Coronavirus Crisis: Carpe Diem
Episode 15: The Main Sign of Psychological Health
May 11, 2020
Welcome to the podcast Coronavirus Crisis: Carpe Diem, where you and I rise up and embrace the possibilities and opportunities for spiritual and psychological growth in this time of crisis, all grounded in a Catholic worldview. We are going beyond mere resiliency, to rising up to the challenges of this pandemic and becoming even healthier in the natural and the spiritual realms than we were before. I’m clinical psychologist Peter Malinoski your host and guide, with Souls and Hearts at soulsandhearts.com. Thank you for being here with me. This is episode 15, released on May 11, 2020 entitled The Main Sign of Psychological Health.
In the previous 11 episodes, we have described and discussed the four pillars of resilience: Mindset, Heartset, Bodyset and Soulset. Now, we are getting to the really fascinating exploration of how these four pillars interact. We’re diving into our internal psychological lives to see how our psychological strengths and weaknesses impact our resiliency but also how they affect our spiritual lives. Because as a Catholic psychologist, I’m really focused on how psychological factors, our psychological structures, our psychological functioning, our entire psychological lives impact how we accept love from God and how we love God in return. It all boils down to that. If what I do as Catholic psychologist doesn’t at least help others to accept God’s love and to love God in return – then I am missing the point of the greatest commandment.
So what is the main sign of psychological health? What is it? Take a minute and consider it. What do you think the main distinguishing characteristic of mental health is? Let’s struggle with this a bit. In fact, some of you gutsier types might even be willing to stop this podcast for a few minutes and write down your ideas before you listen further. Write them down, email them to me at email@example.com
or text them to me at 317.567.9594 – let me know before you continue on. Let me know what you are thinking! I want to hear from you. The answer to the question of what is the main sign of psychological health may not be what you think. Let’s explore this together
I promise that I will tell you what this central, essential psychological characteristic is. Not only that, today, I’m going to go over with you the disadvantages of not having that essential quality. I’m also going to give you a bunch of examples of why this particular quality matters so much and I’m also going to give you some guidance in how to overcome the deficits you have in that area. All today, all for you. So hang in there with me.
We are going to start with a story, with a fable by Aesop which will help to illustrate the point. I really want this to stick with you. So it’s storytime with Dr. Peter.
A man who had traveled in foreign lands boasted very much, on returning to his own country, of the many wonderful and heroic feats he had performed in the different places he had visited. Among other tales, he told his listeners that when he was at Rhodes, he had leaped to such a distance that no man of his day could leap anywhere near him as to that. The traveler claimed there were in Rhodes many persons who saw his prodigious leap, and he could call them in as his witnesses. The traveler firmly believed his own tale and was adamant about his abilities, and was convincing many of his listeners. One bystander, though, interrupted him, and said: "Now, my good man, if this be all true we have no need of witnesses in Rhodes. Let’s pretend that we are in Rhodes. Let us see you leap! Jump for us!"
What kind of personality does the boasting traveler demonstrate in this little vignette? What do you think? Dependent, Schizoid, Obsessive, Paranoid, Self-defeating, hysterical, psychopathic, narcissistic, depressive, dissociative -- what do you think.
One might argue that you can’t definitively assign a personality style to an imagined character – Oh, but I can. And I am going to do it, right now.
I see this character, the boasting traveler as narcissistic. Many of you may have guessed that. People with narcissistic styles work hard to maintain a very fragile sense of self-worth by getting affirmation from outside themselves. Something very important is missing – they don’t have deep sense of essential goodness – that they are good because they exist and are made in the image and likeness of God. At a deep level, often in their unconscious, they feel loveless and fraudulent and are very frightened of their inner sense of inferiority, weakness, shame, and inadequacy. They work really hard to keep this out of awareness by focusing on the admiration and complements of others. But their efforts so often backfire and they wind up exactly where they don’t want to be – exposed, ashamed, rejected, despised, alienated from others – like the boasting traveler in the vignette.
Whenever there is psychological disorder, there are disconnects in the internal working of the person. In the case of the traveler, with his narcissism, his idealized image of himself as a great jumper is disconnected from his actual ability. He is also disconnected from his deep needs and his deep desires, which are buried in his unconscious. So where there is psychological disorder and distress there are disconnects from reality, internal psychological elements are no longer interconnected, they are split off and fractured, and we break down.
We all have what I call gut-level or intuitive of what it means to be psychological healthy. You hear this in casual language. When we describe in casual language someone who is nosediving in his psychological functioning, we say that “He is breaking down.” “He is falling apart.” He is losing it.
On the other hand, Someone we see as psychologically well-adjusted – we say that person has got it all together. He has his act together. He has all his ducks in a row.
This brings us back to the question: What is the main sign of psychological health? The main sign of psychological health is
Integration. The main sign of psychological health is internal integration. Integration. Having it all together.
So let’s go deeper into that – what does being integrated look like? It means accepting things in us that we might not like. We’re not endorsing them or embracing them, but we accept that they exists in us.
Being integrated means that you are aware and accept our emotions, even the ones we don’t like.
For example anger and hatred. Anger at our parents, our spouses, our children, our God. Or deep disappointment. Knowing our heartset.
Being integrated means that you are aware and accept our thoughts, even the ones we don’t like.
Not dwelling on them. Knowing our mindset
Being integrated means that you are aware and accept our attitudes toward ourselves, even the ones we don’t like.
E.g. that we are worthless, or that we are no good, or that we are unlovable. I totally get why we suppress or repress
Being integrated means that you are aware and accept our impulses, even the ones we don’t like
E.g. impulses toward violence. Sexual impulses. Impulses toward blasphemy. We tend to shut these down, get rid of them, but we are just pushing them into the unconscious.
Being integrated means that you are aware and accept our body sensations, even the ones we don’t like. Sexual responses – I’m not physically attracted to that person
Percentage that is suppressed is a measure of how much disorder there is.
Becoming integrated: taking disowned, rejected, unconscious, or conflicted aspects of the self and making them part of a cohesive sense of self
reducing the use of rigid coping mechanisms
increase spontaneity and flexibility and creativity
It is the process of making whole. Christ was perfectly integrated. So was our Blessed Mother. Integration is a critical part of their perfection.
Saints. Wretchedness. Relying on God’s mercy.
We can be with ourselves and in ourselves as we are. Accepting ourselves as we are, even if other in our past did not. If the boasting traveler could accept himself as he is, he wouldn’t have to puff himself up and put himself at the mercy of the approval of the crowds.
Every personality disorder reflects a lack of integration. The way that the person’s system keeps the integration from happening changes from disorder to disorder. One of the ways to differential among personality styles is to look at the defense mechanisms. These are the coping strategies that people use to keep unpleasant realities out of awareness. Part of us is saying like Jack Nicholson to Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men” You can’t handle the truth!
We want to bring together of the emotional aspects, the thoughts, the desires, the body sensations, the attitudes, impulses, desire, all the psychological and physiological systems within a person to work in harmony, under the intellect in the will. St. Thomas Aquinas referred to this as governing the passions. That is integration. You can’t govern a passion by trying to banish it out of conscious awareness.
An integrated man knows who he is. An integrated woman knows who she is.
Many reasons why we are not integrated. Happened with the fall – psychological disorder came along with the rest of the disorder in the natural realm.
What it means to be not integrated.
Exercise: Reflecting on a quality you really hate in someone else.
Finger pointing 3 pointing back.
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