Mental Health, Psychology, and Personages
In the summer of 2018, I took two free classes on Mental Health, (Mental Health First Aid and SafeTalk suicide prevention), Both courses were coincidentally hosted by churches. At the second class I was curious about how psychology and biblical principals interacted in such a complex way for believers. I must have asked my question with the wrong words for the instructor kinda disengaged with me for the rest of the class. She might’ve taken it the as a unintended challenge or some such. Sadly, that never got cleared up, but I learned a lot and would recommend those courses for anyone interested in being prepared for a neighbor in need.
In January 2019 my rabbit trails ran dry and I asked people for YouTube or book recommendations. One of them was Paul Tournier’s classic “The Meaning of Persons”. Dr. Tournier was a Swiss physician, Christian counselor and author who lived from 1898 – 1986.
“Drawing on his long experience as a practicing physician and psychologist he stresses the fundamental importance of personal relationship between doctor and patient on the one hand, and between God and man on the other.”Translator preface in The Meaning to Persons
Tournier explained that psychology in all its complexity, various theories and disciplines was limited to the “mechanisms of the mind.” The person was so much more than that. Of which the doctor went on to explore in the book.
Information is intellectual, whereas communion is spiritual; but information was the path that led to communion. Information speaks of personages. Communion touches the person.The Meaning of Persons page 25
In the preface the translator explains that he kept the word personage, which Jung would probably use persona, because Tournier and Shakespeare used the same vernacular. And referenced the famous “world’s a stage” quote.
The person is the original creation, the personage is the automatic routine.
More than just an ego or a mask, but like a role we can have more than one, (daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, manga fan, etc.) And that personage is like a low level resolution to interact with the person. When the role or avatar doesn’t truly reflect person that’s when all manner of things might be misaligned or go wrong. Whether its not integrating one’s shadow or false personage hiding or subduing the person’s true self.
So now what?
The human psyche is a portion of the whole person according to Tournier. The personality bleeds from the psychological into the spiritual being. I don’t quite understand how it all works since psychology is quite complex on its own.
But, one of the take aways I’ve gleaned from the Mental Health classes, Jordan Peterson’s biblical lecture series and Paul Tournier’s books is that we are very complicated beings. We really don’t know why we do what we do. The strings and pulleys behind our motivations are mostly hidden from us. There’s a lot to study and learn from. But when it comes to the mind and consciousness, there’s a lot we don’t know. The mindscape is a fascinating yet mysterious thing.
Sometimes things go wrong and people need help. And that help, (whether medicine, counseling, etc.), isn’t always up for the challenge. Some people wrestle with the stigma of having mental illness. To not be able to trust your own mind. To live with such a shadow and its conditions can be demoralizing.
But, the old adage of “loving your neighbor” might be the right prescription for when people are facing challenges they can’t overcome. A little bit of patience and agape love can help lift the spirits of people that face a mental health illness. Doctor’s can’t always cure the illness. Sometimes they can manage the symptoms. Make life more livable. But a miracle happens when we see and treat the person instead of the disease. See them as more than the condition or label. Attempt to see the true person behind the personage.