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From Mental Health to Behavioral Health…and back?

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Know Thy­self: Well-Being and Sub­jec­tive Expe­ri­ence (Cere­brum):

Ancient Greek philoso­phers were fond of the apho­rism, “know thy­self,” inscribed above the entrance of one of the Tem­ples of Apol­lo at Del­phi. One expres­sion of this tra­di­tion, vari­ably attrib­uted to Socrates and Pla­to, is that “the unex­am­ined life is not worth liv­ing.” Anoth­er, attrib­uted to Aris­to­tle, is “to know thy­self is the begin­ning of wis­dom.” And, accord­ing to Socrates, the path to such self-knowl­edge is through inner reflec­tion, or what we now call intro­spec­tion.

Thou­sands of years lat­er, pro­fes­sions arose to help peo­ple know them­selves bet­ter…(how­ev­er) Behav­ioral, cog­ni­tive-behav­ioral, and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal approach­es have all tra­di­tion­al­ly assumed that suc­cess­ful treat­ment must go beyond, or beneath, sub­jec­tive experience—that the way to improve men­tal health is to change prob­lem­at­ic behav­ior or the infor­ma­tion-pro­cess­ing func­tions and/or brain phys­i­ol­o­gy under­ly­ing it. Reflect­ing this view, insur­ance com­pa­nies today are more like­ly to refer to “behav­ioral health” than “men­tal health.” But per­haps this assump­tion, which equates the behav­ioral with the men­tal, needs to be reconsidered…the idea that the sub­jec­tive expe­ri­ence of fear is a hard-wired state inher­it­ed from ani­mals is not uni­ver­sal­ly accept­ed by psy­chol­o­gists or neu­ro­sci­en­tists. How, then, might fear come about if not via an ancient sub­cor­ti­cal cir­cuit? It seems worth con­sid­er­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty that it aris­es the same way as oth­er kinds of con­scious expe­ri­ences…

The sci­ence of sub­jec­tive expe­ri­ence has come a long way in recent years. While it is still about turn­ing the mind in on itself, a rig­or­ous body of sci­en­tif­ic research on con­scious­ness is emerg­ing. Applied to clin­i­cal prob­lems, mod­ern under­stand­ing of con­scious­ness could pave the way for more pre­cise and valid assess­ments of human emo­tions and pro­vide clin­i­cians with new and improved strate­gies for treat­ing emo­tion­al suf­fer­ing.”

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