Quest for Emotional Health

Written by Daniel Casriel in 1982 as an introduction to the Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills (“PAIRS”) program.

The approach of my work integrated into the PAIRS curriculum is not meant to provide an escape from human struggle, instant cure, or a quick fix. My contributions are aimed at contributing to a comprehensive educational program that helps people become more human. These experiences can help eliminate destructive behaviors, feelings, and attitudes as people learn that we can reprogram ourselves.

As I wrote a decade ago in A Scream Away from Happiness, it remains increasingly known that despite the material wealth of America, more and more people grasp for the thrill of the moment in order to dull lifelong feelings of deprivation. Greater numbers of Americans continue to numb themselves with alcohol, canned entertainment, drugs, compulsive work, nonfeeling compulsive sex, and spectator sports. Human beings find that, though they may not be unhappy, they are not happy — without knowing why they are not happy, or what to do about it.

As individuals, many of us tend to function in terms of socially accepted values and images of our particular subculture, rather than out of a sense of our own worth. Institutions in our pluralistic society may even reward us for lack of conviction. Millions are role-playing: In our jobs, with our neighbors, with our children, with our mates. We repress honest feelings as we strive to do the socially appropriate or admired thing. “Don’t get involved,” “Don’t make waves,” “Don’t get angry,” “Dont be afraid,” or “Cool it.”

In order to play out their roles, a vast number of Americans must insulate themselves from their gut feelings. Otherwise, they would feel the painful confusion and humiliation which their roles exact. We are taught at a very early age to repress gut-level feelings — feelings which have meant survival to animals and indeed to other human beings in much earlier times.

To be free to choose, one must first be free to feel, free to think, and free to act. How do we recognize such freedom, and how do we achieve it?

There is pitifully little psychiatric terminology to describe emotional health. We, psychiatrists, devote ourselves to treating varying stages of emotional discomfort and self-defeat. Our preoccupation is with symptoms of disease and distress. Even our professional diagnoses are essentially labels for maladaptive feelings, attitudes, or behavior. Our focus on labeling what’s wrong can bring a lifetime of consequences while contributing little to the achievement of emotional health.

The pursuit of emotional health must include learning to deal simultaneously with all three sides of what I call: “Triangular Man” — behavior, feelings, and attitudes. This recognition can lead to basic personality changes on behalf of emotional health, well-being, and the potential of every human.

PAIRS offers a much needed, new approach, an educational approach, to emotional health. There is no magic. The intensive system of PAIRS offers hope for a future of greater pleasure, greater genuine productivity, and greater fulfilling purpose.

Daniel Casriel, 1982
New York, New York

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