Learning from the Mistakes of Others
The Key to understanding how another group members relapse affects group as a whole is in understanding the feelings that action creates in you, as an individual part of that group.
The underlying feeling you experience when another member has a relapse is disappointment. It’s all very good to say “That is him, this is you.” But it doesn’t change or discharge that feeling. You should not belittle your feelings as unimportant or unhelpful.
Disappointment is a rational response when another group member has a relapse. It doesn’t mean that you are being judgmental of that person; the feeling of disappointment in others is far more reflective in nature. Members of group therapy often go into the group setting expecting that their peers have the same level of motivation as well as the same struggles in keeping that motivation, as they do. This fosters a kind of dependence on each other for support, understanding and accountability. This group dependence is built on trust. That trust is not only in the supportive capabilities of the members but in their intentions and actions. When a member of group therapy has a relapse, however brief- that action is a breach of that trust and it calls into question their intentions and that causes disappointment in their behavior.
When talking about disappointment in others, you need to understand the implications it has on your own recovery. Because while outwardly thinking about how that group member disappointed you, you are facing an inner struggle of your own. If this person whom you trusted was on the same level as you, and was supposed to be your partner in recovery- could have a relapse, then what hope do you have in staying clean? You are disappointed because you depended on them to work their own recovery and when they slipped, you realized that relapse is a very real possibility for all recovering addicts- even yourself.
These feelings and realizations are happening to every individual in the group. Despite the negative feelings a relapse can bring- it inevitably brings strength and closer connections within the group. Everyone is human and the paths and struggles of all of us are different from each other but also different from day to day. A group comes together within that chaos to give support and knowing that everyone in the group can fall but they are standing and fighting, just like you- that is something important, something good. Something you can depend on and trust.
The effects of relapse on group dynamics is those of disappointment and hurt, but also of reflection, unity and bonding. The trust is in the group and its meaning, not just in the individuals and their actions.