Wellbeing for the Mind – part 1

….an Alternative Perspective

When I am presented with a health problem, I consider if this would have been an issue for our ancestors. In fact my whole view of us – the human race – is as hunter-gatherers because that is what we are genetically.  We have changed little in 40,000 years. As you can probably imagine, the ill-health that I have encountered over my years as a nurse, would have been rare, if encountered at all back then.

Mental health is complex as a subject because to a degree, we have made it so. Why do we suffer so greatly today? We almost certainly did not suffer in the same way all those years ago. I believe that we have lost sight of the hierarchy of human needs and if we focus on that for a while maybe we can get a better perspective on why these illnesses occur. Before we do, I need to say that, at least in part, our diets are responsible. If the correct nutrients are not provided for the formation and upkeep of the brain and entire nervous system, trouble will ensue. (Science is already suggesting that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by nutrient issue.) However, from personal experience – even though I am in good health – I am aware that everyone is vulnerable – just being human makes this so.

 

 The above is an illustration of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. From the bottom up:
Physiological
Safety
Love/belonging
Esteem
Self-actualization

As you will appreciate, “from the bottom up” illustrates the essentials for human life with the core needs being those that (mostly) keep us alive, first. Interestingly, since this hierarchy was devised in 1943, there have been studies showing that infants live longer without food than they do without human contact.  Maslow was not the only person to come up with a list of needs, it has been done many times and they all have a common thread. This is a good illustration for my purposes.

Our state of mind could be determined by our needs met from this hierarchy. In my view this is one of those situations where, in the majority of lives, the first level should be achieved before the next level is reached – especially regarding the top three. As a slightly ridiculous example, there is little point in creating a sculpture if you are (literally) dying of thirst. Or (not quite so ridiculous) you will have difficulty with self-esteem if you are ill and homeless.

Some mental illnesses then could be viewed as the result of a failure to achieve the needs in the correct order or the omission of some all together.

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