12 tips for greater psychological health

12 tips for greater psychological health

Work on some or all of these issues and create more happiness and a better life…

via Psychology Today by Carrie Barron

In the 11th edition (2015) of Kaplan and Sadock’s text, Synopsis of Psychiatry, six qualities are considered “mature defenses,” or qualities of a psychologically well-off person. While most of us harbor some neurotic, immature, or narcissistic tendencies, we can focus on the following traits to cultivate a well-lived and healthier life:  

  • Altruism

  • Anticipation

  • Asceticism

  • Humor

  • Sublimation

  • Suppression

People with a modicum of these qualities meet demands while satisfying personal needs. They are adaptable, resilient, and can take on challenges and form solid relationships. (Good relationships are the greatest contributor to contentment, according to Sadock and Kaplan.)

In psychoanalysis, we distinguish life goals, such as a particular career, from psychological goals, such as greater resilience. The hope is that a strengthened psyche (internal life) will breed a better external life. Development of “mature defenses” is useful both psychologically and practically. Who you are motivates what you do, achieve, and acquire, whether a position or a person to love. Though much of disposition is innate, inherent tendencies can be honed and existence-enhancing behaviors learned.

These characteristics foster a more harmonious way of living, interpersonally and otherwise. Happy moments are more frequent when you are psychologically fortified. Altruism, anticipation, asceticism, humor, sublimation, and suppression foster positive outcomes and even inner peace.

With these traits, the chance of success in work and love improves. Freud said that meaningful work and love are the basis of mental health. Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, found that character predicts success more than test scores. I posit that a healthier, happier person is more likely to give, create, and contribute when the "inner equipment" is refined.

Let’s look at the six qualities more closely.

Altruism. Self-sacrifice is healthy unless you deplete yourself or become resentful. This latter situation, called “altruistic surrender,” can be a masochistic choice and cause more harm than good. Your exhaustion and your subject’s guilt are non-deal outcomes.

Tip 1: Understand where to draw the line between giving and surrendering.

Anticipation. Anticipation steadies and readies. Healthy pessimism is a positive quality. Considering what could go wrong prepares you both psychologically and practically. Blows, setbacks, obstacles, and competitors won't blindside you. Although optimism can motivate, and negativity deflate, blind optimism leads to hard falls.

Tip 2: Stay the course with confidence, awareness, and good reality testing.

Asceticism. “Gratification is derived from renunciation.” Self-mastery is empowering. The ability to resist temptation was studied in the famous Stanford Marshmallow Test. Young children were told that if they did not eat a marshmallow put in front of them they would get two later. Those that delayed gratification turned out to be more successful adults. Asceticism is often associated with religion, but psychologically speaking, it represents the self-control that conjures happiness. This is not to say that indulgences are not necessary; they are.

Tip 3: The bottom line is to balance the pleasure principle (hedonistic drive) and the reality principle (ability to assess circumstances and choose discomfort to achieve a superior result.)

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