The theory of mastery was developed by Janet B Younger in 1991. There are other authors who have defined mastery, however their conceptualization and theoretic orientation differs from that of Younger’s (Younger, 1991).
The aim of the theory of mastery is to describe and enlighten how the people with disease and other traumatic health conditions emerge possibly stronger and healthier than before. This theory, illness is reflected as a circumstance of stress (Younger, 1991).
Stressful life events such as a terminal disease, arouse several human responses (Younger, 1991). There is a painful phase between acknowledgment of the loss and adaptation to situation. Once the event is evaluated, the people realize that changes are required. They tend to find the cause for this difficult situation. When they realize that this situation is out of their control, they begin to experience stress, and make attempts to cope with it. Sometimes, there is period of alternating confrontation with the situation. Throughout this temporary period, the individual’s levels of feelings fluctuate between denial and invasion of ideas, which is different for each individual (Younger, 1991). This period is followed with a phase of working through. In this phase, the individual constantly thinks about the event both, consciously and in dreams. During this phase, the individual’s meaning of life is reassessed, and is reconstructed according to the changes in life. One’s identity is altered based upon these changes. The The individual adapts to the change, and modifies his/her life style accordingly (Younger, 1991).
Since individuals and their situations are different, they each have their own way of coping with the situation. In some instances, individuals struggle within themselves; and other instances struggle with their surroundings. Some may involve grigrieving and some may involve coping. The mastery of reality adaptation requires the individuals to alter the events that can be altered, and accept the ones that are out of one’s control (Younger, 1991).
Despite of the type of event, most individuals eventually attain a better quality of life and the level of satisfaction than before. Surprisingly, they do all of this themselves. At the end, most individuals gain mastery over the situation, and have more control over their lives (Younger, 1991).
The mastery contains four conceptual elements: certainty, change, acceptance, and growth (Younger, 1991). Each of these are necessary processes. Certainty enables an individual to plan, make decisions, and identify the direction. Change in one’s life affects the environment and thus reduces the impact of the stress on an individual. Change can be personal or situational. Acceptance is the outcome of the comprehensive and successful grieving of losses. Growth encompasses complete transformation which involves feeling of having found new meaning or overcome (Younger, 1991).
The theory of mastery is a nursing theory. The nurses can use this theory to cope with stress, as well as to treat the patients. Sometimes, the nurses experience the elements of the theory of mastery themselves. The responsibility of taking care of another human being, sometimes becomes overwhelming to them. The use of this theory will help them overcome those hurdles, and thus cope with stress. By attaining a good level in mastery, the nurse will be able to be in a better state of mind, which potentially increases the efficiency and productivity.
Often times, the nurses’ role comes in play when the mastery occurs. By thorough understanding of mastery, the caregiver is better able to support the patients in their efforts to helping themselves (Younger, 1991).
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