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“It’s all in your head”: It's empowering!

Last post I introduced you to the biopsychosocial-spiritual model as an answer to the “It’s all in your head” mind-body problem, that assumes that what you can see or what happens in your body matters more than what happens in your mind or what you experience. It’s a wonderfully holistic model, useful in helping us see the myriad of influences on us, both in a lifetime or a moment.

I’d also like to apologise for my lateness in posting. I’ll use the model to illustrate - my social domain (school holidays, children) interacted with the biological domain (I caught a cold which, along with low iron and my stress-based illness flaring, triggered more fatigue; plus my children then caught influenza so I had to use what little energy I had left to care for them). This then made me have significant problems concentrating on and remembering to work, and which made me feel unmotivated, listless and useless (psychological domain). It also had flow-on effects to my spiritual side, as I felt pointless and purposeless, in part because my body didn't have the energy to give me emotional drive and memory! My values around self-care and supporting others (which cross over between the psychological and spiritual domains) also had to focus much more significantly on myself and my family for quite a while.

I don't know about you, but when I can see things pulled out like that, I actually heave a sigh of relief. Initially, when my body said to take a breather, I felt disappointed in myself. However, when I think things through like this instead of kicking myself when I'm down, I am able to get some distance and compassion for myself. I have bad days too – and that’s okay!

So, would you like to try it out for yourself? Get a breather? See yourself in a different way?

Pick a moderately stressful scenario you’ve experienced recently. (Late to work? Getting the kids ready for school in the morning? Big project due? Dealing with a difficult person?) (Check out my example for Descartes if you have no idea what I'm talking about.)

Get a big sheet of paper, draw out the four circles, write the event up the top, and start scribbling notes. (Remember, quite a lot of them will overlap different sections.) You can make this a 5 minute exercise or 50 minutes – it’s up to you. Here are some questions to help prompt your thinking:

  • What was the event?

  • How did you physically react? (Heart pounding, nauseous, hot, tense, jittery?)

  • What was going on in your physical environment?

  • You’ve probably had similar reactions in the past - what to? What was common and what was different in the situation and your reaction?

  • What emotions did you experience?

  • What ideas or thoughts crossed your mind? Did they move quickly or slowly?

  • When you realised what you were feeling physically, how did you feel emotionally (and vice versa)?

  • What was your social environment at the time? Where were you? Who were you with? How do they fit into your experience – helpful or unhelpful? Contributing to the stress or supportive?

  • What about work – any organisational stresses?

  • What about family – financial or relational stress? How much is your rent/mortgage repayment and food expenses consuming out of your weekly budget?

  • What are the bigger social or cultural factors at play? What insight does your past education/ government/ community/ church/ health-care experience shine on this?

  • What beliefs do you have around these sorts of experiences? Do they fit with your view of yourself and the world, or are they jarring and don’t sit well?

  • What do you believe will happen in the future?

  • What sort of meaning can you draw from this experience?

  • What does it say about you? What does it say about the world?

  • Where does it fit in the big picture? How does it reinforce your worldview? How could it challenge your worldview?

  • How could this experience add purpose and meaning to your life?

What do you think – is it “all just in your head”? Does what happens in there matter? Remember, that without our brain, without our mind, we would not be able to perceive or concentrate on any of these experiences! So yes, it is all in our head, because our brain is housed there. But there is nothing small or insignificant about that. These are all the things that make us human. Everything that interacts in there matters, whether it is physical or not. Which means that your experience matters, even when it's about something other people can't see.


I hope you’ve found this little series useful. Please subscribe to my site to catch future posts.

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