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The Recipe for Wholeness

Therapist, "Do you feel whole?"

Patient, "Well what does that even mean, 'feel whole'? I mean I am one whole piece of person."

Let's start there.   What does it mean to embody wholeness?

In describing the process of identity formation, Erik Erikson described the goal of identity formation as the achievement of a sense of wholeness. In Erikson's theory of development, wholeness refers to having a meaningful self-concept in which past, present, and future are brought together to form a belief and understanding of one's self as an entire person.

Wholeness has been described in the research literature as the belief and understanding of one's self as an entire person, a state that is said to be necessary for maximal functioning in daily life.

In Ashley Patterson's writings on identity and race, she cites the way wholeness is described in the research literature concerning identity.

Wholeness is the ability to feel comfortable in your skin, regardless of your surroundings, because your true self is active.

Wholeness is having established a strong sense of inner security and peace.

Wholeness suggests that one's life experience and one's learning are coextensive and learning is a life long endeavor.

Wholeness is being able to see one's self from the outside in and from the inside out.

 In Working with Spiritual Struggles in Psychotherapy, Kenneth Pargament and Julie Exline describe wholeness as having three ingredients:

  • Breadth and Depth
  • Life Affirmation
  • Cohesiveness

Breadth and Depth

Having breadth and depth is described by Pargament and Exline as the capacity to see and approach life in it's fullness, to see both the darker and lighter sides of life, and to have the ability to look beneath the surface and see a deeper and richer dimension of life.

Life Affirmation

Pargament and Exline write that life affirmation rests on having a sense of compassion, hope,and support. When we are life affirming, we acknowledge the struggles, pain, and suffering of life but insist that these are not the only or final characteristics of living. We do not give these challenging experiences the final say on what our life is about.


Pargament and Exline see the quality of cohesiveness as the degree to which we organize our life journey into a coherent meaningful pattern that propels us toward having a fulfilling purpose for life, the extent to which we embody satisfaction with life and our worth, and the ability to be flexible and open to change in order to meet new demands and challenges.

Coming full circle, I ask you to consider wholeness and whether you feel whole. Are there parts of you that have yet to be integrated?

What would it look and feel like to walk in the world comfortable in your skin, regardless of your surroundings, because your true self is active?


Two Step

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