Normality Does Not Equal Mental Health: The Need to Look Elsewhere for Standards of Good Psychological Health

Normality Does Not Equal Mental Health: The Need to Look Elsewhere for Standards of Good Psychological Health

Normality Does Not Equal Mental Health: The Need to Look Elsewhere for Standards of Good Psychological Health

Normality Does Not Equal Mental Health: The Need to Look Elsewhere for Standards of Good Psychological Health

Synopsis

How do you define good mental health? This controversial, counterintuitive, and altogether fascinating book argues that "psychological normality" is neither a desirable nor an acceptable standard.

• Multiple descriptive examples of ways in which the equation of psychological normality with good mental health leads us astray

• An account of the principal contributors who have urged that psychological normality is not a desirable or justifiable standard of good mental health

• A historical account of the main psychological factors that have led to our current failing model and practice of higher education

Excerpt

“Normal is good, abnormal is bad” is an unquestioned refrain of conventional wisdom in such varied areas as child-raising, elementary and higher education, peer-reviewed publications, the evaluative judgments of society, and understanding the psychology of creative individuals—and, when translated and clothed in slightly more sophisticated attire, it is the basis for much of the diagnostic framework of contemporary psychiatry and clinical psychology. the general equation of psychological normality with good mental health, and of psychological abnormality with mental illness, together express an uncritical bias that favors what is humanly typical and socially and politically desirable. This equation has had far-reaching consequences, consequences that affect humanity and human culture far beyond the diagnostic confines of psychiatry and clinical psychology.

To examine this issue and certain of its major and sometimes wideranging ramifications is the central purpose of this book. Its rationale is to pick up the discussion where two psychologist-authors, Abraham Maslow and Thomas Szasz, left off: Maslow directed attention to the characteristics of “self-actualizing” people in an effort to delineate ways in which they exemplify a better and higher degree of mental health than is to be found among the typical, psychologically average population. Maslow was a pioneer in recognizing the need to raise the criteria used to define positive psychological health from conventionally applied standards to a higher level.

Szasz approached human psychology from a different perspective. He opposed the diagnostic labeling of contemporary psychiatry and clinical psychology because their conception of “mental disorders,” in his view, expresses the not-so-hidden agenda to force people to conform to social and political interests. Szasz’s criticism of DSM-inspired labeling led . . .

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