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Health Realization is a resiliency approach to personal and community psychology first developed in the 1980s by Roger C. Mills, and George Pransky, and based on ideas and insights these Ph.D. psychologists elaborated from attending the lectures of philosopher and author Sydney Banks.
The Health Realization teaching focuses on the nature of Thought and how it creates our experience of the world. Students of Health Realization learn that they can change how they react to their circumstances by connecting to their innate health and inner wisdom, and by becoming aware that they are creating their own experience as they respond to their thoughts.
Health Realization also goes under the earlier names "Psychology of Mind" and "Neo-Cognitive Psychology," and it is closely related to "Innate Health" and the "Three Principles" understanding.
The Health Realization Model Edit
In the Health Realization model, all psychological phenomena, from severe disorder to glowing health, can be understood as manifestations of three operative "principles" first identified by Sydney Banks. These principles are "Mind," "Consciousness," and "Thought." "Mind" is the name given to the universal energy that animates all of life, the source of innate health and well-being. "Consciousness" is the name given to our ability to be aware of our lives. "Thought" is the name given to the sum total of our mental activity. "Mind" has been likened to the electricity running a movie projector, and "Thought" to the images on the film. "Consciousness" is then like the light from the projector that throws the images onto the screen, making them appear real.
According to HR, we experience our reality and our circumstances through the constant filter of our thoughts. Our Consciousness makes that filtered reality seem "the way it really is," and we react to it as if this were true. But, when our thinking changes (as it inevitably does, through the activity of Mind), reality seems different, and our reactions change. Thus, we are constantly creating our own experience of reality via our thinking.
The person who practices Health Realization learns that even though insecure and negative thoughts may always arise, they do not have to be taken seriously; we can choose whether to react to them or not. When we choose to stop reacting to them, our minds quiet down and positive feelings emerge spontaneously. Thus the student of HR also learns that he or she has health and well-being already within them, ready to emerge as soon as his/her insecure, negative thinking calms down. When this happens, s/he also gains access to "common sense," a clear-sighted and highly ethical way of relating to the world, and s/he can tap into the universal capacity for creative problem-solving or "inner wisdom." When a person truly grasps the understanding behind Health Realization in an experiential way, an expansive sense of emotional freedom and well-being often results.
Role of Feelings in Health Realization Edit
In Health Realization, feelings and emotions are indicators of the quality of our thinking. Unpleasant feelings or emotions warn us that our thinking is based on insecurity, negative beliefs, conditioning or learned patterns that are not necessarily appropriate to the live moment here and now. They simultaneously tell us that we have temporarily lost sight of our own role in creating our experience. Positive feelings such as a sense of well-being, gratitude, compassion, peace, etc. tell us that the quality of our thinking is exactly as it needs to be, based on our inner wisdom and common sense and on our awareness that we are creating our own experience of the world.
Health Realization as "Therapy" Edit
In contrast to therapies that focus on the content of the clients' dysfunctional thinking, HR counseling tries to help clients recognize their innate health and the role played by Mind, Thought, and Consciousness in creating their experience of life.
The HR counselor does not attempt to get clients to change their thoughts, "think positive," or "reframe" negative thoughts to positive ones. According to HR, our ability to control what thoughts we have is limited, and the effort to do so can itself be a source of stress. Instead, clients are encouraged to recognize that the thoughts they do have are only thoughts, and they do not have to be taken so seriously.
In Health Realization, the therapeutic "working through" of personal issues to achieve wholeness is, in a fundamental way, not necessary. According to the Health Realization model, we are already whole and healthy. The traumas of the past are only important to the extent that we let them influence our thoughts in the present. Our "issues" and memories are just thoughts, and we ourselves are creating the feelings we have about them. Therefore, we can react to them or not. The more we recognize and experience how we ourselves are creating our painful feelings, the less these feelings bother us. This effect has been compared to what happens when we make scary faces at ourselves in the mirror: because we know it is just us, it is impossible to scare ourselves that way.
Thus Health Realization deals with personal insecurities and dysfunctional patterns almost "en masse;" the understanding that comes from Health Realization allows one to step free at once from a large number of different patterns all connected by insecure thinking. It is rarely necessary to delve into specific content beyond the identification of limiting thoughts. When thoughts are recognized as limiting, or as based on insecurity or conditioning, the counselor encourages the individual to disengage from them.
From the perspective of Health Realization, relationship problems result from "low functioning" of the parties to the relationship. "Low functioning" translates roughly as low awareness of the individual's role in creating their own experience via thought and consciousness. Partners who grasp the HR understanding stop blaming and recriminating and react differently to each other. They recognize that one's own feelings are not determined by one's partner, and that the great majority of issues that previously snarled their interactions were based on insecure, negative, and conditioned thinking. They further understand that every person goes through emotional ups and downs, and one's thinking in a "down" mood is likely to be off base. Partners versed in Health Realization learn that it is generally counterproductive to try to "talk through" relationship problems when they are in a bad mood; instead it is better to wait until each partner has calmed down and is able to discuss things from a place of inner comfort and security.
Chemical Dependency and Addiction Edit
Health Realization sees chemical dependency and related behaviors as a response to the stress caused by negative and insecure thinking, rather than the result of disease. That is, according to Health Realization, some people who are unaware of their own role in creating the stress they are experiencing in their lives via their thoughts, turn to alcohol, drugs, or other compulsive behaviors in the attempt to quell their stressful feelings and regain some momentary comfort. Health Realization offers deeper relief by showing how negative and stressful feelings are self-generated and thus can be self-quieted, and it illuminates a pathway to well-being that does not depend on external circumstances.
Community Applications Edit
The Health Realization model has been applied in a variety of challenging settings. An early project which garnered national publicity under the leadership of Roger Mills, Ph.D., introduced the understanding to residents of a pair of low-income housing projects in Miami--Modello and Homestead Gardens. These were projects beset with all the classical problems of drug dealing and drug abuse, prostitution, alcoholism, gun violence, spouse-beating, child abuse and molestation, truancy, and chronic unemployment. The results were incontestable, with major documented reductions in crime, drug dealing, teen pregnancy, child abuse, child neglect, school absenteeism, unemployment, and families on public assistance. Jack Pransky has chronicled the transformation that unfolded there, in his award-winning book, Modello, A Tale of Hope for the Inner City and Beyond.
Later projects in housing developments in the South Bronx, Minneapolis, Oakland (CA), replicated and built upon the early successes in the Modello/Homestead work. The Coliseum Gardens complex in Oakland, for example, had previously had the fourth highest homicide rate of such a complex in the US, but after the Health Realization understanding took root, the homicide rate began to decline. Gang warfare and ethnic clashes between Cambodian and African-American youth ceased. In 1997, Sargeant Jerry Williams was awarded the California Wellness Foundation Peace Prize on behalf of the Health Realization Community Empowerment Project at Coliseum Gardens (see Pransky, J. 2003). By the year 2006, there had been no homicides in the Complex for nine straight years.
As a spill-over from the successes in low-income neighborhoods, Health Realization has made its way into police training, prisons, mental health clinics, hospitals, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, services for the homeless, schools, and a variety of state and local government programs. The County of Santa Clara, California, for example, has established a "Health Realization Services Division" which provides Health Realization training to County employees and the public. The Services Division "seeks to enhance the life of the individual by teaching the understanding of the psychological Principles of Mind, Thought and Consciousness, and how these principles function to create our life experience," and to "enable them to live healthier and more productive lives so that the community becomes a model of health and wellness."
Health Realization has also spread in the business community, where its introduction has been reported to increase productivity, improve employee morale and creativity, and reduce workplace conflict and stress.
From these original applications, as people in the business world have been introduced to Health Realization or the "Three Principles." as the core understanding is now known, practitioners have started to bring the understanding into the business world they have come from. It has successfully been introduced to doctors, lawyers, bankers, engineers, scientists, technologists, and people in a variety of other commercial and financial roles (personal communication, Elsie Spittle, Judith Sedgeman, Bill Pettit, Gilly Chater). It has a powerful impact in the areas of individual performance and development, teamwork, leadership, change and diversity. This results as the individuals exposed to it learn how their thoughts have been creating barriers to others, and to their own innate qualities of creativity, deep insights, common sense, wisdom plus feelings of peace, harmony, relaxation and calm. They learn how to access their full potential more consistently and start getting better results with less effort and less stress in less time.
Philosophical Context Edit
Health Realization rests on the non-academic philosophy of Sydney Banks. Mr. Banks was a day laborer with no education beyond ninth grade (age 14) in Scotland who, in 1973, had a profound insight into the nature of human experience. His philosophy may at first glance appear simplistic, but its effect on the lives of those exposed to it belies that evaluation (see Community Applications above). Mr. Banks does not particularly seek to place his philosophy within an intellectual tradition; indeed, his philosophy is not strictly intended to be understood intellectually but by "listening for the feeling;" and through "insight," that is, through a series of shifts in experiential understanding.
Teaching of Health Realization Edit
Health Realization, like Sydney Banks's philosophy, is deliberately not taught as a set of "techniques" but as an experiential "understanding" that goes beyond a simple transfer of information. There are no steps, no uniformly-appropriate internal attitudes, and no techniques within it. Teachers ideally teach in the moment, from "what they know" (e.g. their own experience), trusting that they will find the right words to say and the right approach to use in the immediate situation to stimulate the students' understanding. Rapport with students and a positive mood in the class are more important than the specific content of the trainer's presentation. Applications of the understanding seldom need to be taught--typically, students readily apply their knowledge throughout their lives to the best of their ability given their level of understanding.
Objections to HR Edit
People who are familiar with the procedures and rationales of traditional psychotherapy sometimes object that the Health Realization approach constitutes "denial" of important psychic contents which the individual must unearth and grapple with, or face dire psychological consequences. From this perspective, those who experience relief of stress and positive feelings from learning Health Realization, are in reality fooling themselves, or sweeping their negative emotions under the rug, and they can expect to pay the price later. Adherents of Heath Realization, however, report no such "return of the repressed," and they point out that this fearful conception of human psychology is itself just a thought based on insecurity and a poor understanding of the nature of Thought in general. Although those who grasp the Health Realization understanding continue to experience natural ups and downs in their lives, and on any given day it can seem that what one has learned has "gone out the window," the overall trend of lowered stress levels, improved relationships, and more effective personal functioning across the board is unmistakable. There is no indication that Health Realization students routinely benefit in some areas of their lives at the cost of damage to other areas.
Political activists, on hearing of the community applications of Health Realization, sometimes object that this work will only result in disadvantaged populations silently accepting their victimization by the social system as they learn to feel good regardless of their circumstances. But what has actually occurred among these disadvantaged populations, as they have been exposed to Health Realization, has been quite different. Freed of the burden of their insecure and negative thinking, and newly enabled to access their "inner wisdom" and common sense, these people have taken powerful steps to improve their circumstances, both as individuals and as members of their communities.
A number of writers have produced books and articles that incorporate and elaborate the ideas on which Health Realization is based. A partial list appears here. In addition, Sydney Banks has written several books, listed below, presenting his ideas, and his lectures are reproduced in a number of videotapes and audio CDs available from Lone Pine Publishing.
T.M. Kelley, Positive Psychology and Adolescent Mental Health: False Promise or True Breakthrough? Adolesence, June 22, 2004
R.C. Mills, "Realizing Mental Health: Toward a new Psychology of Resiliency", Sulberger & Graham Publishing, Ltd. 1995. ISBN 0945819781
J. Pransky, Modello: A Story of Hope for the Inner City and Beyond: An Inside-Out Model of Prevention and Resiliency in Action through Health Realization, NEHRI Publications 1998. ISBN 0965905713, ISBN 978-0965905718
J. Pransky and L. Carpenos, Healthy Feeling/Thinking/Doing from the Inside Out: A Middle School Curriculum and Guide for the Prevention of Violence and Other Problem Behaviors, SaferSocietyPress 2000. ISBN 1884444601, ISBN 978-1884444609
"A Quiet Mind..." Innate Health/3 Principles conference proceedings with mp3 audio links.
Lone Pine Publishing Sydney Banks and Health Realization books
The Natural Remedy for Stress and Burnout: An Online Non-Credit Course in HR/Innate Health from West Virginia Univ.
Health Realization Network, a Health Realization/3 Principles e-mail discussion group.
AccessPoint Ltd New Zealand based organisation working with The Principles.
Deep Health HR peer self-help network
Xcell Dynamics Ltd. UK Three Principles based business developing Sustainable Peak Performance in Leadership, Teams, Change and Sport - especially Golf.