I’ve come up with a rather casual, and very preliminary approach to mapping the range of mental health in the three primary dimensions of the self, physical, emotional, and intellectual. (Take a look at the large version of it by clicking on the image. It should open in a new window in most browsers.) It’s something I’ve been working on for a year or so now, starting out as just a one dimensional map, and finally making it into a more robust and realistic 3D map in very, very “low res” (essentially 3 x 3 x 2 plus a bit extra information from part of another axis). This is definitely a work in progress, it’s got a lot of awkwardness and missing information that I feel needs to be included. But I thought it was a good enough baby to let it wander around out in the big ole world to get some feedback on it, and offer it as a bit of inspiration to others who might want to play with the little pup.
Of course, in talking about “mental health”, we realize quickly that it is a seriously complex concept which involves all elements of the personality. This is why there are so many different categories listed in those infamous DSM books. But if we take a systematic approach, we can start to break mental health categories down into some of their basic, objective, components, using the most general types of relationships that individuals have in life — internal first person types and external second/third person types of sharing of sensory data — and into levels of overall “mental health” (which is likely to be indicative of fourth person connections, though I’m not sure). Separating these elements out in this simpler way, we can see how the different sets of long term behavioral approaches to life relate to each other, and what they offer society when they are taken care of and when they are not.
In this new two-part graph, I’ve plotted the following:
Internal Reality — Physical — The vertical axis shows three levels of increasing levels of first person connections. First person being the sharing of information within oneself (being aware of and attentive to one’s own internal state). The more connected you are with yourself, the more information you will get about your internal state, and the higher your level will be on this graph.
External Reality — Emotional and Intellectual Combined — The horizontal axis shows three levels of second and third person connections. Second and third person being the sharing of information between oneself and everyone else.
Evolutionary Reality — Spiritual — The two halves of the graph that are the best/worst “axis” shows (I think) two opposite levels of fourth person connections. Fourth person being the sharing of information between oneself and the whole system of life~evolution. The “best” half of the graph includes those individuals who actually have effective relationships with life as a whole (you could say that they are “going with the flow” within the river of time that is creation~evolution). These individuals are what we tend to call “mentally healthy” and are able to pass on positively valuable art, memes, and xemes to future generations, while the “worst” half of the graph indicates what happens to the same set of personality types if they are seriously deficient when it comes to healthy connections to the life process, and thus they are likely to end up at an evolutionary dead end, after suffering painful bouts of mental illness. Thus, for example, the top left personality on the green graph is the same personality as on the top left of the purple graph, but the former has their physiological needs being met by the environment, while the latter does not.
The shade of the colors on each half indicates the ability of each personality type to affect change in society. It’s a general indicator of social power levels with darker shades being more powerful. The most change comes from individuals who are extremely internally driven while also having a significant, but not total, drive for external connection as well (the top center category is the peak), so that there is an internal motivation to change the world, while also being able to relate to the external world well enough to inspire followers.
(And, Yes! I know it’s all very awkward and not necessarily clear! :-) It might not even be any improvement over the good old Myers-Briggs acronymic circus for most of you, but you can at least see the relationships more obviously in this one, I hope. Suggestions for improvement/clarity are more than welcome!)
The overall goal of presenting this approach to systematically categorizing the dimensions of human behavior is to help people see both where everyone fits, in relation to the matrix of the whole social system, and also to see what an individual’s potential is, given a supportive community that collaboratively works to serve each individual’s health needs (high quality food, water, air, warmth, sunlight, and welcoming outlets for the body’s excess matter and energy), and what happens when their community fails to meet their needs. One can figure out what category, or set of neighboring categories, one tends to fit into in life, and use the green/best chart to see how one might be most valuable to society, and make sure to use that as a goal in clarifying the very practical reason why one needs the community’s active support in getting one’s basic needs met. When the community takes care of your basic needs, in return you will be able to effectively serve in one or more of these socially beneficial roles.
You might notice that I’ve stayed away from naming particular “official” mental illness terms here, because I want to keep people thinking more realistically about behaviors and mental illness/health, so we’re able to put things into a more practical social context than the old fashioned, mostly static, corporate influenced, academic models of mainstream psychiatry that come with a huge dose of irrational politics. But if you’re curious about where some particular “diagnosis” fits into this, let me know and I’ll try to give you some coordinates.
And as a general rule, folks on the right side of the graph are more mainstream/conservative/traditional, while those on the left are more liberal, innovative, and “interesting” compared to current social “norms” of their time period and geographic region.
Also note that younger folks, who naturally have lower levels of connection to their own internal and external reality, will tend to fit into the lower left categories until they mature, at which point they will most likely move up and/or to the right of the graphs. Though some people only move a small amount and stay in the same general category even as adults and end up having very stable, simple personalities all their lives, especially if they aren’t educationally allowed and encouraged to explore their inner and outer realities. Younger people, however, are generally more spiritually~evolutionarily connected, because they haven’t had their instinctive behaviors messed with by the artificiality of society, and will most likely be mentally healthier than adults with the same environmental conditions.
For an example of how an individual might place themselves in this map, I would say that I hover around the intersection of the four top right categories with a strong internal “self awareness” connection and a low-to-middling connection to others in society. At my worst, I have definitely been a hoarder, suicidal, up-and-coming rebellious activist, and fully invested myself in some pretty lame jobs out of desperation to meet my basic needs (and have had at least mild heart problems, too). But these days I am very much in the “best” side of evolution as I devotedly serve my employers (the forces of nature!) in spewing out evolutionarily positive art, memes, and xemes that promote innovative programs for using personal inspiration and physical health as a way to lead the world to a far better future, which is what you might expect from someone who is a combination of eccentric creative genius, great leader, curiosity collector/researcher/maker, and decent loyal worker. :-) How about you? Can you figure out where you might be? What important role do you think you would serve in the world if your needs were really well taken care of by your environment?
As for the reasons why particular individuals are in the personality categories they are in, that has to do with all sorts of factors, mostly involving what happened to them during the very early physical and emotional growth stages of their lives, from conception (DNA and RNA and basic physical structure of the body/brain) to 3.75 years old (structuring the basic understanding for what familial and friend bonds are useful for), and also to what happened to them during the school and young professional years (learning about what we are good at and how that might serve the community’s needs). All learning experiences, at all levels, play at least some part in building our personality, even if the younger years are the most formative, which is why no matter where you are in the map now, you can continue to move upwards and/or outwards, at least a little, as you are able to bring more high quality mental and physical resources into your self.
Phew! OK. I’m done for now. Your turn!
Note, I’ve updated the diagram. I like it a little better now!