The pursuit of mental health can be understood in a number of ways.
For some, it's the healing of traumatic wounds. We want to live without the emotional dysregulation that results from triggers, memories of the past that invade the present like a swarm of bees.
For some it's the balance of critical thinking and emotional awareness. We want to feel alive again, and to feel alive, we need to be feeling our feelings. Our emotions come back into our awareness, and with them comes memories from childhood, a sense of the child within us, and we eventually feel whole again. We balance these momentary signals of human experience with the indispensable process of critical thinking, and we feel balanced.
But what do we pursue when traumas are mostly neutralized, when emotions are back in the picture and (generally) well-regulated? When we can chose to think rationally when needed and be in our hearts when needed? What then?
Ego work begins.
Our ego can also be understood in a number of ways, but let's define it like this: our ego is the internal image of how we want to be perceived. We internally create it through what we are taught, our wounds, our religion, and then we externalize it. We act so that others will see us as we want to be seen. Not who we actually are. Not a reflection of what we actually do. It's the persona we develop and maintain in order to be perceived in a certain way. We believe if we are seen in this way - attractive, good, righteous, strong, powerful, humble, talented, creative, intelligent, effective, etc. - we believe we'll (1) be happy and (2) receive all the love and respect our hearts can hold.
This is where all of our work culminates. Eventually, we've got to deal with our ego.
How do we do this?
We look at our lives and the way we've built them.
What is the work of my effort and energy?
Where did I focus?
What have I built?
What has been important to me?
We look at the things we've avoided:
What opportunities for healing or connection did I avoid?
What emotions did I never want to feel or face?
What reflections of myself (usually through others) did I turn away from?
Did I reject love?
Where and how did I hide from others? Did I lie? Did I deceive? Did I mislead?
How have I wanted others to perceive me based on what I've done?
How have I wanted to perceive myself based on what I've done?
What image of myself did I fashion in others' eyes? In my own eyes?
And the all important question: why?
All of the questions above must be followed up with "why"?
See, when our motives become clear to us, we're in the realm where our egos start to reveal themselves.
The lives we build before we examine our egos, before we are even aware of our egos, are our Temples. Your Temple is the "False Self" you have erected. I'm not insisting that all of our motives are bad, but come on. Let's be honest. We've done and said a lot of things in our lives to create a persona, not because it was our authentic self, but because we believed we needed to be perceived a certain way to be acceptable. We've spent a lot of time building things... building relationships, families, careers, businesses, and homes - all of it fed our Temple - the False Self. And all of it is an extension of the False Self we've all created.
The final work of mental health (if we're still calling it that) is to
tear down what we've built.
What does that mean? It means to stop letting the False Self dictate our identity. To detach from the things we've held onto with a white knuckled grip. To finally realize that we can't control others' perceptions of us. To accept that what we've built has all been built before, and it didn't give anyone else value as it doesn't give us value. It's just a gift we gave ourselves and others. Nothing more.
We tried hard. We thought that the Temple we built - becoming the person we were "supposed" to be - would bring us joy, peace, prosperity, and fulness. But all it did was leave us empty.
Now it's time to tear it down.
It's all right there. Everything we need to wake up is right there in front of us. The False Self is woven into our homes, our families, our bank accounts, our communities, our roles, and our friendships. It's all right there... A house of cards.
Waiting to be torn down.
The first step is to admit you erected a Temple, a False Self.
The next step is the bravest one you'll ever take in your entire life: tear it down.
Stop defining yourself by your constructed and erected False Self.
Stop letting other people define you that way, as much as you can.
Then you're free. Free to be who you really are. And that, my friends, is living this life alive. I'd say that's mentally healthy.