Okay, so this is one of those philosophical questions that popped into my head. I’m curious what things you would say to someone who asked this question.
A knee jerk reaction by me:
- To love, to relate to others
- To work and play
- To accept limits
- To be real, not plastic
- To age without trying to pretend the clock isn’t ticking
- To live in ambiguity while acting
- To sleep and rest
- To emote
- To desire
- To worship
I’m sure I’m missing some key things here…what would you say?
In the world of Christian counseling past, thinkers (philosophers, theologians, model builders) pondered whether it would be good to consider humanity in two parts (body/soul) or three parts (body/soul/spirit or psyche). These days I can’t recall anyone even raising this as an issue that competent counselors should consider. This absences does beg the question(s): Is pondering the substances of humanity not particularly needed anymore? Is it that our academic predecessors already answered the question?
I’m not sure but I lean to the first reason–most people think this isn’t particularly relevant to their work counseling others. I tend to agree with caveats. When I sit with someone, I try to consider their whole being. We can’t possibly discuss their body without considering their mind. We can’t possibly talk about spiritual matters without using the body. I can just imagine this. “Now, let’s discuss your stomach pain, but we will not consider your thoughts or your spiritual well-being in this part of the conversation…[room goes silent]”
And yet many counselors continue to function like this in implicit ways. The counseling professional who feels incompetent to talk about faith matters (or that it somehow violates ethics) may choose to ignore spiritual matters (e.g., “I deal with only the psyche and I leave faith matters to the pastor). Well-intended, but in denial of the whole person in front of them. Then there are those counselors who see themselves as only dealing with faith or spiritual matters; matters of the will. These counselors may implicitly neglect, even reject, the role of the body in counseling concerns.
We counselors need to consider whether we tend to neglect a part of the person in front of us when we ignore body or spirit issues. Thus, it can be helpful to examine our practical theology of persons. Note I didn’t answer the question in the title. There are a good many who do a fine job debunking the trichotomy position. However, a practical monism likely works better in the session–that the whole person in front of me functions as a unity that cannot nor should not be divided into pieces.