When you don't trust that things are going to be ok. Where to then?

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I work a lot with groups of people. Often then groups I work with consist of people going through significant periods of stress. I lead discussions about psychological models that are relevant to their experience and facilitate the development of strategies and interventions for all number of scenarios. Oftentimes there are several people within a group who are highly emotional. Often the content I am working to deliver needs to be put aside, whilst the group goes where it needs to in order to meet the needs of the individuals within the group. In these moments, my role is to surface the problem(s) and associated feelings before finding a workable solution. Today two people were stuck on/in a situation they couldn't find a way out of. I asked questions, I encouraged the group to respond to their peers with their questions and comments. There was still very little movement, our two group members remained stuck in their perception of their situation and remained quite emotional.

As a side note, often when we are stuck as a group, I'll do a form of 'pattern interrupt'. Which is essentially a 'let's park it and have a 10 minute break'. Today I could feel that we were close to being able to reach a conclusion, albeit, I didn't know exactly where this was going to land. So no pattern interrupt, instead I held the space for the group.

The entire group was palpably engaged in the discussion. Solutions were (respectfully) flying, emotions were being named, and then bingo. The core reason emerged. It wasn't a lack of resources, or skills, or the complexity of the environment these two found themselves in. It was a lack of trust that they were going to be ok. As soon as I surfaced the fear beneath the situation for the two participants, I could see a pathway forward that would provide relief for them.

It got me thinking about strategies that I use and recommend when you are worried things are not going to work out for you. Here's my shortlist, inspired by my group today:

  1. Look for the next right thing. It can be very very small. The next right thing is a constructive way to move forward. One small step forward gives momentum. Using the overlay of the 'next right thing' allows the focus to be positive. Positive steps forward are a pathway towards something that is healthy for you.
  2. Look for the helpers. We hear a lot about this when it comes to catastrophes and acts of terror. What I see in my group work day in and day out is that people want to help others. Truly. All the time. One of the most valuable moments in my sessions are around peer coaching and connections made for outside of the group. Use your networks and your people to help you surface the root cause of what is really going on for you.
  3. Determine what type of thinking is best for you: If it is something you cannot influence/control, then complete self-care activities like exercise, reading, taking a bath. Things that rejuvenate you. If it is something you can influence or control, take on a problem centric approach - that is, start to make a list of activities that can be done to move you forward. The trick is to know the difference in your circumstances.
  4. Spend some time understanding your feelings, and let the cycles of emotion complete. Too often we stuff our feelings down and don't allow them to be. When you understand your feelings, you understand yourself.

What do you do when you aren't sure that things are going to be ok?