By: Keith Danner LCPC, LADC
Most of us have heard of the mind-body connection before but there is so much more. Each person has many dimensions or aspects of themselves that seamlessly interact together. There are so many interpretations of the Whole Person concept out there. This interpretation expands on the idea that even though the sum may be greater than its parts, attention to the parts is critical to the sum and their importance should not be dismissed.
The Whole Person concept identifies five aspects of Self: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Social, and Spiritual.
- The Physical aspect is things associated with human bodies. That includes the physical structure, physical sensations, breathing, or physical activity such as exercise, eating, sleeping, among others.
- The Mental aspect is things associated with the mind such as thoughts, memories, and processing information.
- The Emotional aspect is things associated with feelings/emotions such as sadness, fear, anger, surprise, disgust, and happiness.
- The Social aspect is the relationships with others including family, friends, peers, teachers, animals, or any gathering of others at home, at work, and at school.
- The Spiritual aspect is what brings meaning and purpose, or connectedness to something on a deeply personal level. It is unique to each person.
Have you ever felt that something is off and doesn’t feel right? Each aspect of Self works in unison with the others, not in isolation. There is an interrelationship between all of the aspects that can either positively or negatively affect our functioning. When one aspect is impacted then it ripples over to other aspects knowingly or unknowingly. It can either be felt as an immediate impact or not noticed right away, but just as powerful over time.
Think about how it was in COVID quarantine and emerging from it, being preoccupied with things that are out of one’s control, transitioning as a new college student, preparing to transition as a new graduate, or transitioning into a different phase of life. How can these various circumstances, among countless others, affect each of the aspects of Self?
Negative thoughts can affect other aspects and create negative feelings, bodily stress from poor self-care, isolation or negative influences, and disconnect from meaning or purpose. However, the ripple can also start socially, physically, or with any other aspect of Self. The idea is to start anywhere and intervene positively early and often.
If an aspect is ignored and becomes significantly diminished, if not addressed, this can have a profound effect on unintended outcomes. Distraction is a powerful tool and highly effective and appropriate in the short-term relief of stress, but it is not a long-term strategy. Nothing worse than looking to a relationship for that.
Awareness is key. Don’t run from or avoid thoughts, feelings, physical needs, relationships, or connections. Take a moment to check in, re-assess, and make small changes if needed. Set simple goals for each aspect of self to acknowledge their importance in forming one’s identity. It is most important to learn coping skills/strategies to help strengthen aspects of Self.