At COR, we believe that every one of us has 3 selves: the Healthy Self, the Wounded Self, and the Survivor Self. When we’re born, we enter into this world innocent and connected to grace. As we grow, we experience major or minor trauma that forms our Wounded Self. This childhood trauma begins to shape our perception of the world and our survivor strategies are formed. From here, the Survivor Self takes the reins and for those who don’t do the work, the Survivor Self will continue to lead their lives. At COR we teach how to integrate each of these parts, so that we can bring the Healthy Self online to tend to our Wounded Self.
The Four Domains of the Healthy Self
With the current state of the world, it’s never been a better time to heal. As a collective, many of our sympathetic nervous systems are in overdrive from political, health, or monetary stress, which means we’re all operating from the Survivor Self and there’s a need to bring our Healthy Self online.
The four domains in which we can embody the Healthy Self are: physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental. Embodying our Healthy Self through these four domains will nurture our parasympathetic nervous system – the part that relaxes us – and in this relaxed state we can harness our emotional intelligence and lead a conscious life.
The Physical Domain
Our physical domain – the body – is always with us, but when the Survivor Self is running the show, we experience a disconnect from the body. That can look like being driven by an overwhelm of thoughts or feelings, both of which pull our attention away from our physical experience. We get lost in our minds and emotional reactions. We forget to take care of ourselves, to eat, to “listen” to what our physical experience is telling us. We even forget to breathe! (How many times have you found yourself holding your breath or breathing more shallow when stress hits?)
The problem is that when we stop paying attention to our physical experience, we turn away from the only part of our awareness that’s connected to reality and the present moment, the only places we are actually effective! Thoughts and emotions easily pull us into the past or the future. In our Survival Self, we may think we are “problem solving” by spending lots of time rehashing the past or worrying about the future. In truth, it’s a colossal waste of time. Awareness of the physical domain brings us back to the present and the Healthy Self, the only place we can actually thrive.
When the Survivor Self is in control of this physical domain, it can also show up as forms of addiction such as addiction to food, drugs, alcohol, or even to social media and screens. The Survivor Self lacks the patience, wisdom, and long-game vision to avoid the “quick fix” of addiction.
We lead through our Healthy Self by honoring our physical health and wellbeing. This involves doing the things that make us feel good physically, such as going to the gym, yoga, having a bath, a massage, going for a walk or eating nutritious foods.
Think of ways you can embody and lead from your healthy self in the long run to honor your physical domain.
The Emotional Domain
When the Survivor Self runs our emotions, two things may happen. 1. We may just shut our emotions down (the “stoic”) and pretend we don’t have any, or 2. our emotions seem to take over and are no longer connected to what’s actually happening in the present moment.
The problem with both of those scenarios is that our emotional life isn’t healthy, alive, and proportionate to what’s actually happening to us and within us. Healthy emotions bring us life and allow us to connect to who and what’s around us in a vibrant way. When the Survivor Self dictates our relationship to our emotions we miss out on life and real connections. And that leads to depression, or inappropriate anger, or long-term sadness, or other “stuck” emotional experiences that don’t seem to resolve.
To embody our Healthy Self in the emotional domain, we need to develop our emotional wellbeing and resilience. By empowering ourselves to genuinely experience our feelings, we grow an intelligence to navigate this emotional domain.
Leading from our Healthy Self in the emotional domain relies on us forming connections that support our emotional wellbeing. When we develop an emotional intelligence for ourselves, we can enter into relationships without the extra baggage. We are able to bring an emotional awareness to ourselves and to our connection with others.
Look at your social circle and examine the quality of your connections rather than the quantity of connections. When you communicate and interact with these people, do you walk away from that encounter drained or emotionally enriched?
The Mental Domain
When we live from our Survivor Self in the mental domain, we tend to become our thoughts. The problem with this is that thoughts aren’t always helpful, or even true. In fact, most of what our mind does in Survival Self mode is ruminate, judge, rehash, and blame (ourselves or others). This habit is almost always unconscious and leaves us feeling worse off than when we began. Think about it. When’s the last time you found yourself lost in analysis, worrying, critiquing and got up feeling more energized, empowered, clear, and alive? Instead of bringing relief, this kind of use of the mind depletes us.
Practices like meditation become a useful tool to embody our Healthy Self, giving our autopilot thoughts a break. We can connect to this mental domain through doing activities that calm or stimulate our mind such as reading or going for a walk.
And we can certainly use our mind to actually solve problems, to visualize, to critique. This is a deliberate and intentional (and time-limited) practice when undertaken by the Healthy Self.
There can be a disparagement of the mind by assuming that this is the bad part of us, but think of ways your Healthy Self would operate from your mind.
The Spiritual Domain
Our experience at COR is that the ability to open to Grace is an essential quality of the Healthy Self and necessary for a full and satisfying life. The function of the Survivor Self, on the other hand, is to keep us insulated, closed, and “safe.” The problem with that approach is that it lets us survive, but not thrive. Without opening to Grace, the spiritual component of life, we act as though we are in control of all of life, and that the world is essentially a scary place. This is an unwinnable formula, and at an even deeper level, it closes us to the goodness of life. This leads to frustration, anxiety, and a hyper focus on accomplishment, which never seems to be enough and never actually satisfies us.
When we embody our Healthy Self to lead us in the spiritual domain, we are able to surrender and receive. Our spiritual practices allow us to connect to grace and the essential goodness that lives in the world. This allows us to find the balance between giving and receiving, doing and just being, work and play. It makes our jobs, our families, our leisure – every part of life – more richer and more satisfying. And our relationships are healthier and more fulfilling.
By participating in practices like gratitude, we build a universal foundation for Healthy Self spiritual development.
We’ll leave you with the following questions. Try and uncover how you might implement daily practices to lead through your Healthy Self in the four domains.
- Who is affected by your ability to lead?
- How can we lead in each of these areas?
- How can we bring our healthy self online?
Each year at COR, we offer a leadership development program that teaches how you can lead from your Healthy Self and help others to do the same. If you’re interested in learning more, click here.