//by Phoebus Ebbini\\
To some, groups evoke feelings of anxiety and dread. To others, a sense of excitement and possibility.
Often our feelings about being in a group are influenced by our particular ‘style’ of how we take up space in a group, for eg:
- We are mostly quiet and try to stay in the background;
- We are quiet, but imposing and mysterious, wanting others to be curious about us;
- We are talkative and outgoing and share a lot about ourselves;
- We are talkative and outgoing but mostly focus on others (eg. by asking lots of questions).
Depending on our particular style of taking up space, we may come closer to shame (for having taken up too much space) or guilt (for not having taken enough). Often this is connected with how we each experienced our first group in life – our families.
Unsurprisingly, the way we find ourselves being in one group, often mirrors and reflects the way we are in other groups. Which is why therapeutic groups can be so incredibly effective: they provide us with a direct way of finding out what our impact is on others and how we want others to see us.
What I’ve learnt so far from my workshops
I run fortnightly sexuality group workshops for gay/bi men in East London. They are all one-off groups, and each group workshop focuses on a different topic on sex and sexuality, such as ‘sexual fantasies, ‘who we are online’, ‘penetration’, and ‘cruising for sex’.
So far, what has struck me the most from these groups is:
- We all yearn for meaningful connection with others;
- It is very healing to listen to others’ experiences, and to know that we are not alone in our differentness.
On a broader scale, I’ve noticed that the most popular workshops were on more social-focused topics, such as ‘race and sexuality’ or ‘relationships in the gay world’. While the least attended workshops were on topics such as: ‘the shame, guilt and fear of STDS’ and ‘promiscuity’. This leaves me wondering whether, as a community, we still have a long way to go in confronting a lot of the shame that our sexuality is sometimes shrouded in.