“Love and Work”- 24 July 2016.
Good mental health signifies the twin capacities to love and work. A critical factor of declining mental health is the decline in the capacity to love and to work. Severe mental illness can be evaluated with the dysfunctions in the areas of love and the areas of work. Dysfunctions are not absolute but graded into types of dysfunctions and levels of severity.
Sigmund Freud the famous psychologist wrote: “Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.” Freud defined it by saying that the twin capacities of human beings that define their humanness are the capacity to work to your fullest potential and the capacity to love another. These concerns are the two pillars which form the foundation of a distinctly human and meaningful and purposeful life. The two questions that need to be answered are what connect the two have and a more controversial question is what is primary and what is secondary. Freud said the goal of psychotherapy is to help a patient develop his capacity to love and to work to his fullest capacity and potential. The twin themes of love and work are primary to some of the most influential theories of psychological well-being and healthy functioning. This was stated by many famous psychologists such as Eric Erickson, Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. Psychologists and philosophers since ages in their search for truth and meaning of humanness have dug deep into these questions and have arrived at some definitions.
According to ancient Hindu thought ‘interpersonal relationships’ are the central pivot on which life revolves. The famous writer on Hindu mythology Devdutt Pattnaik, cannot emphasise this point enough. From the time we are born in a family we start learning to connect and make bonds with parents and significant others. The quality of these bonds define our personality to a large extent and also our future endeavours and hence destiny. According to the ancient Hindu thought the basis of human life is the relationship that we form with others and the world. Hindus’ give equal importance to the five elements of nature, such as, air, water, earth, fire and sky; animals, plants and humans and have respect for all equally. This is so because it is understood that everything and anything on the Earth and cosmos is important and has significance for our healthy survival. The basis of any relationship is the emotional connect with others through love, respect, empathy and rational, value based thinking and attitudes. This relationship with others is again primarily based on how we relate to ourselves and how we define our sense of self and self esteem. This positive and healthy relationship with self gives rise to the ability to get attached to others and things. This primary function of attachment then leads to the second and equally important function of being fully productive in a meaningful way leading to achievement and success.
In discussing the productive character Erich Fromm, an eminent psychologist, said that ‘the capacity for procreation of species is common to both animals and man but the capacity for material production is specific to man. Man is not only a rational and social animal he can also be defined as a producing animal capable of transforming the material which he finds at hand using his reason and imagination. Not only can he produce he must produce in order to live’. Material production however is the most frequent symbol for productiveness as an aspect of character. The productive orientation of personality refers to a fundamental attitude of relatedness in all realms of human experience. It covers mental emotional and sensory responses to others to oneself and to things. Fromm believed that ‘productiveness is man’s ability to use his powers and to realise the potentialities inherent in him’. This is exactly what Swami Vivekananda, the Hindu monk said a century ago! He said that the potentialities are within us and we need to manifest them through our hard work and with love and compassion for fellow human being. Fromm said that it is further implied that humans must be free and not dependent on others and he should be guided by reason since he can make use of his powers only if he knows what they are. Productiveness means that he experiences himself as the embodiment of his powers and becomes a fully developed character which should be the aim of human development.
Human beings have tremendous potential and tremendous energy to achieve what they aspire for. How many people are able to do that and fulfil their selves is anyone’s guess. A large amount of human resource goes waste through senseless irrational and meaningless activity. People who are driven by anxiety and the ghosts of their mind indulge is wasteful actions. People driven by negative passions, such as dependency, envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, are also expending huge amounts of energy in useless pursuits. A sick mind loses its capacity to reach its full potential as it shrinks itself and circumscribes its true nature. A destructive mind indulges in sadism, masochism thus damaging self and others in relation. On the other hand a matured and fully productive human individual would lead his life in a different way. To say this may be highly controversial as in a complex world nothing is simple and easy to define as all bright and dark shades coexist.