The 4 unseen side-effects of Psychological Health
We feel like shit one day, to feel awesome the very next. We may actively improve upon our life, or we can watch it fall apart like an observer in the distant. You were born into this world, it wasn’t your choice. You took material shape and got a big red neon sign in your face saying “DEAL WITH IT”.
This internal mechanism called Psychological health helps us deal with it, but in unexpected ways. Our level of Psychological health controls how happy we are, our well being, our state of mind, our level of consciousness. But it controls other things as well. This theory is about four such things.
Psychological health is in fact the sourcepoint, “the trigger”, to these other four things. If Psychological health was a tree these other four mechanisms would be its branches.
This theory is about Psychological health and it’s relationship to:
- How we feel (how positive/negative we are)
- Our personal boundary (how strong it is)
- Ego activity (how active the ego is)
- Ego protection mechanisms (mechanisms that warp reality in our favour)
Point 3 and 4 are connected, in terms of activity and strength. The ego protection mechanisms are embedded in the ego, they are a part of the ego. If you’re not familiar with the term “psychological health”, then think of it as “mental health”.
1) Psychological health & How We Feel
The Enneagram litterature provides us with nine steps of Psychological health. 1 being the best and 9 being the worst. Most people dwell in the average range which is 4-6.
High psychological health = low number
The higher our psychological health is, the better we function. The higher our psychological health is, the better we feel and the more positive we become. We become happier.
The reverse is true for when our Psychological health is low. At low Psychological health we do not “feel good” on the inside, we become negative and unhappy people.
2) Psychological health & Our Personal Boundary
Our Psychological health affects the strength of our personal boundary. Our personal boundary thickens and weakens along with a drop or rise in Psychological health.
Our personal boundary = a “shield” that seperates us from the outside world.
Low Psychological health creates a strong personal boundary. High psychological health creates a weak, or not so prevalent, personal boundary.
There is no need to seperate yourself from the environment if the environment is mostly positive. Environments that mostly send positive messages produce people with high psychological health.
But there is GREAT need to seperate and distance yourself to the environment if it is mostly negative and/or destructive. The more of that environment you “take in”, you unhappier you become.
This can be seen in people who grew up in a bad or negative environment, they have “thick skin”, as we say. They don’t let things “get to them”. This is because their environment forced them to develope a stronger personal boundary. It’s a survival mechanism.
How this shows in children
Children that have experienced trauma tend to “zoom out” and become distant. This state is also known as “shock”. This is seen as something bad but it’s really a protection mechanism numbing the mind so that it can stay sane and endure.
Gradually over time if there is no trauma the mind assumes the environment is “safe” and starts to access its own inner pain, increasing sensitivity little by little. You can see this in children going from an abusive home to a non-abusive home. Little by little over time they become more “alive”, and more feeling.
If you want to see a real life example of what I’m saying with your own eyes, watch Child of Rage on YouTube.
Why does the mind react this way?
There is a reason. When things go bad, the mind assumes that if something really bad happened, it’s going to happen again. And if it happens again, the person is now too numb to feel it. To take it in. Which is good because it would be too much for the mind to handle.
Our mind can only process a certain, limited amount of emotional content safely over a given timeframe. When experincing trauma, the mind goes numb as to not exceed this amount. As time passes, and as healing takes place, the mind gradually “opens up” and becomes more and more sensitive.
This process makes sure the mind is only given as much as it can handle. A very smart mechanism when you think about it. When experiencing trauma, everybody shuts down. But some people do it more than others. There is a big individual difference here.
3) Psychological health and Ego Activity
What is also interesting is that our Psychological health affects the activity if our ego. Low psychological health means an active ego. High psychological health means a not so active ego.
This ego activity creates a kind of tunnel vision and increases all kinds of “me” thinking. Ego activity increases the strength and precense of our ego protection mechanisms, which are described below.
4) Psychological health and Ego Protection Mechanisms
Ego Protection Mechanisms = Processes in our mind that warp or destroy reality
At low psychological health our ego is quite active. With this activity comes a bunch of protection mechanisms, their job is to protect the mind and keeps it functioning at the most basic level.
These “mechanisms” can be likened to a cloud that swoops in around us, clouding our vision and our judgement. It is basically a “sheath” that separates us from the raw reality around us.
This “cloud” dims the presence and needs of other people. The only person you can see clearly in this cloud is yourself.
The ego protection mechanisms that have set in at this point are influencing your intepretation of reality quite heavily. For they “twist” reality to justify ones own self-centered and possibly egoistic behaviour.
In a tough environment, this might be beneficial to your survival and a very necessary thing. This distortion enables us to do things we otherwise could not.
It is this kind of mindset that could have you survive a long stay in Russian or American prisons, for example. Fight for you survival or die. That kind of thing.
If we are extremely poor and our only means of survival is to steal. Our ego protection mechanisms will come in and justify that behaviour, shielding us from our own bad conscience.
We can become delusional
There can come a point where these protection mechanisms have distorted reality so much that we become delusional. With delusional I mean that our internal map of reality bears no real resemblance to objective reality, or reality as experienced by others.
A good example are pedophiles. Justifying their actions claiming that the kid was “in on it”. Then they say that the problems these kids run into later in life (drugs, crime, addiction, depression, suicide) are the result of society victimizing them.
That the act by itself did no damage, but that society as whole is to blame for the “victim mindset” enforced upon the child. See how they made an internal map of reality that exempted them from all responsibility?
Usually the mind “battles” smaller things than child molestation, but it is a good example of what the mind can do, what it is capable of. The process that has a pedophile come to the conclusion they did nothing wrong is an ego protection mechanism justifying their own behaviour.
No person wants to look at themselves and say “I’m a bad person”.
30 year old guy example
To give another example. A year 30 old guy is making 50 k a year working at a job that requires him to do immoral things. He does not have other business opportunities. Or rather, they involve getting a minimum wage job.
Which at this stage in his life would lead to an even larger drop in emotional health so he sucks it up, and sticks with it. To protect himself from his own bad conscience his mind comes up with clever reasons as to why what he is doing isn’t that bad. Like:
a) If I didn’t do it somebody else would.
b) It’s not my thing to say (aka it’s not my business).
c) Most of these people deserve it anyway (because of xyz reason).
d) Not my call (aka “blame the authorities”, just carrying out orders here).
e) Any kind of job-specific logical rationalization.
And so on. Every one of these reasons are distorting his reality further, while protecting his own moral compass, his own conscience. He is in essence “fooling himself”. See what I mean?
Nazi SS guard example
The Nazi SS guards back in the concentration camps probably has some pretty strong logical justification as to why they were doing what they were doing. We now know at least some of them did not believe they were doing something wrong.