3 Problems with the Self-Care Conversation

What God Wants for Your Life | 5/21/2019 | Staff
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According to Aisha Harris, the language of self-care originated in the 60s and 70s with the medical community and was designed to address the needs of patients. Focused on the elderly and mentally ill, physicians and others sought ways of addressing the challenges faced by patients who required long term care. In fairly short order, the strategies that developed there were applied to the challenges faced by those who work in high-stress professions, including EMTs, social workers and trauma therapists.

From there it gained wider cultural and political currency as both cultural criticism and counter-cultural movement. Harris notes that self-care eventually became “a push to redefine health care beyond just treatment of the individual body gained steam within various movements in the ’60s. Activists saw that poverty was correlated with poor health, and they argued that in order to dismantle hierarchies based upon race, gender, class, and sexual orientation, those groups must be able to live healthy lives.”

Absorption - Consciousness - Concept - Content - Part

In its rapid absorption into cultural consciousness, Yuppies co-opted the concept, emptied it of its political content and made it a part of countless “wellness” schemes. But in in the years since, it has seen something of a rebirth as a more political and cultural trend, often invoked by minority communities as a matter of “’self-preservation’” and as “’an act of political warfare.’”

With such a complex history, it is difficult to know which stream of the self-care tradition is being invoked at any one time, but I have become increasingly convinced that the concept is particularly problematic as applied to ordained ministry. I am not opposed to a healthy lifestyle, as such, and I don’t doubt that there are unhealthy social patterns that deserve close examination. On the plus side, the emphasis on self-care in ministry has addressed issues of burn-out, depression and substance...
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