The Fetzer Foundation funded a CEB pilot study that took place from September 2002 to May 2003. An integrated 5-week training program was developed following a series of meetings with experts in emotion, psychotherapy and contemplative meditation. In addition, a number of behavioral evaluation measures were selected and modified to capture changes in emotional and interpersonal behavior, without relying exclusively on self-report.
The training and evaluation measures were then pilot-tested on a sample of 15 female schoolteachers. The training integrated lectures, discussions, and practices related to contemplative meditation with those derived from the scientific literature on the awareness and understanding of emotional experience. The format included a 3-hour introductory session, a 2 and1/2-day retreat, a 3-hour follow-up session, and 3 full-day final sessions.
Participants found the integrated training experience quite meaningful. They reported a reduction in negative mood that they believe resulted from an increase in their ability to maintain a calm quality even in the face of adversity. They also reported an increase in awareness of their emotions, their thoughts, and their reactions to others that allowed them to respond in unique and constructive ways. Many participants reported an ability to interact with others in a more compassionate and forgiving way.
Evaluation procedure results supported the participants’ reports. Participants showed a highly significant decrease in depression, anxiety and hostility over the 5-week period. In addition, participants reported a significant increase in affection for others and demonstrated a significant improvement in their ability to detect subtle forms of emotional expression on the face.
On the post-test, participants showed a response pattern that suggested less emotional and physiological reactivity to the stress task compared to their reactivity prior to the training. In other words, the training appeared to protect them from the negative psychological and physiological effects of stress. The next phase of the project will determine if these and other changes continue to be observable when compared against changes demonstrated by a control group that does not receive the training.