In order to understand people, i think it’s important to understand that no single person is EVER purely a single individual. To help explain what I mean, I will co-opt the following, “The individual who is considered in psychological theory, in fact, is never an individual, pure and simple. The statements made about him always have reference to a particular set of conditions” (Saito, 2000, 136). I agree with this statement on a very real level. These words articulate my thoughts and feelings that psychological conditions within a person depend fully on his beliefs about himself in relation to and with his or her outside world.
The second quote I am stealing extends this thought, “When we set out to explain human behavior of any kind we must be prepared to take into account facts of the external world, and facts of social structure. At the same time all such facts must be considered in their relation to tendencies towards thought, feeling and action expressed in the individuals being studied ” (Saito, 2000, 136). The thing about these quotes is that any given person is a continually developing result of the culture in which he or she is a part. Culture, again by my definition, is a set of things and value systems about those things. These things and value systems are not stored collectively, but in the mindspace of the individuals within a collective group. An individual’s “psychological health” is nothing more than what he or she believes about himself and his outside world. Simply, if a person believes him or herself to be “good,” he or she is good, “The sociocultural perspective hypothesizes that many psychiatric disorders result from inequities in the social environment. Over time, people become accustomed to their inferior status and develop negative self-concepts” (Vitkus, 1996, 113). These negative self-concepts begin and develop through social environments. When genetics are added to the mix, it becomes more and more evident that, genetics is the loaded gun and environment is the trigger.
Really, there is no such thing as an individual in isolation. All of us live in time and space with others and our relationship with others (and them with us) determines our emotional health. If we choose to surround ourselves with people who may not have our interests at heart, we will suffer. I advise everyone to choose your “friends” wisely; in the end, we will become a product of our relationships with those who are closest to us…
Saito, A. (2000). Bartlett, Culture and Cognition. Psychology Press: Cambridge, MA
Vitkus, J. (1996). Casebook in Abnormal Psychology. McGraw Hill: NY.