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The Whole Person Wheel

The Whole Person Wheel provides a simple, beginning structure for conceptualizing the elements of the human being and relational experience. We benefit when all parts of our being are acknowledged and accepted. All parts of ourselves want and need to work together. This discussion of “Soul” and “Spirit” is not offered from a religious or theological perspective: but rather, attempts to provide a framework allowing the concepts of “soul” and “spirit” to find a deeper integration with how “normal” human life is viewed. How we define problems and create solutions depends on our experiences. Particular theory or practice can only provide a “Point of Entry” to the whole human system. The Whole Person Wheel allows us to expand into a truly integrative approach. It allows us to recognize the Soul in the physical, mental, emotional and systemic aspects of Earthly existence. It allows us to acknowledge the human being as part of the Spiritual; the expanded nature of life.

The Spiritual Life is The Mundane Life.
The Mundane Life is the Spiritual Life.
They are the same.
~ Full Life~

Whole Person Wheel colorful diagram

A Personal Note from Carolyn

"Soul" and "Spirit" have become buzz words among the healing community, including psychotherapists such as myself. What is the true nature of the Soul and what, exactly do we mean by that word? What is the true nature of Spirit and what, exactly do we mean by that word as well? While there is a multitude of different answers to those questions, my only response is..."Who really knows?" And most likely, what we think we know today will change by tomorrow. After all, "The more we know, the more we know we don't know." What I do know is that I often go to workshops; both traditional mental health workshops, as well as, workshops given by alternative treatment providers or spiritual growth facilitators. What I find is that each and every theory or practice has something of truth and value to it. However, when one modality excludes another, it weakens the service of the excluding modality as its limitations are experienced by those it serves. Integrating all that can be offered is what will allow us to fully address the needs of ourselves and others. Our approach to healing, and life in general, seems to be best served by a "Both / And" approach, rather than the "Either / Or" perspective. So with that said, I offer the Whole Person Wheel as a simple frame work for moving toward integration.

Happy Growing...



The Soul is the individuated expression of Spirit. The Soul emerges through the physical, mental, emotional and systemic qualities of the human being to manifest the individuated expression of Spirit. The mental experience informs the emotional and visa-verse.  The emotional and physical often manifest the qualities of the other.  The systems to which we belong often have a great effect on all realms of the individual experience. Thus, one can explore the deeper meanings of experience; whether physical, mental, emotional or systemic by viewing life as lessons and opportunity for Soul growth. The deeper, intuitive self is in synchronicity with the spiritual evolution and events, internal and external, that remind us daily of the innerconnectedness of all of Creation.  The Soul is understood by many faith traditions to be the aspect of the self that lives on past this lifetime; the essence of the human that moves beyond this aspect of existence.  One might say that it is the Soul that moves into transcendent experience, bringing the experience into the realm of the individual through all four quadrants of being.  It might be said that the Soul does not reside in the body but that the body, the human, resides within the Soul.


The body is the physical manifestation of the Soul. Eastern thought opens awareness to the ”chi” or “prana.” Both words mean “Life Force.”  The body perfectly and consistently informs us.  It informs us through pain or relief, disease or healing, and strength or weakness. The Chakra system provides information about the psychological issues connected with what the physical body is manifesting.  Somatic therapies watch how events, thought and feelings are processed through the physical body; thus, the individual has the opportunity to process experience as it arises.  Breath work, energy work and body movement can be used to access the connection between self and transendent realms. Pharmaceutical treatment can interface with the  bio-chemical action in the brain.  From an integrative perspective, any form of medical or physical care can be utilized in supporting the mind/ body/spirit connection when done with cognition and inclusivity of all aspects of the person.  One can follow the information of the physical body to discover what questions one needs to ask and the direction to be taken.


Being grounded and clear about what is in our present, physical world allows our spiritual nature to move into increased clarity, order and productivity.  Past experiences can result in learned behaviors, thoughts and sensorimotor reactions that no longer serve. Cognitive Behavioral Approaches can assist us in moving  from a “past-reactive” mode to a “present-responsive” mode.  Mindfulness and  rational problem solving allows one to evaluate the present without filters from the past interfering.  Our mental capacity is that which allows our creative, intuitive nature to come into expression.  It allows us the place to imagine our positive future and determine what our part in manifesting it truly is. We find empowerment though embracing mature, soul nourishing responsibility.  It allows us to ask the questions; “What do I want?”  and “How do I achieve it?”  Grounded manifestation has a place to emerge.  We know and accept what is ours to do in a co-creative process.  The mental work of the soul allows the mind to ”watch” the thoughts and emotions we experience. This observation prevents us from over-identifying with strong belief systems and emotions; past or present.  We experience them, but we are not them.  We have no need to judge or deny uncomfortable thoughts and emotions; thereby, finding space to explore them.  With acknowledgement and acceptance, that which is no longer needed is free to transform into something new.  The focused, centered mind is that which is needed to make meaning of even the most vibrant spiritual experiences or deepest nudging of the soul.


Our “irrational” feelings or emotions are often the very thing that moves us into discovering what is really true about ourselves and our lives.  Our emotional feelings help us know when we need to pay attention to something, even when we do not rationally know what that “something” is.  When rational thought just does not address the deeper or “irrational” feelings, it is imperative to explore the source of those feelings. Disregarded or repressed feelings do not go away; they just show up in a different way.  Painful or uncomfortable emotions are most often those that get labeled as “irrational or wrong.”  The need to judge  one’s emotions as good or bad, rational or irrational, is learned from social constructs that may not always be helpful. Dream work, journaling, imagery and other techniques can help one move beyond the “judging authority” to find one’s own deep authority.  Expanded awareness can result in understanding just how appropriate the “irrational” feelings truly are.  Emotions focused therapy can utilize the energy that is contained in the emotion. Emotions can be used toward motivation and action.  Telling our stories and simply having our feelings validated can often be the healing balm to the Soul.   Deep work is often necessary to heal old wounds, move through the pain of the past and connect with life’s higher purpose. Allowing our emotions to have validity can give us the freedom to access and honor our own deep intuitive knowing. Our experience of emotions can often be the nectar of life.  Experiencing our emotions, even the painful ones, can help us access the “truthteller” in our Soul.


Our systemic connections are inherent to who and what we are.  Our Soul is part of a “family soul” as surely as our flesh is part of the family DNA system.  Social psychology, Systems theory, Gestalt therapy and Systemic Constellation Work all recognize that we are inherently a part of a greater whole; and within that whole, we have properties of individuation.  A blood cell in your body is you and is not you.  A blood cell in your body is an individuated entity while being a part of a greater whole.  So we are to our families and ancestors, our communities, our nation, our Universe…to All That Is.  We cannot be separate from these systems, or go beyond their influences. We are simply a part of them. Systemic awareness can simultaneously provide one with a deep sense of connection and humility. Seeing ourselves as part of many, many systems, leaves us with a humbling experience.  We achieve a clearer view of who we are and who we are not.  Seeing life from a systemic perspective can often help a person move beyond feelings of isolation, apathy and meaninglessness. Seeing life from a more expanded perspective increases our understanding of how our lives and experiences are working within the larger evolutionary process of life.  Systemic awareness does not promote grandiose visions of total sovereignty.  Instead, it asks us to stand in awe of the grandeur of what we are a part of.  We come to know that life does have meaning.  We see truth of our value; individually and collectively.


The Spiritual Experience is where we find that which is one with us and also extends beyond us.  It is the realm of the mystic, the shaman, the artist and the everyday person connecting with the mundane, present “beingness” of life.  We come into contact with the more expanded aspects of life through prayer or meditation.  We experience it in nature; watching a sunset or marveling at the unfolding of a single flower.  The expanded realm is touched when we experience a birth or sit with a loved one as s/he dies.  We can feel its impact whether we are in ecstatic joy or deep grief.  One’s experience and access to the spiritual is often first defined by familial and social constructs; collective thought.  As one grows and evolves, the individuated Soul may find resonance with the given constructs.  However, one might  find that s/he is experiencing something that requires questioning of given constructs and have the need to investigate the nature of the Spirit. Transpersonal psychology recognizes the spiritual realm of life and its formative substance in the life of human existence.  Acknowledging expanded realities provides the opportunity to live fully and authentically.  Spiritual expansion can often leave one feeling ungrounded and confused. The old, safe constructs of ”reality” crumble as Spirit offers experiences leading to a redefined and expanded ”reality.”  Psychodynamic approaches can offer us the tools we need to integrate the expanded realities into our human experience.  Through the physical, mental, emotional and systemic experiences of earthly life, the Soul knows the Spiritual realm in  new and ever evolving ways.  If psyche means Soul, psychotherapy can be understood as attending to the Soul’s work and evolution.  The Soul is part of the Greater Spirit and strives to fully experience that union.   Soul and Spirit work with and through the physical, the thoughts, the emotions, and systems to bring into  consciousness the ever present union of All That Is.