How we approach wellness

How we approach wellness

Like the Tiger and the Dragon – oh my! – we are diligent, unafraid and still see the Big Picture 

When people ask me the impetus for founding the St. Louis Wellness Center, I find myself a bit stopped in my tracks trying to locate a succinct answer. The reality is there were and are many reasons for the StLWC to exist; even as times and conditions change, the need remains stable. I’ve been reflecting lately on what is unique about the StLWC, and what can provide our community. In my typical visual style, I will try to show you a picture of what we offer and how you might benefit immediately from considering some of what you read.

In Indigenous teaching, four particular animals appear as symbols for us. Each of the four animals has a distinct personality, style of interaction, wisdom, downfall, outlook, even a color. The list goes on, but I think you get the idea. Once we know about these animals (and when we can remember) we can bring them to mind guiding and supporting us in times of difficulty. Although there are two other animals in the series between the Tiger and the Dragon, I’ll share a bit about these two today.

The Tiger lives in the jungle and suns itself on a rock until it becomes hungry. When hunger approaches, the Tiger goes out hunting for a meal. It is patient and modest, not needing to hunt before hungry or show off for the other animals nearby. This Tiger is diligent, mindful, and filled with purpose and exertion – it is not afraid. Meanwhile, the Dragon flies high in the air and can see everything below. It is said that the Dragon’s powers are like the fire of all fires and the wind of all winds – inscrutable, we could say. Being able to see everything below, this Dragon has what I would call the “Big View” of how things are on the earth and it certainly doesn’t get pulled down into small matters. The Dragon is a very all-knowing, regal and majestic creature.

Considering the whole, interconnected person

By now we all know humans are interconnected, moving pieces and parts. Our behaviors, thoughts, feelings, illnesses, injuries, troubles, happiness – everything – is connected. My broken toe for example effects my gait, which impacts my hip alignment, which shifts my shoulders, which produces tension in my head, which influences my acceptance (or lack thereof) of irritations. This series might continue on to create an additional impact if I bring another person into it this process by being snappy or rude.

If I went to a specialist hoping to address any of my issues (hips, shoulder, head, irritation …) whichever specialist I chose would provide me an answer based on that complaint. If I went to a hip doctor, I might get pain medication or physical therapy. If I saw a specialist for my headaches, I might get told to reduce my stress and consider allergy shots. If I visited with someone about my irritation, I’d be taught to do cognitive behavioral therapy and talk to myself differently about irritating things. I’m not saying these suggestions are wrong, but I am saying they are not the total – the Dragon view – of what’s happening in my life.

People working at the StLWC have both the Tiger and the Dragon view as we listen to your concerns and help you navigate a healthier outcome. Our specialists can recognize that sometimes heightened irritation has to do with a physical need not being addressed, for example. We understand that the body, the mind, and the spirit are inter-connected, and the location of a symptom is not necessarily the location for the remedy.

I picture it in a 6-squared grid:

In each of those squares lies both a potential issue or problem and also an antidote or remedy, and each are very important and interconnected. The Tiger view is one of ensuring we’re doing what needs to be done and not doing extraneous things. If someone comes to me with issues of anxiety or depression, we’re going to explore Tiger things like: when, what, and how they eat; patterns or lack of patterns of sleep; technology use; exercise patterns and frequencies; water intake; chemical use; calming and centering abilities; introversion and extroversion patterns … this list is endless. I think you get the idea though of what we’d consider a Tiger view – most of which don’t typically fall into the category of “psychotherapy.” Once we get the Tiger stuff established, we can move to more Dragon areas: how the person understands her own symptoms, noticing when they appear and abate, seeing the patterns and not getting pulled down into them, using the right skills and tools for the issue at hand. Again, this is a small sample here for you to notice and begin to recognize the difference.

Finding a way to live better for the long term

While these Tiger and Dragon examples are from my own perspective and work as a therapist, this style permeates the way all the providers at the St. Louis Wellness Center function. We all have attention toward the boots-on-the-ground needs of the Tiger and the vastness of the Dragon – both simultaneously, but also in order. If you’re like me, you’ve probably suffered already in your mind, body, spirit, or most likely all three. Maybe you’ve also had the experience of going to a helping professional who didn’t quite get into the right part of the matrix for the problem or the solution, leaving you thinking you would need to live this way the rest of your life. That, my friends, is why the St. Louis Wellness Center exists. You don’t need to live “this way” anymore. You just need some folks like us who understand and are skilled in using the fuller matrix of life.

If this sounds interesting, you might begin considering your life now in this multi-dimensional way; attending to Tiger and Dragon needs. You’re invited to be playful and inquisitive about it, no need for heavy-handedness as you begin to explore. Just remember, we can’t go flying around like a Dragon until we’ve developed the confidence of the Tiger: First things first. If you find some outside help would be nice along the way, you can always contact us, and we’ll gladly join you in your discovery.

Dr. Gwin Stewart founded the St. Louis Wellness Center in 2007. Read more about her HERE.

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