holding
  • Bodywork raises the energetic level of the group as a whole, building the inner push needed to work through difficult issues
  • Bodywork helps overcome the prevalent splitting apart of body, mind and emotions. Closure of these splits may be resisted in the name of an ideal, spiritual or otherwise. Or it may be that your body carries a burden of split-off pain that your mind resists making sense of
  • Bodywork functions as auto-diagnosis. You may see through the problem and understand the core of it. Then bodywork becomes revelation. You realize what is happening where and why you form yourself that way, prompting the question why not this way?
  • The body is often the entry point into grasping the hidden family dynamic. Without understanding this the meaning of your life may be permanently obscured
  • It is with your body that you make and succeed in or avoid and fail in . . . relationships. Past and present interpersonal dynamics are illuminated through bodywork in a group context
  • Bodywork is often the essential precondition for the resolution of shocks (actual trauma). Defences formed in response to high impact events are physiologically anchored. Consequently psychotherapy without bodywork can go round and round in circles and the shock remains chronic and unresolved
  • Bodywork rivals dreams as the royal road to the unconscious conflicts determining your life. While bodywork plus dreamwork and transferential experience utilises the power of three to bring about breakthroughs and syntheses with astounding economy
  • Bodywork is a catalyst for the recovery of personal imagination. It restores the space for play and phantasy, a space that many forces in today's world combine to collapse
  • Bodywork facilitates immediate translation back and forth between biology (body) and psychology (self and ego) with relevant extrapolation to sociology (culture and community). Influenced by family, school and society feeling, thinking and behaviour is often blocked (over controlled) or chaotic (under controlled). The thrust of a Bodyspace weekend is towards balance and equilibrium with acceptance of ambivalence.

Why Groupwork?

  • Most difficulties, disappointments and repeated self-defeating patterns of behaviour, whether of a work, social or intimate kind, involve others and can be most readily resolved by addressing the issue in a group. Whatever issue you bring that issue will be a matter of concern for one or more of the others.
  • We live in a society that for many people is increasingly stressful. Within the safer and more supportive setting of the group, with the help of an experienced group conductor, distress can be expressed and worked through. Better ways of dealing with stress can then be discovered. Uncovering the influence of the past prepares you to more successfully meet the future. Thereby you get to grips with what you can change and come to terms with what you can't.
  • Through the way you relate to others in the group and they to you skills evolve that are transferable to your life. You are enabled to respond creatively to pressures, manage transitions better, and clarify relationship dilemmas. Surprising aspects of your life story may surface through contact with other group members. And so your story begins to change . . . and next year life is noticeably different . . . For example where hitherto you were lonely and isolated or compulsively over-social now you find a happier balance between withdrawing and reaching out.
  • In a group almost everything is grist for the mill. If every expression evokes an impression elsewhere in the group then the chemistry of the encounter between any two group members, with the varying levels of participation of the others present, can move the interaction of the whole group to the level of 'alchemy' (the art of transmuting base metals into gold, metaphorically speaking).
  • A single moment of group process will often be experienced in astonishingly different ways by between ten and sixteen different pairs of eyes, ears, hands, feet and all the bodies belonging to these. There is a massive potential for relatedness, an intensive appreciation of one's own and other's worlds.
  • In a Bodyspace group meanings in the plural are discovered rather than the meaning in the singular being pre-assigned and delivered to participants (as typically occurs in seminar groups and teachings).
  • Groups occupy a position somewhere in between the privacy and containment of the individual session and the relative anonymity and boundarilessness of public places (that just about anybody can enter at any time). Thus the group is a unique combination of safety, through its ground rules and working contract, and excitement, through the unpredictability of the others.
  • Like Janus, Roman god of the doorway and the first month of our calendar, groupwork faces both inwards and outwards, situated more midway between the psyche and the social than individual sessions can ever be.
  • Nowadays more than ever people need to meet authentically. Estrangement of people from their own selves and each other proceeds apace under the unreal canopy of millenial public relations and alienating wealth creation. Groupwork grounded in the body brings into focus the tensions between human relatedness and neo-liberal market forces.
  • The series of threes in groupwork while representing oedipal themes linked to father, family and society also ensure the representation of more than one helping viewpoint, thus curbing excessive dependency on authority (the group leader) modelling the potentials of "power with" rather than "power over".