When Scientific American publishes an article entitled Are Intellectuals Suffering a Crisis of Meaning? you’re being alerted to a serious reality for all people, not just the super-smart population. Well-adjusted people, at any level of intelligence, have balance in their lives. It’s a necessity for mental health.
Mental health includes a sense of feeling that life is worth living and that you are fulfilling your potential. The article cited above is about being intellectually gifted, an achiever, but not finding life to be worthwhile, joyous and meaningful. Suicide and maladjustment were the underlying concerns of the article, with a brief exploration into meaningfulness and being well-adjusted. The writer didn’t address one salient point about those topics, though; Humans need spirituality to be part of their daily lives no matter how smart they may be. It’s not just for mouthing platitudes in church on Sunday. Spirituality balances a person. To be more to the point, balanced people don’t kill themselves in despair. They want to live, to be productive aka functional.
Spirituality is about becoming an ever-better person over time. “Better” implies being more loving, more patient, more insightful, more accepting and increasingly able to help the people around you to feel better about themselves. A spiritual person holds themselves accountable for their behaviors and thought processes. Victimhood is the opposite of spirituality. It’s about blaming life and everything about it, giving yourself license to take revenge on innocent bystanders, or yourself, for your disappointments and anger at whatever excuse is on your mind. The purpose of being alive, however, is to make peace with life, to leave the world a better place after you leave it than when you entered it. Spirituality is about growing beyond your limitations.
As someone acquainted with people who’d qualify for MENSA membership but didn’t take the test and with actual MENSA members, I know that they have something in common. All of them took actions to improve the world with a sense of owing that behavior to the Creator and/or to themselves as a fulfillment of their skills, and to society. They made life sweeter, more functional, because a person needs to become ever-better over time, not to rest on past achievements aka laurels, or whatever you care to call stagnation. Humans need change. Our lives are learning experiences filled with relevant adjustments. Remaining in a rut of any kind harms our psyches. We lose a sense of joy and anticipation.
Self -improvement is essential to the human identity. Fulfilled people who find meaning in their lives are givers, not merely takers. Giving and taking balance each other. Too much “taking” leads to selfishness, a sense of boredom, and ultimately to despair. Too much “giving” leads to burnout, emotionally and physically, perhaps financially. Doing both, to the benefit of giver and taker, is a balanced life.
Consider the teachings of Buddhism, Christianity and Judaism. They focus on compassion, patience, charitable endeavors, and acceptance while crediting GOD for the agenda. But even if you take GOD out of the mindset, you still have a spiritually advancing human being. People who choose not to behave pleasantly and not to tolerate life’s ups and downs worsen their emotional lives whether they practice a religion or not. They become stuck in negativity. They sometimes make headlines for their cruelty, including self-destructive behaviors. Sometimes they are cruel in the name of GOD, a rather classic example of a self-contradictory situation.
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Mental health counseling is not about GOD, but it is about balance. When you sense the need to grow emotionally and insightfully, to be a balanced person, seek out the counselor who can guide you. Your minister, pastor, rabbi, or therapist should leave you feeling safe, interested in meeting again, and growing in satisfying, unprecedented ways.