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Toward Personal and National Mental Health

January 12, 2011

Still on the theme of mental health in relation to religion, a couple additional points: Psychologists talk in terms of a person being integrated or not.  None of us is perfectly integrated, and it’s a constant process… balancing and creating consistency in our beliefs, behaviors, having a sense of “identity” without being overly tied to it, etc.  Complex stuff. 

What we all need is supportive, loving people around us who are themselves relatively integrated.  This is especially true if we happen to have something either in our circumstances or within us, perhaps biochemically, “go wrong.”  Very often that happens around puberty or early adulthood, as we’ve so often seen with school shooters and the recent Tuscon incident.  Again, I will suggest that our society’s tendency to spawn not just a couple isolated instances like this, but way, way too many is suggestive of some things that we need to look at in our own spiritual ways of being, and in the religious/spiritual teachings and practices of our country’s most prominent groups. 

One of the most powerful integrating forces is, of course, love.  Learning to transform our fears and angers into love, including love of our “enemies” (or mere opponents), is one of the keys…. What are some of your ways of accomplishing this?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. pondering-one permalink
    January 12, 2011 11:28 pm

    In an ideal loving society of any religion the mentally ill would be cared for. Unfortunately there are too many outside of religious communities anyway and we (Americans) are not being “our brother’s keeper” to those people. I wish this copuntry would go back to the mental hospitals there used to be only reformed so that at least individuals could be helped directly and daily with love, compassion, and medications so that they could learn to integrate into at least some segment of society where they could have a sense of being productive and accepted. We probably all know someone who seems a bit odd, but we don’t know them (and probably don’t care to) know them well enough to try to be of help to them. Too often we feel helpless to do anything but cope with our own lives. If there was some way of reporting these individuals to a program that would take a compassionate interest in evaluating them, that would be great. But then again we all have to be so careful because of civil liberties issues. Well, I obviously don’t have the answer.

  2. Howard Pepper permalink*
    January 13, 2011 8:45 pm

    Thanks for the comment. I appreciate the humility expressed in it, too… none of use alone does have the full answer. But, as you suggest, we can and should at least be thinking, doing small things in our own circles, and perhaps participating in wider discussions and action steps.

    I don’t think the main answers are in either governmental programs or our typical “health care system,” though some restored funding for mental institutions, as a short-term thing, might help the more extreme, needy cases. I DO think religious institutions and spiritual, compassionate people who run or help in various charities are one key. But most religious groups, in order to become committed AND be effective, must also look at the mental/emotional health implicit in their sets of beliefs and practices. They may find (as I’d expect) that some major adjustments are needed… including a completely fresh, deeper look at their Scriptures. When central themes of teaching are truly oriented around love, forgiveness and compassion/action, and without the countering threat of “eternal punishment,” then a person or group is positioned to be of real help.

    • pondering-one permalink
      January 14, 2011 1:57 am

      The problem with relying on any religious group for any type of social service is that they usually require some “indoctrination” to be attached to the service. As you imply, for some people the cure may be worse than the disease. Perhaps this is where an interfaith organization may be of more real service so that no particular faith group monopolizes those in need. On the other hand, deep religious faith can be a stabilizing influence, though I suspect we would disagree as to the definition of that faith. No matter right now.

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