This paper goes where, apparently, mental health professionals are afraid to go to: state what constitutes mental health. It unequivocally says that whereas there could be such a thing as perfect mental health in a non-material, non-spatial world that given the limitations imposed on human beings in their world of space, time and matter they cannot have perfect mental health and that in so far that they attain humility in their thinking and behaving they are mentally healthy.
A MENTALLY HEALTHY SELF IS A HUMBLE SELF
Ozodi Thomas Osuji
You can go through a course of studies in psychology and psychiatry, the supposed disciplines dealing with people’s mental status, and not come up with a concise definition of what constitutes human beings mental health. What you will find is definitions galore of mental illnesses. It is as if mental health professionals are afraid to tell the world what they mean by mental health but would rather tell it about mental disorder.
When you think about this situation you find it rather strange and bizarre since to talk about a disordered state, a diseased state one must first establish what constitutes its opposite, a healthy, ordered state. Disorder is a contrast to order; illness is a contrast to health; therefore, to know what the one is the other must also be known.
So, why are psychologists and allied professionals afraid to tell the public what constitutes mental health? Could it be because they do not know what mental health is, and if so how can they really heal those they consider being mentally unhealthy? What state of health are they trying to bring their patients to? If you do not know where you are going to you would get nowhere in particular. Is it then any wonder that psychiatry and psychology has no track record of healing any one of his so-called mental disorder if they do not know what state of health they are trying to take people to?
In this paper I will define what constitutes mental health and use that definition to evaluate all that psychology and psychiatry defines as mental disorder and see to what extent they are correct or not correct.
The definition of mental health I reached in this paper is not esoteric; it is reached from observation of people and more importantly from my self-observation. The reader can verify the definition by observing his own self and to the extent that it makes sense to him accept it and if not discard it.
Alfred Adler (1870-1937), one of the founders of psychoanalysis, defined neurosis as pursuit of a fictional big self. In his seminal book, The Neurotic Constitution (1911), Adler says that the neurotic to be child feels inferior (inadequate) and rejects that sense of inferiority and in its place constructs an alternative self that he would rather be, a self that in his opinion is required by the world he lives in if he is to survive in it.
Pure observation shows each of us that we live in an impersonal universe. Nature is impersonal and does not give us our food without us working for it. Therefore, to survive in this unmerciful world the human child seeks to do what his environment requires of him: master it. Those who master their environment go on to survive in the world and those who do not die out.
Evolutionary biologists pretty much make the same point. The fittest animals, human beings included, do what their physical environment calls on them to do and survive and those animals that are weak and unable to do those things die out. The environment is brutal and selects for survival those who can do what gives them survival and destroys those who cannot. Herbert Spencer, I believe, coined the phrase “the survival of the fittest”; his phrase seems an accurate characteristic of the human condition.
Nature is merciless and does not give a damn about people’s survival; people must do what they have to do to survive or they die out.
The human child instinctively understands that he must exercise power over his environment so as to master it. He must somehow control his environment so as to wrest survival from it. To the extent that he is powerful and can control his world he survives and if not he dies out and that is all there is to him. Nature could care less whether he survives or not. The environment is littered with carcasses of dead animals that could not do what they had to do to survive. If there is no rainfall, draught, vegetation dies and the land turns into desert; those animals caught in the ensuing arid land cannot feed themselves and die; those who can walk to greener pastures live.
The salient point is that to survive animals, human beings included, must strive to do something to their environment; they must wrest food from their physical environment. It takes power to do what gives people food. Thus, human beings, beginning in childhood, strive to have power over their world. Those who seem to have power to do what their world calls for are generally normal persons whereas those who sense that they do not have adequate power, feel inferior and since they still need power to do what their world requires of them for survival posit fictional power and strive to attain it; they strive to become powerful and superior persons for it takes powerful and superior persons to cope with the impersonal world human beings live in. In pursuing power and superiority they develop what Adler calls neurosis.
As Adler sees it, the neurotic is all human beings in degrees; he or she is a person who pursues exaggerated power and superiority and in doing so disturbs his peace; the neurotic is so focused on power (for power makes for his survival) that he is filled with anxiety and tension; he, at all times, must do what makes him seem powerful and superior so as to survive but, alas, in so doing knows no somatic and mental peace.
Generally, the neurotic strives to be better than other persons, to be superior to other persons; he is always comparing himself to other persons and must seem better than them or else he feels not powerful. To his mind, if other people are more powerful than he that means that the environment is more powerful than he and since the environment, people included, would not give him what he needs to survive he feels his life threatened. Thus, he feels a compulsion to be superior to other people and his environment.
The neurotic’s primary goal is self-survival, not other people’s survival; therefore, his activities have a self-centered quality to them.
Adler’s psychotherapy accepts the neurotic’s need to strive for power and superiority but wants to redirect his activities and make them serve social interests. In effect, Adler does not believe that the core aspect of neurosis can be changed but that it can be made to serve peoples good. He tells his clients: go ahead and do that which you believe makes you feel powerful and superior for you must do so to survive in the impersonal world you live in but gear your activities in such a manner that they make for the survival of your fellow human beings who like you are also in a precarious situation and the environment does not seem to care for their survival. Adler wants to get the neurotic to serve social good, to be a moral person, not because of some divine requirement that he be so but because of the need for him to pull together with other persons in their struggle for mutual survival in an impersonal world that does not seem to give a damn whether human beings lived or not. Adler’s psychotherapy is secular and not theological.
Human groups building on what they have learned enhances their peoples survival teach their young people those skills and capabilities that enable them to do what their particular environment calls for them to do if they are to survive. Culture is those habits and behaviors that a group learned enables them to survive in their specific world and they teach them to their children so that they may survive in that world.
Culture is whatever makes a group of human beings adapt to their environment hence survive. In this light culture is specific to particular environments. Each physical environment calls forth different behaviors if those living on it are to survive. Thus, we have particularistic cultures, not a universal human culture.
However, as people from all over the world increasingly live together there is no doubt that they would develop a common culture (variations must, of course, occur since different physical environments call for different patterns of behavior…behaviors required to live in sub-arctic Alaska are not the behaviors required to live in tropical Africa).
For our present purposes, the salient point is that human beings develop adaptive mechanisms to cope with the exigencies of their world, and teach those to their children so as to enable them do what their environments call for hence survive and carry the group forward.
The human child must do what his environment calls on him to do for him to survive. Those with relatively healthy bodies successfully do what their physical and social world asks of them to survive and survive. Those born with medical disorders find it difficult to do what they have to do to survive. They develop a sense of inferiority. Since like all people (there seem a built in desire to survive at all costs in people and animals) they are bent on surviving they do not accept this sense of inadequacy; they mentally reject it and, instead, posit a sense of over adequacy, what Adler called superiority.
When the somatically weak child rejects his initial sense of inferiority and posits a sense of superiority he has developed what Adler called neurotic life style. From now on his behavior is geared to living up to his imaginary big and powerful self. He does everything he does “as if” he is the fictional big self he wants to become. Apparently, in his mind, to be the big and powerful self is to survive, whereas to be the small, weak self is to die out.
Neurosis, according to Alfred Adler, is the pursuit of a false big and powerful self. From Adler’s perspective, all mental disorders are variations of neurosis; all the personality disorders, anxiety disorders, psychoses etc. are exaggerations of basic neurosis.
In my experience, at the bottom of all mental disorders is the individual’s rejection of the self he knows himself to be because he considers it not good enough and pursuit of an alternative self that he believes is better. I have a somewhat Adlerian perspective on mental disorders. I am, however, not exclusively Adlerian for I borrow from other perspectives as I see fit. Consider Karen Horney’s perspective.
In her seminal book, Neurosis and Human Growth (1950) Karen Horney, building on Adlerian psychology, says that neurosis is caused when a child finds himself in a situation where his significant others accept him conditionally; that is, only mostly when he lives up to certain expectations. Certain families posit idealistic goals and want their children to live up to them before they are accepted. They do not accept their children in what Carl Rogers (1947) called unconditional positive manner. Children in such conditionally accepting families sensing that they would be rejected if they did not live up what Harry Stack Sullivan (1964) called their significant others (parents, siblings, peers etc.) expectation fear rejection.
To be rejected by ones primary providers could lead to death. To be provided with food, medications, clothes and shelter children do what pleases their primary providers. Thus, if those providers can only accept them if they are a certain way they reject aspects of them that they think do not fit what their significant others would accept and strive to become as would be accepted. Such children, in effect, reject their real selves and use their minds to construct idealized selves and hope to attain those and thus please their primary ones, so that they would accept them.
Over time these children reject their real selves and want to become idealized selves so that society would accept them. Horney defines neurosis as rejection of the real self, a self-deemed not good enough, and pursuit of idealized, fictional self that other persons would accept.
The neurotic is filled with fear of not attaining his idealized self for he thinks that to be his real self is to be socially rejected, which tantamount to social abandonment and death. Neurosis is self-rejection in pursuit of ideal self.
Horney’s conceptualization of what is neurosis is equivalent to Adler’s postulation that neurosis is rejection of the inferior self in pursuit of the imaginary superior self. Horney would like the neurotic to accept his real self while also pursuing his ideal self but put the ideal self in perspective. It would be nice if one is ideal but in the real world no one ever attains perfection. This is because the moment you attain what you hitherto construed as perfection other indices of perfection come to your mind and you pursue them. Those who pursue perfection, ideal, never get to a point where they have finally attained it hence must live in never ending anxiety, fear from not being completely perfect.
I borrow from Adler’s Individual Psychology, Freud’s psychoanalysis, Horney’s psychoanalysis, Jungian psychoanalysis, Behavioral psychology, physiological psychology etc. where those seem useful. Regardless of where I borrow from what is self-evident to me is that the neurotic (and other mentally disturbed persons) is seeking important selves and in doing so disturb their peace and must change their direction and accept their humble selves if they are to know peace and happiness.
If mental disorder is pursuit of a false big and powerful self it follows that mental health is acceptance of the real self.
What is the real self? We can give the definition real all sorts of qualities, such as loving self, spiritual self and physical self. Those characterizations of the real self-raise their own questions. For example, what is a loving self, what is a spiritual self? What is love, what is spirit? Thus, whereas all those may be useful characteristics of a healthy self, in the here and now a healthy self is a humble self, a self that accepts itself as it is, not as it could become, a self that accepts its initial self-assessment that it is powerless, not a self that wants to accept the compensatory powerful self.
The mentally healthy person accepts his real self, a self that is humble (not powerful), whereas the mentally disordered self wants to accept a big, hence deluded self.
Are you humble? If yes you are probably relatively peaceful and happy hence mentally healthy; conversely, are you seeking a better self, a perfect self, an important, grandiose self; if you are you are probably stressed out, tense and anxious hence not mentally healthy!
How simple can things be; we make life too complicated! To be mentally healthy is to be a humble self, a self not striving after some imaginary grand picture of the self that it wants to become.
HUMILITY IS NOT HUMILIATION
To be humble is to be realistic to one’s existential reality, to accept the fact that one is not really powerful and is not in control of the universe. The universe is in control of itself and one merely adapts to its vagaries. It is an illusion, a delusion really, to fancy that one is in charge of one’s life. One cannot predict what is going to happen to one in the next second. One may live or die in the next minute. If so, how exactly is one powerful?
Ah, death, we my postponed it via good nutrition and healthy living but in time we shall die. In as much as folks do not want to die but die they must where exactly is their power? People die and their bodies rot and smell to high heaven. Their bodies decompose and return to the chemical elements that composed them. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, chlorine and the other elements dissolve and are no longer one’s body. Those elements, in time, decay to the particles (protons, neutrons and electrons) that compose them. The particles in time decay to quarks and photons that composed them and, ultimately, those decay to the nothingness from whence they came.
Our bodies are literally nothing. Nothingness means not a particular thing; being not a particular thing means everything! Our bodies are everything! What is everything? The entire universe is everything. Our bodies are the universe.
Human beings do not have power although they imagine that they have. A realistic person accepts the fact that he has no power and is humble. His humility is not humiliation for in humiliation another person deliberately tries to degrade a person, such as white folks degrading black folks in slavery and discrimination.
Clearly, no one should accept another human being humiliating him. I justify killing the person who tried to humiliate another person. I would kill a person who tried to enslave me and not feel like I did wrong.
The salient point is that there is a difference between being humble and being humiliated. A healthy person is humble but not humiliated; a deluded person claims to have power he does not have.
NO SELF CONCEPT MEANS PERFECT PEACE AND HAPPINESS HENCE PERFECT MENTAL HEALTH
Human beings have self-concepts. As George Kelly (1955) tells us, they form their self-concepts, aka personalities, using their inherited bodies and social experiences as building blocks. Generally, by adolescent years the typical human being has completed the construction of his self-concept, his personality and thereafter finds it very difficult to change it. People can make cosmetic changes in their self-concepts, self-images and personalities but totally change it they cannot.
Once formed in childhood it is difficult to change the self-concept, the human personality. People at sixty are who they were at sixteen, perhaps with the rough edges of their personalities improved by experience but by and large they are still the same persons.
To have a self-concept is to say that one is this person and not another person; it is to say that one is apart from ones environment. The self-concept means that one accepts that one is separated from other persons and the environment.
Human beings are those creatures that see themselves as separated from each other and from the universe they live in; each of them feels alone, and unconnected to his world.
To have a separated self-concept is to be aware that other selves and the environment in general is not one and, as such, could attack, harm or destroy one.
Human beings are aware that their bodies are made of blood and flesh and are fragile and vulnerable; many environmental factors can eradicate the human body. Other persons and environmental factors could destroy the individual’s body.
Therefore, to have a separated self-concept housed in body is to live in fear (anxiety, anger, depression, paranoia and other mental upsets).
If one had no self-concept conceivably one would not be subjected to the psychological pains which those with self-concepts are subjected to.
Given all the suffering that human beings are prone to, because they have self-concepts and personalities, it would seem better for them not to have self-concepts and personalities. If they did not have self-concepts they would live in perfect peace and joy! This is, of course, a hypothetical statement since in reality we have not actually seen human beings without self-concepts.
As long as we are speaking hypothetically, we can say that absolute mental health, which means absolute peace and happiness, lies in not having self-concepts and personalities.
The self-concept is generally not true; it is a made up, make belief view of the self; it is not real and, as such, must be defended with the various ego defense mechanisms , such as repression, suppression, denial, projection, displacement, rationalization, sublimation, reaction-formation, avoidance, justification, fantasy, anger, pride, shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, minimization etc. to seem real in one’s awareness. If not defended the self-concept and the body it is housed in dies, and no longer exists.
As long as the individual has a self-concept and perceives attacks on it, and it is always attacked, he must defend it and in defending it suffers.
Thus, if the individual had no self-concept hence is not defensive he would be perfectly at peace and happy.
Gautama Buddha noted that to be a human being is to suffer. He said that we suffer because we desire to be human beings (that is, to have self-concepts and desire the things that enable the self’s survival on earth). As long as we desire things we suffer from not getting them (from disappointment). The only way not to suffer is to have no desire (to have no self-concept).
Buddha said that there is a path to attaining peace of mind; that path lies in giving up desire (which means giving up the self-concept, the human separated self, the human personality).
Obviously, to live in body one must have a self-concept and desires for the things that make for the survival of the self-concept.
Since to be a human being one must have some desires, Buddha teaches that as long as folks must have desire that they do so with detachment to the things that they desire. If you see what you desire as not you then if you do not get it you would not be terribly disappointed. Thus, by all means go ahead and desire the best things of this world but realize that you can do without them so that if you do not get them you are not psychologically crushed. I could use a Rolls Royce car but if I do not get it I will manage to get from point A to point B; I will live.
Buddha further advised folks to live compassionately, speaking the truth etc. Those are his noble truths and paths to them; a pattern of living that he believes leads to peace and happiness.
The critical point that Buddha made is that if people did not have separated self-concepts, egos, they would not be prone to psychological suffering. Alas, to be a human being is to have a separated self-concept hence to suffer.
I have not seen any one on planet earth that does not have a self-concept. Thus, whereas putatively if we did not have self-concepts we would be perfectly peaceful and happy it would be idle to talk about not having self-concepts since it seems that to be a human being is to have self-concept.
As long as we are condemned to having self-concepts and personalities we are condemned to suffering. It seems that the best that we can do is making our self-concepts as realistic as is possible.
Those with false, big self-concepts suffer a lot; those with realistic, that is, humble self-concepts reduce their suffering but suffer they do for as long as they have self-concepts at all they must suffer. To be a human being is to have a separated self-concept hence to suffer.
Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen and other oriental religions aim at enabling the individual to momentarily give up his self-concept and in so doing experience momentary surcease from suffering. Since to have a separated self-concept and defend it is to suffer, if one momentarily give up the self-concept one momentarily does not experience suffering (fear, anxiety, anger depression, paranoia and other psychological pains). Thus, in meditation oriental religions ask the individual to consciously jettison his self-concept, to negate his self-concept, to escape from his self-concept and the world of self-concepts.
The objective of meditation is to escape from the self-concept and the conceptual world. It is said that if the individual can for a few minutes not identify with his self-concept, has no self-concept and does not think from his self-concept, does not engage in conceptual thinking and essentially empties his mind of all concepts that he would experience perfect peace and joy, aka bliss.
Hinduism says that if the individual escapes from the self-concept that he would break away from the conceptual world and enter a non-conceptual world, a unified spirit world where all share one self. He would break through the spell of Maya (Maya makes for separation and multiplicity) and return his spirit (Atman) to its source, Brahman. In that unified spirit self the individual is said to have attained his real self and is now illuminated to his real self, is enlightened to his real self which is seen as unified, not separated. He is said to have experienced Samadhi.
Buddhists call the experience of oneness (transcendence of the separated self, the attainment of unified self) nirvana. Zen calls it Satori; the Catholic Church calls it mystical union with God.
Call it what you like, the idea is the same: when the individual gives up his separated self-concept he attains a state of having unified self with all selves and in that state feels as if he has no I that is different from other selves, no sense of subject and object, no sense of seer and seen, no observer and observed; in that unified state all selves share one self and one mind; that unified self is non-material; it is eternal, permanent and changeless.
Alas, most of us cannot verify the existence of this desirable self! We are talking hypothetical, remember. So, let us move along.
If one has no separated self-concept one would no longer be in this separated world we currently live in; one would exit from the world as we know it. If one were to return to unified spirit one would not be seen in our world.
If still in our world, perhaps, one can ignore one’s body and momentarily is aware of the unified world. Ramakrishna, the nineteenth century Indian avatar, used to go into Samadhi for hours and presumably was in the unified world, in Brahman, and not in our world of separation; in time, of course, he returned to our world or else he would have died. (See M. The Gospel of Ramakrishna, New York: Vedanta Society, 1949.)
The important point is that in the world of unity one is no longer cognizant of what is going on in our world of separation. One, as it were, has escaped from our world of doing (here on earth we have to do things to earn our living, to support our bodies, the bodies we slave for and yet that must die and decay) and is now in the world of being (just being part of a unified non-material world and not having to do anything to earn ones living for one is no longer in a body that requires sustaining it with food, medications, clothes, shelter etc.).
The categories of the world of separation we live in are different from the categories of the world of union that folks who claim to have experienced that world tell us; therefore, one cannot be in both worlds at the same time. It is either one is in our world of separation or one is in the world of union, but one cannot be in both at the same time.
Actually, one is said to be always in the world of union and while in it, as it were, goes to sleep and dream our world of separation; that is the thesis of Helen Schucman’s A course in miracles, a thesis that is congruent with the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism and Berkeley’s solipsistic philosophy.
Alas, many of us have not attained that supposed unified spirit state and have no way of ascertaining that it exists. If we are going to accept its reality we have to accept what those who supposedly have attained it tell us about it. We accept it on faith, on the authority and the credibility of those who claim to have attained it. Faith and belief is the operating word.
Unfortunately, many religious charlatans claim to have experienced what they have not experienced and in the process deceive mankind. We are better served if we accepted only propositions that each of us have experienced and can verify. I do not accept any idea on faith.
Perhaps, there are those who have genuinely experienced no separated self, but in as much as I have not experienced it I am best served if I did not accept their word for the truth. Religion has deceived mankind for too long that we had better rely on what we all can verify. This does not mean that Unified Spirit does not exist; it means that until someone comes up with a way for the majority of us to verify its existence we had better not dwell on it and, instead, dwells on what we all can verify.
Thus, whereas in absolute terms if one had no separated self-one would be in perfect peace and joy hence be perfectly mentally healthy but in as much as we have not experienced no separated self we are left with having a self and figuring out in what form that self serves us best.
Having no separated self is absolute mental health but in this world where we must have separated selves, having a humble self, a self that gives us relative, not absolute peace and joy, seem the best that we can do.
From my experience, I know that to seek a big and powerful self is to suffer a lot; therefore, not to suffer too much is to have a, humble self.
We must strive to make ourselves humble, not fictionally grandiose. In humility lie our earthly mental health, our living in relative peace and joy; in grandiosity lie our mental disorder, our living in psychological suffering. Since while on earth we cannot entirely eliminate our separated self-concepts or attain perfect humility we must have some psychological suffering in our lives. The world is not a bed of roses; to be human is to suffer and there is no getting around it; we can reduce our suffering but eliminate it, not until we live in a unified state, which is not a material state.
THE SPECTRUM OF MENTAL HEALTH AND MENTAL DISORDER
Mental health and mental disorder is on a spectrum, a continuum from the perfectly mentally healthy to the least mentally healthy. As pointed out above, it seems that perfect mental health requires one to have no separated self, to be aware that one is part of unified spirit self. This requires one to be outside the world of separation we live in, to be in the world of non-material being.
If one is in the world of matter, space and time one must have a separated self; therefore, the next best thing is to have humility, to accept that one is not in charge of one’s life, that a higher force, call it whatever you like, is in charge of one’s life. The universe is in charge of itself; I am not in charge of the universe.
From that humble state of mind we go to the various states of mental disorder that we see in our world. We begin with what is called normalcy. The normal person has mental illness in the sense that he or she believes that he has a separated self and defends it; in defending his imaginary separated self the normal person disturbs his peace, and does not experience absolute peace and joy; he lives in some fear. The normal person’s sense of self is usually not grandiose hence he lives in relative peace and happiness. The normal person’s mind is not filled with excessive anxiety (from fear of not attaining grandiose goals) hence he is more able to learn at school and work; in Erich Fromm’s terms, (1947) he tends to be a productive person.
From normalcy we go to neurosis (aka personality disorders). Here, the self-concept seeks exaggerated importance and power, and, as such, is filled with anxiety from not attaining the fictional important self. The neurotic has a compulsive desire to be important but still knows that he is not that important; he is still able to test reality although he does not accept the reality of his powerlessness. The neurotic does not like his body, rejects it and yearns for a better body which is not going to come into being. He is unable to live with his body as it is and instead seeks a better body. Because of his heightened anxiety he tends to be a poor learner at school and work. The neurotic tends to be less productive in the sense that he does not fulfill his potential; he pursues an imaginary self and cannot fulfill the dictates of that imaginary self. As Abraham Maslow (1968) pointed out, it is those who seek to actualize their real selves, not their imaginary fictionally important selves that tend to be highly productive persons.
Finally, we go to psychosis where the individual actually believes that he is his wished for big self and since he is not that big self he is deluded. The psychotic is not operating in the world of reality as we know it to be; he lives in his self-constructed reality, in his own world and is generally not a productive person; it is either other persons support him or he roams the streets, eating from garbage dumps.
Most human beings have some mental disorder; that is, they fancy themselves important when they are not. In body and ego the individual has absolutely no worth (perhaps, in spirit, if spirit exists, he has worth).
In the here and now world anyone who so desires it can put a gun on another person’s head, pull the trigger and send bullets into his head and end his life. Earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, diseases from bacteria, virus and fungi kill people at will. In a world where people are easily destroyed by people and natural events they do not have worth.
Any human being who believes that he has worth is living in the world of delusion; he takes his desired worth as real worth. If an Adolf Hitler can convince himself that Slavic persons, Jews and Black persons are sub-human beings and embarks on killing them and killed over fifty million of them and no positive force of nature stopped him, only human beings stopped him; if white folks can decide to see black folks as inferior and as a result of that fictional philosophy enslaved and discriminated against them, there is no natural worth in people’s lives.
Life in body is such that anyone who so desires it can do away with other people’s lives or reduce them to oppressed status.
Therefore, I do not see myself as having any kind of existential worth. My body is totally worthless and valueless. However, I see myself as having imaginary worth; that worth is conceptual, is a mental construct not a natural phenomenon. I have no delusion of having importance and power. Neither do you have those despite your delusion that you have them (if you have them how come if I so choose I can end your life…a life that can be ended by other persons intrinsically has no worth; we are food for worms).
Human beings who have less grandiose self-concepts tend to be more able to learn. White folks generally tend to be less grandiose and tend to be more able to learn than black folks.
Black folks in general tend to be grandiose, that is, neurotic and find it difficult to learn. It will take a few more generations for Africans to become less egoistic and then learn at a higher rate.
The perceived fifteen point difference in how black, white and Asian folks perform on intelligence tests is probably due to their differences in learning rate. Black folks want to become big selves hence fear failing, are anxious hence learn less than white and Asian folks with more humble selves hence have less anxiety and learn more. Those black who are less grandiose hence are not afraid to learn tend to have the same level of IQ as other races.
Those without grandiosity tend to be creative (unified spirits are creative, whereas the separated ego is miscreative).
What is the point in saying all these? I am saying them because it is in my nature to say them. My purpose in life requires me to state what constitutes mental health and its opposite and in so doing help teach folks about their mental health hence give them peace and happiness.
I live what I teach; I live from a humble self. I do not seek to be an important self; that is, I have healed my neurotic quest to have a big and powerful separated self and can therefore help those who want to heal their neurosis to do so.
When the big self is sloughed off the individual lives from a humble self; thereafter, the individual does not speak or behave from an imaginary big self but from a humble self. The result of living from a humble self is the attainment of relative, not perfect, peace and joy (perfect peace and joy lie only in having no separated self at all).
I feel peaceful and happy hence have attained a certain level of mental health while still living in the world of separation and body. Because my philosophy gives me peace and joy I feel that it is true. It is true because whatever gives human beings peace and happiness is good for them.
Much of the nonsense taught at our universities does not give folks peace and joy hence is mere neurotic mental masturbation. The test for truth is simple: does an idea give you peace and happiness? If a philosophy makes you peaceful and happy it is good for you; if it gives you conflict it is not good for you, for the truth does not attack but rehabilitates.
My conception of mental health as inhering in humility probably would not sit well with certain persons, especially those who insist on convoluted and complicated conceptions of phenomena. I can see Freudian psychoanalysts entertaining us with the complex interplay of the Id, ego and superego, the whole shebang of how we need to go to analysts and go through transference relationships with them; break through resistance and cathet what is repressed into our unconscious minds. I see no reason why those who are interested in such analysis should not try them but in the end what I want to know is what is mental health; now that you are analyzed and know how your id made you want to have sex with your mother, and society told you not to do so and as a result (from repressing your id instincts of sex and aggression) you became neurotic, are you now functioning in a healthy mannered? What is healthy behavior for you?
I can see biologically oriented psychologists entertaining us with tales how the complex interplays of neurotransmitters in the brain causes mental disorders. There is no doubt that there is some correlation between the various mental disorders with disordered brain chemistry. One accepts that the human body plays a role in the functioning of the human mind. But having said so we still have to know what mental health is. Yes, if you are manic you probably have elevated neuropiniphrine making you have grandiose self-view; if you are depressed you probably have less serotonin making you feel sad; if you are schizophrenic you probably have more dopamine making your thinking scrambled and if you are anxious you probably have less GABA in your brain. Having accepted the validity of brain chemistry as causal in mental states and the usefulness of treating the mentally ill with medications, the fact remains that we still have to ascertain what constitutes mental health.
Our behavioral friends tell us that most behaviors are learned. Okay. But what is mental health that they ought to be getting people to learn? You cannot teach people to learn a state if you do not know what that state is. I worked with systematic modification methods and tried modifying the behaviors of anti-social personalities until it occurred to me that I had not first established what constituted pro-social behaviors beyond what society told me is so.
In nature animals take from everywhere and eat. Criminality is a social construct. If that is the case why then am I saying that folks who stole something from nature are criminals, if criminality is a social construct? Behavior considered criminal in one setting is not only allowed but praised in other settings. We pay our soldiers to go kill other people but condemn criminals who kill for their own purposes.
The point is that we first have to ascertain what constitutes appropriate behaviors before we can talk about inappropriate behaviors. Psychology must first tell us what constitutes healthy behavior before it tells us about what is not healthy behavior. Is behavior healthy because the powers that be in society say that they are? In the West, for example, we send men who have sex with twelve year old children to prison but in the Arab and Indian world they marry off those children. What exactly is natural behavior?
One is not naïve; one accepts that we must live in society and that our behaviors affect one another and therefore we must establish rules of behavior that reward socially serving behaviors. If a man has sex with a child, from where I stand he ought to be killed, period. Why? It is because the child is not able to make independent decision as to what is right or wrong. But if a man has consensual sex with a twenty something year old woman that is none of my business.
The point is that one is not deluded into thinking that rules are natural for they are not; they are social constructs and generally is established by the powerful in society and serves their interests and generally do not serve the interests of the weak. Such is reality and we must live with aspect of it but without illusions that what is happening is just.
In psychology practitioners must first tell us what is mental health before they keep on talking about mental disorder. We are told that schizophrenia is a mental disorder. Why so? How do I know that the private world of schizophrenics is not good for them? How do I know that the grandiose self-images of manic persons are not good for such persons etc.? R. D. Laing, in his book, The Politics of Experience (1960), contended that psychotics are those who saw through the injustices of society and create their own society and live in it, that they want to escape from our world and is like mystics who negated our normal society and invented and live in their conception of right society. Thomas Tzas (1966) tells us that there is no such thing as mental illness.
I do not agree with those who deny the reality of mental disorders; I have dealt with the mentally ill long enough to know that mental illness is a reality. In fact, I believe that all human beings are mentally ill; I see the so-called normal person as mentally ill.
Consider. What exactly are our true nature and our real self? Are we only bodies or are we spirits? If we are spirits, deny them and identify with bodies and behave as if we are only bodies are we not deluded? Helen Schucman writes that to be a human being is to deny ones unified spirit self and identify with a false separated self-housed in body hence to be deluded. She even says that the world we see is a dream world and does not in reality exist hence we are seeing what is not there. We are thus said to be deluded and hallucinating, in a word that we are all insane!
How do I know that Schucman is not correct in her assessment of the human condition? I do not know whether she is correct or not; neither do I know that those who say that all we are, are bodies, materialists, are correct. I am agnostic and do not know anything for certain.
I am interested in defining my terms. I talk about mental disorder and want to know disordered relative to what ordered state? In this paper I set out my understanding of ordered state; if you disagree with me show me the alternative and don’t just talk about mental disorder without telling us what mental health is.
Freud said that as long as a person can love and hold down a job he is mentally healthy. Okay. But what is love? Adolf Hitler worked so was he mentally healthy or was he a murderous psychopathic sociopath, a narcissistic, anti-social personality?
I do not believe that I have said the last word on this subject; I would like to believe that what I said is heuristic and calls on others to contribute to the search for understanding as to what constitutes mental health.
What is mental health? To me, mental health is a state of mind in which the individual feels peaceful and happy. To have perfect peace and joy one cannot have a separated self-concept, one cannot have the human personality; one must feel a part of unified self.
In this world we live in we do have separated selves. The only choice we seem to have is whether to make ourselves humble or grandiose.
If we choose to retain our big selves we experience loads of anxiety, lack of peaceful and happy; on the other hand, if we choose less big selves we are more peaceful and happy. Absolute peace and happiness, however, is not possible in this world for we must have some separated self to be in the world of separated self.
In childhood, many people construct grandiose, that is, deluded self-concepts hence experience less peace and joy and are mentally disturbed. They can choose to deconstruct their self-concepts and reconstruct them and make them realistic; that is, they can choose to become humble and in so doing attain relative peace and joy. They can choose to become relatively, not absolutely, mentally healthy.
PS: Generally, those living in highly urbanized societies, and since to be civilized is to live in cities, hence more civilized tend to have humble self-concepts than those living in what for a better word we can call primitive societies. Generally, Europeans and Asians tend to be more humble than Africans. Africans are the most grandiose human beings on earth and as a result find it difficult to learn hence are backward. They need to cast off their unrealistic deluded self-concepts and replace them with humble self-concepts hence become more efficient learners (and, perhaps, eventually give up all self-concepts and attain no separated self-living hence attain perfect peace and joy).
Adler, Alfred (1911) The Neurotic Constitution
American Psychiatric Association (1995) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
Freud, Sigmund (1960) Collected Works
Fromm, Erich (1947) Escape from Freedom
Fromm, Erich (1956) The Art of Love
Horney, Karen (1950) Neurosis and Human Growth
Jung, Carl G (1966) Collected works
Kelly, George (1958) Personality as Personal Constructs
Laing, R. D. (1960) The Politics of Experience.
M. 91949) The Gospel of Ramakrishna
Maslow, Abraham (1968)
Rogers, Carl (1947) Client Centered Therapy
Skinner, B.F (1972) Beyond Freedom and Dignity
Sullivan, Harry Stack (1964) Interpersonal Psychology of H.S. Sullivan
Tzas, Thomas (1966) The Myth of Mental Illness.
Ozodi Thomas Osuji
September 20, 2011