"Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses. -- Alphonse Karr"
Health and well-being is a process: a wonderful, organic, ongoing, purpose-oriented process. Yet, wellness folks can sell a story that slices and dices the natural and dynamic process of well-being.
Their viewpoint forgets there are different levels of truth and paradigms, each perspective contributing something to the wonderful whole. For example, we hear about the following dualisms
, as though in all cases, one is good and the other bad:
- traditional versus new wellness strategies
- stress versus thriving
- individual versus cultural approaches
- wellness versus well-being
- return-on-investment versus value-on-investment
- intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation
- top-down versus bottom-up
Please stop! How ironic when we hear someone speaking in a "black-and-white" way that dualistic thinking (a la Descarte) is bad and that quantum or new physics is good. Want to dig in to a whole slew of alternative views that embrace the natural, non-dualistic, whole process of reality? Check out
The Stress Flower
Here is the process story of a flower. It's an example of how something can be viewed from different levels or paradigms and each viewpoint contributes to our understanding of the whole. (BTW...I totally and ALL-OUT love flowers. We have had so much rain in Texas that my wife and I counted about 20 different wildflower species on our walk along the Trinity the other day. See pic of her holding a few). Fight, Flight, Freeze.
All of life (humanity included) has an innate, precious, powerful capacity to transform the stressful experiences of life, even trauma, into an opportunity for growth, thriving, and flourishing (yes..flourish and flower have the same root (HAH!). I call this Raw Coping Power
and give trainings and training-of-trainers in RCP. This "RCP" is at the ground level of our being. It is deep in our roots. It comes from the earth. Regarding the science of stress over the past 50 or so years, we have learned that stress is associated with a fight or flight
system in our bodies (autonomic nervous system) and actually an even older "freeze" system. The emotions we experience with these three "Fs" are associated in our brain's limbic system
and neuroscientists continue to churn out thousands of articles
on these and related mechanisms. But these are just three of seven Fs. Don't get me wrong; they are great Fs to have! They have helped us survive (Oh...Yes, there is another F that helps a lot with survival...HAH!).
"We don't want to throw out the limbic system. It's part of our story. Yay!"
Forage, Friend, Figure Out.
But humans have a lot more than just limbic systems. Raw Coping Power manifests in other--more intentional, more conscious, more tribal, and more fun and loving ways. Our brain's pre-frontal cortex
provides these executive functions. We have learned to Forage
--explore our surroundings for support, nurturance, and tools. We have learned to Friend
: give and receive empathy, trust, and compassion. And we have learned to Figure Out
by using our cognitive faculties of logic, foresight, problem solving, and planning...and mindfulness (or centering). Importantly, we forage, friend, and figure out WITH the limbic system (see "frontal-limbic reciprocity
") not SEPARATE from it. We are not disembodied vessels of artificial intelligence.
"The three processes are the basis of resilience and re-label them as compassion, centering, commitment, community, and confidence. We have evidence-based tools you can use to develop these."
This brings us to the final F. The tip of the flower. Because, as we go through life and work through the difficult emotions associated with fight (anger), flight (anxiety), freeze (fear/sadness); As we work with others when we explore and friend; As we figure all the stressors of life out, we start to master life. We start to learn how to find the good in situations. How to turn difficulties around. How to even use stress for positive outcomes. In short, we learn to flourish. Back to the Story
I had a two-fold purpose in sharing the flower story with you. First, to show that it is possible to be equally informed by paradigms that may seem to suggest different (even opposite views) of phenomena. Second, to encourage you to find a story that attends to process, growth, perspective, and doesn't squarely set down on one side of a fence. This is particularly important for health professionals and wellness advocates who hawk a "single solution." I hope you find that "flower" in your life that helps you build a story; one that speaks to our neuroplasticity, to the wonder of our natural, evolving, learning, and healing processes; one that professes humanity's indomitable spirit to thrive in both the best and worst circumstances.