Was King David of Israel mentally ill or gifted? How about Solomon- David’s son? Was Howard Hughes mentally ill, or gifted? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Thomas Edison? The Apostle Paul? Van Gogh? William Cowper? Virginia Wolf? Lord Byron? Ernest Hemingway? Albert Einstein? Sylvia Plath? How about the Jewish prophet Elijah? I submit that (by today’s standards) each of these states was present at various intervals throughout each person’s lifetime; and that in such case, the mentally affected person must be loved and assisted in myriad exceptional ways- none of which would conceal, dilute, or otherwise obstruct the person’s extraordinary abilities.
In our society to be mentally handicapped is not understood to be mentally ill, however mental illness is most certainly understood to be a handicap. Traditionally, we have accepted mental handicapping to be something apart from mental illness and limited to the realm of retardation and the many learning disabilities. For the purposes of this article, I ask you to apply any and all conditions bringing about mental challenges outside what is considered to be the normal range of human experience.
I desire that it be remembered that the handicapped state or illness of the gifted human being is part and parcel with the whole, and to inspire the notion that we must seek to aid in the integration of the whole rather than to destroy a part or parts.
A human being is, in himself or herself, a system. He is a system apart from other systems and yet within and affected by and affecting numerous larger systems. Within and outside the self are various smaller systems functioning in that same manner. Fragmentation of systems should be in all cases analyzed with extreme care and precision, and engaged in as a final option.
Our present food industry has become a conspicuous example of the resulting chaos that ensues from a reckless abandonment of our comprehension and prudent application of systems dynamics. For example, in our haste to effectively produce more food at less cost, we have turned to pesticides that are heavily contributing to the destruction of our bee population. As bees are among our planet’s most vigorous pollinators of the vegetation we depend upon to survive, this is categorically unwise.
An excellent surgeon will only consider the excise of a part of the physical body as a last resort, so we as spiritual coaches and mental health professionals must be at least as hesitant as a good surgeon to separate intangible part from whole. In our great desire to help and to heal the mind, we must not necessarily decide that the loss of some part or parts of a person’s mental state is the best solution.
I believe it is best in most cases to assist our clients in developing insight and in learning to recognize, name, and manage the various aspects of who they are, that they may be able to properly integrate all into a smoothly operating, cooperative whole. (Of course, in the rare and extreme case of obvious harm to a client or to someone else as a result of the client’s behavior- all manner of assistance must be considered.)
As a result of the human genome project, there is a battle being waged against mental illness and handicap at the genetic level. Meaning, eventually we expect to be able to alter a person’s deoxyribonucleic acid- a person’s DNA- to remove the genetic opportunity for mental illness or handicapping to occur.
At this juncture, I encourage our remembrance that nature or experience is bound to remain a significant fraction of every human being’s individual formation, in other words one’s genetic predisposition to a thing does not presuppose that one will develop it. Any solid mathematician will tell you that the variables in such a problem are infinite. We are finite. According to all known evidence, it is apparent that some things will remain out of our control.
Therefore, knowing treasure is not always obvious and often comes by perilous journey, coupled with an awareness of the extraordinary mental terrains of the highly gifted mentioned here, among many others not noted or waiting to be discovered and explored, is reason enough in my mind to discourage completely an all or nothing proposition regarding the issue of absolutely eliminating mental affections-part or parts of the self- as well as to encourage a cautious holistic approach to the healing of the self.
For further reading on this subject:
Touched With Fire by Kay Redfield Jamison, Phd, MD
An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, Phd, MD
In Search of The Double Helix, by James Watson, Phd
The Science of Evil, by Simon Baron-Cohen, Phd
Chaos, by James Gleick
Copyright 2017. L.L.Shelton.