By Julie Raworth, Adult and Young Persons Counselling Psychologist.
MovedTo Newbury is a really special group of people. They were formed for people either who have just moved to the area or like me, have lived in Newbury for years but whose work is isolating and does not enable meeting new people.
Normal social groups tend to be formed from a shared something, be it work, hobby, school etc, they will naturally take on a pack mentality which creates certain expectations of their members that if they don’t comply they may feel like they don’t belong. It is also a tricky negotiation for an outsider to join the pack.
MovedTo seem to have broken this pack mentality. Whilst there are still some small packs within the group if, you don’t feel you fit into any of these groups that does not mean you are excluded. There are many other members who, maybe like myself, don’t like to conform to pack mentality but still want to socialise and engage. And whilst members may be part of a small pack they still allow themselves to be part of the bigger picture.
In part I have never wanted to ‘conform’ or ‘follow the crowd’ or ‘fit’ into a group as I love meeting a huge variety of people. But this can leave you somewhat isolated and alone because you never feel you belong. Also, as a somewhat introverted recluse I can get overwhelmed by too much social activity so I tend to avoid events because I know I cannot maintain the expectations of the pack mentality long term. But being able to dip in and out to MovedTo takes away all my social anxieties because now I feel I have a pack that gets this and therefore I feel I do belong. This enables me to feel more at ease and thus engage more than I ever anticipated I would,
Many people have social anxieties, particularly because of this pack mentality, or may have other mental health problems that makes them feel different and excluded. Whilst this in not a mental health support group the team support those vulnerabilities so as to create a safe place to engage with others by breaking many of the social rules that usually come into play and may block people from joining in.
I probably have at least 10yrs on the average age of current attendees but this does not phase any of us and is encouraged by the team to have more of this age group. They have accepted me into the fold without judgement, hesitation or resistance.
Unlike normal social groups of friends, such as those formed from school days, there are no expectations to turn up to anything. But when I do I am embraced back into the fold, not with resentment or trepidation but with complete open arms and a welcoming smile.
Unlike groups of friends formed through a shared interest or activity I have been accepted, welcomed and communicated with outside of the activities. In fact, you don’t need a skill or hobby to join them but they may just offer an opportunity to try something new that you would never have dared to do on your own.
I don’t have to explain myself to them as to why I may have disappeared but I know if wanted to tell them it will be received with a sympathetic ear.
It is so nice for me to keep an eye out on the group and the activities online and if I am feeling a little bit alone and wanting to engage with the world I know they are there. I have to plan nothing, just turn up at the event and I am easily back engaged with the world.
Julie Raworth, spectrumcounsellingpsychology.com