Mental Health is Physical Health
Our eyes look out and yet we experience within. As a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer, I have witnessed a multitude of times the rationality and irrationality espoused by “we experience within” and the resulting functional and dysfunctional acts that follow. Take for example the ideal of getting into shape.
Here in New England the seasons are starting to change. After a winter of comfort food, isolation, and inertia, people are starting to think of losing weight and getting fit. Not that I have a statistic on the subject, but I would venture to say that gym memberships rise during this time. People get it in their heads they want to lose weight, tone up, gain muscle mass, feel better about themselves. Venturing out, they join a gym whose memberships vary from a few dollars a week to hundreds for yearly memberships. Then the mind kicks in, “since I am going to go to they gym, I need to dress the part.” Shopping at the sports outlets, people spend hundreds dollars on clothes to cool themselves while working out and coordinated attire just to make themselves look good. It is about this time the ideals start to kick in. People start to project exhausting workout routines and convince themselves they need to prepare. Bulk purchases are made of protein powders and complex carbohydrate mixes, necessary in the mind of the “want-to-be” to repair muscle and boost energy. Before stepping one foot into the gym, a person has spent close to a thousand dollars on an idea of “What I want to happen.” (As an aside, our Western culture holds this idea of “What I want to happen” that drives the billion-dollar supplement industry and pharmaceuticals.)
Before they even enter the gym, many people have it in their minds what they are going to look like by performing certain acts and denying themselves certain foods. In the past, what I have seen are people new to the gym enter, go to a machine, start beating up on their bodies, build up a sweat and leave never to be seen from again. Somehow, they missed the golden rule. You have to have an attainable goal, and to reach that goal you need to study and practice proper form and technique over a consistent period. They missed the point that exercise is a skill performed and not a pill swallowed. They missed the point that clothes don’t make you feel good. You feel good in clothes, or maybe you don’t. I like what Covert Bailey often said during his 1990s PBS shows on losing fat, “The best pill in the world for how you feel takes 45 minutes to swallow and that is exercise.”
I am going to take Covert’s statement one step further, and introduce my GOLDEN RULE to physical health and that is: Mental health is physical health. Your mental health gets you into the gym. Your mental health sets the bio-psychosocial stage for physical fitness, without it, there is not incentive, motivation, drive, determination, or out right desire.
Mental health is a skill to be learned and not a condition to be treated. One of our problems as a quick-fix nation of mind-sets is we tend to look outside of ourselves for self-improvement and relief. Turn the finger around and look no further than the person you see in your mirror.
As a Master Licensed Alcohol Drug Counselor, my license provides me the opportunity to meet with clients who experience co-occurring “disorders” along with their diagnosis of substance abuse/dependence. With a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Addiction Theory and Intervention Applications, trained in the Cognitive-Social Discipline of psychology I am versed in several therapies. As a Certified Addictions Specialist with the American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders, the Academy founded by Harvard University’s School of Medicine—Division on Addictions, I align myself with many of the prominent pioneers in the addictions field. It is through these accomplishments, and through my 20 years of study, research, and practice I have never witnessed therapy change a person in overcoming his or her “disorder.”
What I have discovered, is when a person learns the skill of mental health, applies those skills to his or her behavior (i.e., thoughts and feelings) the person involved embraces the opportunity to maximize his or her power of control to change.
When people think about change, often they think about not doing something, which in effect through eyes looking out as experienced within the mind-set, they think about self-denial of something. Irrationally and to the point of dysfunction, the “something” is often the perceived source of comfort or relief. Some look to alcohol, drugs, food, new clothes, and toys of like. Yet, in its true form, self-denial is similar to surrendered control, and no one likes to be controlled. In fact, being controlled is the antithesis to the human condition. As I have pointed out in previous writings, the human condition is a wanting condition never satisfied. As a clock passes time by the second, in no point in time is the human organism or its resulting perspectives of higher orderings ever satisfied.
Each waking morning, our first act is to embrace or deny the power of control through which we live our lives. Each morning we wake, our first act is to put on a pair of shades, which constitute our self-perspectives, our wants of power of control. Depending upon the shade of our perspectives, the shade being wants or needs, we look out upon our worlds as we experience. Looking out upon our worlds through perspectives of need in power and control, we walk through our lives susceptible to external threats of loss power of control and irrationally need power and control to validate our worth. In such a lifestyle, we look outside of ourselves for validation thereby embracing our insecurities as weaknesses to be continually denied or self-medicated. Alternatively, looking out upon our world through perspectives of want in power of control, we walk through our lives open to our insecurities as strengths to be continually embraces as opportunities of self-improvement. Every moment in time is a matter of perspective.
As in any skills approach, education is key. After all, if you do not know where you are going, how are you going to get there? Indeed, you do have to know where you are going and for this you need a guiding perspective on the concept of change. Change is not a process of recovery. Why would any rational being choose to “recover” from a perspective that set the stage for the resulting dysfunction? Alternatively, change as a perspective of discovery makes practical sense. Of course, we want to discover the life not lived, and for this education is key to awareness. Education is key to awareness, but what is the required education.
The required education is of your personal self in context with your social self or what I refer to as your primary relationship. Think of an avocado. Cut an avocado in half and what you find is a hard seed. This seed represents your personal self, it is your me, myself, and I. From this seed, you look out through your social self, which constitutes the cushion that surrounds the seed of your personal self. Together, your personal and social self necessitates zones of comfort. Our zones of comfort are those zones, those ways in which we want or need the world to treat us as we interact in our worlds. Those zones of comfort are out expectations. If you embrace your insecurities as weaknesses, your expectations are going to be absolutes. You need to maintain power and control in face of social interaction. However, if you embrace your insecurities as strengths, you want to maintain power of control in social interactions. Taking this analogy one step further, that green crusted layer that protects the fruit of the avocado (i.e., expectations) that protects the seed (i.e., personal self) are the masks we present to the world.
Look in the mirror, look around and you can see the masks that people wear in protection of their insecurities. Look for the rigidity and you will find insecurity as a weakness. Look for flexibility and you will find insecurity as strength. Remember, our eyes look out and not in. You do not see the mask you wear, nor do others, and yet they are there.
Jim Baker, my friend who founded the Anger Management Training Institute and founder of Baker Communications points out in his book, “The Anger Busting Workbook,” communication is 60/30/10. Sixty percent of communication is body language, thirty percent is in inflection or tone in voice, and only ten percent are the words used. People carry their insecurity as a source of weakness or strength through their body language and once they open their mouths, the deal is sealed. We communicate to the world through our primary relationship.
We do communicate to the world through our primary relationship between our personal and social self-perspectives. Then we go about forming relationships with other people and their unique primary relationships. The relationships we form, we do not share in our personal self, rather we share our expectations or our zones of comfort. In sharing our zones of comfort and bonding on the zones we relate and in so doing create a secondary relationship. All secondary relationships are grounded in the shared human condition. Therefore, human interaction necessitates the human condition. As human interactionists or essentially pack animals, satisfaction of the human condition is an innate drive of competition.
Unique in our primary relationship between our personal and social self, we look outside through our expectations to satisfy our social interactionary wants and hopefully not needs. In the formation of a secondary relationship, the uniqueness’s that attracted us must be validate, negotiated, and compromised. If not, the very things that attracted you to another and another you will set you apart. This is a relational nurturing process. It is also the dynamic in competition. Competition between what we want and need represents our threshold of tolerance to frustration. If things do not go the way you want, competition between personal and social self fits, but what if there is no fit? Article to be continued.