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
About this blog
Deepening the understanding, practice and importance of spiritual guidance-companionship across traditions.
Chat with us on Facebook