Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mental Health and Money.

~Definition from app on my iPhone:
mental health
1. psychological well-being and satisfactory adjustment to society and to the ordinary demands of life.

Mental health is not necessarily about intelligence level or capacity for kindness which are two qualities that I have considered important in my life.

I think "mental health" to me has meant, "being okay with one's self." This is because I took on responsibility for mine at a very early age, due to my mother's diagnosis and behavior when I was a little girl. So I decided what was "healthy" for my mental space and set about guarding it, and cultivating it as opportunities came around.

My mother's mother had always emphasized the dangers of stress and seeked out ways to try to protect me from stress in the ways that she understood.

Lately it is dawning on me more and more, the component of mental health that is about being well-adjusted in terms of societal standards. And it occurs to me that people are not really free to live in certain ways. Mental health is judged by how society prioritizes values.

Someone can live their life in kindness, and be mentally ill if they don't buy into the structures built into society, like the necessity of employment.

Someone can be really smart, but if they can't pay their bills then their children will suffer.

In my own definition to myself I always emphasized my well-being, which extends to my relationships. Emotional well-being seemed the priority. My relationship with my now dead grandmother seemed to reinforce this notion which was only a half-truth.

Physical well-being is also important, as well as integration into ones society. Financial well-being and attentiveness to cultural values help someone to stand tall in the situation that exists. Money is prioritized now.

Yoga (and aging?) has helped me to manage my emotions. I still consider them to be an important indicator of a certain kind of truth (so I am not talking about suppressing emotions), but I have learned to stand steady in the storm.

So my priority from earlier in life of protecting and cultivating emotional well-being has yielded some pretty fantastic results. I am emotionally sound.

I can also see that my work is valued in the world. Money comes in, as well as smiles, kind words, gratitude, and opportunities.

So what's the problem? Someone might legitimately ask.

At a certain point, earlier in my life it seemed like a high ideal to not value the importance of money. People seemed more important. I also have been blessed with family that helped me until I could make my own. Then I just lived small. It seemed to simplify things.

None of this probably sounds that bad so far. But I am becoming aware of ways I need to become financially responsible. I am aging. I am single. It no longer seems appropriate to be living for just the basic enjoyment of life.

If I have extra resources… Or I would like to earn beyond my basic needs to use medical care to best ensure healthful and even beautiful aging—I have seen it in my students and friends. I'd also like to feel financially secure enough to support social changes that I believe in. And I'd love to see more of the world through travel.

All of these things require attention to money. My lack of attention to money has flared my fears about mental illness, and I think according to the common definition that lack of attention to money is a mental illness because money seems to be commonly valued in our culture as the most important thing in life.

Have I sinned because I have prioritized emotional well-being, care, kindness and people above the money in my life? Perhaps or perhaps not. But I do know that it is time for me to prioritize my material well-being more so that I can feel more confident about taking care of myself, and having more to give others in my life.

This yogi needs to pay more attention to her money.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Anonymous said...

Interesting to read, too much for the moment but bookmarked it and will come back.

YogaforCynics said...

Interesting points, Brooks,

Then, even Freud acknowledged that conformity to the norms of a dysfunctional society might not be the best thing. And, certainly, in its overwhelming concern with money, our society is a dysfunctional one. Then, on the other hand, it's also a society that's full of different cultures and subcultures, beliefs, and ideals, including many which are considerably less materialistic...sometimes to a fault (notably, people who disdain material things--from hippies to fundamentalist Mormons--have a tendency to end up on welfare). So, there are a lot of options for "integration."

Ultimately, I think, we all need to find a balance. You don't want to sell your soul for a big house and fancy car, but you also don't want to end up destitute.

aimee said...

I can relate with you, fellow yogi.

Emma said...

Yes - that's what keeps me from quitting my job for the moment, I need to support my home (I'm not alone, but one pay check is not enough), support my teacher training especially in terms of traveling and accommodation, support my future retirement as the perspective of being financed the old-fashioned way is dwindling, support what I have to support.

I wish I could do it while doing something I love, which is far from being the case right now. My values and my company's values don't match, it doesn't make sense to me anymore. This is driving me nuts.

I need to find some balance here indeed, we all do I guess.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

Eve said...

Hey Brooks.
I can completely relate. Especially to the part about aging. Until I turned 60, I believed that my talent for writing and my yoga practice and teaching would always support me.
Now I can see a day coming when I won't want to teach as much, and won't want to depend on trading my time for money.
It's a delicate balance, to pay more attention to dollars and yet not fall into a trap of regret and self-blame.
I'm looking forward to your further explorations.