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Health-Based Coaching: The Many Dimensions

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We will add one additional factor. This is the impact on our social relationships when stress and trauma come together. Increasingly, in the field of health care (and in the emerging field of health-based coaching), a multi-disciplinary perspective has emerged:  biological, psychological and social processes are integrally involved in physical illness and health, medical diagnosis, medical treatment and recovery from ill health.

We propose that a holistic, integrative biopsychosocial perspective on health is fundamental to any health-based coaching strategy. The need for seeing the health care world through a biopsychosocial lens is particularly important when considering the interplay between stress and trauma. When we are stressfully traumatized, our social relationships are often blown up – or at least distorted. We tend to become preoccupied with our own welfare and our cognitive functions are impaired (we become cognitively focused and rigid).   We see life through a distorted lens.

A World and Life Filled with Lions

Essentially, under conditions of stressful trauma we are running away from the imagined or actual “lion” (challenge), with all of our attention and physical energy being devoted to saving our own life. We are not in the mood for building new relationships or enhancing existing relationships — unless this relationship can help us escape the lion (what is often called a focus on instrumental or functional relationships). It is only after we have escaped the lion that we can devote ourselves to nurturing relationships. Post-lion recovery can promote intimacy and allow us to be vulnerable, (which in turn leads to our own continuing maturation and emotional development).  We can sit around the campfire, roast marshmallows and talk about our successful race away from the lion. But this can take place only if we have escaped the lion. Otherwise, the lion is sitting around the fire with their friends talking about the great meal just consumed (gnawing on our left leg).

The problem arises when we are always imagining that lions are chasing us – in other words when we are always under stress in a world and life filled with lions. Everything is traumatizing or at least potentially traumatizing. Under these conditions, it is never time to form or sustain a meaningful, growth-enhancing relationship. We can never find the time or energy to engage in anything besides instrumental relationships.

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