Mindfulness is “the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”, which can be trained by meditational practices derived from Buddhist anapanasati.
Mindfulness practice is being employed in psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction. It has gained worldwide popularity as a distinctive method to handle emotions.
The men who come to Better Blokes for support have experienced childhood psychological or physical trauma. This trauma often results in unconscious reactive behaviour that the child used to protect himself but is not appropriate, and may be counter productive, as an adult. Mindfulness is a very valuable technique for interrupting the connection between the emotional reaction and the expression of that reaction. Eventually with time, external psychotherapy ( Disclaimer: Better Blokes peer support is not therapy ) and practice the emotional reaction itself may disappear.
Meditation is a good way of learning mindfulness but it is not the only way. There are a other ways that focus one’s attention on emotions, thoughts and sensations thus becoming their master not their slave.
One way is listening.
During a ‘standard’ conversation each person responds to the other or others. By its nature each person is choosing their response based on the words and emotional state of others. Participants may be formulating their response while the other is still talking. There is history between participants and established power relationships. While mindfulness is possible it is not an integral part of the conversational process.
The standard practice of a Better Blokes peer support group is listening without comment. Each man has ten minutes to share in the first round and three minutes in the second. During his turn the man has exclusive use of the time with no comment from others.
When we listen to someone without verbal response we can monitor our internal emotional response to what the other person is saying, how they are saying it and who they are. Monitoring our internal emotional and intellectual responses teaches us to be aware of the triggers that lead to unhelpful emotional responses like anger.
The Better Blokes peer support group is a facilitated safe space so feedback on unsafe communication is immediate and respectful. A set of guidelines clearly specifies what is acceptable and unacceptable, and are read at the start of each meeting. This safe space both allows a man to express himself and supports disciplined listening.With practice we can make choices about how we act on these internal responses. We can also learn to eliminate the internal judgements we make about other people.
Operations Manager Better Blokes