HLSC 1F90 Chapter 2: HLSC 1F90 Psychological Health and Resilence Chapter 2

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Chapter 2: Psychological Health
Psychological health: Mental health, defined either negatively as the absence of illness or positively as
the presence of wellness. Contributes to every dimension of wellness. It can be very difficult to maintain
emotional, social or even physical wellness if you are not psychologically healthy.
Defining Psychological Health
Psychological or mental health can be defined as our capacity to think, feel and behave in ways
that contribute to our ability to enjoy life and manage challenges. Our psychological wellness
can be supported or sabotaged by a variety of factors, such as dietary choices, sleep patterns,
and relationship issues. With good PH, people have a positive sense of emotional and spiritual
well-being that values fairness, culture, dignity, and interpersonal connections. That being said,
we must be mindful that if we think of everyone who does not have a severe mental illness as
being mentally healthy, we are ignoring common problems that can be addressed. For this
reason, psychological health is sometimes defined more negatively as the absence of sickness.
Clearly, freedom from disorders is only one factor is psychological wellness.
Maslow’s Hierarchy: Striving Towards Self-Actualization
According to Maslow, people have a hierarchy of needs, listed here in order of decreasing
oPhysiological needs
oBeing loved
oMaintaining self-esteem
When urgent (life-sustaining) needs---such as the need for food and water---are satisfied, less
basic needs take priority. Most of us are well-fed and feel reasonably safe, and so we are driven
by higher-level motives. Maslow’s conclusions were based on his study of a group of visibly
successful people who seemed to have lived, or be living, at their fullest. He stated that these
people had achieved self-actualization; they had fulfilled a good measure of their human
oSelf-Actualization: The highest level of growth in Maslow’s hierarchy
Realism: Self-actualized people are realistic. They know the difference between what is real and
what they want. As a result, they can cope with the world as it exists without demanding that it
be different; they know what they can and cannot change. Just as important, realistic people
accept evidence that contradicts what they want to believe. If the evidence is strong enough,
they change their belief system.
Acceptance: Psychologically healthy people accept themselves as they are. Self-acceptance
requires a positive self-concept, or self-image: a positive but realistic perception of yourself.
Similarly, PH requires an appropriately high but realistic level of self-esteem. People with
healthy self-esteem value themselves as people; they feel good about themselves and are likely
to live up to positive self-image and enjoy successes that in turn reinforce these good feelings.
Self-acceptance also means being tolerant of your own imperfections, an ability that makes it
easier to accept the imperfections of others.
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oSelf-concept: The ideas, feelings and perceptions people have about themselves; also
called self-image.
oSelf-esteem: Satisfaction and confidence in yourself; the valuing of yourself as a person
Autonomy: PH people are autonomous, meaning they can direct themselves and act
independently of their social environment. Autonomy is more than physical independence; it is
social, emotional and intellectual independence, as well. Autonomous people are inner-
directed, finding guidance from within, from their own rules and values. They have an internal
locus of control and a high level of efficacy. By contrast, other-directed people often act only in
response to what they feel an external pressure from others. Instead of speaking their true
feelings, for example, other-directed people are more inclined to say what they believe will
make other people happy.
oAutonomy: Independence; the sense of being self-directed
oInner-directed: Guided in behaviour by an inner set of rules and values
oOther-directed: Guided in behaviour by the values and expectations of others
oSuch people do not worry about being judged by others just for being themselves. This
quality of genuineness is sometimes called authenticity.
Authenticity: Genuineness
Capacity for Intimacy: Healthy people can be physically and emotionally intimate. They are able
to share their feelings and thoughts without fear of rejection. A PH person is open to the
pleasure of physical contact and the satisfaction of being close to others---but without being
afraid of the risks involved in intimacy, such as the risk of getting hurt.
Creativity: PH people continually look at the world with renewed appreciation. Such
appreciation can inform a person’s creativity, which helps explain why so many mentally healthy
people are creative. They may not be great poets or painters, but they live their everyday lives in
creative ways. Creative people seem to see more and to be open to new experiences; they don’t
fear the unknown or avoid uncertainty.
What Psychological Health Is Not
PH is not the same as psychological normality. Being mentally normal simply means being
close to average.
oNormality: The psychological characteristics attributed to the majority of people in
a population at a given time.
Meeting Life’s Challenges
For emotional and mental wellness, each of us must continue to grow psychologically,
developing new and more sophisticated coping mechanisms to suit our current lives. We
must develop an adult identity that enhances our spiritual wellness, self-esteem, and
autonomy. We must also learn to communicate honestly, handle anger, and loneliness
appropriately, and avoid being defensive.
Growing up Psychologically
Our responses to life’s challenges influence the development of our personality and identity.
Psychologist Erik Erikson proposed that development proceeds through a series of 8 stages
that extend throughout life. Each stage is characterized by a major crisis or turning point---a
time of increased vulnerability as well as increased potential for psychological growth.
oBirth-1yr: Trust vs mistrust/mother
o1-3 years: autonomy vs shame and self-doubt/ parents
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o3-6 years: initiative vs guilt/ family
o6-12: industry vs inferiority / neighbourhood and school
oAdolescence: Identity vs identity confusion/ peers
oYoung adulthood: intimacy vs isolation/ close friends, sex partners
oMiddle Adulthood: Generativity vs self-absorption/ work associates, children,
oOlder adulthood: integrity vs despair/ humankind
Developing an Adult Identity
A primary task beginning in adolescence is the development of an adult identity; a unified
sense of self, characterized by attitudes, beliefs, and ways of acting that are genuinely your
own. People with adult identities know who they are, what they are capable of, what roles
they play, and their place among their peers. They have a sense of their own uniqueness,
but also appreciate what they have in common with others. They view themselves
realistically and can assess their strengths and weaknesses without relying on the opinions
of others. Achieving an identity also means being able to form intimate relationships with
others while maintaining a strong sense of self.
Early identities are rarely permanent. A student who works for good grades and approval
one year can turn into a class-skipping student devoted to wild parties a year later. At some
point, however, most of us adopt a more stable, individual identity that ties together the
experiences of childhood and the expectations and aspirations of adulthood. Erikson’s
theory does not suggest that one day we suddenly assume our final identity and never
change after that. Life is more interesting for people who continue evolving into more
distinct individuals, rather than being rigidly controlled by their pasts. Identity reflects a
lifelong process, and it changes as a person develops new relationships and roles.
People with established identities can form intimate relationships and sexual unions
characterized by sharing, open communication, long-term commitment, and love. Those
who lack a firm sense of self may have difficulty establishing relationships because they feel
overwhelmed by closeness and the needs of another person. As a result, they experience
only short-term, superficial relationships with others and may remain isolated.
Developing Values and Purpose in Your Life
Values are criteria for judging what is good and bad; they underlie our moral decisions and
oValues: Criteria for judging what is good and bad, which underlies a person’s moral
decisions and behaviour.
Striving for Spiritual Wellness
Spiritual wellness means different things to different people. For many, it involves developing a
set of guiding beliefs, principles, or values that give purpose and meaning to life. It helps people
achieve a sense of wholeness within themselves and in their relationships with others. Spiritual
wellness influences people on individual level, as well as on a community level, where it can
bond people through compassion, love, forgiveness and self-sacrifice.
Although spirituality is difficult to study, and researchers aren’t sure how or why spirituality
seems to improve health, several explanations have been offered.
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