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Community and Connection – creating fertile ground for growth

As some of you will know by now, I have recently become a fan of Brene Brown’s writings and talks (check out Listening to shame and The power of vulnerability on TED). I love her straightforward presentation and honesty, and her steady handling of the truths of the topics of shame and vulnerability. One of the things she points to repeatedly in both her talks and her writings, is our need for connection and a place to belong, and how powerful our fear of disconnection from the people who are important to us can be, how it can interfere in every aspect of our growth and development as people. Of course, TA tells us the same story using different words – how we strive to avoid that visceral pain of rejection by obeying script messsages (drivers and injunctions), how we play our games and run our rackets rather than risk the exposure of intimacy and spontaneity, how we protect ourselves from vulnerability and shame (or try to) with our defences and our false selves.

Given all this knowledge and recognition of processes, it is strange to report that I was almost totally unprepared for the impact of the STAA (Scottish TA Association) “Unconference” event on 31st October in Edinburgh. If I’m honest I had not been looking forward to it, being a lover of imposed structure and personal passivity in large gatherings of people (a defensive set of behaviours if ever there were!). I took my slightly grumpy self and joined a table of people I knew in various ways, and prepared to endure the day (I have mastered the art of low expectation). However, several rather amazing things happened:

  1. I (re)discovered the pleasure of taking part in challenging and engaging discussions on widely varied topics that were of interest to those gathered together

  2. I spent time enjoying listening to people at every level of TA experience, from absolute beginners to qualified counsellors, to CTA psychotherapists, and PTSTA trainers and supervisors, and experiencing each contribution being valued by the group

  3. I was overwhelmed by the energy of this TA community – 50+ people together in a room for the day, connected and focused, coming together to discuss their passion for this work that we do

  4. I was deeply moved by the recognition of the successes of people connected to Physis, and by the personal welcome and celebration that was gifted to me, both as director of Physis and as a new TSTA, by this group.

For me, this day was strangely like coming home, only to a home I’ve sadly never experienced outside my TA life. There was something very special in the lack of hierarchy that emerged from the less structured format of the event, and a particular warmth and enthusiasm that was embodied by that wonderful, complex and diverse group of people. Laughter, profound seriousness, giraffes and “relentless curiosity” – a magical combination.

As a result, I have embarked on the training tasks of this new year of Physis endeavour with more energy, enthusiasm, sense of worth and acceptance, and positivity than I had before, and from what I hear from many others who were there, I am not alone in this. Long may this TA connection and community continue to nourish us all.


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