I’m back again to review another group therapy session for the Women’s Support Group started by Green Wings Recovery Centre. For those of you who are new to this space and happened to click on this topic first, let me give you a brief introduction. The support group has been meeting virtually once a week, where they discuss different pre-selected topics that affect their mental health in different ways. The participants are volunteers from different age groups and backgrounds, who chose to attend the session on their own time, to learn different coping mechanisms for the different struggles they may be facing, to share experiences and opinions on the topics, and to lend support to the women who might be struggling alone in their issues.
This would be the fourth week running for the sessions, all conducted virtually so far. A nice turn out with 8 participants this week attending the virtual session, including a couple of new faces. We started with a quick self-reflection on last week’s homework, the Mirror Talk exercise to enforce positive self-talk. Most of the participants said they had carried out the exercise diligently, however did not notice anything significantly different. The psychologist facilitating the session pointed out that these exercises needed to be carried out for a few weeks, sometimes even months, to see any prominent and permanent changes inwardly.
The participants also shared their little struggles and anxieties that they faced over the week. Things like sadness over losing a family member, and anxiety over sudden heavy rains which threatened to cause another flood situation. The little check-in added a personal touch to the atmosphere and showed the bond that had formed between the participants over the last 3 weeks.
Our facilitating psychologist enquired on the progress of our other piece of homework, our letter writing task. All participants were pretty honest in admitting that they had not attempted the task yet. She stressed to us the importance of the task and how much it would help us release the guilt we had been holding by channelling it through writing.
We then moved on to the topic of the day, Sensitivity, getting us all to define what it means to us personally. She then gave us the assurance, that despite the negative connotations that many of us felt associated with being labelled sensitive, it was most definitely ok to be sensitive. We were then shown a series of images describing a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), which caught many of the participants by surprise, that they could actually describe themselves to be a HSP. Simple things like being sensitive to certain sounds, scents, food, textures and even the tendency to overthink and overanalyze situations, showed many of us that we were in fact a HSP, or at least selectively sensitive in some situations.
Next, a number of disturbing images which were graphic and suffering in nature came upon on screen. Again like last week, this triggered different emotional responses from the participants, with some participants unable to continue viewing the images, some of them shedding tears and some feeling numb towards what they saw. We were encouraged to acknowledge the feelings we experienced and really immerse ourselves in what the images brought up in our minds. We were then slowly shown how to differentiate between feelings of empathy and sympathy, and how these influenced moods and energy levels individually.
This then brought us to a topic of boundaries that we needed to create, in order for us to protect our energy. For those who definitely identify as a HSP, it was very common for them to feel drained after interactions with certain people, as we tended to absorb their emotions and feel for them very acutely. Thus, setting healthy boundaries was important to ensure we did not lose too much of ourselves in the process of empathising with someone else’s struggles. I felt a sense of camaraderie with others who described their experiences of feeling drained because of their sensitivity, as I no longer felt so alone in that feeling.
I realise that we delved deeper and deeper each week into deep seated mental health issues as we progressed together, and that the unconscious education we received each week strengthened our understanding of ourselves, our strengths and also the areas we needed to do the self-work in. It made participants more vocal and confident to share their experiences, with the belief that it would lend insight for someone else to benefit and overcome their struggles from. The motive of the group, for women to support women… suddenly became abundantly clear to me. I guess it took a few sessions to get there, but I’m glad it did at last.