This essay delineates the nature of mental health; it says that to be mentally healthy is to accept who one knows one’s self to be in fact, not who one wants to become. It says that people often reject their real selves and seek becoming idealized others. It says that ideals are generally derived from misconception of what extant society value and from desire to escape from problematic biological constitutions. Whatever is the origin of self-rejection, the individual must accept who he is without reference to what other people would accept?
Self Acceptance Is The Natural State Of Human Beings; Self Rejection Is An Aberration
Ozodi Thomas Osuji
People naturally accept themselves as they are and are healthy; mental disorder occurs as an aberration.
Something (such as medical disorders, social rejection) makes the individual to reject himself or herself and posit idealized self and pursue it and use its imaginary ideal standards to judge his behavior and judge other people’s behavior and in the process make life tense for one’s self and for those around one. One is anxious to the extent that one pursues neurotic, that is, false ideal self and its false goals.
The normal state of human beings is unconditional positive self-acceptance, not self-rejection.
Animals accept themselves as they are, and do not posit pictures of how they should be before they accept themselves; only sick human beings do so.
Racist white America used Africans as slaves and socially rejected them. This rejection of black folk led most black folk to reject themselves (or doubt their self-worth). They then use their minds (imagination) to create fictional ideas of what they think white folks are: ideal. Having posited imaginary ideas of who they think that white folks are, they then try to become those fictional ideals of their creation.
I see black Americans, and the so-called emergent African middle class acting as if they are whites; that is, as they think that white folks are.
I was privileged to live with white folks (even as a child of six years old I had white kids as my playmates at what used to be called European quarters at Lagos); I essentially grew up living with white folks. Therefore, I came to understand them as they are, not as black folks imagine that they are.
White folks are exactly like Africans; they are ordinary human beings with all the usual affects and imperfections. Actually, many white folks are pure animals; these types tend to be amoral persons who use people and discard them, folks without shame and guilt hence not ideal at all.
The relevant point is that self-rejecting black neurotics idealize all white folks and pursue their fantasy idea of what white folks are like that they are not.
Neurotic black folks reject their black selves and try to become ideal selves and in the process make life stressful for themselves. Clearly, white racism contributed to black self-rejection and aspiration to false ideal white status (it is black folks that project ideals to whites...many white folks are morally bankrupt).
Perhaps, the greatest sin of racism is that it induces self-rejection in its victims hence makes them live anxious and unproductive lives. But before we go on another trip of blaming the man, white folks, for black folk’s problems let it be observed that the individual can change his fate at any time and stop hating himself and accept who he is. Black folks waste too much of their time and energy blaming all their problems on white folks. They falsely make white folks out as gods who are totally responsible for their fate; they refuse to understand and accept that white folks are not perfect and are flawed human beings like black folks.
Yes, we live in a system where everything and every person’s behavior affects all of us yet we do not need to be going about accusing other people for what they did to harm us and in the meantime refuse to do what we can do to change our situation by accepting ourselves as we are.
It must be stressed that neurosis (that is, self-rejection and desire for alternative ideal-self) is not always caused by social variables only. Medical issues actually play greater role in the etiology of self-rejection and desire to become an ideal other person.
I personally have never seen white folks as better than I am. Nevertheless, my inherited medical disorder made me feel inordinate pain and I posited an imaginary body that is not pained and pursued it. As a child I was totally focused on becoming an ideal person, a perfect self. By age eight I had already decided that I wanted to have a doctorate degree in something because I thought that it would make me ideal (and I drove myself mercilessly until I had that degree in my twenties).
The point is that salient as social factors are in the genesis of self-rejection and pursuit of idealized self, medical (biological) disorders play similar causal roles. We must, therefore, examine the individual and ascertain the source of his self-rejection and pursuit of false ideal self.
We must not make the mistake that flippant African pseudo nationalists make in assuming that only white racism makes black folk reject themselves.
If anything, I have always felt superior to most white folks so white racism did not make me desire ideal self, medical issues did. Any child born with my body must reject that body and aspire after ideal body (and later learn that there is no such thing as ideal human body for the human body, even at its best, as in athletes, is imperfect, for whatever is in the world of space and time must be imperfect; perfection is a mental construct, a mental model of what could be that is not in actual existence; whatever is in body must be imperfect).
Neurotic black folks must be helped to stop seeking ideals and come to accept their black selves as they are and stop trying to become white like or whatever is their sense of ideals.
Mental health lies in accepting one’s self as one is, not postulation of ideals that one is trying to become.
The pursuit of neurotic ideal-self wastes folk’s energy and time and considering that there is no such thing as ideal self hence no one can attain it and it is a chimera so why even bother with it?
Having accepted one’s self as one is one then figures out what one likes doing and goes and does it. I believe that the study of science (physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, earth science etc.) is the highest calling of man. The study of psychology, especially if it is rooted in the physical sciences (with some speculation on spirit) is a necessity if one is going to have good mental health.
Trying to go back to live in the past, such as trying to embrace African culture and religions is ego compensatory and bullshit.
Africa’s past religions and culture were primitive folk’s adaptation to their level of development; one does not have to be ashamed of those religions and cultures but one does not have to mindlessly accept them as true.
I do not accept African culture and religion; I accept only scientific culture; that is, I accept only a culture based on scientific parameters, a culture whose indices are predicated on universal principles that all of us can observe and verify as true.
I accept me as I am; I do not need to live up to external goals to accept me. I am a brown person (both my grandparents were obviously mixed African and non-African and I do not need to deny that reality to make brain dead, real-self-denying black nationalists happy). I am a mixture of all the races of humanity and do not need to feel ashamed of that fact.
I am a human being and feel at home with black and white and Asian folk. I do not aspire to becoming like any so-called white race. I just accept all races as they are and accept their need to relate to each other and mix with each other, for the world of the future is going to be a mixed brown race.
I accept that I am very smart and do not need to apologize to any one for being who I am (Africans and black folks sometimes hate smart people and force them to dumb down to their mediocre level). The truth is that I cannot relate well to average and even above average persons. I do not have to try to be like average or above average folks in intelligence for they are not like me and actually bore me; I do not know what to talk to them about other than pretend that I can get along with them. No, I cannot get along with you unless you have superior intelligence (IQ over 130) and have graduate level education in the sciences etc.
Each of us must accept who he/she is without apologies to other people; one does not need to be accepted by other people; all that one needs to do is accept who one is, exactly as it is and leave it at that.
What it means to be mentally healthy is accepting who one is as it is not as one wants it to be or as other folks want it to be.
The natural state of healthy persons is to accept themselves as they are. Where folks reject their real selves and seek to become idealized other selves something has happened to them. They are now disordered in their thinking and behaving. They are now diseased in their mental and somatic state.
Disease means that one is not at ease with who one is; disorder means that one is not ordered; that is, is not living in accord with what nature made one to be.
To be ordered, mental or physical is to live in accordance with what nature ordered in one. Mentally healthy persons accept their bodies and selves and celebrate their real selves.
Having accepted who they are they figure out what they have aptitude in, what they have interest in, train in that general area and do work in that area. Such persons work many hours every day for when one is doing what one is interested in doing one works many hours (I work, at least, twelve hours every day, twenty four- seven).
To be fully alive and live vibrantly one must accept who one is and live in its accord. Whenever one is trying to become another person something has gone awry in one. When there is something wrong that wrong has to be corrected so that thereafter one lives being who one is in fact. If one is living who one is one tends to be creative and productive.
Most black Americans and Africans are unproductive and uncreative; I believe that this sad state of affairs is largely because they are either pretending that they are some imaginary African or some imaginary white person; they have to let go of Africa and Europe and let whatever nature placed in each of them blossom without reference to Africa or Europe or for that matter to any other external frame of reference.
Africa is not my reference group; Europe is not my reference group; pure reason and science is my frame of reference. This is how a healthy person ought to live.
This essay delineates the nature of mental health; it says that to be mentally healthy is to accept who one knows one’s self to be in fact, not who wants to become. It says that people often reject their real selves and seek becoming idealized others. It says that ideals are generally derived from misconception of what extant society value and from desire to escape from problematic biological constitutions. Whatever is the origin of self-rejection, the individual must accept who he is without reference to what other people would accept?
In nature healthy animals accept themselves as they are; animals do not try to live up to what other animals would approve in them. Human beings are the only strange animals that try to be what other people want them to be and in the process give themselves unnecessary fear and anxiety.
If a person must live and tolerate the pain of living in body and on earth he must live as he is, not as he should be.
Who the hell defines who one should be? Is it God? Since when have we all agreed that God exists? Suppose one does not accept the existence of God, now who defines who one should be? Society and other people? If so who gave them the right to do so?
No one has the right and authority to decide how other people should be (and live). Only the individual has the right to define who he is; as long as his behavior does not harm other people...if he harms other people, of course, they should protect themselves which includes arresting, trying him in a court of law and if found guilty jailed...he is free to do as he likes with his body and self.
Why pretend to be who you are not? Life is too short for one to pretend being who one is not. Stand naked before a mirror and look yourself in the mirror and accept what you see and celebrate that self, warts and all.
You know that you live as your real self if generally you live in peace and feel happy and love you and those around you. Whenever you are not in peace and is not happy something has gone out of whack with you.
Love, joy and peace (they go together, where one is the others are and where one is missing others are missing) are the indices of mental health.
Ozodi Thomas Osuji, PhD
June 15, 2012