Integrity: A vital component of good mental health

Integrity: “1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty”

Random House College Dictionary

Once there was a philosopher in ancient Greece by the name of Diogenes, also known as Diogenes the Cynic. The story holds that Diogenes was often found walking around Athens with a lamp, in full daylight. When questioned why he did that, he replied, “I am just looking for an honest man.” He reportedly found nothing but “rascals and scoundrels.”

I was reminded of Diogenes last week, in watching the various political speeches and thinking about all of the dishonesty, the lack of integrity, shown by most politicians I have been witness to, the many campaigns and conventions over my many years as an adult. As a sociologist and psychologist, with a lot of experience in individual and crowd mentality, I watched and listened as the speakers played to the emotions, not the intellect, of the listeners; working the crowds almost into a frenzy as they constantly used the defense mechanism of projection.

As the various speakers took various podiums across our country, the lack of integrity hung like a mesmerizing mist over the individuals and crowds being addressed. Spewing forth their cynical rhetoric of hatred and bigotry, often in the guise of “Love” and “Brotherhood.”

The whole thing was eaten up by a great number of the “Me Generation,” the “Generation Xs and Ys;” to which a great number of our populous now belong. I was also reminded me of the “Love-fest” of the 1970’s; keeping the emotions over the intellect.

The Cynic Diogenes would really have a field day if he were to witness it…the domination of “Rascals and Scoundrels.”

As I write this article, I am reminded of an old saying we had in the military; “You are what you do, not what you say you will do,” or “Actions speak louder than words.” As with the current political rhetoric, words have little meaning when one looks at the whole picture from a historical perspective, and understands the psychology of it all.

I never placed much stock on mere rhetoric if not accompanied by action, it is what is actually accomplished that is important to me; as any of my past internees and employees can attest to. Being an honest and punctilious, pro-active person, and a person who is moving forward, plays a huge part in a person with integrity.

I was raised, and have lived, in an atmosphere of the work ethic, in which many of you readers were also; which includes honesty toward others and respect for the rule of law. If one wanted to be valued as a member of our society, then they had to produce; make an effort to do so with integrity. Actions have always spoken louder than words to me; that is also the way I helped raise our children; and that is the way our children are raising our grand-children. They all have good mental health because they are persons with integrity.

Now, I am not a Diogenes. I believe that dishonesty is an exception in our society, not the norm. Most people want to place their intellect over their emotions…they want to be virtuous; to be good and act good, and refuse to join in on the “Me Generation,” or they have been locked into an emotional oriented life and have difficulty with change.

But being a person of integrity means much more than just being an honest person of virtue. Integrity is a “concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. It can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy.” It is a concept of “walking the walk, not just talking the talk.” How many of you readers have experienced the lack of integrity on persons you have met, or had business with? Have you ever had a person tell you that they will “get right on that,” and do not? Have you known friends who will tell you one thing then do another…or not do anything at all? Have you had the experience of being promised something by a certain date and time, and it did not occur? We have all had to deal with persons of little integrity on our life’s journey.

Being a person of integrity means being a mentally healthy person. Even though persons with mental illness have a very difficult time in life, there are still those with integrity, and they manage to maintain it despite their symptoms of the illness; to remain mentally healthy to the best of their abilities. They, as well as their families, have my upmost respect and consideration.

Programs of treatment for persons with mental illness and substance use disorders have recognized the need to steer away from emotionally oriented therapies, and to embrace programs that place intellect over emotions; such as the most recognized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), with emphasis on self-honesty and responsibility. Self-help groups have long emphasized the need for honesty/integrity on the part of members in their programs. Wholistic supportive programs, such as yoga, tai chi, etc. emphasize the same cognitive restructuring ,and building ones integrity. If only all of our citizenry would act in the same manner.

The presidential campaign has already begun with emotions over intellect, and says much about the integrity of candidates. I would that you place our nation above your own egos, not be caught in the snares of candidates hiding behind children in TV commercials in order to feed their egos for power, etc., that you use your intellect and integrity over your emotions in choosing your candidate; that you act in a responsible, rational manner…and above all, exercise your integrity. Until next time, Stay Healthy My Friends!