The Five Core Skills for Life

Most of my clients within the first 6 months of therapy attend my Family of Origin Intensive which is like a three day high speed course in therapy. Many of them after the workshop ask “what are my treatment goals now?” How I conceptually hold what the treatment objectives for all my clients are by using Pia Mellody’s “Five Core Skills”. Even though they are called skills I believe they are “practices” we use day by day to grow a more functional self that can create real connection and intimacy within the self and others. These practices in turn create a more grounded, fulfilling and connected life.

The First Core Skill is Self Esteem or loving the self. It is the ability to have compassion and unconditional warm regard for the self despite our imperfections as humans. It is not defining ourselves by thinking we are better than others because of our gifts and that we are not less than others because of our short comings. It is living in the “same as position” with others. This is a spiritual practice of living in assessment rather than judgment.

The Second Core Skill is the minute by minute practice of Boundaries or protecting and connecting the self. There are three different kinds of boundaries: physical, sexual AND most importantly internal boundaries that protect the psyche. The Internal boundary has two parts: the protective and the containing. The Protective Internal boundary filters information by finding out whether it is “true or not true” to the self and the Containing Internal boundary contains your thinking and emotions from others. These are essential skills to create connection and intimacy with others. By using internal boundaries it is a process of creating a sense of self. As the practice of boundaries deepens, it becomes an act of loving the self each time boundaries are used in relationship to others.

The Third Core Skill is Reality or knowing the self. As I mentioned before each time you use the Protective Internal boundary and decide whether it is “true or not true” you are creating a sense of self. This is a process of getting to know the self, understanding how you give meaning to what you see, what you think about it, and what emotions you have about it. Eventually as you begin to create and know the self the task is to exchange your reality in a relational way to others. This is what intimacy is all about.

The Fourth Core Skill is Self Care and Interdependence or taking care of the self. This is about figuring out what you need and want and putting it out there in relationship. Of course it is about you taking care of what you can and then asking for help from others for what you can’t take care of. This avoids from being too dependent or anti-dependent. Interdependence has to do with how you are in relationship to others around your needs and wants. So, don’t say “yes” when you mean “no” as it sets you up for victim anger or resentment. Also don’t do for others what they can do for themselves as this is enabling to them and keeps them dependent on you. These are the golden rules for engagement and help with taking care of the self.

Lastly the Fifth Core Skill is Moderation or containing and balancing the self. This is about not living in the extremes. It is a practice of being in balance with proper containment in all areas of life. As we age living in the extremes can burn us out and have a huge impact on our lives physically and emotionally as well as those people who are around us.

So remember these are the core practices of life…nothing that is finished in a month or a year. It is a way of life…a spiritual path.