Mental Health III: Mental Structures

    In the past couple of days, I've talked about the physical and environmental factors behind mental illness. Today, I will talk about the first type of psychological factor, which I call "structural".

    Consciousness is a dynamic process. The contents of our minds are always changing in both in response to new stimuli, and to the choices we make. This dynamic process, however, gives rise to relatively static psychic structures - previously made associations, which are somewhat durable, and cannot be immediately altered.

    These associations are both conscious and subconscious. Subconscious associations include conditioned reflexes, emotional (pre-conceptual) associations and automatized habits - most of which are imparted onto us by our parents and educators, and take a significant amount of time and effort to change. Conscious associations include the concepts we use, their definitions, and the philosophy that integrates them. Although we can change our definition of a single concept rather quickly, fully integrating that change into our entire world-view takes time.

    A good analogy can be found in the market process. The market is also a dynamic process, made up of the each individual's constant valuations, actions and trades. However, that dynamic process creates certain static structures, like capital goods and supply chains, which can only be changed in the long term - although capital goods are man-made, their short-term existence is a metaphysical fact we must adapt to. Similarly these mental structures are the means by which we integrate our innate structures with the resources available, but they often bring about needs of their own, and must be accommodated during the long time it takes to change them. 

    Someone born with a physical predisposition to schizophrenia, for example, must be considerably more careful with the way they structure their thoughts, developing and automatizing several mental "double checking" habits from an early age. These habits, in turn, might make certain situations more stressful - and excessive stress is one of the environmental factors that trigger schizophrenic episodes.

    In a sense, mental illness can be thought of as equivalent the physical pain from carrying a weight. Our physical makeup is like the structure of our bones and muscles; our environment, like the weight itself; and our mental habits, to our posture. Weaker bones can be counteracted by a better posture, or by lessening the weights. All three factors influence one another, and their interaction defines the end-result.

  -  July 9th, 2020