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  • Darryl Chen

Real Virtuality in Virtual Reality

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

I found myself staring into the Zoom window sometime in mid-August this year wondering how this group of 7 other people from another continent – with whom I have spent 6 Thursday mornings by then - could have contributed so much to the development I have experienced in this pandemic year.

I had set out 2020 to grow and develop in the field of group relations, and my entire arsenal of plans were thwarted from not being able to go to planned conferences to participating in work groups that use group relations methodology. One particularly event that I felt the most loss for was a Small Group Consultant Training that was supposed to take place in Ireland. I was all set for it and even planned a small holiday in Europe around it, and my plans became irrelevant just as I was about to book my intricate series of flights.

While COVID-19 has taken the brunt of my abuse, I sit now reflecting how it has also given me a series of opportunities to continue with my plans – one which began with the first ever Virtual Small Group Consultant Training with GRI. I don’t even remember how I came across it, but one thing led to another and the next thing I knew, there I was sitting in a Zoom room with 7 complete strangers from an entirely different continent than I am in.

Being virtual, we suddenly had access to each other’s living spaces – a nicely framed picture on the wall behind, gusty winds blowing a window pane shut as a point was being made, warm evening sunsets cooling into dark nights, blackouts in the middle of a small group session. While we lost familiar fields of data in the physical space, we gained alternative fields of data that were equally rich.

Being the only one based in Asia, I had the benefit of joining a group where I knew no one from before, and yet felt strangely familiar with the roles I took on in the group. This time, the group decided on “the grenade thrower” - familiar role, new label. It reinforced my ambivalence toward membership in groups, yet perhaps the greatest gift I got from this experience was when the faculty member challenged me – in our individual debrief - if it was also possible to receive affection from the group despite my tendency to be at the boundary of the group.

On 16th November, I found myself staring at a Zoom window with 19 other people this time, albeit in a different role – the administrator. The 3rd series of virtual training workshops (at a more Asia-friendly time, of course!) ran its final session. As the administrator, I enjoyed navigating the boundary of staff and membership; and I have learnt a new level of respect for the amount of containment this role has to exercise.

2020 remains a year to forget for the most part, but I am also grateful for the development it has afforded me. Meanwhile, I continue to look forward to the day I would be able to be meet you in person at a conference.

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