Dr. Robert Firestone on "What is a Mentally Healthy Person?"

Dr. Robert Firestone describes the qualities of a mentally healthy person:

First of all, it depends a lot on their own motivation and their particular goals for themselves.  But in general, the kind of person I would like to see them be is one who had a strong sense of themselves; a person who could deal with feelings; a person who was non-defensive; a person who had a strong sense of values; a person whose values were inner directed, rather than outer directed; a person who was neither defiant nor submissive, but independent.

Basically, I would like them to have human qualities; the capacity to be compassionate, the capacity to deal with abstract reasoning, the capacity to be creative, to express their uniqueness as a person.  Without a sense of your own values, you are like a ship without a rudder; without a sense of direction. And one of the things people block out early in their lives are their personal goals.  The biggest defense if you are being hurt or damaged is to not want. The easiest thing is to not want anything or be self-denying; instead of pursuing one’s goals cleanly.  I would like a person to be able to go after the things they want in life, to compete when necessary for what they believe in and to struggle to achieve their goals.  I would like them to be free of what would normally be considered pathology, or symptoms of mental illness. I would like them not to be suspicious or distrustful of other people; but instead open to people and to be alive to life. So many people are dead to life; so defended that they lose their vitality.  They lose their ability to love.  They lose their ability to be close to another person.  I consider it important to be able to tolerate intimacy, to have a strong sense of one’s own sexual identity and a strong sense of pleasure in one’s sexuality.

But all of these goals depend on how much a person is willing to struggle, because within the defensive apparatus, many of these things are limited or blunted or destroyed.  The uniqueness of a person can be, you know, actually destroyed. I would like them to go as far as they are willing to go.  But how far are they willing to go?  How much are they going to rely on character defenses-how much courage do they have to challenge these defenses and develop themselves?  Ideally they would be free to live as a human being and have pleasure and satisfaction in life.  In being themselves they would be unique and creative.  It would just come out of their individuality and their autonomy.

About the Author

Robert Firestone, Ph.D Robert W. Firestone, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, author, theorist and artist. He is the Consulting Theorist for The Glendon Association. He is author of numerous books including Voice Therapy, The Fantasy Bond, Compassionate Child-Rearing, Fear of Intimacy, Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice, Beyond Death Anxiety The Ethics of Interpersonal RelationshipsSelf Under Siege, and recently his collection of stories Overcoming the Destructive Inner Voice.  His studies on negative thought processes and their associated affect have led to the development of Voice Therapy, an advanced therapeutic methodology to uncover and contend with aspects of self-destructive and self-limiting behaviors. Firestone has applied his concepts to empirical research and to developing the Firestone Assessment of Self-destructive Thoughts (FAST), a scale that assesses suicide potential. This work led to the publication of Suicide and the Inner Voice: Risk Assessment, Treatment and Case Management. He has published more than 30 professional articles and chapters for edited volumes, and produced 35 video documentaries. His art can be viewed on www.theartofrwfirestone.com. You can learn more about Dr. Firestone by visiting www.drrobertwfirestone.com.

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