What's in the way is the way - Mary O'Malley
Yesterday was the ninth evening of this "Life skills" training. I wrote about the eighth session last week. The sequence of regular weekly classes now moves on to increasing gaps between sessions - so it's three weeks until the tenth, a further five weeks until the eleventh, and then an additional eleven weeks until the final twelfth session. My hope is that we will be able to arrange occasional follow-up meetings even after that.
This ninth session was partly a review of the territory we have covered over the last two months. Participants had their usual handout of a dozen slide miniatures covering the material we were to explore. See slides 1-6, Powerpoint or slides 1-6, PDF and slides 7-12, Powerpoint or slides 7-12, PDF. They also had a - less detailed than usual - "Practice record". Especially important was this session's "Reflection & intentions sheet". For CD's, they had four which covered the twelve "Goodwill" recordings to be found on the "Compassion & criticism" page of this website. For those who hadn't already received them, they were also given the "Suggestions for goodwill practice", and too the additional energising (typically morning) and quieting (typically evening) standard Autogenic options given on the "Autogenic training, session 8" page.
We explored once more the several overlapping reasons why it makes good sense to try out the Goodwill practice. These reasons included points made at last week's session about Self-determination theory, values, ecosystem & egosystem, and building positive emotions. I talked too about the "Behavioural systems model" and the potential value of moving deliberately and more often to a care-giving internal stance. I mentioned some of the fascinating recent research in this area, including the way that goodwill practice helps us be more aware of others and the way that our interpersonal warmth so often is reflected back by others. See "Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness" and "Deconstructing the "reign of error": interpersonal warmth explains the self-fulfilling prophecy of anticipated acceptance".
At the start of the course, participants had filled in a series of initial assessment questionnaires. Now at the end of the first two month intensive phase of the training, they were asked to fill most of these questionnaires in again to assess what is changing and what isn't. The questionnaires included a couple of IAPT measures - the depression & general anxiety PH-9/GAD-7/phobia scale and the 5 areas disability scale. These general distress/disability measures are good, but may miss significant symptoms - for example of specific anxiety disorders. I included a more personalised assessment of the difficulties participants individually most wanted help with at the beginning of the course and we now repeated this personal target symptoms scale. We also repeated a couple of mindfulness/self-compassion scales - the 5 facet mindfulness questionnaire and the short form of the self-compassion scale - and a couple of wellbeing measures - Fredrickson's positive:negative emotional ratio and Diener's satisfaction with life scale.
A good three quarters of an hour of this session was spent in filling in the "Reflection & intentions sheet" and then pairing up to discuss what had emerged. Participants were asked to make specific intentions about their practice priorities for the next three weeks - until the tenth session. They explained and exchanged these intentions with their partner, and agreed to make contact with each other in about ten days to hear how things had been going. Building longer term support like this is one of my hopes for this training course.