Therapy and Plenitude
November 01, 2019 | Awareness, Body, Connection, Emotions, Mind, Society, Universe
In my profile on Instagram, I say that I work from a holistic, feminist, and intersectional lense. In practical terms, this means that when I work with someone, I think about them as a whole, and also about how their self affects their environment and vice versa. Let me explain.
The person as a whole
In psychology (and in many, many other models of humanity), often we see that the individual is given responsibility for their wellbeing. If something is not working for them, it’s because there is something wrong with them; because they haven’t been mature enough to take action to change things for the better. Once they have decided that each person’s wellbeing depends on their own choices, people tend to focus on one or two aspects of the person that, they imagine, have the power to change the person’s mental health. For example, some may say that if you change your thoughts, you’ll feel better; others may say that if you empty your mind and learn to not react, then you’ll feel better.
I think that this view of people and what affects their wellbeing is limited and unfair. People are so much more than their parts; their thoughts, emotions, their bodies, it all relates to each other. The relationships among them and how they relate to the outside world is the person as a whole. This is the individual’s part of a holistic perspective: I will see the person I’m working with in their totality, in how these parts interact.
So far, my perspective isn’t much different than other holistic approaches. Where I try to bring something different is in the way I include society’s role and, for a lot of people, the universe’s role (i.e., spirituality).
The self and the world
Have you heard of the social determinants of health? This concept acknowledges the way that society makes things better or worse for people, by providing or limiting access to the things people need to be healthy. E.g., access to clean water, health care, education, etc. Depending on who you ask, somewhere between 60% and 70% of your health is determined by social factors. Personal behaviors, then, do not have the power to change health all on its own.
I would find this idea very depressing, if I didn’t believe that we all have power within ourselves.
It’s easy to be blind to one’s power; the world doesn’t teach us to recognize it. Even if the power we have to affect the world is limited, there is some degree of power we have to change things within us. To know how much of it we have and how to wield it, we need self-awareness.
Self-Awareness: The Wise Manager
I see self-awareness as the wise manager that observes how all parts within ourselves interact with each other, and how these parts interact with the world and the universe. It’s the part that says, “Yes, thank you, I see what you’re doing” to the anger we feel when someone cuts us in line, and which decides what we’re going to do about it. Do we feel we can speak up? No? Then maybe the wise manager decides that it’s better if we focus on grounding and soothing our emotional response. Awareness also manages the power within, to take place outside of the self.
To organize this on my mind, I created what I have begun to call the “Plenitude Wheel”.
1: the quality or state of being full: Completeness
2: a great sufficiency: Abundance
People often say they want to be happy, but I think happiness is but one emotion of many. It’s fleeting, like all others. Instead, I like to think that a life that is plentiful, fulfilled, is much more attainable. When I think about having a happy life, I think about having a life with plenitude.
Each of the parts in this wheel talks about a part of the self, all with different and complementary needs. They all affect each other, and they all need balance with each other (to whichever degree seems fulfilling to the person) to produce the feeling of plenitude: I have everything I need and my life feels complete.
Each part of this wheel has its own language, as well: the body speaks with sensations, the mind with thoughts, and emotions with feelings. They all give us information about how we connect with ourselves and others and, if you are one of those for whom spirituality plays a part, with your soul.
Not everyone will have a relationship with the universe, and that’s perfectly fine. It can just exist as is. Everyone does have a relationship with society, though, and it’s there that we see structures of power that affect us all differently. That is where I incorporate feminism and intersectionality.
So when I speak about being a holistic psychologist, I mean I look at all of these circles. I like to pay attention to how they communicate, and the degree of awareness and power that each of my clients have. How do we expand awareness and power? That is the question I like to explore in my work, and the one I hope resonates with the clients that choose to work with me.
I grew up speaking Spanish. English is my second language. When I communicate in English, I make mistakes. I've chosen to let the writing on my blog reflect the kind of mistakes I make when speaking, so that you have an idea of what it might feel like to talk to me. I trust the message is still clear but, if it's not, please don't hesitate to ask me for clarification.
The information provided on my blog is a mix of my personal thoughts, professional approach, and articles related to mental health. The purpose of sharing all of this is to communicate the models at the core of my practice, as well as to provide education. I hope this will help to minimize some of the power imbalances related to my profession. The articles on this blog should not be considered as professional advice for any one person or group of people. If you have any questions about the appropriateness of this content for you, please contact a qualified mental health professional.