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Wednesday, 02 May 2012

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

By Terry Hamburg of Baby Boomer Daily

Peanuts Lucy Psychiatric Help

Take a cup of traditional group therapy. Melt in a stick of role playing. A few of shakes of New Age psychobabble. Add a big dash of Primal Scream. Mix vigorously. You’ve got an Encounter Group, a pop culture rage that began in the early 1970s.

Like most, I had some “shit” to “work through” but I hardly wanted to do it in public. For me, the experience was a way to meet girls.

The group gathered twice a week in a detached garage specially refurbished with plush carpet on the floors, walls and ceilings to muffle outbursts while absorbing blows. The cost: $5 a session, discounts if you purchased a package of ten.

A dozen college students huddled in a circle on the floor for one hour to explore feelings, emote about relationships and face the slings and arrows of strangers gawking at your angst. Emote is the operative word. Plunge deep into your psychic well and vent, rant, sob.

The room was equipped with boxing gloves, plush pillows to hit or throw, even a crash dummy that could serve as a surrogate anyone. Young women, supposedly accustomed to suppressing discontent, were encouraged to “let it all hang out.” They did.

Men were told it was okay to cry or even hold hands with each other. They didn’t.

After a month, everyone had thrown a proper fit but me and the pressure was building. Talk about your "issues" and seek "validation?" Not enough. That was the old therapy.

I wasn’t super angry with anyone but needed to demonstrate I could "get in touch" with my feelings. Good old Dad served as a convenient and logical target. I threw Crash across the room. Was it convincing enough, I worried? Apparently. I received tons of sympathy and hugs. I felt off the hook for at least a few weeks.

In the beginning, all the "shit" was directed to people outside the group but quickly these strangers formed friendships, dated and got to know a lot about each other. As more personal connections were made, the sessions turned into an incestuous free-for-all.

Eventually, I concluded this might not be such a good place to meet girls. Too much intimacy too soon can nip the most budding of romances.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. PLEASE read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Ah, yes, I remember them well.
Cleverly written.

I also remember encounter groups . Yours sound much more interesting. As i recall, truth sometimes crept in and was scary.

Can you post the address? It sounds like a fun group. This was very well written and entertaining. Nice work.

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