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The Fourth Way

Story - No One is Expendable by Philip Ames

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No One’s Expendable


            It’s usual when in a ‘therapy’ group to be encouraged to ‘get your feelings out’ and if they are focused toward someone in the group then by all means let fly! I had never felt right about this and had assumed I just wasn’t ‘with the program’ so to speak. I became a therapist myself and when I had a rough experience running a group I of course went back into therapy with a therapist my wife had gotten to know in order to work out what had happened.


            Sometime later that therapist introduced me to Dermot and Fran and I began attending the old Monday night mixed circle. At one point unfinished business came up with that now ex therapist of mine and since he was in that group too we asked the circle for help and squared off to get into it. That was when things went in a radically different direction from most groups I had been in. My ex therapist (a fine man by the way) was used to what I was used to, mix it up and get the feelings out regardless, (“the truth shall make you free” school of therapy and damn how it makes the other feel). I was gritting my teeth to deal with the intensity I was feeling when suddenly Dermot stopped everything and asked “What is your intention in asking to do this work?”  


            At first I was confused. You see in most therapy groups the other members are considered and often called ‘expendable relationships’. They are a focus for us to work out our emotions on and the expectation is you will get ‘cured’ and walk off into the night and never see them again. As I said that never felt right to me. Now my ex therapist was confused too it seemed and was all for getting into the intensity of the feelings and expressing them. I was curious however and held off while I waited for clarity on what was unfolding. The long and the short of it was that for about 15 or 20 minutes Dermot would not allow us to proceed until we agreed to the principle that we were aiming for was to come out the other end of this experience with a “heart connection” with each other. In other words we were not expendable relationships but in a partnership at that moment to grow ourselves and take responsibility, not find a target for the feelings and feel better at the cost of a present connection with the other person.


            I suddenly felt that I had come home so to speak and as time went on came to experience our circles as the safest I have ever been in.


Philip Ames.