I am not a fan of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. But I am guilty of binge-watching their All or Nothing documentary series on t.v.
It’s been fascinating to see how this group of elite professionals go about their day to day business. It’s clear that much of the footage is sanitised and edited to avoid any P.R disasters. However, I still feel that there is a lot to unpick from the conversations that were filmed.
A reason for a group’s success, I feel, is due to its balance.
Most of us are born into a group straight away – our families.
But depending on where we are in our family constellation, this plays a big part in how we settle into other groups.
Like being at school, for instance, we attach ourselves to other kids in the hope of striking up a friendship.
Do we do it to avoid loneliness? Or do we do it for survival?
Do we seek out allies who might protect us from those that would seek to do us harm? And does this selecting of supporters change by the time we grow and get to be employed?
The telltale signs for me that things are going well in a group are when all the members warm to each other. Absence of team members is acutely felt, and any individual enthusiasm for the activity that bonds you isn’t merely tolerated; it’s welcomed, even expected.
Groups are special in so far as they expose our behaviours to the other members. We can’t control our actions, in the same way we might in a one to one setting.
Groups in general and how we survive them has always fascinated me.
Unlike many I have studied with, I loved the experiential session.
I had a strong, positive transference with one group’s conductor – and this person demonstrated their empathy towards me (often singling me out) usually by way of expressing their anger through a parallel process to something I’d said. The conductor wanted to take care of us, but there were times where their need to show us was a little clumsy, and efforts were perceived intrusive.
A question that friends would often ask (usually on a night out) was if you had to do a reality t.v show, which one would you want to do? Big Brother was always my reply. For me, it was clearly the biggest test on a participants mental resolve.
I had two questions in my head on the few occasions I watched opening night. As participants went into the Big Brother house one by one, I kept thinking; How well does that person think they know themselves? And how will their behaviour change as a result when all facets of behaviour thus become exposed?
I should add, I have different feelings about all reality t.v shows nowadays, Big brother in particular. But groups have this strange effect on all of us. Why is it that some of us want to stand out, and feel very comfortable contributing? While others are terrified and would avoid them at all costs.
What do groups represent to us in general; Are they a source of strength or intimidation? Fear of rejection even?
Some of the most painful experiences of my life have come in groups. The harshest lessons I ever learned took place when working in football, for example.
I was working abroad and twenty-nine at the time. I had life experience; I had got myself to this point and was raring to go – I was confident. Or so I thought.
Being surrounded by younger, ambitious people with high ‘I’ personalities (High Immediacy profiles) was a toxic mix for me.
We all looked the same in our matching tracksuits, and we all had the same role. But maybe that was the problem. Some of us want to stand out. Some look to separate themselves from the assumed weaker members of the group. If this has happened to you, you have my sympathies. Because for me it felt like the mental equivalent to being ripped apart by a pack of wild dogs.
The air is thin in some environments, and I have since learnt that in any elite group – whether it be in sport, politics, business or the arts; the higher you go, the worse a participant’s mental health.
This is one reason why the Spurs documentary is such a compelling watch. We can see evidence of these different group dynamics in all of Amazons fly on the wall series titled All or Nothing.
It would be interesting to make links to the players and possible early developments and behaviours within groups.
One very interesting theme that I notice being demonstrated by the players (and manager alike) is also a theme I see played out in the consulting room. When we’re intensely disappointed by something, it is often human nature to want to throw it in the face of those who witness it.
Quite often, to those we are closest to in the group. It feels as if moments that reflect group success are short-lived.
It’s the negative aspects of being in the group that tend to leave their mark in a psychological way. Trauma we know – has no equal. People aren’t emotionally scarred or left incapacitated by purely positive and joyful experiences.
Does this mean that experiencing both sides of the same coin in a group context makes them more intense; whether that be good or bad?