Parse's Human Becoming Theory

Parse’s Human Becoming Theory guides the practice of nurses to focus on quality of life as it is described and lived. The human becoming theory of nursing presents an alternative to both the conventional bio-medical approach as well as the bio-psycho-social-spiritual approach of most other theories and models of nursing. Parse’s model rates quality of life from each person’s own perspective as the goal of the practice of nursing. Rosemarie Rizzo Parse first published the theory in 1981 as the “Man-living-health” theory, and the name was changed to the “human becoming theory” in 1992.

The assumptions underpinning the theory were synthesized from works by European philosophers. The theory is structured around three abiding themes: meaning, rhythmicity, and transcendence.

The model makes assumptions about man and becoming, as well as three major assumptions about human becoming.

The Human Becoming Theory makes the following assumptions about man:

  • The human is coexistent while co-constituting rhythmical patterns with the universe.
  • The human is open, freely choosing meaning in a situation, as well as bearing responsibility for decisions made.
  • The human is unitary, continuously co-constituting patterns of relating.
  • The human is transcending multidimensionally with the possibles.

The Human Becoming Theory makes the following assumptions about becoming:

  • Becoming is unitary with human-living-health.
  • Becoming is a rhythmically co-constituting the human-universe process.
  • Becoming is the human’s patterns of relating value priorities.
  • Becoming is an intersubjective process of transcending with the possibles.
  • Becoming is the unitary human’s emerging.

The three major assumptions about human becoming are: meaning, rhythmicity, and transcendence.

Under the assumption meaning, human becoming is freely choosing personal meaning in situations in the intersubjective process of living value priorities. Man’s reality is given meaning through lived experiences. In addition, man and environment co-create.

Rhythmicity states that human becoming is co-creating rhythmical patterns of relating in mutual process with the universe. Man and environment co-create (imaging, valuing, languaging) in rhythmical patterns.

Transcendence explains that human becoming is co-transcending multidimensionally with emerging possibilities. It refers to reaching out and beyond the limits a person sets, and that one constantly transforms.

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These three themes are permeated by four postulates: illimitability, paradox, freedom, and mystery. Illimitability is “the indivisible unbounded knowing extended to infinity, the all-at-once remembering and prospecting with the moment.” Paradox is “an intricate rhythm expressed as a pattern preference.” Paradoxes are not “opposites to be reconciled or dilemmas to be overcome but, rather, lived rhythms.” Freedom is “contextually construed liberation.” People are free to continuously choose ways of being with their situations. Mystery is “the unexplainable, that which cannot be completely known.”

The nursing model defines the person (referred to as “man” throughout the theory) as an open being who is more than and different from the sum of the parts. The environment is everything in the person and his or her experiences. The environment is inseparable from the person, as well as complementary to and evolving with the person. Health is the open process of being and becoming, and involves the synthesis of values. Nursing is described as a human science and art that uses an abstract body of knowledge to help people.

The theory provides a transformative approach to all levels of nursing. It differs from the traditional nursing process, particularly in that it does not seek to “fix” problems. The model gives nurses the ability to see the patient’s perspective. This allows the nurse to be “with” the patient, and guide him or her toward the health goals. The nurse-patient relationship co-creates changing health patterns. Nurses live the art of human becoming in presences with the unfolding of meaning, synchronizing rhythms, and transcendence.

Rosemarie Rizzo Parse’s Human Becoming Theory includes the Totality Paradigm, which states that man is a combination of biological, psychological, sociological, and spiritual factors. It also includes the simultaneity paradigm, which states that man is a unitary being in continuous, mutual interaction with the environment.

Parse’s theory includes a symbol with three elements:

  • The black and white colors represent the opposite paradox significant to ontology of human becoming, while green represents hope.
  • The joining in the center of the symbol represents the co-created mutual human universe process at the ontological level, and the nurse-patient process.
  • The green and black swirls intertwining represent the human-universe co-creation as an ongoing process of becoming.

Like any theory, Parse’s Human Becoming Theory has strengths and weaknesses. The model differentiates nursing from other disciplines, it provides guidance of care and useful administration, and is useful in education. The model also provides research methodologies, and provides a framework to guide inquiry of other theories. However, the research is considered a “closed circle.” The results are rarely quantifiable. That is, the results are difficult to compare to other research studies since there is no control group or standardized questions. The theory does not utilize the nursing process, and negates the idea that each patient engages in a unique lived experience. It is not accessible to new nurses, and is inapplicable to acute, emergent care.