Dancing in the Shadows by Laura Bryannan

Chapter 3


It's possible you have friends and acquaintances who might be interested in doing this work with you. If this isn't the case, yet you know you would like to work in a group, don't be afraid to reach out to strangers to pull a group together. You certainly do not have to be an expert on sexual abuse to work with the exercises in this book.

In addition, don't let a lack of leadership experience keep you from initiating a group. There are so few resources for survivors out there, the women in your community may simply be waiting for someone like you to come along and organize things! Running an ad in local metaphysical, body work, or healing magazines (if there are any) may work. Check to see if your community offers adult continuing education classes. Such an organization may be willing to support your group, or perhaps you could advertise in their brochure. Flyers in groceries, health food stores, bookstores or women's self defense classes are another idea.

I've found that if you're pulling a group together with women who don't know each other it's best to start with at least eight people. There is always a certain drop-out factor involved that should be taken into consideration: if you begin your group with five women and two drop out, will the remaining three feel comfortable enough together to continue?

Group work, in general, takes a critical mass of people involved to be the most productive. The exercises in this book work best when there are enough women in the group to provide feedback, insights and support to each participant. If you want to keep your group low pressure, and allow for times when folks may not want to talk or share their experiences, you'll need at least five women participating to gain the most benefit from this work.

One consideration to think about if you choose to work with friends: our friends know us and love us--that's why they're our friends, right? However, since the intent of this work is to move beyond what we understand about ourselves and our world, it is possible that the friends we work with will have problems supporting this kind of change in us (and in themselves). When we receive positive feedback from a stranger it carries a certain amount of weight. When we hear the same kind words from a friend we think, "Well, she's my friend. It's her job to be supportive of me!" and immediately dismiss it.

If you decide to do this work with friends, choose them carefully. Think on these things: Are they all interested in change and growth--can you truly support each other becoming "new" women? Will you be able to drop your usual relationships and allow something new to develop within the context of your work together? Do you have a relationship with any of them in which you maintain a particular role (for example, are you the outgoing one and she the shy one)? These roles may get in the way of new pathways and insights. Will you be able to work out the issues of group leadership in a constructive way? Can you receive positive feedback from these women and really get it? Will you be able to share insights with each other without getting defensive or angry?

It may seem scary to think of working with women you don't know, but don't sell the idea short in lieu of working with your pals. My personal bias is that you'll probably be able to move farther and faster working with a group of strangers than with a group of friends, simply because there is no past history to get in your way. Because we don't view strangers as having any vested interest in us, we can often hear them and share with them in ways we couldn't with our friends. However, if you choose carefully and structure the group properly, friends may indeed be able to provide the insights, support and love necessary to productive group work.

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Last Updated: 1 feb 99
Laura Bryannan