4.0 Mental Rehabilitation
In the discipline of psychotherapy, there is a need for teaching emotional guidance, rather than teaching emotional regulation. Emotional guidance is where negative emotions and their associative cognitive activities are used as a launching pad to reach for less negative and more positive and productive cognitive activities that will eventually result in positive emotions.
Such a discipline would help individuals use the brain’s neuroplasticity capacities to develop new and positive habits of thought, perception, and imagination. Such a discipline would help a person develop internal powers of choice and creativity to move the mind towards activities that result in harmonious emotional responses. Besides the cognitive activities of recognition, conception, reason and imagination, there are the perceptual activities of the senses – touching, seeing, hearing, smelling, and tasting – as well as the physical activities a person may engage in. All can involve emotional aspects to be heralded and empowered into well-being.
There is a need for a discipline within psychotherapy that fortifies a patient’s desire to stay on the road toward a natural state of health and well-being: a discipline where a patient’s own emotional guidance system is acknowledged, validated and reinforced. This implies empowering a patient with the ability to reach for and chose a thought that feels better. These thoughts may simply go from painful to less painful, but eventually they will go from feeling good to feeling even better. The key for success is a caregiver who will develop a patient’s cognitive ability to find a thought that feels better. A person may never reach a state of mental health that is without therapy or medications, but just demonstrating with them that they have the ability and the power to feel better creates hope. Hope can make all the difference between staying with or leaving a program. It can make the difference between staying or leaving life itself.
Within the psychology of “emotional guidance,” the naturally evolved response to negative emotions is for a person’s consciousness to use the energy from this negative cognitive/emotional state to pivot the mind’s activities onto activities that bring positive emotions. If emotions are skewing negative, it is the person’s signal to stop and take steps towards a new perspective and to refocus the mind and its activities onto a reframed view of the subject. If these efforts fail, then refocusing consciousness onto something entirely different may be the best action to bring a more positive emotional response. As people grow from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, they learn more complicated and sophisticated facets of (1) recognizing and acknowledging the presence of negative emotions, (2) stopping the spiral down the emotional staircase earlier and earlier in the decline, or as in the case of mania, stopping the upward spiral, (3) reframing and refocusing the consciousness into a less negative emotional perspective, and (4) repeating this reframing and refocusing into better feeling emotions until they are back at an emotionally positive, healthy and harmonious vantage point.
Maintaining a healthy and joyful lifestyle requires retention of this ability to move up or down the spiral staircase with ease and fluidity, just as emotions flow up and down with the changing consciousness of watching a movie or reading a book. These issues involved within mental illness, addictions, and violence develop when this more complicated and creative aspect of a healthy cognition are absent, usurped, driven, or even manipulated out of a person’s repertoire of survival skills. The resulting loss of choice to get on or off the emotional roller coaster can leave an individual broken and in need of professional help.
Defining Mental Health and Well-being
If a person’s emotions are working as evolution directed and are giving feedback on his or her cognitive activities, then a problem is not an “emotional disorder” it is a “cognitive disorder.” A true emotional disorder would be akin to a sight disorder such as near sightedness, far sightedness, or even color blindness. A distinction must be made between a properly working emotional system – one which gives accurate feedback on one’s mental activities – and an emotional system with a disorder which provides inaccurate emotional feedback.
Within the context of emotional guidance, a person is mentally healthy when he or she can naturally (i.e., without alcohol, drugs or medications), respond to emotional guidance and move up or down the emotional spiral staircase as a choice. Mental health means a person has the aptitude, skills and capacity to return back into the pleasures and harmonies of life from event to event throughout life. Mental health is being capable to do the work that is necessary to move within the emotional spiral staircase: from a mental/emotional negative state into (and to act from) a mental/emotional positive state of existence.