That which is conventional as the normal by society is typical mental health. It is not the average, nor is it a definite entity. It is a variety into which the most number of persons fit who are regarded as living within the suitable bounds of social conduct. No two individuals in a group are exactly alike; yet every of the group may be regarded as usual if all fit into the general patterns of conduct and adjustment conventional by society.
It should be pointed out that merely being in the usual range is not an index of a desirable level of health. A person asleep may be almost perfectly adjusted to his environment and his needs. The desirable goal is a dynamic adjustment, one of positive accomplishment and a resulting high level of enjoyment.
Success and enjoyment are relative not absolute factors. So too, mental health is relative, and within the standard range one finds various degrees of mental and emotional well-being, a few individuals live with a high degree of effectiveness. They have extensive plans and goals and experience achievement in their daily living with a minimum of friction and a maximum of enjoyment. They do not live completely. They experience failure, frustration, and disappointment but to a minor degree. These are the people with an outstanding level of mental health who freely and efficiently use their endowment in making a world that provides personal satisfaction in harmony with environment requirements. They rate an in mental health.
Individual with a good level of mental health do not knowledge the high level of adjustment attained by members of the brilliant group. This group attains a creditable excellence of mental hygiene but one that is below the attainment of the first group. Doubtless many of them are capable of achieving the top group through understanding and tangible application to improvement. This is perhaps the B group.
In the fair or C group are that vast majority of usual individuals who experience neither a huge deal of friction and conflict nor much accomplishment or enjoyment. They live rather passive, uninteresting, uninspired lives. A lot of attain just half of their potential accomplishment in adjustment and a smaller portion of their share of enjoyment. It is in this group that most can be done to get better the level of mental health. Improvement can come through helping the individual acquire a more extensive and intensive understanding of mental health and its translation into a tangible program of improvement. Even an improvement of 10% would add really to the individual’s life.
Adjustment in life is not an simple or a easy task. It is a task requiring constant application because, in effect, a person adjusts to four different worlds—the physical world, the social world, the spiritual world, and his own perfect world.
In pioneer days perhaps the most challenge to the individual was his adjustment to the physical forces in his existence. However, in modern America, although physical forces still stand for a factor of importance in human adjustment, technological advances have reduced the complexity of adapting to the physical world a highly consistent world. a child learns what to expect when he falls. It is always the equal. He learns that heat and cold are consistent in their effects. The very consistency of the physical world creates one experience highly valuable in adjustment to a somewhat similar situation in the future.
No such consistency exists in the social world. The complex socioeconomic structure of modern America require and extremely high level of human flexibility uncertainties and inconsistencies inherent in a highly developed spirited society lead to frequent frustration and even futility, which are constant obstacles to mental health. The social matrix is one in which a vast maze of practices, mores, values, and standards exists, often with little but highly important shades of differences, every tending to create personal adjustment more difficult. A child must learn that what is acceptable behavior in the home may not be satisfactory in school.
The grownup is necessary to create different finely discriminating responses to two outwardly identical situations. Sensitivity to discrimination is acquired through the maturation of personality, which enables the individual to create effective adaptations with a maximum of effectiveness and a minimum of friction and conflict.
The most central factors in any person’s environment are other people. An individual must create a specific adjustment to each person’s personality. Yet the task is not an impossible one. Although people are every one different, they are not so tremendously different. One can acquire the skill to adapt to individuals as one learns to evaluate what motivates human conduct in the normal channels of human relationships.
If in the metaphysical sense faith is regarded as one’s response to the unknown in life, all person is challenged to create a spiritual adjustment. As an individual matures in other respects, he finds an expanding need for growth in his spiritual adjustment. With this need will sometimes arise a considerable lag in maturation, resulting in conflict and perhaps brief disturbance, which motivates the individual to give proportionately more notice to this particular sphere of adjustment.
Somewhat interwoven with the spiritual in man’s existence is his idealistic world. It is the level of life to which he aspires. Or perhaps, like the ship captain who never hopes to get to a star yet is guided by it, the individual sets his perfect as a goal toward which he may strive but never reach. Often such an ideal motivates individuals to a hither understanding of their abilities. However, too huge a disparity between the island of the ideal and the mainland of reality may result in frustration and despair.