The mental health system aims to help us build stronger and happier selves. But is this the proper goal?
Exploring how family shapes us, learning to adjust thoughts to build confidence, and even mindfulness techniques that foster comfort with sensations are all directed at us as individuals. True, the family is a collective, thoughts occur in a social context, and mindfulness can reveal the unity of the cosmos. But mental health clinics emphasize shoring us up as individuals, not increasing our awareness of interconnection to others.
Seldom are we trained to look outside our own problems to see the larger world. Even more rarely are we encouraged to explore the relationship between our personal wellbeing and the health of the social network as a whole. But how beneficial is total focus on personality? Centuries of ‘rugged individualism,’ as practiced in America, have failed to create either a just society or a happy citizenry. And without a thriving culture, none of us can feel truly actualized.
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