Identify Strengths: A Multimodal Approach to Wellness

“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in our own sunshine.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We all have strengths in different areas of our lives, if only we are willing to look for them.  When we focus excessively on our weaknesses, we are not getting an accurate or comprehensive picture of the whole self.  We are more than any one weakness or any one strength.  We are dynamic, consisting of multitudes that sometimes contradict one another.  All of these strengths and weaknesses blend together to create the uniquely imperfect, yet beautiful, self.

There is no one else quite like you – you are better at some things than others, you are more sensitive to certain topics than other people, and all that you have seen and experienced over the course of your life has come together to bring you to exactly where you are right now. Once we can begin to embrace the self fully and be willing to meet ourselves where we are, then we can experience incredible growth spurts in our development.

Psychologist Arnold Lazarus is known for an approach to treatment called multimodal therapy, which is founded upon the idea that we are biological beings that think, feel, imagine, sense, and interact.  All of these various aspects of our humanity are assessed and directly addressed in multimodal therapy.  Lazarus created a basic acronym to address these components: BASIC I.D.

8 Areas of Wellness

The Self-Esteem Workbook (Schiraldi, 2001), adapts these dimensions from multimodal therapy to include a morality component.  Let’s examine these eight areas of wellness to begin to identify personal strengths and areas for growth.

(1) Behavior

This is a broad category, including all of the things that we do – actions, habits, gestures, reactions, etc.  Possible Strengths: Punctuality, cleanliness, tidiness, acts of kindness, etc.  Possible weaknesses: Avoiding challenges, procrastinating, disorganization, yelling, self-destructive behaviors, impatience, etc.

(2) Affect

These are the feelings/emotions that we experience.  Possible strengths: Peace, contentment, optimism, cheerfulness, calmness, etc.  Possible weaknesses: Depression, anger, worry, fear, guilt, self-loathing, etc.

(3) Sensations

This refers to our five senses.  Possible strengths: Enjoyment of the breeze on our faces, savoring the taste of delicious food, or enjoying beautiful music.  Possible weaknesses: Tendency to see only the negatives in the environment, rather than the beautiful – focusing on physical discomforts excessively.

(4) Imagery

The ability to use our imaginations to explore scenery and images is a wonderful tool to deal with stress and anxiety, as well as to simply center ourselves in the present moment.  Possible strengths: Visualizing a pleasant future vacation or past memory in vivid detail, experiencing pleasant or beautiful dreams, feeling peace upon seeing one’s reflection, etc.  Possible weaknesses: Excessive focus on disturbing images and memories.

(5) Cognitions

When we experience a warped view of reality through cognitive distortions, our functioning in other areas of life is negatively impacted.  Possible strengths: Realistic optimism (i.e., while everything won’t be “perfect,” I will find something to grow from, enjoy, or improve).  Possible weaknesses: Tendency to engage in distorted thinking and internalize these beliefs as “true.”

(6) Moral

This area refers character and conduct – what kind of person are we now?  What kind of person would we like to become?  Possible strengths: Integrity, respect for self & others, forgiveness, tolerance, honest, virtue, patience, kindness, etc.  Possible Weaknesses: Weaknesses in this area are easy to parse out because they are simply the opposite of the moral strengths.

(7) Interpersonal

This is all about the quality of our relationships with others.  Possible strengths: Prioritizing family, friends, & loved ones, reaching out to other people in a meaningful way, valuing connections with others, etc.  Possible weaknesses: Absence of close relationships, avoidance of other people, withdrawing from people when hurt, passivity or non-assertiveness, etc.

(8) Drugs/Biology

This category encourages us to examine our current health habits and biological disposition.  Possible strengths: These are habits that show that you care about investing in your physical well-being – regular exercise, adequate rest/relaxation, restful sleep, balanced diet, etc.  Possible weaknesses: Emotional eating, dulling awareness through substance abuse, lack of movement/exercise, etc.

As you reflect on these eight aspects of overall wellness, what areas do you notice are particularly strong for you?  When you notice where your strengths lie, you may find yourself encouraged to continue on towards greater self-improvement and awareness.  No one is perfect, with total strength in each of these areas of life.  There is always room for improvement in moving toward your true potential and wellness.  When you begin to reframe your weaknesses not as flaws, but as opportunities for growth and greater self-knowledge, the journey towards optimal well-being becomes fresh and invigorated.

Try asking yourself where you would most like to see improvement in your own life.  Go ahead, no one is listening but you.  In order to make authentic progress, you must be willing to be honest with yourself about who you truly are in order to move towards who you would like to become.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Schiraldi, G.R. (2001). The self-esteem workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Featured image: I Love Rainbows and Sunshine by Pink Sherbet Photography / CC BY 2.0

About Laura K. Schenck, Ph.D., LPC

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado. Some of my academic interests include: Dialectical Behavior Therapy, mindfulness, stress reduction, work/life balance, mood disorders, identity development, supervision & training, and self-care.

What's On Your Mind?