Can Four Parts Make a Whole?
Everyone has a story to tell. We all have a past, and each of us our own journey. At the age of 13, I knew I would be a therapist. I wanted to be a helper, a nurturer, and a vessel for others to grow, change, and heal. I am grateful each day to live this life I was called to, and now it has been almost 20 years since I stepped into the role I always longed for. I simply want to share a small piece of this with you – the colleague, the client, or merely the navigator of life who happened across this by accident.
For more years than I can remember, I have encouraged my clients to gain perspective on who they are today, knowing that throughout our lives we can lose sight of that. At our core, no matter what has happened around us, no matter what our life stage, and regardless of what we have been through, there are four aspects of self that I like for clients to explore:
Our intellect can be simply described as our mind and its ability to problem-solve or think through circumstances; our intellect reflects our overall intelligence. Our physical self is quite self-descriptive and refers to how we use our bodies to stay healthy, fit, or strong. Our emotional self refers to the way we feel – about ourselves, our world, and others. Some of us are emotionally expressive, while others of us, prefer to interact with our world in terms of “thought” versus “feeling.” Finally, there is our spiritual self. This is an area within the counseling setting that I believe is all too often ignored. Whether we subscribe to Atheism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, or any of the hundreds of other belief systems, I assert that all of us are spiritual beings. As a therapist, a client does not have to share my spiritual beliefs in order for me to help him/her explore their own. I remember working with a college student once who became fascinated by this part of herself – a piece of herself that she believed had always been ignored. For this individual, paying attention to this aspect of who she is provided her a sense of strength, peace, and understanding. I have also encountered some clients who insist they are not spiritual at all. Even the absence of a spiritual part of oneself can help provide some peace in understanding how this impacts ourselves as a whole.
Learning about these facets of self starts quite simply. The first step is writing a sentence or two about how you would describe yourself for each part. Next, ask yourself which part is strongest? Which one is weakest? And finally, which one do you want to learn more about or focus on right now? My career has afforded me the opportunity to work with many different people, from all sorts of backgrounds and ages and life experiences. The beauty of using this as a starting point in therapy, is that it applies to anyone, and it changes and grows much in the same way that we do. No matter what the trauma, addiction, source of anxiety or depression, and regardless of how bad the relationship or marriage is, these pieces of ourselves matter in our healing process. I embrace every opportunity I have to work in partnership with an individual and/or family who is struggling to find the joy that life has to offer, and I encourage you to take a moment and reflect on what you have just read.
If you have questions, or want to know more, help is just a phone call away. There is so much strength found in finding the courage to simply reach out. I do not believe that any of us are supposed to do this thing called life alone, and if I cannot help you for any reason, I am thankful to be surrounded by amazing colleagues who can.
Courtney Cooper practices part-time on evenings and weekends in Charlotte, NC with her colleagues at Charlotte Counseling Associates. She can be reached best by calling her at (704-995-6395), but you can also email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.