Group anxiety

Most people are anxious when they first join a therapy group.

Some take a long time to get over their anxiety.  A few never do.

Usually they don’t understand why.

It’s because on some level they expect to be treated in group as they were treated in their family of origin.

If they were abused or neglected as kids, they expect the group to abuse or neglect them.  If they were controlled or criticized or rejected or shamed, they expect the same treatment again.

For this reason even the idea of group is terrifying to some.

But it’s also what makes group such a powerful therapeutic tool.

Because when an emotionally wounded person joins group and nothing bad happens — when instead they receive the attention, acceptance and caring their family couldn’t provide — they have what’s called a corrective emotional experience:

Some deep part of them starts to realize they’re not kids anymore, and that not everyone is like the people who disappointed or hurt them when they were.

It’s a realization I’ve seen change lives.


4 responses to “Group anxiety

  • Barb

    This made me want to find a group to join. Thanks for your insights.

  • Jim Lynch

    There is also PTSD from violent abuse from parents that is triggered by an appearance of abandonment in the new group. Often there is no real abandonment just the appearance of it. But the appearance is close enough to trigger the old paralyzing anxiety that is emotionally lived out. Later on reflection and a deep self honesty- this pattern can become apparent. Perhaps for the first time.

    • Steve Hauptman

      Yes. And for this reason, a good group — one that provides the corrective emotional experience of safety plus connection — is often an abuse survivor’s best hope for healing.

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