Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Whatumanawa

I am new to Maori culture as I have only lived in New Zealand for two years, but one thing I have been learning about a lot in my nursing studies are the various Maori health models that are used to promote wellness within the whole person.

Last year I fell in love with the model of Te Whare Tapa Wha which was the concept of a house and each wall of the house represents a various dimension of a person's life which will inevitably impact on their health. In order to have complete health/wellbeing there must be balance between these parts (mental/physical/spiritual/family). I have seen in my own life how true this is. When one area gets out of balance your health starts to be impacted.

Anyway, this semester I am focusing on the Te Wheke model which is the concept of an octopus and each of the tentacles and suckers represent something in a person's life which contributes to health. Again, if any of these areas are not strengthened it will impact negatively on the overall wellness.

The concept of Whatumanawa - The open and healthy expression of emotion/understanding emotional development is the area I have been looking at specifically over the past day or so.

I experienced this myself in the past week or so and can directly relate it to this model....Let me explain....I was always raised to be a very positive person and my family's beliefs were around the idea that you never expressed negativity. If you were feeling sad or upset about something then you buried that pain and put a smile on and pretended that everything was okay....I always disagreed with this idea and believed that as humans we all feel (ALL emotions) everyone is living life and therefore we will all go through various times when things are going great, and times when life just kicks us around. I believe it is healthy to express these feelings and acknowledge that you are human.

Having said this, however, does not mean that everyone will know how to deal with your expression of emotion.....I have been under a lot of stress in the past few weeks (not only with school and work, but one of my clients is also at the end stages of cancer so it's been hard watching him in the last days of his life as he is suffering.) This has been wearing on me and, while still remaining positive and looking at the good things that are happening in life as well, I have expressed some of those emotions of exhaustion and stress. Some of my friends have been really supportive and encouraging and have been completely accepting of the fact that I don't always have to be 100% happy in every moment. At the same time, others have immediately shut me down and made comments which reflect that they believe it is entirely inappropriate for me to express anything other than cheerfulness/happiness.....This got me thinking.....What is that all about?

How do I respond when people express their emotions to me? Do I allow them to express their anger; their pain? Do I allow them to share their feelings or do I shut them down immediately by trying to cheer them up? Hummm.......got me thinking...

In most cases your willingness to be vulnerable and express your true feelings is accepted in a safe and supportive environment. (Within your family and close friends). However, on occasion people will become uncomfortable with the idea that you are expressing negative feelings. Those people often verbally "call you out" and try to shut you down. They may say something along the lines of, "Get over yourself", "Get a grip", "Move on", "Cheer Up".....It would seem to me that when such comments are made it is a result of that person being insecure in how to deal with your expression of emotion. This is not your problem, but rather theirs.

I believe that holistically in order to experience wellness you must be able to embrace the Whatumanawa. You must be able to express your feelings and emotions in a safe and supportive environment where you are not judged.

Consider offering that support to someone around you today...When someone tells you they are angry or upset, or depressed, or sad....just listen and allow them the opportunity to express those emotions without judgement. In so doing you will actually be supporting their wellness rather than sending the message that it is not okay to share those feelings.

This has been an interesting observation of mine this week and I love how applicable this health model is to my life. School is going good so far - It's an extremely full on semester, but I think it will be really good - I got my placements for clinicals which will be at a Primary Health Organisation in Horowhenua (no idea what that will be like, but I'm up for anything). All else is going well, and I leave you with the thought today that life is beautiful and what makes it beautiful is that even when their are rains and storms, with that usually comes a rainbow!

Mantra: "Allow yourself to be true to who you are every day - express your true feelings and allow that expression to bring wellness to your life."

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