Society. People. Who are we together?
What happens to people together that is different from when they are all alone?
I want to be the kind of person around whom people want to be. In order to be that person, I must adapt to the needs and desires of people. Oh, wait. You think not?
Come on. Do you really think we can let it all hang out, all the time, with no thought for either expectation or acceptability? Try imagining yourself in public – pajamas, unwashed hair, doing all the things you do at home when nobody is looking. Yeah, that.
So, how much of me do I give up in the process of preparing to be acceptable company? And, why?
(Aside: Is this why theatrical stage actors often appear in groups? Do they find their identity in the company of one another? What are they alone? Are they different alone than others are alone?)
To be alone means that I am in the company of myself. When I desire the company of another, what is the part of me that responds? Is it really me, or the part they create by their presence?
We say: “She brings out the best in me.”
Was it always there, is it always there, and does that “best” trait require the presence of another in order to appear? Would it be present in the company of one who does not have that magic touch? Why?
Now, take significant others. Partners. Lovers, Spouses. If the company of any one of these creates in us the essence of our character, then we are not individuals at all without the print of another’s influence. And, the more we react with one another as a society, the more diverse we will be as a group. Is this the essence of variety? Is society identified by its homogeneity, or its diversity?
Would we have anything to give another if we were solitary? Would we meet our own needs? Would our needs increase in proportion to the degree of our solitude?
Now, take the negative for a moment. If the company of another is perceived as bringing out the worst, and is not voluntary – as in bad marriage, or imprisonment – could this be a predicate for mental illness? Would the same person become mentally ill in the company of one who consistently brought out the best in that person?
Is mental illness the result of “bad” society, or is it predetermined in the mind/brain of the individual? Individuals found to be isolated against their will, and then rescued into society…..do they all exhibit traits attributable to the mentally ill?
Why are therapists, who spend 90% of their time intently listening to patients/trained to bring out the best in them, on a conscious, contrived level able to promote the healing of some manifestations of mental illness? And, why are some forms of mental illness undetectable by many around whom a diagnosed individual comes in contact?
Would mental illness be defined differently in a society other than our own?
Rationale , if indeed the term can be applied, for suicide is usually attributed to personal weakness in our society. In a society built around group-identification rather than individuality, such as the Chinese – or, a subgroup of another society, such as one that is rooted in extremism – martyrdom is usually understood to be a gesture of group solidarity toward a “cause”, and therefore regarded ( within the group, that is ) as an act of strength. In such societies, would such behaviors constitute mental illness? If so, whence did they come – from the effect of the group, or from within the individual?
If I desire the company of another, and my desires or needs are not met in the company of that person, I would normally be expected to seek the company of another around whom my desires or needs are met. Why is this easier for some individuals to do than for others? Can we all somehow learn how to bring out the best in each other, or are there only those whose society we can accept who can do this? Can we conclude that our society shapes our nature, or not?
Is it conceivable that some forms of mental illness are bred in isolation, or in perceived isolation – either literal or emotional? Do those who are either forcibly removed, or kept apart, from their ilk sense isolation and in turn believe that they do not fit? Would this not logically lead to paranoia, or a type of paranoia which manifests as fear and speculation regarding others’ motives? Could such fear, over a protracted period of time, cause patterns of doubt and uncertainty regarding the meaning in others’ behaviors?
If individuals are consistently placed against their will among people who do not bring out the best in them, those who neither mirror their nature or thereby reinforce its validity, is it not reasonable to conclude that they will behave in a way which is not adaptable to the norms of that group? And, will this lead to some form of reactive behavior that could bring harm to self and others?
Suppose the schools in our society were to group children according to their social behavior. Suppose, regardless of age or gender, they were grouped by trait criteria. I wonder what would happen to their behavior once they were found among their own. The goal here would depart from the usual expectations regarding “learning”, but it might create an atmosphere worthy of experience. Perhaps it might set the stage for the obliteration of mental illness.
I don’t know. I’m just an individual, who grew up observing those around me as if in a cage, still struggling to find a place in my available options for society.
And, I still never know for sure if anybody truly likes having me around.
How about you?
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo
1995 – revised/modified 12/2/2014
all rights reserved. Thank you for the respect.