Stress Research, Resilience and Radical Wholeness

It should be no surprise to anyone that there is a direct link between poor biological health and psychosocial health ( The research also shows that brain-centrism is a distraction from the need to focus holistically on health. So much of what floats about popular approaches to resilience is brain-centric. A common semiotic is often that of a brain lifting weights. So much of what is marketed as resilience is about brain fitness, rewiring the brain and fixing wrong thinking. All of this is just a rationalism-behaviourism mix but it is not how human persons live. The following image is common:

Humans are not bodies controlled by a computer on top. This metaphor is unhelpful and carries with it the idea that mental illness is ‘fixed’ by better thinking. Re-wire the brain and you will be resilient, is the common myth.

This research from UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care demonstrates that stress disturbs our body systems (endocrine, immune and nervous systems) and makes us unwell. We rarely get sick because our brain directs the body wrongly. Indeed, our endocrine, immune and nervous systems operate independently from the brain and after enacting something tell the brain what has been done. As Claxton stated so profoundly:

The brain doesn’t issue commands, its hosts conversations.

Claxton, Intelligence in the Flesh


Unfortunately, so much of what we see in risk and safety also focuses on training the brain, under the belief that events are caused by ‘bad thinking’.

Interestingly, the many codes of practice on Psychosocial ‘hazards’ don’t even discuss embodied resilience or personhood. This is what happens when one’s language is framed by ‘hazards’ not ‘health’ or ‘risk’. For safety, it’s always about the control of ‘hazards’, usually by regulation, policing paperwork and conditions. So little in the safety curriculum is about people, helping, listening and communication. Then the industry expects safety advisors to somehow gain the skills needed to engage others.

In SPoR, our focus in on the whole person. When we tackle risk, our focus is on persons, ethics, relationships, listening, helping and Socialitie.

Shepherd’s book Radical Wholeness, The Embodied Present and the Ordinary Grace of Being, ought to be foundational reading for anyone in safety interested in Psychosocial care. This book will be much more helpful than any of the codes of practice out there on Psychosocial ‘hazards’. Indeed, most of the codes of practice don’t tackle some of the most important aspects of psychosocial health!

If you are interested in learning about a holistic approach to risk and resilience then why not register for the SPoR Convention in May ( where the focus will be on resilience and personhood.



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