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Sun, June 16

Barnes: The Human Condition

It goes somewhat like this: An old friend asks how and what I am doing, and in the course of replying I mention that I am still writing a column for The Courier. “What do you write about?” “Whatever I want to, I reply, but most of the columns fall under the heading of ‘The Human Condition’.”

That response usually shuts down the conversation. I’m not sure they know — or want to know — what I mean by “The Human Condition,” and sometimes I’m not too clear on it either. However, today’s column is certainly in that category. So, if you want an example, then you might want to read on. It’s possible you may learn something about yourself.

All of us know that we have a personality. And most of us are aware that sometimes it works well for us. We’re in control of our behavior and everything is going good. But we are also aware there are those times when we feel off keel and emotionally upset. Well, when that happens here are a few considerations to keep in mind.

First, your behavior doesn’t occur by chance. All behavior is either motivated by you (your personality) or the environment. What you choose to do is a result of these two forces. Your responses do not occur accidentally.

Secondly, it’s your task to maintain balance. When emotional storms buffet you about, it’s your challenge to correct the list and ride out the storm. The more energy you expend getting your equilibrium back, the less you’ll have to move ahead.

Thirdly, there will be times in your life when you will be emotionally disturbed. Whether you got up on the wrong side of the bed, or are feeling blue, or are upset by some real or perceived slight by someone, you are going to have periods when you feel hopeless or helpless.

Fourth, just because you are mildly disturbed emotionally doesn’t mean you need professional help. When you have a cold it doesn’t mean you’re going to get pneumonia. Even if you get pneumonia, present treatment enables most people to recover. The same is true of mental illness. The difference between mild and severe is one of degree.

Finally, we are imperfect individuals. None of us grew up in a perfect environment or with a perfect heredity. Each of us has fragile spots. When the forces around us center on our weaknesses we’ll have problems. We’ll display symptoms of mental illness.

So, here’s the good news: The late psychiatrist William Menninger indicated that the incidence of mental illness is one in one. All of us at times are mentally ill. In other words, it’s normal to be a tad whacko at times. That ought to make you feel better about yourself, or your spouse, or your Uncle Ed.

It’s when the forces impacting on us become more than we can handle that we ought to be concerned. Then we should seek professional help. The question then is, where do you find a good therapist? Like you find a good physician, through word of mouth or friends. There are a number of well-qualified therapists practicing here. Check out their credentials and don’t be hesitant to ask for a no-charge interview to see if the rapport between the two of you is positive.

Good therapists are worth their weight in gold.

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