“Strangers,” the Blue Man said, “are just family you have yet to come to know.” – The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom
I thought about this quote, as I finished reading this passage from The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom (2nd Edition).
These final two paragraphs (separated into further paragraphs for easier reading) are about how patients question the reality of group therapy – they claim that their behavior in the group is not like their actual life outside the group, so their activities in the group is not an accurate representation of who they are.
However, in the therapist testimonial below, you’ll see how two people who loathe each other in life, come together and share their existence with each other.
I think what I liked about this passage was the commentary at the end that basically says that despite the limited time one spends in these groups, the psychological development that they experience transcends beyond the physical dimensions of time. Strangers infuse and share amongst each other, forming the closest of bonds.
… I often think of Earl and Marguerite, two patients in a group long ago. Earl had been a member of a group for four months when Marguerite was introduced. They both blushed to see one another in the group room since, by chance, they had only a month previously gone on a Sierra Club camping trip and been “intimate” together. Neither wanted to be in the group with the other.
To Earl, Marguerite was a foolish, empty girl, a “mindless piece of ass,” as he was to put it later in the group. To Marguerite, Earl was a dull nonentity, someone whose penis she had one used as a means of retaliation against her husband. During that time they came to know one another intimately in the full sense of the word; they shared their deepest feelings, they weathered some fierce, vicious battles, and helped each other through suicidal depressions, and, on more than one occasion, they wept for each other. Which was the “real” world and which was the artificial?
Paradoxically, the group can be far more “real” than the world out there. There are no social, prestige, or sexual games in the group; members go through some vital life experiences together; the reality-distorting facades are doffed as members become as honest as possible with one another. How many times have I heard group members say, “This is the first time I have ever told this to anyone.” These are not strangers but quite the contrary; these are individuals far more likely to know one another deeply and fully. Psychological reality is not equivalent to physical reality. Psychologically, they spend infinitely more time together than the one or two meetings a week in which their physical beings occupy the same professionally sponsored room. – p.38-39