Walking the Tightrope: Mental Health and the Power of Faith

There is a 19th century phrase that still resonates with people today because it inspires an attitude of determination and endurance. This attitude is so central to our instincts for survival. German philosopher, Frederick Nietzsche famously said: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

But what does not kill us physically can kill us in other ways. There is death of the spirit. There is a kind of death that safeguards the body but destroys the mind. There is a death that preserves the mind but destroys the heart. 

In other words, there is a price to pay for Nietzsche’s form of strength. Yes, what does not kill us makes us stronger because when you are dead on the inside you move ahead without the friction of your conscience holding you back. Unrestrained and unhampered by moral considerations and inconvenient emotions we can coast through life more easily. 

Once a society or an individual fully embraces this view of survival, once we lose sight of the bigger picture and only focus on our practical survival, then presto! Life becomes good. Not because it feels good, but because it does not like anything anymore. No pain, no suffering, no growth- means no real joy. 

Mental Health

Famous philosopher and psychiatrist Erich Fromm cautions against the belief that mental health is the absence of symptoms. Whether it’s our morbid obesity or our depression or anxiety, symptoms are our sanitized reflex to an unsanitary spiritual state. 

“Beware of defining mental hygiene as the prevention of symptoms.” He said, “Symptoms are not our enemy, but our friend.”

Mental health symptoms are our soul’s signal that your conscience is still alive. They are our spirits’ inner rebellion against circumstances demanding to be changed.

Walking the Tightrope: Mental Health and the Power of Faith - About Islam

“The Practical Reality”

Preserving our mental health, like our physical health, requires a conscious decision. We know that a healthy diet and exercise are good for the body. But few will tell you that faith and spirituality are good for our mental health because it’s a much more difficult correlation to prove.  

Religious belief and practice is associated with better mental health as repeatedly quantified by science. But most of us also know plenty of people who are very religious and also very unstable. Spirituality and religion are not a part of a spectrum where the more religious you are the more mentally healthy you are. 

On the contrary, in order for us to maintain good mental health our faith in the metaphysical unseen reality must correspond with a firm grip on the objective reality of our life here on earth.

Religious life was not meant to compete with practical survival. True mental health is the balancing act between the physical and the metaphysical i.e. the practical reality on the ground, and the ultimate reality where God is in control of everything.

It’s the ability to tie your camel and simultaneously believe that God is the ultimate protector irrespective of what you do. 

Mental health is the ability to balance ourselves between these two orientations of reality; between these two states of consciousness. We pray for cures but we must also seek them.

The practical reality, (Nietzsche’s world), takes no effort to acknowledge and struggle against because we are living in it and feeling its effects on us in real and measurable ways. But the ultimate reality requires engagement through deliberate intention, which we make through religious practice. 

Relief and guidance are found from religious people. And they are also found from psychiatrists and doctors. We believe in the power of Prozac but also prayer. 

Pages: 1 2