The Power of the Group

This week we have the pleasure of our wonderful associate Michaela writing for us again. Michaela talks about how self-care can be built in community with others, an idea that keeps circling itself back to Bird through conversations in workshops and with 1:1 clients. Enjoy Michaela’s story…

‘Back in the day, when my sense of self-worth was less robust, facilitating groups felt impossible, and frankly terrifying. The idea of leading a group, having all eyes on me, expectant, made my toes curl in horror. That was, until I experienced the power and possibility of co-creation during my coaching training.

Co-creation requires us to lean into the group process, and let go of our expectations and assumptions. It’s a little like being on a rollercoaster, and feeling safe enough to throw your hands in the air in wild abandon as you hurtle down a hill at high speed. Disclaimer: I rarely feel able to do this on roller-coasters due to my intense fear of heights! –  but I see people do it all the time, and they always look like they’re having the time of their lives, even if it’s simultaneously scary!

For me, that’s what facilitating groups and workshops feels like.

You don’t, and can’t, know with any certainty how things are going to pan out, and which direction you’re collectively going to head in. While you may have a sense of the overall structure of the session, you are not in control of the contributions that will be made, the hands that will go up to share a thought or observation, the unexpected question that gets thrown your way, or the tears that may need to flow in light of a new insight.

Each group brings a new flavour, their individual and collective experiences shaping how they respond to the material being shared. It’s exciting, unpredictable – seat-of-the-pants kind of stuff.

And it requires trust.

So much of it.

Trust that the process will unfold as it needs to for this particular group. Trust that the right people are in the room, and that events will unfold exactly as they need to. Trust that I, as the facilitator, can hold the space for all this to happen and offer some meaningful learning in the process.

We humans are social animals – even the most introverted among us. We grow and evolve in collaboration with one another. We press each other’s buttons, sometimes purposely, oftentimes without even realising we’re doing it. We inadvertently trigger strong emotions in one another by what we say, or sometimes by what we represent. We are inextricably linked to one another’s development.

A participant at a recent workshop highlighted the distinction between individualised self-care activities (reading, meditating, breathing deeply, body scans, journaling), and that which takes place in collaboration with others: what I’m calling co-creative self-care for the purposes of this post. For me, co-creative self-care looks like singing in a community gospel choir, and attending reflective supervision groups for those engaged in similar work.

Co-creative self-care is an altogether messier process than, say, my morning yoga and meditation. That way of starting the day is self-focussed, and (if my family are being cooperative) uninterrupted!

Co-creative self-care brings us directly into contact with other people’s “stuff”. It’s not just about us, and what we need – there’s a push and pull where we have the opportunity to both give and receive.

When we co-create, we are forced to recognise that we are all at different stages in our self-development – issues that we have healed or skills we have mastered, may be unresolved and challenging for others.

Co-creative self-care allows us to lead and to follow as the moment requires of us. It demands that we remain alert and responsive – that we let go of how we think things ‘should’ be, and engage deeply with how they are.

This is an art, not a science, and an activity that requires us to learn how to ‘dance in the moment’ (a concept at the heart of my coaching training). Arguably, these are the settings where we learn most about ourselves, where we have the greatest opportunities to shine, and to notice where we still have plenty of room to grow. At its best, co-creative self-care is engaging, dynamic, and has the potential to nourish our souls.

As I reiterate every time I talk about self-care, it has to work for you. My community gospel choir might be your knitting circle. My reflective supervision group might look like your shift at the local food bank. My yoga and meditation might look like a HIIT work out in the rain in your life. Variety is the spice of life, and that’s never more the case than where self-care is concerned.

With that in mind, take a moment to reflect on your own self care practices.

Which of them are co-creative?

What would more co-creative self-care look like for you? What do you hope to give and receive by engaging in these activities?’

With love, Michaela and Hannah

If you would like to talk to us about bringing resilience workshops or coaching into your organisation contact us here.

Photo by Anthony Intraversato on Unsplash

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