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Episode 14: Being a grown-up
The Wednesday group
Now everyone is here and it’s too crowded. I’m pleased to see Martin, but Julia I could do without. She looks beautiful, of course, in a wine coloured sweater and tight black trousers. She apologises for her absence, explaining that she had an important meeting in Berlin. I’m not sure I believe her.
Straight away, Suzy wants to know what is happening with Jacqueline and Will. He tells us that Jacqueline’s change in behaviour was short-lived, and now it’s back to before. Will thinks now that supermarket man must have been away somewhere, rather than the affair running out of steam. He looks pretty miserable, but then so does Martin.
‘Have you finished sulking?’ asks Roz. She is looking straight at me.
Before I have a chance to say anything, Julia jumps in with ‘What has happened? Why are you angry?’
‘I think Roz is referring to last week’s group where Stevie was noticeably silent,’ Will explains.
‘So she had nothing to say. Why is that a problem?’
Kate then intervenes, saying that there has been a long-standing conflict between the two of us and that maybe the time has come for the group to look at this. ‘So why do you think Stevie annoys you, Roz?’
Roz looks hard at me. ‘I’m not sure, but one of things I find hard is the way she – you – always hover on the edge of things and never really talk about anything apart from how badly you were treated, as a child and then by Brendan. You don’t pull your weight!’
I can feel myself go red. Is she making fun of me because I’m fat?
‘You are in a bad mood, aren’t you,’ says Martin.
‘That’s another thing I find annoying – the way you always protect her, as if she’s a child.’
I feel like a child, being told off in public, and my head is buzzing. I am not going to cry, though it is tempting. Will asks me, calmly, about my silence last week. He is so neutral that it helps me to think.
‘I’d been thinking that the group wasn’t doing me any good so I was just going to watch last week.’
‘Why did you think it wasn’t doing you any good? Was it because of the confusion the previous week?’
‘Yes, and feeling that whatever I said came out wrong or was misunderstood.’
‘By me, I suppose,’ says Roz.
‘I feel that the group is not good for me either,’ says Julia.
‘How can it be when you’re never here?’ snaps Roz instantly. ‘There is no point in joining a therapy group and not working at it, and that means first, turning up and second, talking about what’s important!’
Before Julia can hit the roof, Martin cuts in. ‘Sounds like a few of us are thinking it’s not worth the effort. I couldn’t face it last week either.’
Now I am panicking. It’s one thing to have a week of not talking but that doesn’t mean I want the whole group to fall apart. Kate needs to do something here, quickly.
But it is Suzy who steps in.
‘Well, for what it’s worth, I think that Roz is feeling like everything is down to her… maybe not surprising after what she’s going through with Leo…’
‘And Josie,’ adds Roz.
‘So when people don’t turn up or sit in silence,’ continues Suzy, ‘maybe it feels like she’s doing it all on her own. I know what that is like from my own family.’
Roz floods with tears but controls it. I’m not comfortable with this version of Roz. I expect her to be tough and snappy.
‘What about you, Stevie?’ asks Kate. ‘What is it about Roz that annoys you?’
I am determined to be an intelligent adult here. Everyone is looking at me, apart from Julia, who is admiring her nails. I try looking directly at Roz.
‘I feel as if I can never get it right. If I’m not on my guard all the time I come out with something sarcastic or not very sensitive and you are on my back instantly. I suppose you remind me of my Mum – always criticising me.’
‘But I wouldn’t be so critical if you’d grow up,’ Roz says. ‘You always sit at the back and mess about instead of getting down to business. I feel like you want us to look after you, and I resent that – because there is no one looking after me, as far as I can see.’
‘I cannot see how any of this is helpful. What is the purpose of this?’ Julia asks crossly.
‘It’s called therapy, Julia’, says Roz. That’s the sort of remark I could have made. ‘I don’t like it but it’s probably good for me’,’ I tell Julia, still holding onto being a grown up.
Will nods. ‘In my opinion there is some validity in Roz’s observations about Stevie ‘sitting at the back’ as she describes it. Personally I don’t find it irritating and there are others who do the same. I wonder how Roz responds to Jasmin, for example.’
Kate comes in here. ‘There is an important theme tonight about who is pulling their weight and who is being a passenger or child… or who is doing the work and who is wanting to be carried.’
‘What exactly is the work though?’ asks Martin gloomily, ‘and what’s the point?’
© Chris Rose
Chris Rose is a group psychotherapist, supervisor and author.
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