In achieving self-esteem, or sense of self, we achieve maturity, or psychosocial growth
The Sense of Self
A Guide to How We Mature
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Lorene A. Stringer
"Mental health can be purposefully nurtured," writes Lorene A. Stringer. As mental illness arises from the inability to cope with life stresses, so mental health is a matter of managing stress effectively.
The ability to cope with stress can be nurtured by helping people, particularly the young, to develop self-esteem, defined by the author as "a reasonably accurate and realistic apraisal of the self resulting in the finding that self has worth." It is in achieving that self-esteem, or sense of self, that we achieve maturity, or psycosocial growth.
Miss Stringer describes the "sustaining network," which can foster growth from dependent childhood through to the extended relationships of adulthood. She shows how parents and teachers can help children learn, from stress itself, to develop the resources necessary to deal with stress. These resources of competence, productivity, and responsibility can be cultivated, as can the power of enjoyment, which the author sees as crucial in promoting growth and replenishing energy.
The Sense of Self has been compared with Bruno Bettelheim's first books on residential treatment. And indeed, the author addresses herself largely to the fostering of mental health in children. But she makes it clear that psychosocial growth is possibile in adulthood, too, and that the capacity to enjoy can be expanded at any age.
"Miss Stringer's definition of mental health is an original contribution, clearly explained and well developed. However, her prime substantive contribution is her unique explication of the place and function of enjoyment in personality development."
Lorene A. Stringer is Community Mental Health Coordinator of the St. Louis County Health Department.