Editorial 5 : Concerning a whole person

By The Editors

Date Posted: Monday, 15 June 2009


The sum of a human being’s parts may or may not be greater than the whole (Aristotle), but we would argue that a human being should be understood as the sum and not the parts. The fifth goodenoughcaring  Journal offers articles, essays, personal accounts and views that deal with many of the parts which go towards bringing up an infant, a child and an adult. Amongst other things they encourage us to think about emotional holding, attachment relationships, resilience, reflection, education, training,children’s personal assets, learning mentors, education, relationships, personal reflection, the naming of the child care profession, residential child care,  the training of child care workers and the use of technology in child care. These all go some way to describe us, influence us or  explain us as human beings, but they should be understood as dynamic ever-changing overlapping parts of a whole person who relates to other whole people who exist in whole communities. One of these parts cannot exist in isolation. They have no meaning unless they are seen as dependent aspects of a whole person.  It is saddening and frustrating that political, economic and managerial imperatives  so often press us to deny our whole selves. As an editorial group we would not be true to what we are espousing if we did not consider including ‘anger management’, ‘risk assessment’ and ‘target setting’ and other subjects of that ilk as valid parts of the whole human predicament but so many of their  proponents make such acceptance difficult because of their assertion that their specific part is the  ‘complete be all and end all’  issue.  William Wordsworth  understood and challenged these assertions :
But who shall parcel out
His intellect by geometric rules..
Who that shall point as with a wand, and say
This portion of the river of my mind
Came from this fountain ?
(Prelude II)
This issue of the goodenoughcaring  Journal is concerned with the whole person and  we acknowledge the resistance and difficulties we all meet, particularly from within ourselves, in holding on to the concept of – and working with –   the whole person. We should strive to understand others and ourselves as whole people.
In working with young people we should be careful not to relate solely to that part of a young person which arouses our own anxieties. We diminish young people (and therefore ourselves)  by  rejecting a youngster as  : the one who can’t get on with staff, or is too lazy to go to school ; who is just an attention seeker ; who has no respect for staff ; who isn’t using his care placement because he hasn’t  stuck to his agreement with us ;  who is rejecting our care because she is blatantly cutting herself in front of us ; who is behaving aggressively because he wants us to reject him ; who refuses to communicate with staff ;  who can only deal with criticism by getting angry ; who is too much for us to take because she is promiscuous when she goes out at night; who is verbally abusive towards staff despite all the efforts we have made for her ; who is only cooperating because he wants his pocket money to buy cigarettes,  or who gets drunk just to stick two fingers up at us.
We may be accused of simplifying this matter. For instance, it is possible that those who care for troubled youngsters see only the positive attributes of a young person because they are fearful or anxious of confronting other aspects of the young person. Yet our point remains for this is only seeing one part of a young person while we deny the other parts in order to protect ourselves.  We should reflect on the whole person and not only on the whole person that is the young person but also the whole person that each of us is.


Aristotle  Metaphysica

Wordsworth. W. (1850) The Prelude II  taken from  Danby, J.F. (1963)  Wordsworth:The Prelude    London : Arnold


30 Aug 2009,    Comment By Dahuletum
Thank you for this valuable post. It changed my approach 
05 Jul 2009,    Comment By Kristy Fulton
What a brilliantly resourceful site you have in goodenoughcaring.com. Thank you so much for sharing it with me