The Group by Francesca Moiraghi “Learning how to feel good with people we didn’t choose” (this is the group!) helps us lowering our self-defences and addressing our energy towards the development of our resources and potentials. This methodology is particularly suitable for teenagers, but it works also for adults. The meaning of the Group. We often suffer from stress disorders when engaged in difficult relationship processes. An EURISPES research – Italy – shows how much this affects people’s mood and health on the work place (according to this 63% of the workers claim they have undergone treatment for many different physical and psychological problems). Why is it so important to learn how to create a Group? First of all, a Group is not simply a bunch of people, in fact any “bunch of people” can be named and classified according to their own peculiarities: The ones based on the roles division and having specific aims: Organisations The ones sharing the same values and morals: Communities. The one putting in common any single personal abilities to achieve a particular goal: Teams. The ones composed by blood-related people: Families. The ones sharing free time and affection: Group of Friends/Company. We consider The Group as: “A bunch of people having a particular way of being together that brings out each and everyone’s personal resources”. The Group is a “certain way of being together”, it’s a pattern of communication that tends to disclose and understand all the strengths and weaknesses of ourselves and “the others”. A Group can exist in different contexts but is characterised by the way people stay together and communicate. If the communication tend to bring out everyone’s qualities and defects, in a welcoming way, and finally developed a circulating leadership, we are in the presence of A Group. When stereotypes, prejudices and defects/weaknesses remain the only things in the spot-light and there is a strong tendency towards competition or command, we are not in the presence of A Group but we can talk about A Gang or a Pack, that is a regressive Group (Archaic Group – Bion). The Group has a strategic role for the creation of the “well-being” (or “Beautiful-being”, as for Enzo Spaltro’s Theory on The Well-being). To feel good in a group means to feel better about themselves, too. A huge misunderstanding. There is a huge misunderstanding on the idea of Group; we in fact tend to think that “Group equal friendship”. This is clearly a big mistake: you pick your friends, you cannot pick the members of a Group (a class, a work group and so on). A Group of friends has the same kind of communication of the “pairs” (interface A), which is based on similarity, symbiotic closeness. Friendship tends to be “forever” and also to establish objective and common shared or agreed opinions. The Group uses Interface B, that is diversity as a resource, the differences are used to grow up and understand, subjectivity and diversity of opinions. Furthermore, we do not choose the members of the Group and the Group has an end, it is not forever. When a Group works its members are tend to become friends and regress to interface A; the pairing. This dynamic is similar to the one described by Paul Watzlawick in the “Pragmatic of the Human communication”; we often tend to use the same pattern of communication (the shy, the joker, the bossy, the looser, the easygoing and on) and, in the long term, this can become a sort of frustration as the others, of course, will respond to our communication/signals accordingly so to confirm or not confirm our self-esteem. It’s like there is no way out of our “usual role”; this often intensifies our frustrations and our sense of loneliness. The worse we feel the more insecure we are and the most likely we are to repeat our usual pattern of behaviour. It’s a vicious cycle. Every time we join a new Group this problem arises as we have the chance to actually show a different part of ourselves but the anxiousness and the fear of “making the same mistakes” unconsciously push us to act our usual and well-known behaviour/role as it’s the one we feel more comfortable with. We are then back to square one! We mainly tend to maintain the Status Quo rather than welcoming and acting a change: our maintenance mechanisms are automatic, and we call it spontaneous behaviours, while it takes awareness to act and produce a change. The Group and the Conflict. Clear and aware communication is a prerequisite for the creation and existence of a good Group. Conflict and negotiation processes are, therefore, to be dealt with. Diversities and different opinions must be considered as resources and not obstacles. The fear of conflict can actually open the door on the much bigger issue of incomprehension and misunderstanding the consequences of which can be a definitely worse than the conflict itself. Conflict clears up the “waste” of communication. As two people face one another, all the emotions will come out and flow; this will at least clear up the different positions and open the ground to a negotiation phase. Conflict is an opportunity not a limit or a situation to fear or avoid even if, sometime, it can be unpleasant to deal with. Awareness: how communication in the Group can be a source of well being. We can see “the others” as a resources only if we feel good about ourselves. We can actually identify 3 steps of awareness towards the construction of the wee being. 1) How are we with the others? We all act automatically according to our emotions, most of the time, but if we leave it to spontaneity we can have some relationship problems. On the contrary, if we develop the ability to stop for a moment and think about the positive and negative aspects we perceive of the people in front of us (what we like, what we do not like or really hate), we can have the chance to start a relationship based on the other’s positive aspects, even if they are only the 20% of the whole picture. If we do that, the other will almost certainly do the same back. It is, in fact, a paradox: spontaneity means automatisms and conditioning; the awareness of these automatisms allow us to choose. 2) Self-Esteem. We always receive positive and negative images and feedbacks. If we mainly or only concentrate on the negative our self-esteem will always stay low. On the contrary, if we can have positive energy enough to work on the positive feedbacks we will develop a higher self-esteem and we’ll be more capable of accepting and welcoming criticism which will unable us to improve ourselves. 3) Here and now. It is important to be always aware of the situation “here and now”, without dwelling on the past or focusing on the future. The focus on the present time rises the awareness of ourselves and others and helps us develop a more positive and effective way of communication which will consequently lead to a more positive relationship. A metaphor for the Group: Shopenauer’s hedgehogs. “Once there was a bunch of hedgehogs, in forest. It was a freezing winter day and the hedgehogs went very close to one another to warm up. The pain from the stings immediately made they scatter around so they were freezing again. After many attempts to stay close together they find the best distance to warm up without hurting each other”. Bibliography F. Frabboni, F. Montanari “LARA : nuove abilità relazionali nell’avventura scolastica”, F. Angeli, Mi, 2002 G. Bateson: "Verso un’ecologia della mente", ed. Adelphi, Mi., 1993 ; "Mente e Natura" idem G. Blandino, B. Granieri “Le risorse emotive nella scuola” ed. Raffaello Cortina, Milano, 2002 G. Boda “ Life skill e peer education” ed. La Nuova Italia, Milano, 2001 F. Frabboni. L. Guerra , “La città educativa verso un sistema formativo integrato” ed: Cappelli Bo. 1991 F. Frabboni, Pinto Minerva ,“Manuale di pedagogia generale” ed. Laterza, Bari,1994 F. Frabboni, F. Montanari "Politiche giovanili, enti locali e sistemi informativi", ed. La Nuova Italia, Firenze, 1987. F. Frabboni, F. Montanari ( a cura di) "Pensare Giovane. La condizione giovanile oggi : identità culturale e spazi esistenziali", ed. Cappelli, Bologna, 1991 S. Manghi (a cura di ) “Attraverso Bateson. Ecologia della mente e relazioni sociali” ed. Raffaello Cortina, Milano, 1998 E. Morin “ I sette saperi necessari all’educazione del futuro” ed. Raffaello Cortina, Milano, 2001 E. Morin “La testa ben fatta. Riforma dell’insegnamento e riforma del pensiero” ed. Raffaello Cortina, Milano, 2000 E. Spaltro, U. Righi, "Giochi psicologici", Celuc, Milano,1980. E. Spaltro "Pluralità : psicologia dei piccoli gruppi", Ed. Patron, Bo,1993 Spaltro E. Soggettività, Introduzione alla psicologia del lavoro, Patron, Bologna, 1981 E. Spaltro “Conduttori. Manuale per l'uso dei piccoli gruppi” ed. Franco Angeli. Francesca Moiraghi, the author of this abstract, graduated in Political Science and attended the School For Group Conductors, in Italy. She is a member of the Italian National Association of Group Conductors. She works in schools to support the social inclusion of travellers and foreign students and in the state prison as teacher of Italian L2 in foreign convicts’ educational paths projects. She is a Tgroup trainer and she organises and conducts workshops of Group Dynamics and Psychology of Groups. She directed the elaboration of “E.A.R.”; her scientific contribution is the base of the project. She coordinated the work of international partnership during the two years of E.A.R. implementing phase.