What is a mentally healthy person? Characteristics of an emotionally, spiritually, and socially intelligent person.


SONY DSCThe purpose of this post is to give a list of the variables that I believe impact a person’s mental health. As a therapist, I help people to augment their abilities in the below attributes. Therapy is very often thought of a means of intervening to assist people who have significant mental health concerns… I am very passionate about altering this perception so that everyone might feel motivated to reap the benefits of having a supportive guide lead them toward their potential.

I will lead with a thought provoking question… what would be the impact on your significant relationships if you were to positively change the below attributes?


Empathy:  Ability to have and to express warmth, acceptance and emotional supportiveness for the collective and for the individuals of this world.

  • Empathy is the ability to feel and to supportively attune to the emotions of another while being fully conscious and reflective about which emotions are yours and which emotions are another’s.
  • Empathy requires the ability to manage the impulse to “fix the problem” using rational suggestion. People often feel patronized when they are offered reason instead of empathy.
  • Enmeshment: I have subtly changed the definition of enmeshment so that it is still a useful idea given the critique from attachment theorists. Enmeshment is when there is unconscious automatic emotion transfer within a relationship. This means that a partner will feel the emotions of their loved ones and believe those emotions to be their own. Additionally, supportiveness usually involves enabling or some other boundary violation, which impedes the person’s ability to experience positive change.


Self-Reflection (internal) or Self-awareness: Ability to observe our thoughts, emotions, dynamics with the environment, and physiology. The Ability to reflect upon the way that emotions affect your physiological and cognitive self. It is a conscious awareness of your state of being and the impact that your being has on the system and the environment in general.

  • Reflection allows us to be the observer of the automatic thoughts and emotions, which arrive in response to environmental stimuli.
  • Reflection is said to be a ‘non-judgmental’ form of observation in which the core self (or spirit or whatever word best fits your belief system) sees the environment without projecting upon it. This requires transcendence to master so we are there for looking for an approximation – when you judge (as you will), observe the judgments and the body’s response to the judgments.
  • The ability to identify what your needs are based on successfully analyzing your automatic possesses. An example could be an ability to isolate that you are experiencing an increase in negative thoughts as a result of insufficient cardiovascular exercise. Or that you are being defensive because you are hungry. Or that you are angry because you are fearful of losing an attachment figure.
  • Ability to understand how previous life experiences impact how you emotionally respond to certain environmental stimuli.


Reflection (external) or Reflecting a person’s truth back to them: the ability to mirror back a person’s thoughts and feelings in a way which makes that person feel understood, acknowledged and supported.

  • The ability to reflect back the emotional portion of a person’s narrative.
  • The ability to reflect back what a person feels about the narrative that they have told you.
  • The ability to reflect back a person’s subjective perception of an event.

Emotional Supportiveness or Self-Compassion: Ability to offer effective support for your emotional state. Ability to sooth yourself during times of arousal, stress, anxiety and/or deregulation. Ability to acknowledge, accept and empathize with your state of being.

  • The Ability to self-sooth allows you freedom from automaticity.
  • The ability to self-sooth facilitates a therapeutic space of safety in which the clients are best able to explore their emotional selves.
  • We interact with the system with more intentionality when we can calm our sympathetic nervous system thereby reducing the narrowing effects of cortisol, adrenaline and the amygdale (fight or flight system).
  • There are many effective means of soothing ourselves ranging from receiving a hug, to engaging in a breathing exercise, to having your emotions validated by yourself or others, to getting exercise.  It is important to have a number of means to sooth yourself given all options are not available at all times.

Attunement: Ability to attune to the affect of another person so that the person feels understood and as if you can ‘see’ their true self.

  • The ability to identify the emotions of another person by attending to their non-verbals, tone, micro expression, choice of words, energy etc.
  • The ability to discern what a person might need given the persons presentation (affect).
  • The ability to identify when a person is incongruent (when their presentation does not seem to match what they are truly feeling)

Authenticity or Congruence: Knowledge of your true self combined with an ability to present your honest self even when the environment encourages you to deceive, deny, avoid or repress.

  • Ability to know your needs, ambitions, and beliefs and to present them accurately.
  • Ability to isolate and express what you are truly feeling. Gottman pointed out that we have meta-emotions = emotions about emotions, which dictate how we express certain emotions (some people don’t like to express sadness and therefore express anger… some people don’t like how anger feels and express hopelessness instead).
  • People can experience chronic emotional pain when they are in a state of dissonance (when what they are doing or claiming to believe in is in contrast with the values of their core self.)
  • Knowledge and respect for your value system with an ability to direct your life in line with your core values.

Existential ‘Flow’: the ability to create subjective meaning combined with the ability to drive one’s life towards a place where there is a convergence of their strengths, a sense of fulfillment from doing something that feels “purposeful’ or important, and happiness.

  • The ability to make subjective meaning out of one’s life story.
  • The ability to direct your life in such a way that harvests the potential of your authentic self.

Perseverance or dedication: the ability to complete goals so that a person feels integrity for their choices. The ability to manifest the fruits of your potential.

  • The ability to overcome or manage the anxiety, which is inherent in change = Change is anxiety.
  • Ability to motivate one’s self to stay congruent with a value or to stay motivated to complete an objective.
  • The ability to move forward despite failure or fears of failure.

Open-mindedness or Dialectic Maturity: the ability to hold a cognitive and emotional understanding of the co-existence of opposites to the degree that you can understand that your opinions and beliefs are no more valid than the “opposing beliefs”. The ability to be a “both and” person when another person is attempting dichotomous debate.

  • Ability to hold the anxiety, which stems from the realization that everything is both good and bad.
  • Ability to interact with stimuli, which feels difficult to integrate into your current set of constructs without jumping to judgments.

Acceptance: The ability to keep your consciousness in the present moment while allowing what is to be.

  • Ability to acknowledge the impulse to defend, avoid, repress, deny or any other defense mechanism, which would pull you from accepting and allowing what is to be.

Mindfulness: the ability to keep your conscious attention in the present moment and to be fully immersed in all of your senses while not disrupting the current moment with the past or the future.

  • The ability to notice how and when the present moment in being colored by emotions and thoughts from the past or present.
  • The ability to redirect your conscious attention towards the reactions, rigid beliefs, and judgments of the mind.
  • Ability to find your calm center from following the breath.

Intuitive insight: The ability to trust your intuition and to use the relevant insight in guiding your actions.

  • The ability to both trust and understand that the intuitive decision making center (possibly identified as the orbital frontal Cortex) of the brain is older and perhaps wiser that the evolutionarily younger rational part of the brain.
  • The ability to make beneficial use to yourself and to others of the symbols and metaphors that arrive in your space.

Leadership, Empowerment, and Informed Personal Boundaries: Ability to create a safe emotional climate in your therapeutic space: Ability to identify the emotional energy of a space combined with the intuitive ability to know when and how to intervene to sooth the reactivity of the system.

  • The ability to promote the safety and security for people to go deep into the more difficult, unresolved, misunderstood, unaccepted or unintegrated aspects of their lived experience.
  • Ability to manage your own triggers that could disrupt your ability to hold the space for others.
  • Ability to understand and overcome the meta-emotions that you have about your client’s emotions which may impede your ability to facilitate the client in expressing those emotions.
  • The Ability to state a need or a boundary with compassionate confidence.
  • The ability to set boundaries which ensure that you are healthy enough to promote the health of another.


Hope and Resilience: Knowledge that ultimately everything is ok… whatever it is … it is ok. Hope is not a wish… hope is when the core self knows that balance is always attainable. Faith in purposefulness.

  • The ability to make meaning out of meaninglessness.
  • The ability to hold gratitude for your reality despite what is happening in your reality.
  • Having a feeling of security and trust that everything is as it was meant to be… even suffering.
  • The ability to see the love, beauty, and positivity in everything.
  • The ability to accept imperfection and chaos.
  • Ability to see strengths and potentials where others only see problems.

Gratitude and positivism or Strength-based: the ability to perceive positives and to validate or acknowledge positivity with significantly more frequency than negativity.

  • The ability to be strength-based = to see the strengths and positives in yourself and others.
  • The ability to express positive sentiments in a way that can be received by another.

Knowledge and Curiosity: The ability and desire to know about yourself and the world. The ability to interact with another in a way in which you display genuine interest.

  • The ability to know or to want to know the needs, desires, dreams, and beliefs etc. of another person.
  • The ability to ask questions which facilitate an increase in knowledge.

Creativity: the ability make something new… the ability to manifest change. The ability to find a solution when there was not a solution previously available.

  • The ability to use the clay of the collective system in creating novelty.

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

William Hambleton Bishop

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

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