The Self Help Initiative Project (SHIP) offers an 'Introduction to Group Work' course, which helps you decide if you want to bother with their other courses or not. I was interested in their 'Support' group as opposed to their 'Confidence Building' group, because I need help with self-esteem, not with confidence. Explaining that they are two different things is hard work, and I'm not going to bother patronising you anyway.
I had a letter telling me it's a 4 week course, starting today at 10am. So off I popped at 10am. No one answered the buzzer, clearly marked SHIP, and when I was allowed in by the caretaker, the door to the fourth floor (where SHIP is located) was locked. I met another lady who looked nervous, who I immediately thought must be looking for SHIP as well. We chatted while she had a cigarette and a coffee, and she said she'd been told 10.30am so we figured we must be early.
We went back over to see a nervous man pressing the buzzer for SHIP. I tried ringing them but no answer, and 4 more people joined us outside the door. Eventually someone answered, and I said 'There's 6 people out here waiting for the SHIP group, can we come in please?' so she asked if we'd pressed the buzzer (I didn't shout at her) and came down to let us in. When she came down she said 'Oh, you were pressing the wrong buzzer!' and pointed to another buzzer without a label, and said that that was the correct one. I said 'well, we have tried ringing and no one answered' to which she replied 'that's because we're all on the top floor'. Oh well that's OK then. As we were walking upstairs, I turned and said 'well it's a good job we aren't all coming to a self-help group for people who are anxious or we'd have been really nervous now...' which was possibly the most ill-timed joke I've ever told.
Inside were another 5 people who seemed to have negotiated the entry exam and were already seated. We went around and introduced ourselves. Afterwards was an ice breaking session where we threw a cuddly toy around and said our name, and then the person we were throwing it to. I still can't remember anything except there was something with a name I can't pronounce, and 2 people with the same name.
Re-seated, we said a piece of good news we'd had in the last week. I chose my course because I couldn't think of anything else off-hand. Then they explained the ground rules, and we all had to say which rule stood out the most. Each time we had to talk, no one seemed to want to talk first, so it was often me volunteering. After a break, during which I drew because I was jiggling, we split off into groups. Again i volunteered to go in the other room, and then no one else would write, or say anything much. I kept saying 'have I got down what you said, J' and 'Is there anything you want to add, J?'
Finally, we talked about continuums of confidence. We had to imagine the room was a scale, and stand where abouts on the scale corresponded to our confidence in different situations. I was always at one end, and everyone else at the other, except when M asked 'how confident would you feel if I asked you to speak about your personal experiences?' where I was practically leaving a hole in the door as I couldn't get far enough away.
At the end, we went round the circle and had to say what we'd taken from the session. A lot of people talked about how nervous they'd been, and were congratulated on their bravery. I said I liked the ground rules, because if everyone in the world could just stick to those rules as well as within the group, then I would be happier to live in the world.
Unexpectedly, a man singled me out, and said 'You seem to be very confident already, I'm not sure why you're here' which was odd, because one of the rules is to not be judgemental. I said I'm not always confident, I'm just having a good day, and I was more worried about leaving the room than coming into it, because everyone in the room is nice and friendly and following the rules, whereas the rest of the world is full of awful people.
When everyone else had left, I asked the people conducting the session if I was in the wrong place, as we'd only really talked about confidence, and how K had thought I shouldn't be there. They told me that I shouldn't take what he says as the truth, and that yes, I was in the right place for the support group.
It took me a long time to walk down 4 flights of stairs. I was thinking the whole way about how I'd already felt like I shouldn't be there, and he'd just cemented that feeling. Like there wasn't actually anything wrong, and I was making a fuss. But once I got outside, I realised I have every right to be there, and I shouldn't give a toss what they think. Hopefully he'll be in confidence building and I'll be in the other group, and we won't see each other again.
N.B. It should be noted that as well as them giving me the wrong time, it's also only a 3 week course, so I actually miss the last one as we're in Chester