Observation Essay, Research Paper
Field Experience Observation The group that I chose to observe was and Alcohol Anonymous meeting. I chose this group because I know very little about how it operates and its principles. The role I played was that of an overt. Setting the mood was part of the meeting, you were required to introduce yourself and say why you were there. Because it was a open scheduled meeting, they had no objections to my being in attendance. I left the security of the warm car and crossed the street, zigzagging through the heavy traffic. It was a dismal afternoon outside. The gray hanging clouds matched the feelings of butterflies and uneasiness that I felt as I opened the door to the Fleur and Grand building. The door buzzed relentlessly with a loud shrill that echoed in my mind, until it closed behind me. Slowly I walked into a large room. The walls were covered with old wooden panel that was stained with yellow film from cigarette smoke. The carpet I walked on was a putrid green. It was heavily soiled and tattered. It was even worn bare in spots, showing its age. In the middle of this room was a grouping of old rickety card tables formed in the shape of a T. there was one shabby dressed man, who appeared to be in his late twenties, sitting at the table starring off into space. A lady in her mid fifties with graying red hair was fixing coffee along the east wall. The pot was a huge silver machine, much like one you would expect to see in a hospital cafeteria as the coffee began to drip and fill the pot, a drip appeared at the corner of the pot. The coffee trickled down the counter and to the floor. I sat down in a chair, one away form the shabby dressed man. The chair was metal and cold. As I sat down, I noticed holes that had been dug into the tables and recently uses as ashtrays. I had to be very careful not to place my elbow in one. As I sat and waited for the meeting to begin, thoughts of roaches crawling out of the cracks haunted my mind. I began to feel dirty, even though I knew I had taken a shower that very morning. One by one others began to straggle in the door. Each time a new person came in the loud buzz of the door echoed through the room. Each person would walk up and get a cup of coffee and then take a place at the tables. I found it odd that everyone ignored the trickle of coffee coming from the pot. There were about ten women and five w men who attended the meeting. They appeared to range from the age of mid twenties to upper fifties. They were all Caucasian with the exception of one man in his late forties who was African American. After what seemed like an eternity the two older ladies in their mid fifties began the meeting with a silent prayer for other alcoholics. Then the one sitting at the head of the T, read a scripture from a green book. She then passed two shabby, yet laminated cards to two gentlemen, that were seated catty-corner to her right. Each man read one card. The first card had the rules of AA on it. The second card had the twelve steps to recovery on it. The red haired lady again took the floor and introduced herself as Marge and stated that she would be the Chair for tonights meeting. She spoke of her story of alcohol abuse and what AA had done for her. Then she passed the floor to the second lady, who appeared to play the role of co-chair. She spoke of being an alcoholic and what AA had done for her. This continued all the way around the table until it reached me. I quickly said my name and told them that I was only there to learn and observe an AA meeting. When the story circle had reached the women directly across from me, I sat up and took special notice. She was in her late forties with long bleach blond hair. She appeared to be weak and frail. Her figure was thin, one would imagine that a good wind would pick her up and sweep her away, along with the dust and dirt in the room. She spoke of a young man who had recently been killed in prison. She said that the man was in his early twenties and looked to her as if she were his mother. As she spoke tears of grief rolled down her cheeks. She spoke of craving and needing to take a drink to help her get over the pain and sorrow. It seemed that the only thing keeping her from drinking was the knowledge that the behavior of drinking was accompanied by undesirable consequences. Much like Skinners basic principles of operant conditioning. No one reached to console her or even give her a tissue. I felt uttlery helpless as I sat and watched her weep. But I had to apply Piagets concept of adaptation and adapt to the norms of the environment I was in.
As the night continued and I listened to story after story, I began to think of the cohesiveness of the group. The common goal as to give each other support in order to keep the others from taking a drink. There seemed to be an unspoken bond of trust and respect for what the other was going through. Because each member had the addiction of alcohol, the had the we-nes we spoke of in class. Each member suffered from the conflict of wanting to drink ( a substantive conflict). This conflict leads each of them to an inter-personal conflict of their individual goal of overcoming their addiction. Ultimately, each individual is the only one that knows weather the conflict was resolved. It can not be assumed that attending the meeting kept the individual from leaving and going straight to the nearest bar for that drink. The inter conflict was only resolved or possible delayed by attending the meeting. The stories continued. A young lady in her late twenties said she had moved to Iowa from Colorado. She spoke of not having any friends or family in the area and that the loneliness was causing her to crave a drink. This lady looked out of place in the dingy atmosphere. She was well dressed and her hair was styled. She wore diamonds on each hand. She appeared to be a lady of wealth. As the meeting came close to an end, a basket was passed for donations, because AA is a nonprofit organization. The meeting ended with the fathers prayer and a brief chant of keep coming back it works. No one said good-bye or wished anyone a safe trip home. there was no small talk. Everyone just raced toward the door, as if there were a prize for the first one who stepped outside the dingy building. As I reflect back at the AA meeting I attended, I wonder how much of the content of the stories that were shared were of impression management. How many of those in attendance were trying to form the others impressions of them. As I sat and listened to the stories, the thought of the material from class regarding Goffman and his presentation of self, came to mind. It sent me thinking about what these individuals wanted me to see of them. I as a member of the group was effected by the nonverbal and the verbal communication. The verbal communication was very open. Group individuals were very open about answering questions and sharing information. But their nonverbal communication at times was disturbing. The sociological effects were those of non gesturing and carefully positioning yourself at the T grouping of tables. Personally the effects of each persons mood and physical appearance helped to set the mood. When the one woman shared her feeling of sorrow, many of the members sat up very straight and stern, and did not comment in any manner. It seemed that the norm for the group was not to pay to close attention to the individual as a person. A person who has thoughts and feelings. My cognitive processes seemed to be taking over. I was being influenced by my believe that you should console those who are grieving a loss. There was often that painful silence that we spoke of in our group dynamics class. It seemed to be the unspoken common norm. This was different than the norm of the environment of which I was raised. The description of the Jahari Window in our group dynamics class, gave me the information to understand how the individuals at the AA meeting were being open, yet secretive and then also, how they were unaware of information they were giving, but yet it was in their blind window, because they were not realizing that they were releasing information about themselves. The majority of the group took a low-line face to revealing themselves. They were not making undue claims of themselves. Observing an AA group, gave me the chance to learn about the twelve steps that are stated as steps to recovery. I was able to ovserve how alcohol is destructive to those who are addicted to its effects. Attending gave me the opportunity to apply some of the material that was discussed in the group dynamics class and apply it to individual situations that occur. This was a wonderful oppertunity for me to exam the roles and conflicts that evolve within a group.