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Autogenic training: fifth session

Here are the handouts and other materials for the fifth Autogenic training session.  Start this exercise once you have worked through the first four lessons.  Take your time.  If you have conscientiously worked your way through to this fifth session, you're doing really well.  Congratulations.  Don't feel you have to finish each new exercise in a week.  Take longer if you want to - these are skills that can last a lifetime, so enjoy developing them really thoroughly.  Session five introduces focussing on the breath, extending our ability to apply these skills during other activities, better understanding of emotions, and the use of therapeutic writing.

The next stepe in the standard Autogenic Training sequence is to add a focus on the breath.  The aim is simply to attend to and follow the movement of the breathing.  One isn't trying to control the breathing.  Changes in the breath however are likely to occur.  I often liken this stage to the earlier "Neck & shoulders are heavy" exercise.  I say that before getting to "Neck & shoulders are heavy" one isn't deliberately holding any tension in the neck & shoulder area.  However usually when getting to this focus, one finds that there is tightness that one hadn't been aware of, and one notices the shoulders dropping a bit as they relax.  I say that, in a similar way, one isn't typically aware that one is holding or tightening around the breathing.  However as one silently repeats the words "Breath breathes me", relaxes more fully, and simply observes the rise and fall of the chest & abdomen, nearly always the breath starts to slow and deepen.  Eventually, as one becomes progressively more peaceful, one's need for much oxygen decreases, and the breath may well become quite gentle and shallow.  The 11 minute and 18 minute Breath exercises cover the same set of instructions - use whichever you have time for.  Do make sure that you sometimes try the longer exercise as there is a bit more detail included. 

The other new component of the actual Autogenic practice involves moving another step forward in developing the ability to apply these skills during everyday life.  One aspect of this is in learning to cope better with "distractions" such as a noisy environment.  I talk to trainees about this, saying that they probably have all already had the experience of starting an Autogenic practice session while there is some fairly troublesome outside noise.  If the session then goes well, they may have noticed that - on opening their eyes at the end - they find the noise is still going on as before, but that during much of the session it simply wasn't an issue.  The noise just went right by without being a source of any significant disturbance - "water off a duck's back"!  I say that it's likely to be useful to learn to further develop this ability to practise calmness even when the outer (or inner) environment isn't particularly peaceful.  I suggest that "simply letting the noise go by" is a useful strategy here.  I comment that if one is tightening physically or psychologically against the noise, it is exactly these areas and these attitudes that maybe one needs to let go of.  The noise is a teacher in highlighting physical areas and mental assumptions that it may be helpful to release.  Sometimes one may want to concentrate a bit more firmly on the actual Autogenic sequence so one isn't so easily knocked off focus by the distractions.  Sometimes, particularly as the exercise deepens, letting the noise (or other distractions) go past is easy and straightforward.  I have a radio - typically tuned to be distractingly just off station - turned on as we go through the Autogenic exercise.  This gives good practice in developing this ability.  I say that if anybody finds this exercise particularly difficult, it is probably worth practising it further on their own - possibly initially with the sound turned down more to make it easier to start with (it is usually also easier to work with distracting music rather than distracting voices).  I also point out that dealing with unwanted noise is not that different from dealing with other "unwanted distractions" during the practice (or during everyday life).  These distractions may be external such as noise, cold, light, movement and rain - or internal such as pain, tiredness, anxiety, anger and depression.  All these distractions provide opportunities for "mindfulness" practice - and external distractions may be easier to deliberately set up than internal distractions. 

Another aspect of this application training is introduction of the 15 minute second differential exercise, which shifts from the very simple body movements of the first differential exercise to slowed fragments of real life activities.  On the recording these are drinking, writing, and standing.  Particularly in the first days of practising the second differential, do the movements in slow motion (and possibly just repeatedly write the same word!).  Gradually, you can learn to maintain a good, peaceful state in the rest of the body, as you bring the speed of the movements up to a more routine, everyday pace.  If you find practising standing feels too unsteady initially, start by practising close into a corner of a room.  If you wobble, you have the walls just behind you and on either side.  Over the days, as you gain confidence in practising standing up, you can then move to practising a little in front of a flat wall (no longer needing a corner), and then to practising away from any supports.  Many people however, will feel fine about practising standing away from any supports straight away.  Try to use this second differential exercise every day.  When you move to sometimes not using the recording, feel free to take on different challenges - try maintaining a peaceful, relaxed state as you go through other simple everyday activities like eating something, cleaning your teeth, washing, walking, and so on.  Notice how this differential exercise both teaches applied relaxation during activities, and also "de-automatises" the activity so you can become aware of it - the subtle muscle & other sensory details - in a way that one usually never notices.  These exercises are about coming into the present as much as about relaxation - "Lose your head, and come to your senses".  As before, aim to practise the differential at least once daily, and the breath exercise at least once daily.   

In addition to these developments in the Autogenic Training practice, I typically introduce ideas about emotions and therapeutic writing at this fifth session.  Look at the Powerpoint slides (see below) to understand this evolutionary, adaptive view of emotions.  Developing better understanding can help hugely in making our emotional reactions less confusing and less stressful.  We have emotions because, when appropriate, they can help us function better and respond more constructively to our environments.  The Good Knowledge page on this website entitled "Emotions, feelings & personality" gives more extended information and handouts about this area, as too does clicking on Emotions in the "Tag cloud".  Finally I discuss Therapeutic writing.  In classical, traditional Autogenic Training, one is taught to practise a rather surprising set of exercises involving emotional discharge.  There has been virtually no decent research showing that these exercises add anything useful to the Autogenic relaxation exercises.  Therapeutic writing, in contrast, has been extensively researched with approaching two hundred studies showing its benefits.  The "Power of words" slides and three handouts on therapeutic writing (see below) give much more detail - as too does clicking on Writing in the "Tag cloud".  I encourage Autogenic "trainees" to explore this information and try out therapeutic writing.  Initially you can always explore the more gentle exercises described in "Therapeutic writing for health & wellbeing", but do become familiar as well with the more "cathartic" focus on difficult experiences described in the other writing handouts.

At the bottom of this page, you will find downloadable reflection and practice record sheets - both are usually worth using to continue to explore and personalise the value you get from this training. 

Autogenics 5a: Breath, Shorter, 11 minutes - 3.7Mb MP3 file.  This 11 minute and the longer 18 minute exercise (below) cover the same ground.  Use whichever you have time for. 

Autogenics 5b: Breath, Longer, 18 minutes - 5.2 Mb MP3 file.  Good to use this longer exercise occasionally as it has a chance to go into the practice in a bit more detail.

Autogenics 5c: Second Differential, 15 minutes - 5.3 Mb MP3 file.  An extension of Ost's application training. 

Autogenic slides 1-7 - these first seven slides, for the fifth Autogenic lesson, introduce the overall structure of the class, especially the focus on understanding our emotions better.  I would leave out slide 3 (participants are already familiar with it) when producing a six-slides-to-a-page handout.

Autogenics slides 8-14 - this second set of a further seven slides continues to explore aspects of emotions.  I would typically not include the cartoon in producing a six-slide handout.

Power of words 1 - this sequence of 6 Powerpoint slides can be printed out as a (6 miniatures to a page) handout introducing some background to therapeutic writing.  This and the next half dozen slides (below) are from a talk I gave back in 2003.  Subsequent research further backs up the potential value of this approach.  See too the handouts on Therapeutic writing (below).

Power of words 2 - a further 6 slides that can also be printed out as a (6 miniatures to a page) handout.  

Therapeutic writing, Jamie Pennebaker download - a download (some while ago) from Jamie P's website.  Pennebaker is the "grandfather" of therapeutic writing research.  Good stuff.  

Therapeutic writing, written by me - as it says 'on the tin'!

Therapeutic writing for health & wellbeing - this handout explains how one can benefit from writing about other topics - such as life goals or intensely positive experiences - as well as one can by writing about trauma and life upheavals.

Reflection on emotions - a sheet to help you think about and personalise what you're learning about emotions.  In a group training, this would usually be an individual exercise that would then lead to discussion in a pairs and, finally, discussion as a group.

Practice record 5 - here's another sheet on which to record your practice.  This is often helpful to do, especially in this initial learning phase. 

 

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