I’ve found a useful way of conceptualizing the dynamics that happen in groups and relationships—because, after all, relationships are actually just groups of two. Most of us think of groups and relationships as being a collection of people, each of us separate from the others, bringing in our own “stuff.” I’d like to bring in the concept of group fields or relationship fields that organize what happens in these collections of people we call groups.
A Relationship Field
Try to think of the relationship itself as being a kind of energetic field, or as being organized by an underlying structure or force or energy that we can call the relationship or group “field,” as if the relationship or group is an organism in itself.
A Relationship Dynamics Metaphor
Imagine several cups in a vat of chai on a stove. The chai is the “field” of the group. See how the chai is in and around each of the cups. It’s simmering, moving around in one cup, out of the cup, into another one, etc. Now an especially hot part of the chai moves into one cup. There’s a tendency for the cup to think, “I am hot.” However, what the cup is feeling is actually the hot part of the chai, of the field.
In the chai is a piece of cardamom that hasn’t dissolved. It floats into one of the cups. The cup experiences, “I have cardamom. Cardamom is the way to be.” And on one level, it does have cardamom, because the cardamom is right now in it, but it’s not the “owner” of cardamom, because soon it will be moved out and into the chai vat again, and maybe it will move into another cup. Then that cup will feel, “I have chai.”
This gets us to idea that what we’re often experiencing as being our feelings or thoughts or who we are while we’re in groups are actually roles in groups, roles in the chai. Group roles are positions, attitudes, themes, thought/emotion patterns that are in the field—in the chai—and that move around among the people in the group or, if the group consists of two people, in the relationship. First I’ll start feeling something or having a certain opinion and you are moved to express something on the opposite side—because both of these are in the field. As we talk, if I pay close attention, my experience may change so that now I can relate to the opinion or feeling you were talking about before.
The more we can allow ourselves to notice what’s coming up in us and realize that it’s not actually “us” but rather the field of the group or relationship arising in us in the moment, like the cardamom or the hot part of the chai, the more fluid and creative the group or relationship we’re in becomes. The more we stay stuck in what was happening in us a few minutes ago or an hour ago or a few days ago or in our childhood—or whatever—the more we believe that certain things are “me” and certain things are “not me,” the more groups and relationships start to become stale. Putting this group dynamic concept into practice can be really useful in team building and relationship building.
You could call this type of group process team communication, where each of us realizes that, while we’re in the group or the relationship, we each are the “chai” as well as being our individual selves. For more information on my work in organizations and with groups, see my website page on organizational consulting. For information on my work with relationships, see my page on Relationship Counseling.
Wishing you a free and joyous life,