“The Secret of Change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new” ~ Socrates.
It is my experience that we create and see more of something depending on what we focus on. If I ask you to think of a red car, it will pop into your mind. If I ask you to NOT think of a red car, well my bet is another red car just popped into your mind. What if I ask you to think about a blue bus, does your focus change? Yes, you are now visualizing a blue bus. In September, I attended a seminar on “Adaptability” in Chicago with much of the conversation focused on changing paradigms. Previous to that seminar, I heard the term “Salutogenesis*” through Dr. Christopher Kent, so I was quite excited to listen to one of the world’s foremost researchers on the subject, Dr. Craig Becker PhD. Lo and behold, I ended up having dinner with Craig the evening prior to his presentation.
As Craig mentioned, “Salutogenesis” * is the study of the “origins, genesis, or formation of health”. It is the opposite of “pathogenesis” or the study of disease. So how can salutogenesis be applied to our health?
The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Unfortunately, as a society we remain focused on removing disease and infirmity with little focus or study on optimal health. While ongoing study is important, there is an assumption in the study of pathology (what makes things go wrong) that it may tell us how not to be sick or to get out of being sick with the assumption that we will then be well. In other words, if I donate to “X” disease for research into the treatment or early detection of “X” disease, the assumption is to believe then that less people will get “X”.
The basic assumption here is if you “eliminate the bad, then good happens”. It would be similar to saying “if you are not poor then you must be rich” or “if you are not hopeless, then you must be hopeful.” We know that this is not the case in these examples, as there is a scale from one end of the spectrum to the opposite end.
The challenge in our health care system which Dr. Becker addresses is that our focus is from a “minus to zero” and not from a “zero to plus” or into the positive side of health “promotion”. While this is not to argue the merits of a minus-to-zero model, I am asking you to consider something new and different. The best we can be when we focus in the pathogenic model is not to be sick, not to have symptoms, or perhaps early detection. We may have a feeling of “protected health”. In this model, we fix the problem then relax. In other words, the focus is on creating “non-negatives”. Dr. Becker enlightened me that this is called deficit theory.
What if we stand fast in the salutogenic model and place our focus on high level wellness, optimal well-being, being better than ever before, increasing our capacity and potential? In this model, our focus is on the practices that take us from zero-to-plus numbers.
Simply if pathogenesis has its results taking us from a “-3 to zero”, then salutogenesis has its results taking us from 0 to +3. The focus is on how can we improve and thus make life better than before, moving past problems towards positive growth, a better existence and use that as the reference point. I encourage you to read Becker’s research, as well as Dr. Aaron Antonotvsky’s work in this area.
So what to make of this? Make sure you read next week’s blog. And for now, where do you want your focus? What do you want to create? Start there! In moving forward, how would the Best Version of You look and feel? If you are stuck, perhaps the Move to Mastery program would help. Or, I could get you started with some coaching.
*The term describes an approach focusing on factors that support human health and well-being, rather than on factors that cause disease. More specifically, the “salutogenic model” is concerned with the relationship between health, stress, and coping.”