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November 13, 2009

Understanding Yourself and Others

[Note: A new “From Francesca’s Inbox” is coming tomorrow morning!]

A while back, Francesca and Plumcake each blogged about avoiding loneliness. Among other things, Francesca mentioned a course she has taken called “Understanding Yourself and Others.”  Commenter avi wrote:

I would like to know more about the “Understanding Yourself and Others” events. To my surprise, I might be ready for something like that. But from the outside, it seems a little cultish. Would you tell us more about it?

Finally Francesca has had a moment to compose her thoughts about this wonderful experience. She prefaces by emphasizing that this is her own experience and she does not represent anyone else.

Francesca first heard of it from a friend who is a member of the clergy. He is a serious, thoughtful, no-nonsense man, so when he told me about how much he had gained from it — as well as his parents, his sister, and his wife — I was intrigued. I trust his judgement — and his parents are among the smarter, more grounded people I know–  so I went into the course with a very open mind, ready to learn something. This is important because in the course they do some corny (cultish-seeming) things sometimes, but because someone I believed in believes in the course, I was open to “going with the flow.”

This is how you feel during and after the course!Before the course, one fills out a long form, including one’s goals for the experience. For example, one’s goal might be to develop more self-confidence, to come to terms with a particular family member or trauma, to become a better listener, to figure out what one wants to do with one’s career, etc. Up to 22 students may register (plus 2 “reviewers” who are retaking the class after a time, to work on themselves more with different goals), so there is lots of personal attention.

It’s 2  1/2 days of learning to be completely honest with others (scary!) and with oneself (even scarier!) in a loving, helpful way. The instructors are warm and funny but also will call you out on your, eh, issues when appropriate! There are lots of whole-group exercises, and some times when individual or small groups (for example, several people who have similar relationship issues they are working on) will be the focus. It is intense and a little draining and feels fantastic — like a good emotional workout.

Once one has finished, one can return (for free) as a “course assistant,” basically there to act as a support to the students. I have found that being a course assistant is at least as interesting and helpful as being a student, since I can watch and listen –learning so much about human nature — and then apply what I can to myself without any pressure. Francesca has gone back to assist four times! One leaves with a happy,  glowing feeling.

Does the feeling last? No. It dissipates after a  while. But the tools one learns do last, if one uses them. There is no magic pill that can make anyone feel confident all the time, or reconciled with a family member all the time, etc. But the course has helped Francesca reframe and embrace her “issues,” and deal with them with some optimism and self-acceptance and a sense of humor. She gets along better with her parents, she sets boundaries for herself better, she accepts her fatness better, she takes insults less personally. (This was all a process over a few years of returning to the course a few times and other helpful things like therapy.)

Yes, people who first come back from a UYO weekend, flush with the emotional high, do sometimes sound as if they’ve encountered some sort of cult, much to the annoyance of friends and family members! (Francesca must point out, though, that the aim of the course is to help one connect with others, and never isolates one from one’s family. Also, returning to “assist” is free, so no one is being milked for funds. You don’t have to keep spending money in order to be part of the program.)

On the other hand, loved ones are usually pleased (if a bit confused) to see one feeling good. Francesca knows many couples for whom this course saved their marriage, or brought it to a new level, even if only one member of the couple took the course.

Anyhow, that is Francesca’s two cents! More information is here!



  1. This sounds much like a course I took 15 years ago called Pathways. It was originated by Dr. Phil, yes that Dr Phil, before he became Oprahized. It literally changed my life. I was a doormat before, always trying to please. I came out of the course, which is somewhat longer than the one described above, with a whole new view of myself. As part of the course, you make a contract with yourself as to how you want to live your life. Mine is “I am a free, proud and deserving woman!” It also makes you aware of the fallback behaviors which you use when you are not living your contract. Mine is to try to control or, if I can’t, just mentally blow the other person away. I didn’t accept that when I first heard it but about a year later I caught myself doing just that. As to the cult question, the thing to remember is that a cult encourages its members to look inward and isolate from the outside world. A self help course encourages you to take from it the tools you get and use them in the outside world for change. Big difference. The overall principles I learned sound like cliches but still work for me: “You must take care of yourself so that you can take care of others.” and “Would you rather be right or happy?” BTW, Pathways is an ongoing training that is offered only in the DFW area. There is info on the Internet if anyone is interested.

    Comment by mdegraffen — November 13, 2009 @ 11:05 am

  2. This workshop sounds so awesome that I spent a few hours Googling to learn more. What I learned, plus your temporary euphoria, raises major red flags — at the very least, regarding practicing therapy without a license.

    Google LGAT or “Large Group Awareness Training”, the Legacy Center, etc. And see if this protocol is familiar:,50949,78383

    in pyramid-type recruiting, it’s common that your first experience would include “love bombing” and not so much hard sell. Be wary, though, of being recriuted forhigher levels of training or more expensive courses to learn to be an instructor.


    Comment by Maura — November 15, 2009 @ 9:54 pm

  3. Maura-

    Wow that is a sobering link. Indeed one must be careful. Any program that involves humiliation or “closing doors” is not one Francesca would spend 2 minutes in!

    Francesca cannot vouch for other programs, only the Understanding Yourself and Others course by Global Relationship Centers. And even then, she can only vouch for her own experience – the instructors she had, the weekends she has attended.

    As she said, Francesca has been a course assistant many times and has never had to put out any more money, and she has found the tools she learned helpful, even though the euphoria is indeed temporary.

    But everyone must do what is best for them, and do their research.

    Thank you for doing so many hours of reading for us!


    Comment by Francesca — November 16, 2009 @ 11:48 am

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