Because of the mechanistic paradigm our spirituality has atrophied to the
point where we don't have a clear and contemporary understanding of what the
word might even mean. Before we can reach a definition we have to make some
adjustments to our perceptions that have been skewed by the mechanistic paradigm.
So, before we can continue on towards actually understanding religio-spirituality
we have to have a model or a framework upon which we can hang our ideas. Human
experience is so complex, so full, that we need a tool to help us organize what
Thus, we use a "Field Model" of the human. A Field Model acts like a "map" it is a tool that allows us to organize the abundant variety of human experience. It helps us resist the tendency towards reductionism (both professionally and personally). It allows us to understand "holism" in a valid and meaningful way. The Field Model is an excellent tool for clinicians to use with clients.
All human experience can be seen through the filters of four main perspectives: physical, social (both interpersonal and systemic), subjective, and spiritual. The key to understanding this is that any change in any one area will necessarily result in some change in the other three. Thus, in order to make a change in any one area you will also have to change the other three.
The "Field Model" is a model of the human experience of reality. Tthe Field Model is a practical way of organizing our experience of ourselves and of our life. Usually, when we look at any human problem or issue, or when we conceptualize ourselves we think only in terms of two parts of ourselves: our mind and our body-- the Newtonian-Cartesian mechanistic understanding.
To use this model will keep us from being able to understand spirituality. We need to add two more things: a social and a spiritual component. We now get a picture like the one on the left.
SUBJECTIVE: This is what goes on inside of us. It would include psychological states; thoughts and emotions; memories and anticipations; dreams and fantasies. It also includes our awareness of bodily states such as hunger or pain. The subjective area is largely private. Others do not necessarily know what is happening in this area of experience unless we share it. One practical way to understand this area is to think of styles of thinking. For instance, if someone gives me the finger what goes on inside? Do I think "Ohmygod! What did I do?" or "I wonder what her problem is?".
PHYSICAL: This is the physical realm. It is our bodies and their chemical interactions. It is also our environment--the world as a whole. When we think of "health" we tend to think only of this area.
SOCIAL: This is the fact that we have to deal with each other! It is divided into two parts: interpersonal and systems. Interpersonal is how we deal with each other--our social style. For instance do you say "Shut the @#!* up!" or "Please quiet down"? Systems happen whenever people come together in a group such as a family, fraternity, workplace or society. We must always negotiate through a social system. For instance, negotiating through a university social system as a student entails going to class, getting financial aid forms in on time, studying (well, to a degree anyway) and so on.
SPIRITUAL: Well, this is what this section of the web site is about! Suffice it to say here that it is not necessarily the same as religion, but deals with purpose and meaning in life, and creativity. Soon, you will have a valid understanding.
The key to understanding the Field Model is this: any change, good or bad, in any one area will necessarily show up in the other three areas.
This is very different fromhow we usually look at ourselves. Whenever we are faced with some kind of problem, whether as individuals or as a society, our tendency is always to reduce our understanding of the problem down to just one area of the field. This rarely helps us when we must deal with life as it is actually lived, rather than as a theoretical construct. For instance, how many of you have attempted to diet or start an exercise program and failed? I know, I know, me too. You see, we tend to think that a diet or exercise program is only a question of what is happening physically--in the natural area of life. When we use the field model though, we realize that if we want to make a change in the natural area we will also need to make some changes in the other three areas.
Here are some examples of how this model works. Let us say that there is a change in the area of social systems: dad loses his job. Now, our tendency would be to reduce our understanding of this change to only the area of social systems. Dealing with this change would entail getting a resume together, looking at want ads, perhaps some new job training. But in the Field Model any change will necessarily show up in the other areas and also demand an appropriate response. Interpersonally (part of social experience) we see an increase in domestic violence and relationship problems among those who lose their jobs. Physically we see increased use of drugs such as alcohol. Subjectively we might see depression and stress. Do you begin to get the point?
Let's give another example. Suppose a woman has breast cancer. Cancer is a change in the physical area. Our tendency is to reduce our understanding of this problem to only the physical. Let's say the woman has a mastectomy. Afterwards the doctors discover that there is no more cancer. There is no need for chemotherapy or any other treatment. The woman is free to go home. "Great!" we say. "She's fixed!" But there has been a change in the physical area of experience which will show up in the other three areas and also demand some type of treatment or adjustment.
What happens subjectively? Well, the woman may now feel "less of a woman". Her thinking may become kind of paranoid--concerned with the cancer coming back. She may be depressed.
Socially, what does her husband, lover or boyfriend do? Perhaps he or she rolls over in bed, or even ends the relationship (breasts being so important in our culture). Perhaps she used to love to hang out at the pool at her apartment complex in a bikini. Now what will she do? It is not so true today, but in years past cancer was a great stigma (think of someone with HIV however). Let's say one of her close co-workers still feels this way and now no longer wants to work with this woman. How she negotiates through the social system that is her workplace will need adjusting.
Spiritually, if she is religious, she may think that the cancer and loss of her breast is a punishment from God because of some real or imagined sin. "God is against me!" she says. If humanist, she may begin to feel that life just sucks, it is unfair and pointless and so she is tempted to hopelessness and meaninglessness. The treatment of the cancer demands more than just physical treatment. It needs psychological, social and spiritual treatment as well. Get it?
The use of the field model rather than the mind-body model represents such a change in perception that it bears further discussion. The field model is much, much more than a simple collecting together of four parts of human experience. After all, that would be a mechanistic way of understanding ourselves! To see the field model as a collection of parts is not that much different than using the mind-body model. The field model represents a whole within which we distinguish certain areas. These areas do not have distinct boundaries, but interpenetrate each other. As said, the key to understanding the field model is that any change in any one area will necessarily show up in the other three areas.
This gets at the very issue of how we identify ourselves--what it is that we think we are. You see, we tend to identify what we are as only the combination of the subjective area and parts of the natural area. I mean, our experience is that "I" am somehow "in" my head and "behind" my eyes. That is subjective. In the field model we redefine the natural to include all matter. Our experience in this area is that "I" includes only my body. You know, some scientists think that this is not necessarily the way it must be. Some claim that ancient societies, and many groups today (ones we might call a "tribe") identify what they are as the combination of the natural area and the social area, rather than the subjective. That is, their very identity itself is not primarily "I", but "us"! This is quite difficult to imagine. Almost as difficult to imagine as a true and honest switch from the old mind-body model to the field model.
When we use the field model rather than the mind-body model we are saying "this is what I am". It sounds simple, but the field model is a demand for a total restructuring of perception and a restructuring of how we understand what we are (ahhh...do you think I might be talking about a paradigm change?!?).
The field model actually requires its own book-length discussion. However, here are some key points about it and its use:
1) Because any change in any area will have an effect in the other three the field model is incredibly dynamic. You see, there is always change happening in some part of our life. This model would be best pictured on video that could convey the movement of changes as they travel throughout the field.
2) The field model makes us look for unforseen consequences. Whenever we are faced with, or contemplating a change in our life, or as professionals attempting to elicit and support change in others, our tendency will be to reduce our understanding to one area (which is encouraged by the mechanistic paradigm). While the change desired might be best understood as primarily in one area (i.e. dieting in the natural area) it will need changes and have repercussions in the other three. While professionals do need to specialize in one area of life (i.e. a physician/natural), and even then have a sub-specialty (such as a cardiologist), the field model keeps them from mistaking their area of specialty as the whole (as sometimes happens in psychology).
3) The very idea of human health is different in the field model. When we think of our health we tend to think only of our bodies. Health is also often understood as some strange state of physical perfection. Of course, this is impossible to achieve. It is even impossible to attempt without neglecting some other area of our life (i.e. the idea that if you did everything that is good for you you wouldn't have any fun!). In the field model health is the balance between all four areas. This means that there will always be a give and take, and an element of compromise. Plato called this balance "metaxis".
4) Clinicians these days are often described as "eclectic" in their therapeutic approaches. The field model is an incredibly useful tool to guide your sessions, organize your impressions of a particular client, and communicate your intent to the client. Younger people seem especially receptive to it and the non-reductionistic type of thinking it engenders. I think you should have a great big poster of it on the wall of your office and use it!
This is a much better way to think about our lives than the old Cartesian mind-body model. If you take any issue in your life and utilize the Field Model you will begin to see things in a vastly different way than usual. The Field Model is a practical way, and a practical tool, to understand and act holisticly.
The Field Model is a dynamic model that can incorporate both the Newtonian-Cartesian mechanistic aspects of experience such as is studied by the natural sciences, as well as the non-mechanistic aspects of experience such as beauty, justice, love, meaning, and so on, that are studied by the arts and human sciences.
This dynamism can be pictured in a number of ways. Meaningful social, subjective, physical and spiritual phenomena influence the whole field as is symbolized by the small spheres moving around. The individual's sense of identity-- of "I"-- can be represented by moving the figure. These two are off balance, one, in a typical Euro-American fashion, emphasizes subjective and physical experience in the manner of the individualist. The other figure, in a manner common in many other cultures, emphasizes the social aspects of experience such as family or ethnic group.
If we were to move the figure up towards the sphere representing spiritual experience we might have a nice graphic of what we could call a "holy floater!" Regardless, such imbalance results in a skewed sense of what it is to be human.