Keeping Things Healthy

Fred Smith gives us some interesting views on emotional health.

By Fred Smith

I have eclectic reading interests, although I stay within the context or philosophy, psychology and theology ---- this allows me to study much about both the nature of God and the nature of man, both of which fascinate me. I have recently read some interesting pieces about emotional health that I find extremely helpful.

My friend T. George Harris, former editor of American Health, devoted an entire issue to the healthful advantages derived from fun. I think the Christian has a great possibility of extending fun into joy which is even more lasting. We don't have to rely just on George, Norman Cousins and others of the medical profession for their research in the correlation between laughter and health for there is a scriptural basis for what they are saying. We can support their good opinion by the theological assurance that "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine."

I have been very much interested in how stress immobilizes our defense mechanism. I feel the Bible oftentimes gives us the solution to the problem without stating the problem at all. It assumes that we accept the word as authority and that obedience will be beneficial. I have been interested in looking at some of the research on cocaine and how it attacks the pleasure center of the brain so that after repeated use there can be no pleasure outside of cocaine.

Shame vs guilt — I saw an interesting article on research that psychologists are doing on the subject of shame. It has been greatly neglected in the past even though they now call it one of the "source" emotions, meaning that other emotions spring from this. They have done a great deal of study of guilt but very little of shame. I am going to do some thinking myself on this subject. When I was with Dr. Weber, the professor of plastic surgery at Stanford, we talked about it and he mentioned that so much of plastic surgery is to improve people's image of themselves. As I see shame, it's an evaluation of condition. They talk about self-loathing, while guilt is a reaction to an act based on your value judgment. Some people have no guilt after an act that would create enormous guilt in someone else. The article says that the only physical evidence of shame is "a turning away of the face." Remember how Adam answered God after he had sinned, "I hid myself for I was ashamed." If you do a concordance check on the two words shame and guilt you will find some exciting insights.

Revenge is not part of the emotional repertoire of healthy people. I distinctly remember reading some headlines about Buddy Ryan and taking revenge on the Dallas Cowboys. Psychologically, revenge is known to be one of the most damaging, if not the most damaging, emotion. Hans Selye, the noted Nobel prize winning scientist, in his study of stress lists revenge as the #1 emotion to avoid. It's just good sense - if you've got a black book, to tear it up. I was having lunch with the president of a corporation who has been going through some pretty difficult competition and he said, "I'm going to get those suckers." I reminded him that good competition is perfectly Christian but revenge is beyond the pale. The book says, "vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the lord." He doesn't want us filling our lives with vengeance.

Emotional health is part of the bedrock for good living. When we establish the anchors we want stability financially, relationally, physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. As we audit our progress, emotional health is a key measure of how we are doing.