Mental Health Basics

America seems to be in poor mental health.  Intervention and tracking is being called for in our schools, criminal justice system, and even data mining online activities.  Clearly the people are in some sort of mental and physical (existential) crisis.

What are the basic components of mental health?

Family of Origin

If you have ever spent any time in therapy/counseling, you may have been annoyed by the insistence to focus on your family of origin.  While you may be there to talk about something happening now, often the talk is redirected to the past.  There is good reason for this.  One’s family of origin, and by extension their culture and community, have the greatest impact on personal and spiritual development.  These are where attitudes toward life are shaped and the foundation is laid. For example: Is the world loving and nurturing, or unsafe and cruel?  In our earliest years and first relationships we learn almost all of our positive and negative attitudes and take them with us as we get older.  There is no privilege greater than growing up in an honest, empathetic caring and nurturing environment with parents who are able to effectively guide and impart wisdom.  While there is no greater misfortune than growing up neglected in a dishonest, hostile environment, belittled and treated like an object by a parent wrapped up in their narcissism.  These tend to beget the other.  Without examining and understanding the messages synthesized in the early years an individual will never truly be healthy.

Self Talk

It is said that vast majority of our internal thoughts are repetitive unproductive junk.  However, this junk has a lot of impact.  Neural connections are made stronger with use.  That is to say the more we think of certain things or in a particular way the more they become ingrained and easier to slip into.  We are what we think.  Some people have negative self talk, others are grandiose.  The more we think things that are disconnected from reality and the truth, faulty thinking, the more likely mental health will suffer.  I have witnessed people who have seemingly blown their brains by simply regularly engaging in faulty thinking.  Observing thoughts and shutting down those which are harmful or untrue can have tremendous benefit.  Meditation is often cited as a way to gain control of the mind.

Both family of origin and regular self talk make up the basics of our character and mental health.  Through introspection, curiosity, and learning we can all improve our state of being.   It is also important to remember that we live in a time where the images we see, the narratives and information we hear are not there to increase our personal well being, but to sell us on something.  To combat this, time should be made for quiet reflection, exercise, and learning.   The brain is a complex piece of equipment and none of us are given an owners manual, but you can create one.