What is Integral Theory and Life Balancing?
‘Integral Theory’ is a system concerned with exploring and understanding the entire body-mind-spirit continuum and the difficulties that can arise, whilst at same time, being practical in acknowledging that these difficulties have a personal (subjective), relational/cultural (inter-subjective), social and objective (medical/scientific) dimension. Our lives and experiences in all of these domains play a part in causing and perpetuating our problems, and also our opportunities for growth both personally and professionally.
Working within an integral model facilitates an exploration of our ‘Life Balance’, that is the domains of our physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, intellectual, and professional lives. All are interconnected and attention needs to be paid to all equally. Many employers now have policies to ‘improve working lives’ and help their employees achieve a healthier balance between work and home. Individual psychotherapy, group work, psycho-education, exercise, mindfulness training and other practices facilitate this.
Why should this be of interest?
- ‘Healthy Stress’ is that which motivates us, keeps us going, gives us the ‘edge’, the excitement, thrill of achievement. It lets us know we are alive! It’s good, normal and without this, we would waste away, there would be no innovation, no change, nothing new!
Too much of this though, no rest, no intimacy, lack of attention, lack of balance however, can lead to….
- ‘Unhealthy Stress’. This can be defined as an imbalance in the domains of our personal and private lives. Extending this, an imbalance in our physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, intellectual, and professional lives. This has consequences in terms of depression, alcoholism, sickness, relationship breakdown etc.
To illustrate how this works, imagine that work is going badly, too many demands, an appraisal due in which you feel you will do badly. To cope, you stay longer at work, 6pm, 8pm. Your partner phones, “Where are you?” “I could do with some help with the kids?” Once or twice this is OK. However, two weeks later there is disharmony at home, the kids won’t talk to you, your diet is bad, you’ve missed the golf lesson, gym, been to the pub once too often for a ‘liquid lunch’ and guess what? You’re heading for burnout! You take time off. Basically, you’ve lost your balance.
Another example, if your relationships at home are bad, you compensate through work. If work is bad, you take it out on loved ones at home. You miss spending times on your hobbies because you can’t ‘justify it’. Conversely, you ‘escape’ into your hobbies to avoid home and work. There are many combinations and examples of just how easily we can lose our balance. What happens when we lose our balance? We fall over….