A lot of evidence indicates that emotional control and focus on a greater meaning, far beyond one's own personal life and worries, are important aspects of mental balance. In this article we will continue to explore personality development and hopefully gain more insight to the question of mental equilibrium.
In Part I of this article we described the equilibrium as the strength and soundness of a person’s self-esteem. The question is what really characterizes mental equilibrium.So what constitutes equilibrium? Religious texts tell of a few people who had the capacity to hold their own on sheer strength of belief. Jesus Christ and Buddha displayed a high degree of belief in the innate goodness of man. However bad a person’s actions or lowly the background, they were accepted into the fold. Emotional control and focusing on a purpose far beyond the self are important aspects of equilibrium.
If we focus on the personal qualities embedded in these people, we are better able to understand the perspective they wanted to share with mankind. A lesser mind would have baulked at bearing the wrath of the king and an entire populace or leaving the luxuries of royalty to live a life of seclusion. These great beings walked and worked among people who did not at first understand the importance of the message being shared. In times of adversity, these men retained their calm. The calm prevailed and gave them the strength of knowing to forgive the traitor who sat in their midst. There is, then, a superior mental frame at work here. Does this mean that only ‘holy’ men are blessed with the quality of equilibrium?
Inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs and others who follow seemingly impossible or even stupid dreams are examples of people who possess equilibrium. The ability to believe in a dream or larger intent is not within the realm of all people and cannot be understood. The larger group of people may try to bring a person who looks too high or far away to their own level of viewing the world.
The person who retains calm in the face of angry criticism is displaying emotional control. We display equilibrium when we are in control of ourselves in a situation. A fractious child who is distracted into controllable behaviour is being managed with equilibrium. A boss who quietly apprises a team of subordinates of a bad situation is seeking to maintain equilibrium by avoiding an emotional display. A team member may display anger in an effort to get an important point of view across. An angry reaction to a sharp rebuke is an effort to bring equilibrium to a situation. Children may shout back at their angry parents in an effort to voice their view points. Through this emotional outburst, the younger person is trying to bring an internal sense of equilibrium in the face of the strength of parental wrath. The younger person fights back in order to be better equipped to face the conflict. The maintenance of equilibrium does not deter the presence of emotional reactions but equips the person with the strength to remain calm in the face of different forces working simultaneously.
Let us return to the case of Joanna and consider an alternate line of thought (Se previous article, To build a confident personality Part I, for the full story). Joanna is a devout Christian who has considered the tenets of her religion. She is undecided about her path and has considered becoming a nun. Her parents believe she should experience life in its fullness and want her to enjoy life and hopefully settle with down with a suitable person. They feel she is an especially talented person who will not find fulfilment by turning her back on the world. As she goes along, she finds that a lot of people are like her, on a quest of some sort, albeit at different stages of understanding. Some seem oblivious to this while others are acutely aware of it. Joanna decides to take up a job and is easily accepted as a part of the group though there are many who contest her religious leanings. Sometimes she is irritated by their obvious inability to see what is so clear to her. She is undeterred and listens and debates as they try to argue and occasionally denigrate her beliefs. At the workplace, she comes in contact with a colleague who finds ways to unsettle her. Joanna gets to know that this colleague is responsible for presenting false gossip and incorrect facts about her to her superior. She is very hurt and takes a day’s leave. She considers her options and the next day approaches her superior and clarifies the situation without bringing her colleague’s name into it. Later, when she is required to send important information to the same colleague, she does so unhesitatingly.
As time goes by, she realizes she would like to work on helping homeless and abandoned people. She starts to think of ways to make this intent come true. She is contemplating the study of social research so that she can work with agencies that help the people she wants to focus on.
Here we see the forces at work, the family, her personal beliefs and her intrinsic strength. The situations are similar but since she is working on the strength of an internal belief system, she is undeterred and unmotivated by the opinions of people around her. At times, she is rattled but this does not affect the strength of her beliefs.
Now, it is possible to weigh whether Joanna is likely to get cooperation from her colleagues and the thoughts she has about their behaviour towards her. Her professional approach makes it possible for her to change the way her colleagues view her behaviour without her having to say much. Her choices are driven by what she wants to do instead of what a few others think she should do. When faced with conflict, she feels pain but finds effective ways to quickly settle the situation by calm confrontation and exhibiting her focus on a larger purpose. Her capability to consider the larger purpose of the work being done allows her to foster cooperation.
Thus, her mass (mental equilibrium) is determined not by overt signs of confidence but by way of acceptance of her strengths. Situations of conflict and harsh words will and do appear though she prefers to sort herself out before approaching these situations. Another approach could well be an immediate confrontation with the colleague without an emotional display or quietly going about work in a professional manner that displays the falsehood about the rumors that are being spread about her. Sometimes, a short burst of anger helps bring a situation to normalcy. She may choose to adopt this mode if she feels it will alter the situation without making her lose her sense of equanimity. Her choices will be determined by inner acceptance and belief of what she wants to do rather than an effort to impress or please the people in her life.