Home > Cases, Cohesion and Development, Therapeutic Groups > The Resilience of Groups

The Resilience of Groups

So what is to become of the members of the Wild Boars, the soccer team trapped for 18 days in a cave in Thailand, now that they have been rescued? Will they suffer long-term psychological problems as a result of their ordeal, or will they move on with their lives, getting back to their families, their school, and the soccer field with hardly a misstep?

Many experts have warned that the experience will lead to continuing psychological problems for the boys, but there is cause for optimism. The boys were part of an intact, supportive group–a sports team–and just as the group sustained its members during the ordeal, it may sustain them in the days to come.

Groups do, of course, often get their members into trouble; the boys and their coach, as a group, did not heed the warning signs and decided to venture deep into the caves. But just as groups can be the cause of much misfortune, so they are also the source of support and relief. First reports of the 18 days spent in the caves suggest that the team banded together, marshaling its combined resources to cope with the experience, for if anyone can survive such a disaster, it is a group—and an organized one at that. Just as other groups facing such dire predicaments–for example, the trapped Chilean miners and the Old Christian rugby team stranded in the Andes–survived by relying on the group, so the trapped soccer team was able to overcome obstacles that would have overwhelmed any one person.

The boys will, undoubtedly, be troubled by the dark memories of their horrific ordeal, but just as their group helped them survive when underground, their group will also help them as they rejoin the world above. The recovery of many groups that have faced difficult circumstances–victims of bus crashes, the Old Christian rugby team, combat units, survivors of school shootings–is often more favorable when members cope collectively: when they are able to gather together and provide mutual support to one another. Family, friends, and experts can offer useful information for solving problems, making decisions, and setting their goals, but the group can be trusted: their shared experience authenticates both their sympathy for one another and the wisdom of their advice, guidance, and suggestions. Even now, early reports suggest that the boys are turning to one another for or spiritual support, as they reconfirm their understanding of the experience and develop a shared sense of meaning. When the boys experience difficulties–sleepless nights, problems coping with their new-found fame, self-doubts about their future–the group can help them.

Will conflict arise within the group, in time? Certainly, as the group struggles problems will disrupt the group’s unity (typically, blame about the cause of the predicament, emotional expressions of anger, interference by outsiders, strengthening of status differentiation), but successful groups manage to weather these threats to their cohesion and stay unified. The group will always remind members of the ordeal they experienced, but the group will also remind them they that they survived.

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