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Agency and Whole Personhood

In the last post, Choice in Engagement, I briefly discussed the role of choice in engagement, highlighting the volitional nature of personal investment.

Choice is related to personal agency; the capacity of an individual to act. To be colloquial – we can do stuff – acting out of our being. As was discussed in the post entitled, Four Uses of the Word Engagement – Part 2, people are physical, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual beings. Separating these aspects for argument and investigation is useful but, they are not actually easily distinguished, and ultimately form the cohesive whole of who we are and how we engage in the world.

At the very core of who we are is our spirituality; our belief structure, core values, world views, personal character and capacity to choose. It is this core which defines our deepest needs and personal goals, sometimes consciously but often without full awareness. Whilst psychologists and neuroscientists have sought for decades to understand what drives human behaviour, we often do not even understand our own motives for doing the things that we do or how we came to believe what we believe and be driven to achieve the goals which shape our activities.

All people are intellectual beings. This inner world consists of our ability to interpret and learn, our knowledge, opinions and memories, creative capacities such as imagination and ideas, our abilities to reason, intuit and question and to make choices. The interconnectedness of neurons, clustered into specific regions of our brains each performing specific, but interrelated functions is deeply fascinating, and neuroscientists are just scratching the surface of comprehending how information is stored and manipulated in our minds.

Our emotions represent an incredible signalling system, alerting us to threat and reward, strongly informed by our core beliefs, values and choices. Our abilities to sense the needs of others and feel an affinity for them, to feel the pain of loss and the joy of love or accomplishment are all emotional capacities which colour our world and enable us to make choices to benefit ourselves and others.

Social personhood is more visible than spiritual, intellectual and emotional personhood. Our social being describes our relatedness to the world; our social stature, relationships and ways of relating, occupations and organisational systems. Our social choices and behaviours are informed by our core spirituality and by our intellectual and emotional capacities and interpretations.

Physicality is the most obvious aspect of personhood. It is the place where our inner world becomes manifest, but it also closes the loop on the systemic nature of humanness. Every other aspect of our personhood has a physical foundation. Our hands and hearts are nothing more than chemicals and so too the minds which believe and think and feel. Fascinating!!!

The five aspects of personhood combine seamlessly and emergently to make us who we are and to enable our engagement with our world. In the next post, Whole Person Engagement, I will discuss how.

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