The 5 levels where psychological suffering (and well-being) emerges

Within the framework of clinical psychology and psychotherapy approaches, we have become accustomed to thinking of pain, suffering and well-being as eminently individual phenomena.

Many classical and more widespread approaches to this knowledge have focused their studies and approaches on explaining the above, viewing people as independent of their different social spaces and meaningful interactions.

Some of the big questions to the above views have come from systemic-relational, interactional, socialist or even holistic approaches. The critiques presented do not consider the individual level to be insufficient or useless in explaining psychological phenomena, but other equally relevant levels that interact with it have been dismissed.

According to the approaches of Humberto Maturana, these levels are called “realms of existence”.. The concept comes from the idea that we have different ways of being and characteristics depending on the areas we participate in and consider.

Added to the above and following the approaches of the enactive theory of Francisco Varela, we could consider that we are not even the same person in the different domains, but that we are and emerge with characteristics, emotions, actions and different ways of seeing things. in a continuum of constant change. Simply put, nor we are the same person at work as in our family or partner relationships.

    Levels of existence

    Next, we will review 5 of these spaces or areas of existence that could be considered the main ones in people’s lives. It is important to keep in mind in advance that these are interrelated and influence each other, and that it is possible to find multiple subdomains or subsystems within each.

    1. The individual level

    This level, as mentioned in principle, is the most widely considered in psychotherapeutic approaches and in most societies in general. Many approaches (if not all) of psychoanalysis, cognitive and behavioral theories, even humanists, have focused on this point. There is no doubt that the contribution has been substantial and has served as the basis for the development of rich knowledge and a space of relief for many people over time.

    From a constructivist and narrative point of view, the individual level has to do in simple terms with the relationship we have with ourselves. How we perceive and construct our identity, act, feel and see things. Such identity construction can be an inexhaustible source of suffering and well-being.

      2. The level of work

      The definition is practically self-explanatory. A large number of people who come to a consultation do so in the context of a problem or a crisis in their work space.

      At this stage, the specific conditions of these pains, the different expectations, the interpersonal relationships and, no doubt, the possibilities of change that exist, are important for the understanding of these pains. This level is also a place of much accomplishment and generation of personal resources for others. This can be deepened and relieved a lot in the therapy space and also be used as an element of relief.

        3. The social level

        This is perhaps the area of ​​existence most neglected by modern psychotherapy and clinical psychology. Other areas of psychology have taken over, for example, socio-community approaches.

        It is an extremely complex level and has different types of abstraction, in which we participate from and towards society in many spaces. The idiosyncrasies of different societies, the phenomena of gender, social class, ethnicity and even hobbies or sports are part of it. Our ways of being, and therefore many of our problems and their solutions, emerge from these contexts. The great social crises, very typical of the current era, have a lot to do with malaise or a loss of meaning within them.

          4. The level of love or affective sexual relations

          In the past and until recently, it could have been defined simply as that of “couples”, but today, with the questioning of the hegemony of this model and the emergence of others, such as polyamorous relationshipsit had to be enlarged.

          It is also often a space where many consultations and psychological issues emerge, which often have to do with problems of negotiating borders, hierarchies, transgenerational expectations of its members, and certain communication phenomena. It is more and more frequent that other types of relationships like those mentioned above come to consult, with their particularities.

            5. The family level

            Family systems are extremely complex in their understanding, because they are within them different subsystems overlap, such as mother, subsidiary, sibling and mother-subsidiary. As at the previous level, many elements (such as those already mentioned) can explain problems or crises in the system or one of its subsystems. Here too, the phenomena of alliances, coalitions and triangles appear strongly. A good structuring of all the above aspects allows experiences of comfort and well-being to emerge at this level.

            As can be seen, there are many and very diverse realms of existence that can be reached explain both crises and psychological problems as well as experiences of comfort and well-being. It is extremely important to re-emphasize that these are not completely independent of each other; on the contrary, they have an inevitable and constant interaction. The psychotherapeutic work can take place at any of these levels and, therefore, go beyond the individuality of the person or persons consulted.

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