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Group Therapy: The Magic of Coming Together

My new therapy group for women began on November 9th, 2016—the day after the election.

In retrospect, it was risky. I truly thought that, on that Wednesday evening, this group of eight powerful and curious women would be gathering to celebrate the election of the first female president of the United States.

That’s not what happened.

foots-73310_1280Why I thought we’d be celebrating Hillary Clinton’s victory is not the topic of this post—how a Jewish, West Coast-based liberal, originally from the northeast, could be so out of touch with the country to not have seen Trump coming is a topic that’s being covered in many other places.

This is about feminine power. About gathering strength by coming together.

It was a dazed, angry, defeated, anxious group of women that assembled for that first session. The first day of a new group can be anxiety-provoking even in the best of circumstances. Whenever people gather together for the very first time—even for an experience with the potential to be deeply fulfilling, supportive and actually fun—nerves run high. Anxiety, as Fritz Perls put it, is “excitement without breath.” The physiological experiences of the two are so close, it was hard to tell in that first hour whether we were anxious or excited—or both.

But as the session continued, the energy changed. We started to get grounded and centered in the present moment in this new circle, our nervous systems settled, we started to listen to each other. Defenses came down, a sense of safety emerged, trust.

And it occurred to me that this group was all the more important after a Trump election. What better time than now to marshal our resources? To strive to understand our beliefs, our reactions, the way we move through the world? To learn how to have an open, honest, non-judgmental conversation with someone who is different from you? To learn how to listen?

By the second week, we had already begun to coalesce as a group, creating a safe and supportive container for exploration and self-awareness. And this is real. This is real life. This is as real as the election we are all struggling to accept.

We are, truly, stronger together, walking this road.

I am inspired by these women’s commitment to improving themselves, because this is how we gather our internal resources, how we learn to discern right speech, and how we prepare to fight the forces of hate and injustice. We gather strength from one another and then go out and fight for what is right.

Many of us will remember where we were on November 9th, 2016. For the women brave enough to come together that evening, we got to experience a certain kind of magic—the right people found each other in the right place at the right time and extraordinary things started to happen.

Emily Fasten

Emily Fasten

Emily Fasten, MA, MFT is a therapist, group facilitator and writer in San Francisco. With a master’s degree, more than a decade of corporate writing experience, a regular yoga practice and a pretty good sense of humor, she is committed to helping clients be honest—in the here and now—about their experience; to be in self-aware intimate relationships with others; and to cultivate joy, aliveness and humor in everyday life.

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