Bearing Witness, Holding Space

Yesterday I shared a little bit about my T-group experience in grad school and what that was all about for me. Today I thought I’d share another excerpt from my final paper for that course. It highlights the lesson I learned about the value of holding space for others and bearing witness for others.

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I wrote:

“I spent a lot of the time during this group process trying to figure out what the group was all about and what I thought it meant for me. I really wanted to get as much as possible out of the T-group experience but was feeling frustrated because the leaps and bounds that I observed other people making in their risk-taking didn’t seem to be what was happening for me. A few different issues came up in the process as I worked with this. For example, it arose that I don’t really find self-disclosure to be risky at all, (as I agree with Krober and Kahn when the say “I cannot know what is going on inside of you unless you tell me” and feel comfortable letting people into what’s in my mind) which provoked the question of what then do I find risky and how can I incorporate those risks into my group experience? Towards the end of our sessions together, I shared with the group that I still didn’t have an answer to those questions or to what the group means to me. This provoked a discussion from many of the members about what the group was meaning for them.

For the most part, they were saying that there was value in self-disclosure for them as they were taking risks in ways that they hadn’t before. At first this seemed to be irrelevant, then, since it didn’t seem to match my own experience. However, then someone else said something that clicked for me. She said that the difference in this group as compared to our cohort or other groups is that she has had the opportunity to witness deep exchanges between others. There was more to what she said but that was the part that really clicked for me. I realized after mulling it over for some days that I feel very confident in my skills of one-on-one conversation in almost any setting but that I don’t often get the opportunity to witness how other people conduct their emotional exchanges with one another. T-group offered me the chance to watch exchanges that I sometimes didn’t understand, thought were trivial or was even a little bored by. In doing this again and again with people I had grown to respect I was able to be witness to a true range of human experiences and emotions in a way that simply can’t happen when you’re having a single one-on-one exchange of which you are always a player. It turned out that what ended up defining my experience in the group more than anything wasn’t what I was specifically doing or not doing in the group but rather what I was witnessing and being a part of without even actively trying to do so. Understanding this, I felt able to let go of trying so hard to define what the group needed to be for me and was more capable of just letting the group unfold and trusting my role in that process without over-thinking it so much.

Although I was familiar with the idea of holding space for others, it was something I really experienced in a unique way in this group. I was able to do this through watching others work out their various issues and thoughts in language but it was facilitated by doing this in a more visceral way through these group body movement experiences. Feeling the energetic power of doing that through a non-verbal means made it make more sense when I was doing it in a verbal setting so that I could sit there and just be present while others were talking and just listen without feeling like I had to make sure to say that right thing or take a specific experience away from what I was hearing.”


Reference:  Krober, T. and Kahn, M. What the T-Group Teaches.

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  1. […] shared a little bit about my T-group experience in grad school including what I learned about holding space. Today I wanted to add to that what I originally set as my four goals or intentions for the group […]