I don’t know about you, but I have found that when I spend too much time and energy in one area of my life and neglect other areas, it takes me a while to catch up and I get overwhelmed. For example, if we spend too much time on work and neglect our social life or forget to take care of ourselves, we burn out. Depending on where we are in our lives, we need to prioritize. Van der Hart et al (2006) coined the term action systems to describe 8 areas depending on the stage of a person’s life. These are:
- Defensiveness – if a person is in danger, this is a priority and all other systems are on hold
- Attachment – provides proximity, a safe haven and security
- Exploration – a need to be curious and to learn
- Energy regulation – modulates physical needs including sleeping, eating, resting, working
- Caregiving – this is intertwined with attachment, and involves the actions of a parent in providing safety and support to a child
- Sociability – provides community and support
- Play – this goes with exploration and needs to be pleasurable
- Sexuality – necessary in the bonding of couples for reproduction and is paired with play, attachment
These action systems work together. For example, if a father and son go hiking, the action systems involved are: attachment, exploration, caregiving, energy regulation (exercising), sociability and play.
If you find that there is an area that you have neglected, it is never too late to expand your horizon and bring balance to your life.