Personal Growth Using the Life Model
It is my strong conviction that all humans have a purpose to accomplish while on this earth. Each of us comes from a wide variety of circumstances, and those circumstances create certain complications in our lives. Life is hard. That is a very common and easily accepted truth. The difficulty of life leads some people to chaotic distraction and others to rigid focus. Still others search for meaningful purpose through exploring existential concepts, such as what it means to be human and how to become the best possible version of ourselves. Personal growth is in the same vein as Abraham Maslow’s familiar concept of self actualization which he defines the realization of our greatest human potential. I define personal growth as the process by which we increase our understanding of and apply wisdom to a place of maximizing our potential and thus accomplishing our “job” or contribution to making the world a better place.
My journey to becoming my best self introduced me to a specific curriculum called the Life Model. The Life Model is an idealized concept of human maturation and transformation across the lifespan (1). In other words, the idealized Life Model ponders and systematizes what humans could be like if adversity, trauma, and other experiences did not derail us from our God-given identities. The Life Model is a powerful resource not just for therapists and therapy practices, but is also used with churches, business, addiction recovery centers, individuals, marriages and families, neighborhoods, and missions organizations. The Life Model is a diverse model that applies to all humans independent of cultural differences, so the Life Model curriculum is being utilized in a variety of countries and has been translated into many different languages. Because of these things, the Life Model has become a central focus of both my personal and professional life. On a daily basis, I give sincere thanks for the impact this model has had on my personal growth as well as on the strengthening of my personal relationships. In addition, there has been an increase in the level of impact that I have on my clients because of my knowledge and application of the Life Model.
This article is the third in a series of five articles and will focus on the concepts and application of the Life Model for personal growth. The first article focused on my personal experience with the model, the second article focused on the basics of life model, this article will discuss the Life Model as a model for personal growth (article #3) and the final articles will be related to the Life Model for relational growth (article #4) and spiritual growth (article #5). It is important to note that our counseling practice, The Center for Family Transformation, is considered a Life Model practice. All of our therapists are well studied in the model, and we are seeking ways to not only implement it in our personal lives and in our therapy sessions. We are also considering how we can best offer the essence of this model to other therapists so that they and their clients can benefit from the wisdom the Life Model offers.
The word wholeness from a psychological perspective might be defined as an integration of the parts of oneself. In this world, much psychological damage inevitably comes our way. This damage fractures our souls. Our minds and hearts are impacted by the emotional pain we experience from life circumstances as well as the lack of repair our ancestors were able to receive in their own lives. When our ancestors stay stuck in their trauma and immaturity, they inevitably pass it down to us; what is not healed is transferred. To become whole is to become integrated, unstuck, and mature. Dan Siegel (2), founder of Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB), described integration as the linkage of differentiated parts and teaches that integration is the goal! In order for wholeness/integration to take root, we must heal the damaged parts of our soul. The Life Model speaks to the concept of wholeness by saying that we all need to “repair so that we can live from the heart Jesus gave [us]” (1). Included in the components to becoming whole are the following experiences: belonging to a family, receiving and giving life, recovering from the effects of traumas and contributing to a community (3). Until we become whole, we will be living from our hurts rather than living from our true heart. Misdirected growth blocks the process of maturity/wholeness (3). The goal of therapy is to confront these blockages to growth in order to enable individuals to become integrated and whole.
The Life Model teaches that maturity is a byproduct of wholeness. An individual cannot be mature without becoming whole. Psychological maturity is the result of the natural and healthy process that an individual goes through when their needs are met at various developmental levels. A person who passes successfully through a maturity stage will have grown in terms of the way they perceive themselves, the way they relate to others and the way that they understand and interact with the world around them.
Maturity growth is essential to a successful and thriving human existence. Lack of maturity growth has detrimental consequences on every area of life (3). Maturity growth, as outlined in the Life Model, involves transitioning through infancy, childhood, adulthood, parenthood, and eldership. The growth through the maturity stages is hierarchical, meaning that we must fully accomplish the tasks at each stage of development in order to completely pass to the next level of maturity. (4, 5)
“Unfinished trauma recovery and the lack of life-giving relationships (1)” are the main culprits in maturity stagnation. The resulting maturity gaps impact life satisfaction in every way. A huge dilemma is presented here because these gaps are not necessarily simple to fill. However, it is possible to make up for the lack of healthy relationships and to heal past traumas – what incredible relief this has been for me and my clients! Someone can actually fill in the gaps left from a less than optimal infant and childhood experience. (4) You are welcome to refer to my previous three part blog series on Psychological Maturity (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) to learn more.
Typically when you hear the term recovery, it brings up the concept of addiction. As an addiction therapist, I talk to clients about the idea of not just being “sober” from their addiction. The true goal of addiction healing is to be in lifelong “recovery,” because when someone embraces and walks into a true recovery process, the root pain that caused the addiction has to be addressed. A person in recovery actually becomes a more mature individual who contributes value to themselves, their loved ones, and their community.
However, recovery isn’t just about addiction, but rather, it has to do with healing from brokeness. Brokenness is something each of us endures even though some individuals have experienced greater levels of trauma than others. According to the Life Model, recovery is about exceeding one’s current potential and reaching one’s God-intended destiny (3). An individual who is in a recovery process or who is recovered is one who has entered into pursuing wholeness by way of filling in their maturity gaps through a healing process. A whole and mature person is a recovered person; though wholeness and maturity are never fully met until we meet our Creator, we can grow into greater and greater levels of these over time. It’s important to note that when life’s traumas are resolved, the human brain can learn to live in joy as its most natural state. An unrecovered brain lives in fear while joy is a positive emotion which creates a relational state of mind. “The goal of recovery is to build joy that is powerful enough so the other feelings connect to it and come to a resting place.” (1)
Experiencing enough healing to recover from life’s trauma and live in joy is not a simple process. Each of us has a unique set of complications present in our lives that creates a unique result in the way our personalities form. Recovery is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Each of us has a responsibility to find our own path to healing. This is why the Life Model is such a helpful conceptualization. When we study and apply the Life Model, we can see where our unique and specific gaps in maturity/wholeness are so that we can find our personal path to recovery. The bonus here is that the Life Model gives direction in terms of how to connect in our relationship with others and our relationship with God as a way to enhance and solidify our growth process. The next two blogs in this series will focus on these concepts.
The development of a true identity is the reward of a recovering life. As we are healed, we know who we are. When we live from our hurt, we live out of a wounded and false identity. According to the Life Model, if a human develops correctly or heals from malfunctions in development, they will be able to live from their true heart thus bringing a fullness of self to their relationships and community. Living from your true identity means that “you are being the person you were designed to be, acting like yourself in all situations.” (3) I love how the Life Model teaches that my true self is my redeemed self. My false self is my wounded self. For me personally, this concept has been truly transformative. Until I encountered the Life Model, I had real difficulty viewing myself outside of my weaknesses and my behaviors. I carried toxic guilt from a very young age because of the way I acted when I was upset/angry. As I learned and applied the Life Model concepts, I began to see myself through the lens of my true self and felt freedom from the shame I had always carried.
Thinking of yourself through the lens of your true identity is not an avoidance of your weaknesses, but rather a tenderness to them. When you understand that you have weaknesses that are rooted in pain and not a result of a faulty identity, you can see yourself as a person who is redeemable and worthy of the work that healing takes.
Personal growth is a responsibility of each human life. Many individuals avoid personal growth because it is emotionally difficult and time consuming. The alternative is to stay stuck in misery, depression, addiction or worse. While growth is painful, it is the best option because there is a light at the end of the tunnel! When we grow, we become more whole, mature and stable in our recovery! Our lives become more meaningful and more joyful when we embrace the process of personal growth. Join me in the next two articles to see how this growth can affect your relationship with God and others!
- Friesen, J. G., Wilder, E. J., Bierling, A. M., Koepcke, R., & Poole, M. (2022). Living from the heart jesus gave you (15th Anniversary Study ed.). Shepherd’s House, Inc.
- Siegel, D. J. (2020). The developing mind, third edition (3rd ed.). Guilford Publications, Inc.
- Mouer, Monica. Psychological Maturity: Part 1. Defining Psychological Maturity. https://www.familytransformation.com/2021/06/05/psychological-maturity-part-1-defining-psychological-maturity/
- Wilder, E. J. (2013). Joy starts here (joy starts here: The transformation zone, a life model works book). Shepherd’s House, Inc.
- Mouer, Monica. Psychological Maturity: Part 2. Successful and Unsuccessful Maturity Growth.