JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - September 2019
Mental Health: Finding the Eye of Wisdom
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
When thinking of good mental health, I am reminded of Viktor Frankl’s experiences in a German concentration camp, described in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. On a work detail, thinking of his wife, he says, “A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire…love goes far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self.” His wife, father, mother and brother died in the camps. He and his sister were the sole survivors in his family.
You might expect that he spent his life in suffering, depression and hopelessness. Viktor Frankl died in his mid 90’s, very ‘sound and vital.’ He was recognized world wide as the founder of an approach to psychotherapy called, ‘logotherapy.’ Facing suffering as an inescapable reality of life he discovered that finding meaning and purpose in the suffering is key. This requires a seeking spirit, openness and the choice to be responsible for one’s life and its direction. His turning point was the transforming experience of love beyond himself for the other, which was also love for his greater self.
We live in a time when fear and ‘terror’ are marketed, put into sound bites and endlessly detailed in the media. This can effect our personal and collective mental health. If we succumb to the outer world of fear, hopelessness and, even despair, we too will feel like victims, with no tomorrow. The anecdote is to follow the lead of persons like Viktor Frankl and find the deeper meaning of life.
Confronting pain, suffering and problems with a responsible, open attitude is very difficult at times. There is the need for the wisdom to discriminate between what is essential and what is transitory.
In most spiritual traditions, there is reference to the eye of wisdom that is able to discern what is important and what is not. Often a spiritual awakening, an inner turning point is reached, which activates the transforming energy of pain and despair to well-being and hope. Bill J, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, and Carl Jung, a Swiss psychoanalyst, exchanged several letters discussing this spiritual awakening that an addict must experience in order to become sober, productive and hopeful. It may not be spectacular. It may be as simple as looking at the morning sky, or hearing encouraging words from a stranger or just having ‘enough of it.’
This knowledge can give us the courage to face the pain and suffering. The trick is not to get stuck there as a permanent residence. With help from our wise inner self, the boundless Power of the Universe, by whatever name we choose to call it, we can move through the pain, the suffering, the despair to find some meaning and hope. From there we can construct a specific, concrete plan to move forward, step by step.
There are many authors offering the steps to ‘recovery.’ Certainly, the Twelve Step program for addicts can be powerful. There are others who have taken these twelve steps and adapted them to different spiritual traditions and different problems. Robin Norwood, in her book, Women Who Love Too Much, outlines steps to recovery for ‘love addicts.’ The seven-step journey from “The American Dream Home”, through relationship breakdown and division is outlined in Nina Ricci’s book, Mom’s House, Dad’s House: Making Shared Custody Work. Each of these persons offers constructive steps to better mental health.
Mental health does not mean freedom from disease, pain or suffering. It comes from the ability to confront, challenge and transform pain into an experience of well-being. This can only come from within the depths of one’s life.
My great wish is that you and I can confront our difficulties fearlessly, asking for help when we need it, finding this ‘eye of wisdom’ within our lives. We will take the daily steps necessary to move from pain and problems to a greater sense of well being, soundness and vitality.
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Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to