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The cause of mental illnesses appears to be inability to deal with mental stresses.
Summary: Mental illnesses often mean breakdown of mental equilibrium caused by inadequately compensated mental stresses which can originate from any source and not only sexual deprivation. This may lead to a vicious cycle which can be often broken by various therapeutic interventions.

In the article “What is the origin of Wants and Desires?” it has been pointed out that many of our motivations or wants and desires are beyond biological needs and can only be explained on the basis of universal instinct to exist, evolve and diversify. Visit: http://www.sciencengod.com/what-is-the-origin-of-wants-and-desires.html

But even that is not enough. Besides being a part of a universal scheme, we all exist as individuals or discrete entities having unitary organization, in a state of dynamic equilibrium aimed at keeping our identity and integrity and meeting our goals and objectives. Besides this, a desire for self-expression and self-realization lurks deep inside every individual inspired by the individuality. All the above, collectively, constitutes individuality or personality of the individual and is the rational basis of inter-individual differences.

Universal instincts coupled with personality or individuality collectively approximate what Sigmund Freud has referred to as ‘Id’. But to be effective, this ‘Id’ has to be duly supported by appropriate structure and function i.e. brain and mind. Mind is defined as the function of brain. But brain and mind have their origin in genome and all the necessary cellular and biochemical machinery that genome creates through regulated gene expression. Therefore, all our behavior, sentiments and intellect have a material basis as detailed above and any malfunctioning of any of the components directly or indirectly involved in keeping the mental equilibrium can precipitate mental illnesses. Neurophysiologists are progressively discovering material/biochemical correlations of mental functioning.

Since, in order to satisfy the universal instinct to exist, everything has to exist in a state of dynamic equilibrium having internal as well as external harmony so that all the inherent conflicts and contradictions (Dialectical materialism) are in a state of effective resolution. This need for harmony inspires ethics, morals, laws (even manmade), a sense of justice, a sense of fair and unfair or a sense of right and wrong. Even need for an order and system is at least in part determined by this universal Law of Harmony. Much of the religion is inspired by the need to keep harmony with in individuals as well as with in human society. This is what has corresponds to Super-ego of Sigmund Freud.

To keep harmony and to meet individual satisfaction a large number of conditions with inherent contradictions and conflicts have to be satisfied all the time. Inherent contradictions and conflicts often demand intellectual resolution which may require at times resetting the fulcrum or state of dynamic equilibrium. This may be done consciously in humans but in all others it is done subconsciously. This is what corresponds to ‘Ego’ of Sigmund Freud.

Sigmund Freud for the first time recognized role of subconscious in determination of human behavior and causation of mental illnesses and even devised Psychoanalysis as the technique to unearth subconscious phenomena. But Sigmund Freud failed to appreciate true significance and scope of subconscious in nature and universe. Further he failed to appreciate that even in the domain of Psychology, most of the needs are satisfied subconsciously only. Nature and universe until the evolution of self-awareness or voluntary consciousness in humans have managed all their affairs subconsciously only. Voluntary Consciousness or self-awareness is only a minute fraction of whole of consciousness that permeates this universe. No doubt that voluntary consciousness is the highest level in the natural hierarchy of consciousness. It not only makes consciousness aware of itself but also allows action at a distance to its bearers.

Universal instincts assisted by consciousness actively and aggressively work to attain their ends and this motivational drive has been variously described by others including Sigmund Freud as libido or energy presumably because this is what gets the things done. However it is a misconception to call it as energy, since it is not the same as energy as understood in Physics. What we may call as libido directs utilization of energy for various ends but is not energy in itself.

So, our motivations, dreams, fantasies, idiosyncrasies, personal preferences, whims and fancies, actions are principally determined, directed and managed by subconscious. We have only a minimal control on our own actions. Prudence and pragmatism is a state of mind and its resultant action where our actions are grounded in comprehensive reality whether internal or external. A prudent and pragmatic mind is amenable to reason. Therefore in a prudent and pragmatic state of mind, role of unrealistic elements in driving our action is adequately regulated leading to a state of harmonious existence and optimum utilization of our resources. But a sick mind may refuse to see reason.

An individual has to cope with conflicts and contradictions all the time since conflicts and contradictions are inbuilt in nature. Inherent conflicts and contradictions often demand intellectual resolution either subconsciously or at the level of self-awareness. Therefore for any individual, existence is the result of a dynamic equilibrium. Nothing exists in a state of static equilibrium. This dynamic equilibrium demands perpetual management to keep existence, to maintain peace and tranquility and to keep body, mind and soul harmony.

Different individuals show differing sensitivity, predisposition and resilience to different disequilibrating factors (mental stresses). Individual’s sensitivity to a particular factor may vary from being hypersensitive to insensitive. This sensitivity can be altered by mental training. Sensitivity and response to various disturbing factors is conditioned not only by universal instincts but also by innate personality, cumulative experiences and other material factors influencing behavioral, emotional and intellectual responses.

A particular behavior may be normal in one set of circumstances but not so in another set of circumstances. Therefore, various behavioral responses require context dependent interpretation. Hence, at times line of distinction between mentally healthy and mentally ill is exceedingly thin and its identification is dependent upon subjective experience of the observer.

Normally, in accordance with universal instinct to exist (Sigmund Freud described this as instinct to life) mind tries to keep its dynamic equilibrium or Zero state but if the mental stress far exceeds the ability of mind to cope, a mental breakdown occurs and mental illness is precipitated. Same mental stress can precipitate different mental illnesses in different individuals. Once mental breakdown occurs, it may lead to a vicious cycle leading to progressive deterioration of mental state. In a sick mental state, mind may refuse to see reason.

In coping with mental stress two options are generally available.

In repression the conflict is buried deep inside the psyche without any effective resolution. It acts as a time bomb waiting to explode. Sigmund Freud identified underlying repression as the reason behind most of mental illnesses involving sudden outburst of repressed emotions. He particularly emphasized significance of repressed sexuality as the cause of most of mental illnesses. However this is not completely correct. All types of deprivations and repressed emotions can precipitate mental illnesses.

The other option involves resetting or shifting or modifying the fulcrum or the state of dynamic equilibrium so that the individual is able to keep his dynamic equilibrium despite existence of mental stresses in the environment. This can be further improved by mental training. Often a proper understanding of mental stresses helps and this is precisely the reason for effectiveness of Freud’s Psychoanalysis.

Armed with improved understanding of mental stresses, mind in line with universal instinct to exist tries to restore its dynamic equilibrium. Therefore with in any individual, there will always be compensated mental stresses that shape personality of the individual. But uncompensated mental stresses in a state of repression can precipitate mental illnesses any time.

Sigmund Freud has been wrong in laying undue emphasis upon sex as the principal cause of repression. Any unsatisfied, uncompensated demand can be a cause of repression. Hence reasons for mental illnesses may be as wide and varied as human wants and desires.

Summing up, mental illnesses may be viewed as the result of failure of normal compensating mechanisms concerned with maintenance of mind’s state of dynamic equilibrium leading to a vicious cycle which can often be broken by various therapeutic interventions.

Author: Dr Mahesh C. Jain is a practicing medical doctor and has written the book “Encounter of Science with Philosophy – A synthetic view”. The book begins with first chapter devoted to scientifically valid concept of God and then explains cosmic phenomena right from origin of nature and universe up to origin of life and evolution of man. The book includes several chapters devoted to auxiliary concepts and social sciences as corollaries to the concept of God. This is the only book that deals with subject matter of origin of nature and universe beginning from null (Zero or nothing).  This article is inspired by author’s understanding of `nature.

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