Introduction: 99 Unconventional Interventions

The Key to Successful Relationships

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The Key to Successful Relationships

The key to any successful relationship is the ability to anticipate the impact on others of one’s words and actions. This is no small feat to achieve but without it, a relationship is doomed; if not to the relationship’s dissolution then to one of protracted misery all around. This skill (I call it a skill because for most of us it doesn’t come naturally), takes years to master. Many of us, both group leaders and members alike have grown up in environments where feelings weren’t valued; in fact, they were distained. For example, I have heard countless times where group members have shared that in their formative years, parents have said such things,” Big boys don’t cry!” Or equally as horrible, have given their child the command,” Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” -- or worse.

That is why the commodity of exchange in my groups is emotion. As noted in the preface, the group contract is for members to say how they feel toward each other and why they feel that way. In order for the leader to facilitate this process, he or she must be versed in the language of feelings which means that they must be adept at identifying and understanding their own emotions, as well of those of the members, as they emerge through the group interactions.

According to the writings of Heinrich Racker, there are two general categories of emotions that group therapists experience while leading a group:

1. The induced feelings, those feelings that the members unconsciously engender into the leader and

2. The subjective feelings, which are those emotions that the leader brings with them from their own historical past.

Within the category of induced feelings are at least two sub-categories:

  1. the concordant, in where the leader experiences identification with members’ feelings and

  2. complementary, where the leader experiences the emotions toward the members of the significant others in the members’ lives.

The task of identifying and distinguishing between induced and subjective feelings and then intervening in a positive and constructive manner, is a complicated emotional and intellect task, indeed. It requires an all almost instantaneous processing of thought and feeling throughout the ongoing group process.

The following chapters are illustrations of my own efforts to master this skill and design unconventional interventions that preserve the emotional integrity of the group, its members and my own sanity while fostering an environment of progressive emotional communication; and in that way working toward the resolution of long standing interpersonal impasses that have interfered with group members’ success in achieving satisfying personal and professional lives.

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