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Peer groups: Wiston autumn group – third morning

So yesterday was the second full day of the group and it went roaring along - like holidays where initially time moves slowly and then seems to accelerate.  Here the "train" of group memories seems to gather pace for me by this second day.  My sense has been that for all three of the mid-size groups of 12-13, the first day was at times quite a struggle - what are we here for?  Do I really emotionally trust these other people?  Do they like and accept me?  Is it safe to take risks and be vulnerable here?  Might I end up feeling rejected, humiliated or abandoned?  All of these seem totally sensible questions to me, and I think they need to feel answered on a gut, not just a head level.

Peer groups: Wiston autumn group – first morning

Back in May I wrote about a peer Mixed Group I have been involved in for many years.  I explained how I'd been coming to this Mixed Group since 1991 and how the group had evolved and budded off both a Men's Group and Women's Group.  I talked about the origins and purpose of these groups and also why writing about my personal involvement in them seems relevant to this blog on stress, health & wellbeing.

Besides the Mixed Group in May, I have also come regularly to a Men's Group in November.  They are both just four days long and I've found them hugely precious over the years.  This autumn's Men's Group was at Wiston Lodge about an hour's drive south of Edinburgh and I took my Eee PC along to it to write a bit about my experience: 

Recent research: a mixed bag of studies on personality, paranoia, burnout, somatization, and relationships

This week's recent research post is a mixed bag of six studies covering the physiological & psychological changes triggered by being separated from one's partner, why similar levels of anxiety & interpersonal sensitivity can lead to social anxiety in some individuals and paranoia in others, how difficulty identifying feelings is associated with increased somatization, the frequency of burnout in family doctors around Europe, personality factors that predict a longer life, and how wrong the old saying is that "Sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"!  

Compassion & criticism

“ Fear is the mind-killer ... I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. ” - Bene Gesserit "Litany against Fear" from Dune by Frank Herbert

Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.     Dalai Lama 

Emotions, feelings & personality

I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.

- E. B. White

This section contains handouts and questionnaires about emotions, feelings & personality.  It seems helpful to understand emotions through an evolutionary perspective - we have emotions, to a large extent, because they had (and have) survival value.  We are the descendants of people with adaptive emotional systems that helped them stay alive and function well.  Typically unwelcome feelings that seem maladaptive are due to emotions that are firing off inappropriately.  As a rule of thumb, if an emotion is an appropriate reaction to a situation it can help us respond successfully.  If the emotion is inappropriate then it's likely to be more useful to work to change the emotional response - through therapy or other approaches. 

Relationships, families, couples & psychosexual

I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance.

- Pablo Casals

Here are a series of questionnaires and handouts on couples, sexuality, parenting, attachment, and abuse.  The first sequence of 20 or so handouts are from a two day workshop I run - for more details including downloadable copies of the slides, see the blog post "Psychotherapy with couples & other close relationships".  Listed below these are further relevant handouts & questionnaires.

Relationships in general

Things should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

- Einstein

Relationships are right at the heart of human health and wellbeing.  The first four sets of handouts listed below highlight the increased death rates, poorer psychological health and lowered wellbeing in those with worse relationships.  There is a rather confusing plethora of different questionnaires for assessing relationship networks.  I like the large amount of helpful information one can elicit from the "Personal community map" and associated sheets (below).  Sheldon Cohen has argued convincingly that social intimacy, social integration, and social conflict all make independent contributions to our health and wellbeing - we want higher scores for intimacy & integration and (usually) lower scores for conflict.  The community map overall question sheet and the associated brief three question current a

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