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Back in the supervision group
The Wednesday group: episode 11a
Cheryl was clearly upset, and the small group sat in silence for a moment while she recovered herself. ‘It’s so depressing,’ she said. ‘They are such a good group and at least half of them could just take off with another few months. Why doesn’t anyone get the fact that, if you give some people more time, then they will cost you less in the long run. It doesn’t make financial sense, closing the group at this stage, let alone the damage that it does to vulnerable people.’
Kate felt the anger too. She was often worried about the funding for the Wednesday Group, and the current financial climate made it even more precarious.
‘OK, that’s enough about me,’ said Cheryl. ‘Let’s talk about your group, Kate, and cheer ourselves up!’
‘Yes, but don’t think that we don’t all share your anger and upset. None of us have any long-term security anymore,’ said Deirdre.
Kate nodded. ‘It’s a sort of violence, isn’t it – just axing a group like that? We’ve been talking about violence on Wednesdays – male violence in particular, when both men happened to be absent. There are some strong connections – Jasmin’s brother, Suzy’s ex-partner, Julia’s current one, and Roz’s son. I’m not sure how it fits with Stevie.’
‘Martin and Will seem quite harmless, don’t they – but I remember the stabbing in the supermarket. That was Will, wasn’t it?’ said Cheryl.
‘Yes, and then last week Martin was talking about violently smashing down his shed! That was in response to Mary and her infatuation with the archaeologist – well, I think it’s infatuation.’
‘That’s made me think about female violence,’ said Deirdre.
Sabina responded sharply. ‘All the statistics will tell you that over 90 per cent of violent acts are committed by men. It is unrealistic to look at it as a response to female violence – that is ignoring the facts and distorting reality.’
‘I agree, Sabina. But for the purpose of supervision, maybe we could stretch our thinking in unrealistic ways? See where it takes us?’
Sabina’s response was interrupted by Cheryl. ‘Don’t let’s get hung up on this one again. We’ve spent hours in this group arguing about what is reality and what isn’t. I just want to concentrate on Kate’s group.’
‘But,’ Kate said, ‘now the words have been spoken, maybe there is something here – not that I’m in anyway inclined to let men off the hook, Sabina. But I’ll tell you what, or rather who, came to mind and that is Julia. There is something … mmm… “cruel” is the best word I can come up with right now.’
‘Yes. Hard, sharp, lacking compassion maybe.’
‘You need to be very careful here around cultural difference, Kate,’ warned Sabina. ‘You might be imposing your own framework and not recognising Julia’s own cultural ways of communicating.’
‘Yes, I have thought about that. It makes it harder to be comfortable about my own ideas about what is going on with her. Jasmin, of course, comes from a very different culture too, but I’ve worked with her for so long I feel I know more of the territory there.’
‘Let’s get back to the men,’ said Cheryl. ‘Is there something in the group itself about men and women fighting each other?’
‘Not really. All the antagonisms seem to cross gender lines. Roz and Martin bicker but I think that’s how they relate to each other, and there is a sort of warmth in the animosity. Martin and Will don’t present any united “men” front, and the women don’t all line up together either. There is a lot of talk lately about betrayal, though, come to think of it. Men let women down, and vice versa. Let me think aloud here.
‘Will feels betrayed by Jacqueline and Martin by Mary – but then Mary felt Martin had betrayed her. Stevie feels betrayed by Brendan, and Suzy by her ex-husband, and then by the lover. Roz is more complicated. She feels attacked by Gordon via Leo, but then Gordon felt betrayed by her. Maybe she feels Leo has betrayed her too, and vice versa. Jasmin’s brother betrayed the whole family with horrible violence, which leaves us with Julia. I’m not sure about betrayal, but she certainly thinks she has been let down by her ex-husband, and now by the millionaire lover, whoever he may be.’
‘So it sounds as if the whole group are caught up in feeling sorry for themselves,’ said Deirdre.
Kate smiled. ‘You’re talking about me here as well, aren’t you?’
‘Are you feeling betrayed’? Cheryl sounded quite surprised.
‘Oh, yes, of course,’ said Sabina. ‘The teaching job on the Access to Therapy training course that Janet asked you to apply for... they gave it to Graham, didn’t they? You would have been a far better teacher, Kate. I have been to one of his workshops and it was badly organised and under-researched!’
‘Me too. But what really annoyed me was the pressure Janet put me under to apply, as if she really wanted me there. I would never have bothered to apply otherwise – and then she goes and gives it to Graham, of all people!’
‘So did they choose him because he’s a man? Are we back to gender again? You can’t ever get away from it, can you?’ said Cheryl.
Copyright Chris Rose
Chris Rose is a group psychotherapist, supervisor and author.
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