How’s It Going, Really?
Presence, Self-Awareness, Acceptance, and Respect
For those interested in More Balance & Well-being as a student, Björn says, ”It’s a courageous thing to come here, it’s a challenge, but it’s very rewarding in many aspects, to dare to be present, to dare to face fears, to dare to be vulnerable, those are difficult things. You get such a close contact with other people, so it puts things into perspective on what a relationship with other people can really be.’ Liam agrees and adds, ’I want to emphasize that you don’t need to be a wreck or have a ton of problems to join a Self-Help group. That’s not the only purpose of it. You can come here to get to know yourself, talk, and grow as a person more than needing to have a lot of problems to join.”
We meet the students Liam & Björn who are part of the Self-Help group More Balance & Well-being as Students. They describe what it was like to share for the first time and mention that the Self-Help group has provided many insights, increased awareness in everyday life, and practice in being close to emotions and putting them into words.
Read more about their experiences in our in-depth interview!
What attracted you to join the Self-Help group?
Björn: I started in a men’s group here first, and what attracted me there was being able to work on myself and be comfortable in my own skin. To be able to accept all my feelings as they are and as they come, and not feel the need to conform to my perception of what others think of me. To have an opportunity to open up and show my vulnerable sides in a safe environment. I felt that being in the men’s group gave me a lot, so when I saw the student group in Chalmers’ newsletter, I wanted to try the student group too. I’m still in the men’s group and attending the student group simultaneously.
Liam: I’ve heard a lot of positive things about Self-Help groups and experienced that it has been very rewarding for others, so I felt it was something I wanted to try. I want to practice being vulnerable and expressing myself in a safe space. So, I thought the student group might be something worth trying.
How would you describe the atmosphere and dynamics in the Self-Help group?
Liam: The first thing that comes to mind is relaxed. Both because the room is so calm, and the atmosphere makes it relaxed to talk. It becomes a bit meditative because there are no distractions. And the atmosphere in the group is very accepting because everyone wants to participate, perhaps not always for the same reasons but still with the same conditions. For me, it’s comforting that it’s a designated place and time, the purpose is for us to talk. That everyone comes here with that mindset. It means I don’t have to wonder if others want to listen or if what I say is wrong or okay. This is truly a space where we should talk about everything, and it’s completely fine. That’s probably what makes it so safe, that what I say cannot be wrong.
Even the rules in Rundan where we pass around the stone and one person speaks at a time make it feel safe. That we all agree on this because everyone is here because they want to be. That creates a bond where everyone wishes each other well.
Björn: The environment feels safe because everyone comes here to challenge themselves, and everything is allowed under the sun. I find it difficult to talk about how I really feel in society. I don’t like the question ’How’s it going?’ because people don’t honestly answer that, but here, you can really answer that question. I feel less judged here for what I express than I would outside. Everyone has the mindset that they are here to challenge themselves. Here, I can find appreciation within myself but also from others because they dare to challenge themselves. There’s thoughtfulness in the group; everyone takes the time to listen, which is important.
What’s your experience with Rundan as a conversation tool?
Björn: The concept of Rundan contributes to my sense of security – when I hold the stone, I know the floor is mine. I can ramble and talk about whatever I want without interruption. That opportunity isn’t available in society. I’ve noticed it recently – the potential in having that opportunity. When I have a conversation with someone else, I might downplay myself and feel like I don’t have much to contribute. Here, I don’t need to diminish myself; I can take the space, and I want to take the space.
Liam: For me, Rundan and what it entails have been eye-opening. That we listen when others speak and respect each other. Even though it’s considered obvious in everyday life, it’s something I’ve found Rundan emphasizes the importance of and how valuable it is. In regular life, there are conventions about listening when others speak, but it’s not a given – actually, surprisingly few genuinely listen when someone speaks and refrain from making judgments or comments. Here, it’s a given. Coming here has given me perspective on the importance of this outside the Self-Help group and appreciating when others genuinely listen and are authentic and being more aware myself in conversations.
Something important is that it’s okay to sit quietly with the stone. I think that sends a very clear message that you’re valued even if you don’t have anything to say. It’s okay not to come up with something; it’s still permitted to be silent and wait.
How would you describe your initial experience of the group? Was it as you expected, or were there surprises?
Liam: For me, it was quite close to what I expected, and I had quite positive expectations from the beginning, so I wasn’t surprised when it was as good as I had imagined. What surprised me the most was that there weren’t more people here, considering how good I’ve heard Self-Help groups are. However, it worked out great nonetheless. I also felt very stressed about holding the stone the first time. The first time was very difficult, but by the second Rundan, it became significantly easier. So, I noticed a difference very early on just by participating in Rundan; it definitely has affected me outside the meetings already after the second time. It felt easier to come here the second time because I had a very positive experience the first time, and it was very reassuring. Before the first time, I was mostly worried if it was okay for me to come here even though I might not have a lot of stress or a specific reason, and that concern lessened a lot after the first time.
Björn: I was also surprised that we weren’t more. I came here with a fear of being judged or scrutinized, and just taking up space was a challenge and a performance. I sometimes call it the ’performance stone.’ That feeling still lingers, but perhaps not as prominently as it was initially. I expected to change my reaction, to get a different kind of response than fear and performance anxiety. It was my hope that those feelings would change when I do something I want to do and that’s good for me, even if it’s tough. The fear has decreased somewhat, but I push myself to bring up sensitive subjects, so it’s tough every time. But it feels absolutely like a good tool.
It felt so relieving when the first time was over, but then the fears came back for the next time. I can have some ’wow experiences’ after being here, and sometimes it can be the opposite, where I might think afterward, ’Oh no, why did I say that?’ But then, it’s something old haunting me, and now I’m here saying what I want to say, so that’s significant.
How has it been to share your own experiences and challenges with the group?
Björn: It’s rewarding; that’s what I want when I come here. Specifically, facing fear and gaining the experience that I won’t die from feeling a bit scared and confronting that fear. That’s an experience I’m grateful for. I don’t want to sit silently throughout a whole round – though who knows, that might also have been a good challenge.
Liam: I’ve also found it very rewarding to confront the fears and emotions, even though sharing my own experiences is tough. Even when I talk outside the group, I’ve noticed that I can be more relaxed, and I get less stressed by talking about myself and sharing my experiences. Putting words to my feelings has been crucial for me. It makes it easier to really feel the emotion. They become more real, and they don’t control me in the same way; I can feel them better and clearer.
Björn: I agree, I try to take that from here, putting words to my feelings, even if I don’t feel they’re socially acceptable. I’ve been doing that to a significantly greater extent lately. For example, I answer honestly when asked, ’How are you?’ and it can be a mix of factors, but I would say that a lot of it comes from attending the Self-Help group. Just identifying what feeling I have is a skill in itself, and then it’s even harder to put it into words, so it’s very beneficial for me to be able to do that. I mean, I can do it in my head, but it’s different when I say it out loud because I don’t think the same way I talk. I feel it’s important for me and will help me a lot in life to have that ability.
Another thing I discovered the other day is that when I put words to a story and told it, my perspective on the story changed. It was about a person, how I perceived them. I went from having a lot of disdain for this person to being a bit more open and could consider meeting this person again. Just by putting words to it and telling the story, I got a different perspective.
Have you noticed that your perspectives have changed or broadened by listening to others’ experiences in the group?
Björn: Haha, oh yes, I can say that. A lot of recognition and new perspectives on things. It might be about a problem I recognize. Just hearing someone else’s perspective on that problem can make me see that maybe I don’t have to have the exact perspective I do. Maybe I can try having a different perspective. Another thing I’ve gained a lot from is being aware of my body in the room and what I truly feel.
Liam: I’ve also experienced new perspectives, maybe not dramatically, but still quite clearly that they’ve changed. Speaking from a theme has been very insightful. We’ve agreed to discuss a question or a theme together, and then we’ve talked about it. Everyone talks about their perspective on the question based on what they want to answer or discuss, and that’s given me several perspectives. Sometimes it connects to what is ’me’ and what perspectives or problems I have, but not always. Just hearing others’ stories related to that question has also been rewarding.
Have you noticed any personal change or growth in yourself since you started participating in the group? In what way?
Liam: Immediately, I can only think that I’ve become a bit more relaxed when talking about myself and more comfortable talking about my feelings. Saying ’I’ instead of ’one’ when we talk has made a big difference for me because I’ve become more comfortable being close to my emotions in that way.
Björn: Yes, that’s an important reminder. I correct myself every time I hear myself saying ’one’ and try to remember to say ’I’ because the focus there is crucial. Daring to express how I really feel about things, daring to be truthful and authentic, and more present, not so much in my thoughts but more in my body. It becomes a method for me to accept myself and what comes or doesn’t come and be here and now. Whatever comes, comes, and it will work out regardless. Without needing to perform or be funny or clever or whatever it may be.
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