Have you ever experienced times in life when you felt out of balance? Possibly you were angry, frustrated, or indifferent but could not name why. Or, perhaps you lashed out at someone close to you for something that could be perceived as insignificant. Maybe you have even made a purchase, hoping to feel better, only to realize after that you felt the same or worse. All of these can be examples of times when an imbalance has had a negative impact on your life.
Often, when clients come to our office seeking help, it is because they have begun to recognize the difficulties that result from this imbalance. For some, this imbalance has come about quickly as a result of a recent event. For most however, the imbalance they experience has developed slowly over the course of months or even years.
What do we mean by balance? Imagine that you are standing on a stool with three legs. This stool is a representation of your life, and the legs are the three aspects of your emotional needs and wants: Nurture, Play, and Structure. How challenging would it be to stand on your stool if the legs were not equal in length? Each of these legs (Nurture, Play, and Structure) are a vital part in a balanced life, are unique to your experience, and each needs the other to be understood and appreciated. As we will discuss, when we are out of balance, when the legs of our stool are not equally attended to, we struggle to find our footing.
The Nurture-Play-Structure Model (NPS) is a simple way to understand how emotional needs and wants are met when we are in balance, and unmet when we are not. When we understand how each of these legs support and balance our stools, we can more fully understand ourselves, alter our behaviors, and name our needs in an authentic way. Once we can name our true needs, we have the potential to meet them. Thus, we begin to find balance.
Nurture is understood as love. The Nurture leg of the stool represents healthy emotional connections with others and within ourselves. It represents our ability to love and to accept being loved. Nurture is love that makes you feel safe to be in the world or to retreat from the world when needed.
Play is understood as joy. Play is not simply having fun. It is the true joy that makes you excited to be in the world. The Play leg of the stool represents the part of our being that needs to simply enjoy being alive. Play can come from solitary, group, or partnering activities that we do in order to counter our stress, anger, worries, or sadness.
Structure is understood to be those methods by which we understand and navigate our intra- and interpersonal relationships. These can include to-do lists, moral codes, achievements, and any other means of understanding our place in relation to others. The Structure leg of the stool is what we utilize to accomplish tasks and also better understand our emotions. Without structure, we have no direction and/or understanding of ourselves, our wants, or our needs. Ultimately, structure is how we understand ourselves and others.
In the coming months, as we go into more detail about the Nurture-Play-Structure Model, we will address specific ways to approach your life and any lack of balance. We will provide a fuller understanding of Nurture, Play, and Structure and how they affect your sense of self and others and how they help you name your true emotional needs. It is our hope that in doing so, you can begin to find a greater sense of balance in your life.
Kristin Mastro, MA, LPC, NCC Phillip Bass, MDiv, ThM, MA, LPC, NCC