Several things brought this to mind today.  One was a posting about kindness by a Facebook friend on The Course in Miracles.  Another was was an incident in a grocery parking lot in which a man, holding his small son's hand visibly hesitated in the pedestrian crosswalk (which passed to the rear of our vehicle but our tail end was still in it as we waited to merge with the line of exiting vehicles).  Then he chose to walk in front of us, just as the line we were trying to merge into moved, rather than remain in the pedestrian crosswalk and wait a few seconds for us to move.  I asked my husband what kind of lesson his son was learning from such behavior and how it would contribute to the breakdown of our society as everyone becomes increasingly "me firsters."  The third was the behavior, once again, of another shopper as I wheeled through Kroger doing my shopping.  Once again, a woman stopped behind my electric cart where I was browsing goods and made a sort of snorting "You're in my way" noise.  I turned around and said sweetly, "I'm sorry, I'm getting some of this tuna."  She then went around me to make her selection from the other side of the wall.  The amusing thing is that by the "drive on the right side" American rule, I was STOPPED on the left side, and she had lined herself up behind me.  Had she been "driving on the right side" to begin with, I would never have been in her way!  So, why, pray tell, did she stop behind me and make that noise?

We are rapidly becoming a society of people who fail to distinguish between the types of "self-ness" I listed in the title of this essay.  Mental health depends on maintaining those distinctions.  Self-absorption is a characteristic of bipolar disorder according to the mental health websites and the bipolar blogs.  I learned this trying to deal with my bipolar cousin.

It is actually the milder forms -- self-indulgence, self-centeredness -- that causes most of the problems in  the social fabric.  People who have to get in front of others in traffic, causing accidents, is a manifestation of self-centeredness.  People who have more than enough money to live luxuriously and still strive for more is a form of self-indulgence just as eating too much, drinking too much, gambling too much.  It carries a price.  That price might be a health problem or relationship problems.  I often hear how people like myself "envy the wealthy."  Ever read what Jane Fonda has said about Ted Turner and his own happiness?  Notice how much discussion there is about how Mitt Romney and his wife are out of touch with average Americans -- how much should I trust someone who has no idea what my life is like to run the national government and make the laws that affect my life?  People can indulge themselves with power, fame, as well as food and drink.  Anybody remember Leona Helmsley?  You think she felt loved?  You think people wanted to be around her?  Did she ever make anyone feel loved?  Look at Charlie Sheen, Brittney Spears, all the celebrities whose lives are a lengthy list of legal troubles, divorces, career disasters, embarrassing spectacles,stays in rehab.  I should envy people who cannot form a long attachment to another human being?  Would it surprise you to hear that I know of a couple of women who pat themselves on the back for their devotion to their children and whose children have confessed how miserable their lives with their mothers have been?  According to at least one study, children from large families are more likely to exhibit poor conduct and suffer from depression.  However other studies contradict this.  Sometimes the depression in large families, especially poor and African-American, according to one study and especially when they have more children than they desired, forms not in the children, but the mother.  You can indulge yourself with religion, a role such as your profession or motherhood -- all of which are generally good things.  The motto I suppose, is "All things in moderation."

Self-esteem and self-love is the WHOLE self.  It is also about self-determination, and the freedom to be who you are.The road to that path begins with questioning why you want a particular thing, or why you want it so badly, or how much of your self-definition is wrapped up in it.  Self-examination can be painful, difficult, terrifying.  It is absolutely essential to achieving mental health.

READINGS

Hello Gratitude, Good-bye Self-Absorption  Marietta McCarty  Psychology Today
The Challenging Path from Self-Indulgence to Self-Nurturing  Leon F. Seltzer  Psychology Today
Conduct Disorder  (one of the components contributing to this is family size)

Self-Assessment Tests for mental health
 


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