Everyone yearns for loving, positive relationships. Yet for many adults, stable companions continue to be out of reach. Friends come and go. Romances fall apart. Family members remain at odds with one another.
Why do some people have healthy, flourishing relationships while others do not? And why does individual therapy often fail to help people break their pattern of troubled relationships?
Unlike individual therapy, group therapy focuses exclusively on relationships. Group therapy begins with you taking 100 percent responsibility for your own behaviors and the outcomes of your relationships. Instead of picking through your history or blaming others, group work focuses on the ways you communicate, the things you choose to say or withhold, and your attitudes about yourself and others. These are the forces that shape your relationships. Until you revolutionize them, you’re bound to repeat the same relationship patterns with different people and relive the same script over and over. To stop your series of unhappy endings, you’ll need to understand your part in creating them.
Perhaps you obsess about what other people think of you. You strive to win approval (Please like me); you scrutinize your physical attributes (I wish I looked more _________); or you project cold indifference (I don’t need anyone). Such strategies are transparent, and will leave you lonely and isolated.
Here are a few common mistakes people make in relationships:
You fashion an image of yourself you think will be attractive to others and strive to win them over. Rather than being yourself, you create an imposter that is lacking originality, heart, and substance. As a result, people remain at a distance.
You put all your energy into being helpful to others, devoting yourself to their needs while neglecting your own. In the end, you feel mistreated, unappreciated, and drained.
- Seeking validation.
You search for constant approval, seeking the love and acceptance from others that you deny yourself. You come off as needy, clingy or desperate. Potential friends and lovers will run in the other direction!
- Avoiding conflict.
You steer clear of disagreements or expressing your true opinions. You fear rejection and fret that the slightest dispute will doom your fragile relationship. People become bored when you’re too agreeable. They lose respect for you or don’t take you seriously.
- Sexual acting out.
You throw yourself at others or surrender to their sexual advances. Mistaking sex for intimacy, you feel like the victor, but end up the victim.
Such counterproductive efforts spell disaster because they’re not based on your authentic self. Relationships established in this manner rarely withstand the test of time, at least not in any way that will bring you lasting happiness.
Group therapy is your personal gym for achieving greater intimacy. Adults emerge from a positive group experience with enhanced interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. They know what they want in relationships; they stand up for themselves, and express themselves honestly and with clarity and ease.
Here are a few common benefits of group work:
- Social confidence.
You break bad social habits and integrate improved ways of relating to others. You experience less anxiety and don’t succumb to destructive impulses.
- Masterful communication skills.
You learn to communicate your feelings and wants more effectively. You practice greater mindfulness and refrain from behaviors that damage your relationships.
- Improved attunement.
You’re better attuned to yourself and others. You develop into a great listener and express yourself thoughtfully and clearly. People feel at peace with you because you’re at peace with yourself.
- Emotional courage.
Emotional assertiveness, risk-taking, anxiety-free intimacy — group therapy trains you to open the door to deeper, more meaningful relationships. The emotional courage that you cultivate in group sessions will transfer to all your daily interactions.
Group therapy seeks to end your cycle of failed relationships by empowering you with insight and new choices. Sure, the thought of sitting in a room with strangers and sharing your feelings is intimidating; however, you’ll be amazed at the growth you’ll experience.
Group interaction gives you the willpower to open fresh pathways into relationships and discover new ways of being with others. You’ll enjoy relationships more and worry less. Chances are, you’ll become more appealing to others, as your renewed respect for yourself shines through.
Group therapy photo available from Shutterstock