What is a Healthy Mind?

The Calm Sea, 1869, Gustave Courbet

The Calm Sea, 1869, Gustave Courbet

I've been listening to Alain de Botton a lot lately. I love the way his mind works. Everything he says is so profound.

He talks about what a healthy mind is.

A healthy mind is able to bracket.

He defines bracket as the "ability to sequence thoughts in order of their validity to you at a particular moment so that you don't get a thought which, while true, while legitimate, has no place at a particular point in time"

He gives the example of making a speech. Do you need the voice that says "you're terrible at public speaking, everyone's going to laugh at you, you're going to say the wrong things". Do you need this voice then and there? Or do you need another kind of voice, which is "I'm going to do this and it's fine".

So the ability to sequence thoughts and arrange them in the way we need them arranged and do what we need to do is an important part of mental health.

An unhealthy mind is when you're unable to tell the voice, "yes, thank you very much, but I don't need to hear that right now". And to create a hierarchy of what is important to know.

It also relates to the ability to be kind to oneself. There's no one truth to who a human being is. Health depends on interpreting who we are and what we happen to be doing with some of the generosity of a friend.

A good friend doesn't lie to you, they won't say you're fantastic when things have messed up, but they put the most generous interpretation on whatever it is that you've done. It could be good or bad; they're not deceiving you, but they put a helpful gloss, a kind gloss.

Why does a mind get unwell. The negativity that is in everyone derives from negative experiences that simply gets too overpowering. It happens when we've exhausted the all resources to combat the darkness, the shadow inside everyone. We simply haven't been shown enough positivity for long enough to remain on the side of hope.

For these people whose attachment to the light is a bit more fragile, they need to pay more attention than others to make sure they surround themselves with voices, internal and external arguments, in favor of keeping going, in favor of sustaining themselves in life.