A long time ago (in a galaxy far away?) there lived entities that came to the awareness that there was something other than their physical self. They possessed curiosity and a drive to go beyond that which they saw was their physical existence. Time passed and the search into the mind became a consuming effort. Some gave up their interest in their spiritual self and some chose another path. This effort evolved and there were those who saw that emotions were an important aspect in their life. The search continued until many paths were followed by most of the entities.
Battles were fought among the factions/paths to defend the “right course” be it the physical body, the spiritual self, the intellect or the emotional self. During this time there were those who sensed that this “path focused” activity had lost the sense of the whole and an additional path entered the battle.
We find ourselves at a place in time in which many “paths” of investigation are being followed gaining much information and insight into the human experience. In the field of psychology there are those who focus on the individuation of the self as a goal. There are others who focus on the attachment to others as their aspiration. We also see those continuing the pursuit of expanding the intellect and those who persevere to delve into the world of the physical self.
Perhaps it is time to recognize the integrated total person utilizing the hard fought knowledge gained by following the different paths. The development of the individual self requires integration and connection with the other. The connection with others demands a continuing developing self. This is demonstrated in the way in which the body, on a biophysical level, responds and interacts with its internal and external environment. These interactions require a sense of purpose, a spiritual self, perhaps life itself, to allow complete integration.
“That person is a pain in the neck.” “This is a pain in the rear.” “That person is a hot head and should chill out.” “When a person is embarrassed, they may blush.” These are common sayings and experiences that demonstrate the truth of our life experience, the truth of the connection of the mind, body, emotion and spirit.
We know and have observed that our physical, mental and spiritual pain does cause psychological distress and psychological stress does affect the physical, mental and spiritual state of wellness in a person. This is a common experience in our work with clients.
A simple example is the condition of depression. We are aware that depression can precipitate physical and mental fatigue. Many of us realize the powerful positive effect that exercise has on relieving symptoms of depression and have seen the results of this activity in our clients.
We can integrate this awareness into our practice by making our clients aware that it is normal for an individual in psychological stress to experience ‘collateral damage’ to the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of their self. We can encourage and prompt our clients to share with us how their mental, physical and spiritual challenges have an impact on their emotional state. Sometimes the simple act of talking about these other aspects of a person’s life and their various interactions, be they causal or consequential, can be strongly therapeutic.
A therapist can be seen as a lens through which the light of the client shines. It is our responsibility to keep our lens clean and focused to allow the integration of the spectrum of the many aspects of the client on their journey toward their total self.
This is also going to require some work on our selves. We may have to personally grow and actively engage in these various paths to include this sense of integration into our work. A true martial artist brings peace to a situation, for there is, of course, no guarantee that peace will be in any situation. To blossom into this integrated self, we may have to expand ourselves and focus our efforts, recognizing and demonstrating the importance of an active healthy body and mind engaging with a spiritual and emotional self. We may have to integrate ourselves as an example to our clients. While we are ‘shrinking’ our clients, we can ‘stretch’ ourselves and them to another level of healthy awareness.
Copyright © 2007 Dr. MarcAndré Bock. All Rights Reserved
The California Psychologist magazine, July/August 2007; “Stretch and Shrink,” p. 24.