In my last post, I explained why "Activists"--the first of four types of people whose health is affected by key psychological characteristics-- tend to be healthiest, and why they are the ones most likely to take advantage of wellness programs. I discussed how they have the kind of personality traits that enable them to cope with health-related issues through positive action and rational acceptance. In this post, I discuss a second group of individuals with different personality and coping strategies: the "Wannabes."
Wannabes talk about improving their health & wellbeing, and are willing to learn about healthy living, but they never seem to act on it, or do so half-heartedly. This is because they tend to have thoughts such as:
- "I may be able to do what's required to improve my health, but I'd rather not deal with it right now."
- "I'm not sure what to do."
- "I'm just not ready."
Wannabes, in other words, tend to cope with their doubts and fears through avoidance. What they do, for example, is:
- Try to feel better by doing enjoyable or interesting things, rather than focus on the problem
- Act as if nothing has happened or try not to think about their problems
- Express negative emotions by yelling or crying, taking it out on others, or avoiding certain people, rather than doing something constructive
- Hope a miracle will somehow make things better or that one's wishes or prayers would be answered, rather than gaining knowledge and developing a plan of action
- Resign themselves that nothing can be done to improve the situation, even though they lack adequate understanding and fail to exert adequate effort.
On the positive side, since Wannabes think and talk about improving their health & wellbeing, they will likely want to participate (to some degree) in health promotion programs that:
- Evaluate their health status, especially if they have concerns about their physical health and/or emotional state.
- Help them gain knowledge about their problems or risk factors, including understanding the pros & cons of different treatment and prevention options.
- Using their knowledge to make decisions about dealing with (treating) acute physical or mental health problems
- Acting on wellness plans designed to self-manage chronic conditions and avoid complications
- Making positive lifestyle changes to avoid risk factors from becoming health problems.
If they have family and other demands that consume their time and thus make lifestyle change difficult, they will likely use it as an excuse for non-action, as well. And if they have physical handicaps or cognitive impairments, they will likely use these limitations as excuses for inaction.
All this means they will need wellness counseling focused on modifying their self-defeating cognitive and emotional blocks (including self-doubt, fear and shame), as well as changing their avoidance-based coping strategies. The goal is to help them become more like the Activists. Only then will they be willing to take responsible action that improves their health and wellbeing.
In my next post, I'll examine the third personality type: the "Inactives."