For those seeking inner well-being (peace, friendliness, physical health, happiness or a sense of mastery) as their life purpose, there seems to be several paths. Some attempt to find such inner well-being through the Self, others through Intimacy or Achievement. Still others through Spirituality. To build and balance inner well-being one may need to be present in all spheres of life.
Buddha believed that the mind suffers when we dwell upon past misfortunes or future desires. According to Buddha, the end of suffering lies in complete awareness of the present, bringing the mind to a state of emptiness. In this sense, Buddha believed the mind has subjective power over external events. Although we cannot control what happens to us in life, we can control the way in which we respond to it. We can accept the present moment for what is and in that manner stop suffering from it. To attempt that, Buddha found that meditation and breathing helped to achieve a state of emptiness or being. Meditation in this form can be a vehicle for one’s true self (one’s consciousness) to merge with the universe.
Today, many people attempt this, sometimes with the help of Zen or other spiritual teachings. Through it, one may feel “at peace,” and “in touch” or “in control” apart from what happens in our intimate relationships and achievements. In this sense, enlightenment through the Self if achieved can be life transforming. It may be an ideal path for some. Refreshed and invigorated the Self can then better reach out to others in closeness and in meaningful achievement.
Some of us feel a sense of peace or being when we achieve. For most, this means when we are at work. Although not all aspects of work are enjoyable, there are peak moments when we are one with our work. We lose a sense of time. During these moments, we experience peace, friendliness, physical well-being, happiness or mastery.
These peak states are not easy to attain, but as most of us expend much time and effort at work (achievement sphere) most have experienced positive peaks of wellbeing during work — or alternatively when we achieve in a passion, hobby or favorite sport (also a form of achievement).
Peak states often do not last long, but when experienced give a sense of quietness. Those who experience longer lasting states, often experience them when they move towards a life goal with a sense of lightness that enables them to enjoy the present moment.
Most of us want to find love above all else. As adults, we seek such love in a couple relationship, the most intimate union of two human beings emotionally, intellectually and physically sexually. Because couple intimacy can provide the strongest sense of oneness with another and with the world, we crave it. When disappointed, hurt or frustrated, the same couple relationship that provided well-being can provoke peaks of anxiety, anger, physical symptoms, depression or psychosis.
Couple intimacy can provide a sense of peace, friendliness, physical well-being, happiness and mastery. Yet, like achievement, continued wellbeing in intimacy involves our full attention. To shortcut effort, some seek a sense of one-ness in sex, where he or she may temporally lose a sense of self and become one with the other and the world. Yet often such intimacy is fleeting. Unless intimacy is given the attention and work that we often readily give to achievement or to our sense of self, the sense of connection is lost.
Pleasure and Wellbeing are Different
Well-being or states that can encompass moments of peace, friendliness, physical well-being, happiness and mastery are experienced when we are fully present in any one sphere (self, intimacy, achievement). Yet, states of wellbeing are not to be sought directly or mistaken as mere pleasure (sex, alcohol, etc). Of course, sex can be pleasurable but sex without intimacy does not sustain a greater sense of well-being. Alcohol or drugs may make one feel good by temporarily escaping reality, but there is no mastery. The self may mistakenly feel ‘at peace,’ but is neither ‘in control,’ nor ‘in touch.’ While well-being brings a background or constance to one’s inner state, pleasure is always fleeting.
Well-being (peace, friendliness, physical health, happiness and mastery) can be experienced as we build and balance our sense of self, intimate relationships and achievement at much higher levels than before. At higher states of wellbeing one still experiences suffering, yet suffering occurs in the background of a larger sense of inner happiness, peace, friendliness, physical wellbeing and mastery.
Resistance in the form of Stress
Regardless of the sphere one approaches or builds inner well-being, one finds resistance. As one experiences a challenge or pushes beyond a previous best level of adjustment, one will need to overcome stress or fear (anxiety, anger, physical-symptoms, depression or even for some psychosis). These defenses can be triggered from a difficult past or may be dormant in people who have had positive experiences.
Fear exists in all of us to differing degrees. Stress surfaces when we push beyond a previous best level of self, intimacy or achievement or when we are overwhelmed with a current challenge.
As we grow, we cannot avoid stress. Stress is a normal sign that the mind is momentarily overwhelmed. Either a positive or negative experience can trigger it. When stressed, we may experience a hierarchy of defense including anxiety, anger, physical symptoms, depression or psychosis. These are not pleasant states and there are a variety of stress techniques we can use in our daily life to grow from crisis. Some who hate life itself experience 5 alternatives at his or her threshold of individual stress tolerance.
Building health and happiness is difficult. When we cannot overcome a challenge, it may be necessary to withdraw from the challenge temporarily. This allows us to achieve a better perspective. Once rested, we can return to our life challenge to surpass a previous level of intimacy, self or achievement. When we feel we can not breakthrough nor withdraw, it is important to reach out to others and when necessary seek professional help.
The Lifetrack model of positive mental health follows the criteria established by Jahoda for robust models of health which can explain the mind at its best and worst. Such models are demanding in nature, but when adequate can provide insight to individuals in dire distress or at their optimal best. Perhaps such models should also explain the need for human spirituality.
The Lifetrack model does not espouse any one religion or model of spirituality. Yet it allows room for them to exist. To understand the role of spirituality in such a model, one examines how the three spheres inter-act and over-lap to form our personalities.
Each sphere affects all the others. Outer experience touches the inner and vice-versa. We do not exist in isolation. Our self, intimacy and achievement spheres inter-act and influence each other and our experience of the world. When you have a bad day at work, that influences your relationship. When your relationship is shaky, that influences your state of mind at work. When your Self sphere experiences stress (out of touch, not at peace nor in control), your love and work suffers. Through our senses the outside world influences our inner experience.
Notice, that at the center of the overlap amongst the three spheres is a space. That center or space can represent inner consciousness. It embodies our essence that experiences our self, intimacy and achievement spheres.
In other words, some may become aware of this space as they become selfless (the true self becoming one with the universe as in Buddhism), or find and achieve a life task that has an impact on a neighbor or on humanity (meaningful achievement), or experience the love of a spouse, of children, of other human beings, God, nature and the universe (intimacy). As inner consciousness grows, one might imagine that this inner vortex grows.
Spirituality : An Extension of the Intimacy Sphere
In terms of the Lifetrack model of positive mental health, spirituality is seen as an extension of the intimacy sphere. This is because transcendental love and the love for another human being are not seen as two different quests, but a related one. That is when we love another human being unconditionally or experience the love of God; each fortifies the experience of the other. It is as if the door to one, can open the other.
Dr. Ishizuka is himself open to Buddhism, Zen and Christianity. He is agnostic, open to the reality of such existence, without wishing to name one or espouse one over the other. His work as a therapist remains rooted on the individual and human intimacy.
Because the Lifetrack positive mental health model evolved in the course of working with patients through Dr. Yukio Ishizuka’s work as a psychiatrist, therapy focuses on human relationships, and notably, the most meaningful, inter-dependent and difficult human relationship: the couple. Although this relationship has the potential for us to experience the greatest joy or ecstasy, it also has the capacity for us to experience the greatest pain.
Dr. Ishizuka teaches a couple to disarm the mutual defenses against closeness (anxiety, anger, physical-symptoms, depression, and psychosis) to breakthrough to a much higher level of intimacy than a couple has ever experienced previously. A breakthrough in intimacy pervades all areas of one’s life ; including the self and achievement spheres.
Through breakthrough intimacy, Ishizuka helps an individual become and remain closer to an important other person (spouse or equivalent) long after therapy has terminated. This source of unconditional love and happiness in one’s couple relationship (at far higher levels than the individual previously experienced at his or her best), transforms the individual, the couple, and often how they experience their achievement and self spheres.
Interestingly, when one can love another human being such as a spouse or equivalent (love definition), it may also open a door for spirituality. In the same manner, spiritual intimacy (becoming one with Christ or in Buddhism one with the Universe) also opens the door for greater compassion and love to all human beings.
Cycle of Life and the Growth of Spheres that build Health
Over one’s life one will re-define one’s self, intimacy and achievement spheres. Through this growth, the circles expand and grow larger. As an adult, one’s spheres encompass a closer relationship with an important other person such as a spouse or equivalent, with others around us and with the world.
As the spheres expand, the definition of self, intimacy and achievement expands to encompass more of the world. Many engage in helping a larger cause than oneself, or one’s immediate family. In this manner, we engage with others and with the world defining our three spheres in a broader sense.
Happiness and Health: Inner Transformation First
The person who wants to change the world (large achievement sphere) but who has not changed himself first, may become overwhelmed. He or she may outwardly have a large achievement, self or intimacy sphere (and be admired by many), but may not be reaping the full experience of inner peace, friendliness, physical-wellbeing, happiness and mastery which usually accompanies such growth in spheres.
Through effort and self-denial, one can accomplish much (and often be regarded as a genius). However noble and life changing one’s accomplishments, when one’s achievement remains external, one foregos the present. Accomplishment gives a sense of joy, friendliness or love — but not for long. Once one goal is achieved, another larger goal is presented.
Through Breakthrough Intimacy, by becoming far closer to another human being (usually spouse or equivalent), we may experience longer lasting peace, friendliness, physical health, happiness and mastery. Through a deeper experience of closeness with the most important person in one’s life, we make a fundamental breakthrough in all areas of life and experience longer lasting well-being (peace, friendliness, physical health, happiness and mastery).
In the Lifetrack experience, breakthrough intimacy provides a deep transformation in all spheres of life–including achievement. It is as if at such higher levels of intimacy, one initiates a transformation process in human personality that is far more profound than any direct work on achievement or superficial work on the Self.
Once breakthrough intimacy is achieved and sustained for a period, the self and achievement spheres rise to meet and balance it at much higher levels of well-being or adjustment. The breakthrough, initiated in the intimacy sphere, extends to all spheres of life.
The goal of life is to build one’s spheres: to develop a larger sense of self, intimacy and achievement, but with a sense of lightness.
There is no limit to inner growth. The self at its peak become selfless (the true self becoming one with the universe as in Buddhism). Achievement (the desire to do something meaningful, well or difficult) impacts not only our neighbor, but potentially humanity. Intimacy, our love for a spouse or equivalent, may encompass children, neighbors, all other human beings, God, nature or the universe.
Inner transformation is possible through any one sphere. In the context of Lifetrack, the breakthrough point is through the intimacy sphere (couple relationship). Through this most important and difficult relationship the couple is taught to disarm their defenses (anxiety, anger, physical symptoms, depression and psychosis) that are triggered by rising intimacy.
Other approaches to internal change may attempt to go through the Self (spiritual teachings) or through achievement (aligning one’s inner purpose and outer achievement).
If we grow in all spheres and can do so with playfulness and humor from within (we do not take ourselves too seriously), we may experience true self, intimacy and achievement, and also enjoy each moment. We can change the world by experiencing change within ourselves. From this position of inner peace, friendliness, physical wellbeing, happiness and mastery, effective action is strengthened.
As we grow our presence in our self, intimacy and achievement spheres, we can grow to encompass a larger, healthier world. We incorporate the world in ourselves and experience ourselves in the world.
Copyright © 2010 Lifetrack Corporation
Read our section Happiness and Health, a Science of Health (life way), Criteria for Health Models (science of happiness), Happiness Defined? Quantified? (cycle of life), Happier? (fear of the unknown), Why Positive Mental Health Works (objective subjective), and Applications (international behavior).
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