Wholeness is a concept that has many meanings in our culture. It is spoken of by New Age gurus, preached from the pulpit, and bandied about by pop psychologists. Yet none of these can give you a straightforward answer as to what wholeness really is.
Mental wholeness is murkier still. It is referred to by many, again without definition. This may be because the meaning of the term is difficult to articulate, the person doesn’t really know what it means, or that they just like the mysterious way it sounds!
This post explores the meanings of wholeness and provides my definition of mental wholeness as used in this blog. It is the third in a series that defines mental health, mental wellness, and mental wholeness, three pillars of all the posts written here.
The yearning for wholeness
Wholeness: There are more questions than answers
We all have a deep yearning for wholeness, yet it is a concept that defies description. What is it to be whole? Whole in what way? Is wholeness the same for every individual? There are more questions than answers.
We all have been broken by life, fragmented by all the things that happen along the way. Mental illness, in particular, breaks us not only internally, but externally from friends, family and the world. One of the most devastating feelings we can have is that we are so broken that we cannot pick up the pieces, that we are not moving forward in life, or are even moving backward.
Mental wholeness is a process
Mental wholeness requires letting go, change and growth
It is best to think of mental wholeness not as a state, but as a process. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, taught us that the process of healing and wholeness comes from the balancing our lives.
None of us are entirely whole, and none of us can be entirely whole, but wholeness is a level of perfection that we should be continually striving for. The pieces can be put back together and life can move forward.
The process requires letting go, change and growth. Jung says,
The realization of the self … leads to a fundamental conflict, to a real suspension between opposites…, and to an approximate state of wholeness that lacks perfection. … The individual may strive after perfection … but must suffer from the opposite of his intentions for the sake of his completeness.
My definition of mental wholeness
Mental wholeness: balance, integration
Mental wholeness refers to the balance in our lives wherein our physical, spiritual and mental selves are fully integrated and equal, with none dominating the other.
Mental wholeness takes the broken parts of our lives and puts them back together — perhaps in new ways — through change and growth.
Since life is fluid, with each day presenting new challenges, mental wholeness is not completely achievable; neither, for that matter, is physical or spiritual wholeness. But wholeness is a journey, just like life, and we keep moving down its path one day at a time.
Above all, mental wholeness is a process, a lifelong process. It is not something we acquire quickly, like relief through medications, or learning to manage mental illness with therapy. It is a state that we work on daily, through life’s vicissitudes and changes.
Will we know when we approach something like wholeness? I’m convinced that we won’t, because with wholeness grows humility; the closer we come to wholeness, the farther that we see we have to go to become balanced and fully integrated.
Conclusion to the series
Mental health, wellness, wholeness a movement along a continuum
If we think of mental health, mental wellness and mental wholeness as processes rather than being static, our lives can be filled with a sense of accomplishment and happiness with our current state of being. Remember that mental health, wellness and wholeness are not the absence of mental illness, but a movement along a continuum from having impaired functioning to successful mental functioning. We may be broken, we may have setbacks, but we are capable, every one of us, of living a happy, fulfilling life!
What do you think?
This series has been very difficult to write, even though I had covered some of the same ground in an earlier post. When it comes down to it, it’s hard to articulate my beliefs and feelings about terms I have an inner, intuitive feeling about, but no words to say that can communicate these to others. I hope that I’ve been articulate enough for you to understand these three pillars of this blog’s foundation!
- How would you define mental wholeness?
- Do you think that there is any such thing as mental wholeness?
- Do you agree that mental health, wellness and wholeness are processes rather than fixed states of mind?
As always, your comments are welcome!
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Resources used in this post:
Bessinger, Donivan. (2000). Carl G. Jung: A Brief Introduction to His Ideas. Retrieved from Journey into Wholeness Web site: http://users.aol.com/journeywh/jwjung.htm
Myers, Jane. (2004, April 23). Wellness Models, Assessment, Research. Retrieved August 4, 2008 from University of North Carolina at Greensboro Web site: http://www.uncg.edu/~jemyers/wellness/docs/wellness.htm
Satcher, David. (1999). Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General 1999. Retrieved July 29, 2008 from US Department of Health and Human Services Web site: http://mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/cre/ch1_scope.asp
Discovery Health: What Is Mental Health? http://health.discovery.com/centers/mental/whatis/whatis.html
Mental Wellness Information Emotional Wellness Mental Fitness Health Advice, Dr. Ron Sterling http://www.mentalwellness.ws/
Moving Towards Wholeness http://lessonsforliving.com/moving_towards_wholeness.htm