Over the second half of 2020, a group of us met fortnightly to connect and practise skills, including of course, interacting with God’s presence.
What we practised:
- Feeling/Sensing/Appreciating our own experience – which included memory of feeling connected to God and a felt sense of God’s presence in the present
- Expressing simple appreciation for our felt experience
- In the group, attempting to “inhabit the experience” (McGilchrist) of the person sharing; then expressing simple appreciation for what we experienced as we did this
- Moving between focusing on/appreciating the other’s experience of God, to focusing on our own felt sense of God’s presence, and then attempting to maintain awareness of both at the same time
- Intentionally coming into agreement with what God was doing in ourselves and each other
- Setting up an “interpersonal resonance” (Schore) between each other in the group and God’s presence. In order to do so, we needed to be quite disciplined in abstaining from going into interpretation of what we were experiencing
- From this state of group resonance/attunement, individuals took it in turns to explore unresolved memory, be prayed for, connect to and interact with the Lord, then come back to reconnecting with the group as a whole. This was done in the context of being supported (mostly) non verbally by the group. We also employed a similar dynamic as individuals connected with internal parts which needed attention, received what God had for them, then came back into intentional re-connection/re-attunement with the group.
What we learned and showed
Previously, we have put forward that the repeated experience of being offered attunement and being able to receive it becomes a relational safety net for the person receiving the Immanuel Approach. We showed in our group exploration that mastering the dynamics of achieving group attunement also led to individuals being able to use attuning to a group as a safety net.
In the bigger picture of growth in maturity, initially we need to learn to attune/connect with another. Then later the higher skill is to be able to attune with, connect with, two or more others at the same time. Understandably much ministry focuses on utilizing the one to one dynamic because it has proven to be safe and is effective. In the Immanuel Approach initially we attune with the person we are facilitating the process for then we help them attune with and interact with the Lord. Typically, they disengage from the Lord to tell us what happened then we direct their attention back to the Lord and they re-attune with Him. It is wonderful what God does using this one to one dynamic. Yet in the bigger picture of a person’s life people need to function in communities and interact in many different group situations. What if engaging in the Immanuel Approach could make a direct impact on the ability of a person to function successfully in groups? To do so aside from having healing encounters with the Lord, participants need to learn how to form and successfully use three way bonds (Wilder).
By practising the Immanuel Approach in groups we both foster the development of three way bonds and utilize the emergent ability to attune with a group to ensue healing of deep relational schemas. In our group it was evident that being able to establish group attunement became a strong foundation and platform to step out from and come back to in healing work. Wilder and Lehman have clearly taught that central to trauma and unresolved traumatic memory, is a sense of being alone along with a neurological state of not knowing who we are. To revisit such a state from the position of attunement with others who willingly, silently stay with you until you are ready to come back and connect with them, is an immensely powerful dynamic. And again the dynamic works because the individual who allows themselves to revisit trauma has consistent previous experience of the group members being able to stay attuned with them in whatever emotion or bodily state they enter into. Perhaps it is more than metaphorical that they take their willing attuned friends with them back into the trauma. And even if the person does not manage to stay connected with them right through the traumatic memory, it doesn’t matter; they know how to shift their focus back on to their friends and re-attune with them, reconnect with them, and rest with them. In so doing they become re-grounded in who they are. Drs Lehman and Wilder have eloquently pointed out that when a person moves in and out of trauma from the the stance of group attunement, it is only a matter of time before Immanuel spontaneously appears in their trauma, and the trauma is processed. In the process Lehman and Wilder describe the group facilitator initially helps the group members to perceive the Lord’s presence and establish attunement with him. In this description I have emphasized the role of a loving attuned group over the one on one interaction with the Lord. Yet if the group knows how to attune with the Lord, as well as with each other at the same time, would we not expect that Immanuel is right there in our midst interacting and healing as he does?