Today’s group focussed on how people deal with the benefit system and more specifically, ‘Work Capability Assessment’ interviews. At group sessions we often hear of how the current system invokes strong feelings of anxiety and sheer terror. With this in mind we thought it would be good to have a look at the different processes involved and the options people have.
Below is an example of the different stages involved upon receiving assessment letter;
- Attend ‘Work Capability Assessment’ interview
- You receive a letter from the DWP* informing you that you are not being awarded benefit.
- You disagree with their decision so respond by sending a ‘Mandatory consideration letter’ to inform the DWP* of your reasons for disagreeing with their decision to see if they will reconsider.
- If the response from the DWP* is that they are upholding their original decision you then have the option to appeal it and have your case taken to at an independent tribunal.
If you are feeling anxious it is so important to seek support.
Some of the suggested supports were,
- Citizen’s Advice Bureau
- The Advice Shop
- Turn 2 Us
- Christians Against Poverty
- Community On Stop Shop
Group members felt that having someone to help support them in filling in forms was extremely beneficial and relievied some of their anxiety. With no support it can literally feel like a real life or death situation with the looming uncertainty of having no income to survive. That is why it is so useful to have supportive people around you to help provide some hope for your future.
*’The Department of Work and Pensions*
Why are we attracted to the people we are attracted to? The group discussed how this was due to multiple factors, an initial physical attraction endorsed by shared interests and core values-not too similar, as this is not stimulating or too opposite as this might be too uncomfortable. Shared experiences also created attraction, along with many subconscious factors and feeling that we are a match with a particular individual. Some stated that they always chose the wrong person and others sensed attraction when there was a ‘click’ or made a connection.
We began talking about how is it that we give out messages which attract sometimes before we have even spoken to someone. There is a theory that 93% of communication is non-verbal, from Professor Albert Mehrabian. He theorised that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken. Some group members observed that there are ‘types’; Passive, Assertive or Aggressive and due to past experiences we are drawn to, and draw towards us those of a certain type. This perhaps fits with attachment theory whereby we are drawn to patterns with which we are familiar. The following article by ‘The School of Life’ suggest three components for why we have particular types and the guiding direction of our attractions which you can read about here: ‘How to find love’.
We then turned our attention to maintaining a sense of self in dating. We discussed that relationships sometimes just happen to us rather than it being something we seriously think about and what we would like in a partner or from a relationship like we might do when considering buying a house or applying for a job. Group members discussed that they wanted was equality and a mutual appreciation and respect for one another, to feel important to someone, to share humour and to both bring and contribute to the relationship overall, whilst acknowledging that different individuals need more support than the other with various things at different times. We lose a sense of self when we change to become what the other person wants us to be.
At the beginning of a relationship it can feel stressful and confusing to know the balance between ‘being myself’ and perhaps curtailing some over-eager behaviours, and therein is a minefield of rules…how often should I text? How soon should I reply? When should I say ‘I love you’?
Returning to our earlier discussion of why we are attracted to the people we are, we discussed the theory of attachment leading us to pick partners where patterns of attachment are familiar to us as they are reminiscent of early childhood experiences. We had watched the following video by
Alain de Botton which first inspired the topic on dating and sense of self as a group topic.
On a more lighthearted note, you may enjoy the outcomes of some of these chat up lines overheard by bartenders.
What is most important to remember above all is that we all deserve to be treated well, even if you have experienced bad relationships in the past. Remembering this can reinforce the importance of valuing yourself in meeting the right partner.
The group had requested a session on emotional dilemmas, so we looked at a few ethical dilemma scenarios in small groups. Situations that required thinking about breaking medical confidentiality, or discovering your friend’s wife is having an affair and such like. It was interesting to see that many group members had different ideas from each other about what they would do in the given scenarios. This started to show us that we all form our values and morals differently; maybe from culture, or how our family taught us, our own experience of consequences, a particular philosophy or faith that we follow, or by a case by case basis. It also showed us that there is often not a right or a wrong…however because ethical situations can evoke a lot of powerful emotions we can feel intensely that there is a right or wrong. We also noticed that actually we make a lot of assumptions when presented with a dilemma, so in dilemmas we may well sometimes need to gather a bit more information before deciding what we should do.
It is about a month since this group met together before Christmas, so it was good to reconnect with each other, find out how the Christmas break had been, and to look forward to our hopes and goals for 2019.
We started by assessing how we felt about the different areas of our lives by completing a lifestyle balance pie. People made the segments personal to them and looked at areas they were happy with and areas where they might like a bit more to be happening or to feel more satisfied.
A few people had some personality goals, in that they had embraced some challenges over the last couple of years in realising that they had made huge strides in becoming more confident to try new things or to be assertive, so there were some plans afoot to continue with this type of growth and personal development. For some people that might be more awareness of ways of thinking and having a different perspective on things that currently feel a bit stuck or defeated. Some people were looking at rebuilding certain areas of life such as career, study or wellbeing and have implemented a 5 year plan. Others were encouraged by recognising that they are further on towards their goal than a year ago and just to continue. Thinking about managing self in relationships and dating was featuring so we actually have a group dedicated to this in a couple of weeks.
Overall, people were feeling empowered to balance their lives, manage finances, increase faith, make time for intentional family time, feel more organised and to engage in purposeful activity, reduce fear and get out more. It was encouraging to note that people had been sustaining changes over the year and maybe sometimes it is more realistic to formulate hopes and plans as we all know that New Year’s Resolutions can be a bit transient…
Below is a small snap shot of how we used with Russian dolls to help us develop a better understand the dynamics of our ‘Inner child’
1. Inside the grown-up deep inside is the child just like these Russian dolls.
You might feel it a positive when you are playing with children. For example I feel it while playing football with my young nephews.
2. You might feel it in a negative way if you are waiting to go in for formal appointment and you start to feel as if you did when you were called to the headmaster’s office. (Or maybe you were all good kids and were never sent to the headmaster’s office!)
3. (Using an elastic band)
Like this band we are all big and stretched out, but certain events, circumstances or people could make us feel small again.
4. (Imagining all our younger selves)
Thinking about when you were at primary school what 3 words would you use to describe the wee person you were then?
5. (Pick an age between 5-10 years old)
– Thinking about you at the age you have chosen we will ask a few questions if that is OK to that part of you, be it 5 or 7 or 10 years old- whatever age you have picked.
– Think about who was your teacher, your favourite toy or who were your friends then.
Ok so we are all focused in on an age and who we were then.
If that child had something to say, to be heard what might it say?
What did it need?
What would you like to say to it?
How might you soothe it? (Note: Demonstrate by putting the little one in the big one.
6. We end by putting all the dolls back inside each other so there is just one big one. It demonstrates we are back in our adult place.
After a busy few sessions requiring much thinking and discussion and brain power….this group was a celebration of all the achievements, growth, learning and development within the group and as individuals over the year. As we look to Christmas too and the New Year we had a party celebration and a consideration of how people may look after themselves in what can be either a busier time or more isolated time. Difficulties seem more poignant in a season which emphasises togetherness and family if these structures for some individuals are missing or fragmented. Being in Scotland too in December we are well aware of the very short days at this time of year, so much darkness for some can feel heavy and draining, as we post this we are just about at the shortest day sunrise 8.42am, sunset 3.39pm!! It’s so dark…though this does mean that after tomorrow the days start getting longer again as we sprint towards spring.
In the meantime however we celebrate the light and hope that is so much a part of this group, where one is in a place where it feels hard to hold hope, the others will hold it for them.
So, fun was had in the form of games, party food and warm wishes to one another as we head off for a break and look forward to starting a new year together in 2019. The first group back will be Thursday 10th January.
The group had requested a session looking at boundaries, so we started by looking at where do you find it hard to put in healthy, balanced boundaries? People said that it was hard to assert themselves and they ran away instead, that it felt hard to say yes and that their social anxiety created their own cave. Others too were aware of overly strong boundaries and pushing people away.
The reason that people found it difficult to set boundaries was being worried about offending others, letting people down, biting off more than they could chew and afraid in case they couldn’t follow it through.
Families were cited as a difficult place to set boundaries as they are very likely to push them, particularly kids as they know your vulnerabilities! It’s easy to give in here “Just to keep the peace”. We acknowledged that it is harder to do too when tired, and can feel guilty so don’t want to ‘rock the boat’.
Setting boundaries in a workplace can feel particularly difficult because of the power relationship of an employer who is maybe asking too much. Being taken advantage of here can have an effect on personal life where the reverse occurs and you feel you can’t say yes to anyone as you don’t trust people.
We also discussed the paradox of saying no, whereby it is great to set the boundary, however people may not be used to hearing your ‘no’ and have a difficult reaction to this, which then requires holding the boundary and knowing that the reaction is their responsibility, not yours. We discussed also that sometimes we are trying to please people and seek approval but recognised that this is not a helpful foundation for us or others to act out of in terms of self-care and good care of others.
Without healthy boundaries people realise that they take on a lot of responsibility for other peoples stuff, and also not setting boundaries creates future resentments. Interestingly, like the discussion about decision making where people actually knew the right decision to make, (it was other things that created confusion), in not having healthy boundaries, people knew that this didn’t feel right.