Our Growth Model at Compass Rose Academy focuses on building on inner resources, as opposed to aiming at symptom reduction, to improve functioning. This approach to therapeutic growth has been shown to demonstrate longer-lasting effects than brief cognitive therapy, where there can often be short-term gains followed by diminished returns. The inner resources that the Growth Model targets are drawn from a developmental lens and are called Bonding, Boundaries, Reality, and Competence:
Bonding – The ability to relate to God and others, to connect to something outside of yourself. All of life’s tasks are based on this ability and with it, you are never left without a way to meet your needs.
Boundaries – The ability to see oneself as separate from others and therefore own your life as your responsibility.
Reality – The ability to hold onto and pursue your ideals while accepting, forgiving, and redeeming the imperfection you encounter in yourself, others, and the world around you.
Competence – The ability to be productive in the world and to contribute meaningfully to others in a significant way.
The theoretical basis for the idea of “reality” comes from the clinical concept of “integration.” Integration means that as one progresses through the developmental stages of bonding (attaching to caregivers) and boundaries (individuation, experiencing oneself as separate from others), they next develop the capacity to hold both the “good” and “bad” parts of themselves, others, and the world around them. They can begin to experience that the same parent can at times be warm and nurturing, while at other times they may be angry and impatient. As the capacity for integration develops, we gain a sense of our own strengths and weaknesses. For example, I may be good at math, but poor at drawing. We also become in tune with various parts of ourselves. I develop awareness of my sad feelings, angry feelings, and happy feelings, recognizing that they are all different, valuable parts of myself. When we don’t develop this capacity to experience these various parts of ourselves and others, we tend to split off or hide parts of ourselves. We are also likely to put some people on a pedestal (the people who most exhibit the qualities we like) and devalue others (such as those who have hurt us in some way). We experience ourselves and others as “good” or “bad” instead of whole, integrated people with many unique parts. Experiencing ourselves and the world in this way sets us up for many personal and relational struggles, while developing the capacity for integration, or “reality,” builds the strength we need to face life’s challenges.
A quote by pastor, author, and theologian Timothy Keller captures the essence of this really well. He said, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” He’s saying that the more we are fully known by God and others (good and bad parts alike), the more whole we become. As early as the garden of Eden (Genesis 3), we see the tendency of humans to hide when we experience the reality of our sin, shame, or “badness.” Instead, God calls us to come out of hiding and into the healing light of relationship where those hidden parts (shame, sin, “negative emotions,” etc.) can receive love, nurturance, and healing. In the New Testament, James calls believers to confess their sins to one another in order that they may receive healing (James 5:16). This is evidence of a spiritual principle – that our sin, shame, and internal struggles can destroy us from the inside out, but that when we bring them into relationship with God and others, we are free. King David is a great example of this. After being confronted by the prophet Nathan for his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah, he comes out of hiding and confesses his sin before God and seeks restoration (Psalm 51).
What does this mean for each of us today? Here are some primary takeaways:
- Begin to see that “negative emotions” like anger or sadness are important indicators of something going on. Instead of pushing them away and hiding them because they are “bad,” begin to put words to those emotions with safe, dependable relationships where you can find grace for what is going on below the surface.
- As scary as it can sound, begin to make vulnerability and openness a more consistent part of your life and relationships. Instead of feeling like you have to perform to be liked or accepted, foster relationships that are willing to go below the surface and connect authentically with you, in your strengths and weaknesses. Move from seeing yourself as “good” or “bad” to “fully known, fully loved.” This might mean initiating a “coffee group” where you share more intentionally beyond surface-level niceties.
Identify your ideal self, that is, the version of yourself that you compare yourself to. If you’re constantly feeling like you’re not enough, it means that you don’t measure up to some constructed version of yourself. Begin to let go of and grieve that idealized version of yourself, and instead choose to accept yourself as you are. If we “know and rely on the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16), it means believing that we will never be more loved by God than we are right now.