Got Serenity?

The essence of ‘mental health’ is—at root—rationality. The psychological manifestation of rationality is serenity.

Serenity does not refer to contact with a faith-based ‘higher power,’ although some will claim it does. Lying to yourself, or telling yourself things are true regardless of evidence, is not what serenity means.  

Serenity, rationally speaking, refers to an overall sense of perspective.

What creates and defines a sense of perspective?

Perspective refers to seeing the ‘bigger picture.’ This includes holding the context of all known, relevant facts. Holding the context means knowing all the relevant factors contributing to a situation involving your life.

A person without perspective will tend to focus only on one factor in a situation, in a marital, work or economic problem, for example. This can lead to either a state of hyper-negativity or hyper-optimism.

The person who’s hyper-negative fails to see other relevant facts which would, if considered, lead to a sense of, ‘This too shall pass,’ or, ‘There’s an intelligent way to resolve this problem.’

The person who’s hyper-positive lives in sort of a perpetual ‘la-la land’ in which there’s no need to plan rationally or do much of anything at all, short of living in the moment.

Serenity comes from having a sense of perspective, but there are even deeper factors contributing to its presence within a person.

I find that a serene person is someone who, at the core, believes that existence is a rational place where problems can be solved by human effort, thought and (when required) by human ingenuity.

I once heard a serene perspective put this way: ‘I know there’s a rational solution here. I don’t yet know what it is, but I know it’s discoverable.’ This is the unspoken attitude of anyone who approaches life with self-confident serenity.

Serene people tend to embrace freedom (both economic and political), individual rights, and technology because they see the world as an ever-evolving work in progress. They wish to be free, but they wish others to be free, as well. Free people find solutions, create inventions and make the world a safer, more livable place. Freedom is a comforting thing, to a serene person. Those who are really and truly convinced of this are the ones least prone to a perpetual state of anxiety, depression or even despair.

Progress, both in the world at large and in one’s own individual life, is fueled and fed by the human capacity for reason. Reason is what humans can do that animals cannot do; and it’s why animals don’t build and create the things humans do.

A serene person sees reality as fundamentally a benevolent place. No, this does not mean survival and improvement are automatic and effortless. But a benevolent-feeling person does believe—indeed, knows—that the human capacity to foster and improve his or her survival, over the long-range, is virtually limitless.

Life, to such a person (in terms of what he or she feels, at the deepest level), is a place of continuous progress, progress achieved and maintained by continuous thought, effort and paying attention. Yes, life is what we make it. But we can make it into a great deal, with thought and effort.

Of course obstacles exist. But part of life’s purpose is removing obstacles, or at least minimizing their impact. The worst obstacles are not found in nature, but in the irrational or erroneous things human beings do to each other—and to themselves. (For evidence, read world history and examine today’s headlines.) This is one reason why we need a field of psychology, and (more fundamentally) philosophy, and is why human beings eschew these fields at their peril.

At the deepest level, how you feel—and how prone you are to various lapses in psychological functioning—really has to do with how you think, and what you believe.

You might claim not to believe or care anything about these matters—the efficacy of reason, the benevolence of existence—but in fact, whether you know it or not, you have formed conclusions about these things on the emotional level. These conclusions inform how you respond, emotionally, to life in general, and about today’s events of life in particular. They’re the foundation of your mental health—or lack of it.


Be sure to “friend” Dr. Hurd on Facebook. Search under “Michael Hurd” (Rehoboth Beach DE). Get up-to-the-minute postings, recommended articles and links, and engage in back-and-forth discussion with Dr. Hurd on topics of interest.