Considering the Interrelationship of Sending, Receiving, and Experiencing Emotions Within a Spiritual Guidance Session
Amy Halberstadt, Susanne Denham, and Julie Dunsmore discuss a model for affective social competence, which they describe as “three integrated and dynamic components: sending affective messages, receiving affective messages, and experiencing affect.” While the model was created with children in mind, we are wondering about the relevance of affective social competence as spiritual guides who often work in the realm of emotions – being aware of our own emotions, having emotion communication skills, facilitating our client’s understanding of emotions, etc.
According to Halberstadt, Denham, and Dunsmore, each of the three components (sending affective messages, receiving affective messages, and experiencing affect) encompass four abilities: awareness, identification, working within a social context, management and regulation. Sending affective messages has to do with the awareness of a need to send the message, identifying the message, sending the message within a set of rules, and managing the sending of the message as well as any false or real signals. In the context of spiritual direction the guide considers what messages they might send, when to send them, and how to send them.
Receiving affective messages has to do with being aware of the message, identifying the meaning, understanding the message within the cultural context, and managing the receipt of the message as well as any false or real signals. In spiritual direction this might look like being attuned to the messages our seekers are sending us, picking up on any clues they are offering, and discerning the meaning within their unique context.
Experiencing affective messages relates to being aware of my own emotions, identifying my emotions, understanding them within a social context, and regulating my emotional experiences. In the context of spiritual guidance, the guide does not ignore any emotions that might surface, but can bracket their experiences and tend to their emotions after the session in a time of reflection and perhaps supervision.
Each of the components ebbs and flows as the session unfolds. By integrating this model, the potential for deeper listening is present because we are ever aware of our own emotions while not being derailed by them. Halberstadt, Denham, and Dunsmore write that we can “integrate and control the overlap between these skill areas of sending, receiving, and experiencing emotions”. In relationship, we send messages that influence how another receives them; what and how we receive messages influences what we send. Furthermore, we discern what we communicate next based on the interactions of our own emotional experiences and what our seekers share with us.
Our hope as spiritual companions is to promote our shared humanity in a context of trust and care. We believe that the affective social competence model has the potential to deepen our practice for the healing and co-creating of a better world.
~ Jeanette Banashak, PhD, EdD
It's not unusual for any of us here at SGTI to be asked by someone, "What is spiritual guidance anyway?" Wonderful question!
In one of our early learning modules in the 18-month training program, students are asked a similar question: What is spiritual guidance? Here are some of their answers:
• Spiritual guidance is a form of helping relationship in which together, one is guided in the discernment and development of intimacy with the Divine. Through deep listening and in creating and holding sacred space, the spiritual guide listens into being the Divine Story of the seeker. (M.W.)
• Spiritual direction is a dedicated container for exploration of the inner life through the lens of the sacred or the deeply meaningful. A spiritual companion’s role is to hold safe, nonjudgmental space for your questioning, healing, and deepening in your spiritual life and your relationship with the Divine as you understand it, with the understanding that you are the authority on those topics. (C.O)
• "Seeker and guide create an interconnected orb in sacred space and time – an orb in which the Divine is invited to join. In this sacred human/Divine triad intimacy between seeker and Divine grows. Often the guide strengthens her own intimacy with the Divine." (C.R.)
In a publication offered by Spiritual Directors International, "Portrait of a Spiritual Director," one gets a more complete picture of who spiritual companions are and the purpose they serve, their "call" and skillset, along with their hopes for the people they companion. It says:
"Spiritual directors or companions support the unique spiritual journey of every individual. They are welcoming and present with those they companion, listening and responding without being judgmental. They are contemplative and honor silence as a spiritual practice. They are intuitive spiritual friends—accountable and compassionate, hospitable and open, loving yet independent."
To read the essay in its entirety, visit this page.
Locate the link which says, "Click here for a printable pdf version of the "Portrait"
If you feel the call to explore spiritual companionship/guidance training yourself, we'd love to chat with you. We are already accepting applications for the 2020-2022 training program which begins in August. You can contact us here.
Congratulations to Our Graduates!
On Monday, January 7, 2019, we celebrated the graduation of SGTI's first cohort of interfaith/interspiritual guides. This was a landmark moment for the Institute as well as for these students because they are some of the first in the U.S. (the world!) to have received formal training and certification in interfaith/interspiritual direction. We are so very proud of them. Congratulations, graduates!
Students for this cohort hailed from California, Texas, Illinois and Michigan. We initially gathered with them in August 2017 in Chicago, IL. for a one-week Residential Institute. We took trips to various holy houses in the greater Chicago area to expand our knowledge and experience of various traditions. On our first full day together (pictured above left), we visited Mishkan, and participated in a Shabbat service and potluck afterwards.
Over the next 18 months, our students continued to learn and grow together in an online format (one learning module every two weeks), by doing spiritual guidance in their own cities, and receiving one-on-one supervision. They went deeper into their spiritual lives and learned with and from the voices in our texts, guest speakers, peer groups, and directees. Their instruction included written, audio, video and "real time" interaction with one another; 30 learning modules, a rigorous training. They learned the art and practice of Pure Presence™ Listening. In April of 2018, they returned to Chicago for another one-week Residential Institute. Students completed their training in January of 2019 by submitting a final project/paper.
A long-distance graduation ceremony was held (pictured above, right) online. We acknowledged each student's gifts and achievements. They also acknowledged one another in this way. They were commissioned to go into the world and offer spiritual guidance with open, curious minds and wise, compassionate hearts, which we know they will faithfully do. We wholeheartedly support their ongoing efforts to serve and grow in the charism we call spiritual guidance. Congratulations, again, to our gifted grads!
"The gift you give another person is just your being."
SGTI is currently hosting its 2nd cohort who will graduate in January 2020. We are currently accepting applications for Cohort 3 to begin in August 2019. Contact us for an application.
SGTI in Chicagoland News
We are pleased to announce that SGTI and co-founder, Jeanette Banashak, is currently featured in "Voyage Chicago."
You can read the article in its entirety here.
Spiritual Companionship and Emotions
Dr. Jeanette Banashak, co-founder and co-director of SGTI, has recently had an essay published by Spiritual Director's International for their website/blog. "Spiritual Companionship and Emotions" lays out a noteworthy method of working with personal emotions which can be of benefit to spiritual guides.
"No matter how, where, when, or by whom we were raised, scholars agree that there are 5 emotions that we all have in common: enjoyment, sadness, disgust, fear, and anger.
As a spiritual guide, I am constantly looking and listening for clues that help me understand what a seeker is feeling. At the same time, I am listening for clues in myself that let me know what I am feeling.
This self-listening and self-awareness grows as I learn which emotions and conscious feelings I am experiencing in any given moment." (cont'd)
Read the post in its entirety here:
This article authored by SGTI co-founder Janice Lundy is currently being featured on the Spiritual Directors International blog:
"Many years ago when I was training to be a spiritual director, the kindly Sister who led the program made it very clear to us that spiritual guidance over the telephone was not acceptable. More specifically, that good spiritual guidance could not happen unless two people were face-to-face and the “third chair” was physically present in the room.
Today, I know better and do offer spiritual guidance via Skype or over the telephone. I have found it to be a very useful modality benefitting some seekers, in some situations, but not all. Without a doubt, it can have a providential outcome as I have experienced with seekers outside the U.S. (my home), homebound seekers, and those whose lives present varied and difficult circumstances in terms of travel, child-care needs, or work schedules. Grace can move through the ethers across telephone lines and satellite networks. Who are we to say it can’t?" ...
Read the article in its entirety here.
Enliven Your Listening
This post was originally published on the blog of Spiritual Directors International. SGTI's co-director, Jan Lundy, shares her favorite quotes on listening and explores the significance of listening within the spiritual direction/guidance relationship.
I had the privilege of being interviewed by Kenny Brixey of "Life's ToolBox" on Empower radio about SGTI and the topic of spiritual guidance.
We discussed some important questions:
What is spiritual guidance?
What is the importance of spiritual guidance in someone's life?
Can we ever serve as our own spiritual guide?
Can we be a spiritual guide for others?
"Now more than ever we could all use guidance in our lives. Understanding that guidance, how it works and where to find it are all keys to living a life that is in alignment with our greatest good. We do not have to rely on our own efforts and struggle along trying to make things fit in our lives. With spiritual guidance, we have a loving guide. We need only tune into it." ~ Kenny Brixey
Submitted by Janice L. Lundy
Listen to the broadcast here. (25 min.)
We are pleased to introduce the first of many podcasts for your learning and enjoyment. Our aim is to enlighten you about the many facets of spiritual guidance, both receiving it and offering it. We also hope that these interviews of a more personal nature will help you get to know us better.
What Is Spiritual Guidance?
In the words of our founders:
Janice Lundy: Spiritual guidance (often known as spiritual direction) is an ancient practice found in many of the world's wisdom traditions. I often think of it as a holy encounter with a trustworthy guide who lovingly and gently points you back to "the Sacred." If you are a seeker who longs to explore and deepen your unique understanding of life from a spiritual context with an experienced, well trained, and compassionate guide, spiritual guidance may be for you.
Jeanette Banashak: Spiritual guidance is the art and science of guiding and nurturing the human soul. It is empathetic listening within the context of a caring relationship. According to Lisa Fullam and John Mabry, a spiritual guide may be a coach, confessor, guru, soul friend, companion, or saint, among many other roles or archetypes.
Jan: I use the term, the "Sacred", in spiritual guidance to denote our cross-cultural and interspiritual understanding of Ultimate Reality (God, Presence, the All, Spirit, Creator, Brahma, Essence, Truth, Love, etc.) This encompasses, in my view, any term each of us might use to describe our knowing of transcendent experience of life and of true self. We must each find our unique way of expressing and connecting with this. Spiritual guidance helps us navigate this process.
Jeanette: Spiritual guides walk with individuals and groups who are working through a process of discernment, which is a sifting through or division of interior movements that results in making wise and conscious decisions. The guide may ask a question as simple and profound as, “Do you see?” which allows the seeker to watch, observe, and interact with their life, and to ultimately companion them as they wander through each season and find their way home.
Jan: Spiritual guidance serves to help you reclaim your spiritual health. Inner calm, enhanced well-being, personal and spiritual insights, healing, and a deeper connection to self and Spirit can be yours through consistent spiritual guidance. The guide will encourage you to explore contemplative practices that will help you slow down, notice and pay attention so you can see the whole of your life more clearly; to see how the Sacred is present in the dailyness of life.
Jeanette: Spiritual teacher, Adyashanti, writes about a day that he awoke and returned to his Self, which was enlightened and ordinary; this Self was Spirit, was breathing, was free. The spiritual guide journeys with individuals and groups as they practice together the ordinary act of living in freedom.
About this blog
Deepening the understanding, practice and importance of spiritual guidance-companionship across traditions.