Social Climate and Mood/Mental Health

Toplumsal İklim ve Ruh Hali/Sağlığı

“It is possible to live a heartbreaking life with no hope or consolation, but if there are no expectations for some things to happen, for things to change in life, then it’s not possible to live. In short, living a life with no expectations is harder than living a life with no hopes.”


(Eugenio Borgna, “Expectation and Hope”)

“Mood”, meaning state of mind, as it is called “mod” in Turkish, is commonly tended to be taken into consideration as a thing that is solely within the borders of individuality, or as a subject matter that is solely related to the individual’s own physical-mental integrity and health. It can be considered as if people are living in an area surrounded by a bell glass, isolated from public sphere and rules, and not a part of the social order… I will try to explain that this is not how it is by claiming that none of us are living inside bell glasses, that mood and mental health’s initial individual appearance is deceiving, that both mood and mental health are a subject on an individual level, and a social phenomenon on a higher level than that and with aspects that are as strong and effective as it is. While doing this, I will make use of the book titled “Expectation and Hope” by Eugenio Borgna (1930-), an Italian contemporary social scientist and famous psychiatrist. At this point, I would like to emphasize that this book of Borgna’s, in general all of his books, are uncommonly significant works.

While Eugenio Borgna, in a competent manner and through extremely good examples, explains the way various psychological and psychiatric problems are handled through quotations from an entire literature of social sciences, he also refers to the diaries of a worker at the Renault factory in France, providing through these diaries a social background regarding the mood of a young person, of a young worker working at a factory… What the worker wrote is actually a summary of what he does in a day. The worker impressively describes his mood that is shaped by the pressure of work, the stress caused by the requests made of him to do more production in less time, and the concerns increased/caused to increase as a result, and an endless constant exhaustion. The worker’s mood, which depends on external factors for its creation, is fed by this fact; this is the ground of the “mood”, it is created by the work conditions and takes its final form. In this case, even if it’s an individual phenomenon, we can say that it is a clear example of the relationship between what’s called a mood, and the business life that is a part of it, and what we do in our daily lives. Let’s show what the worker says in his diary and his state of mind directly through his own sentences:

“One must be patient. He must endure. He must do it like a swimmer in the water. But he must do it always, until death, with a tendency to swim. There is not boat that we can go aboard. Nobody in the world would notice even if we slowly sank and drowned. We have no value at all. Even our existence is a blessing.”

As seen, if a person is in a place, where their own existence is invaluable, where it is considered an ordinary wheel in between the gears that are the mechanical parts of the machines that operate constantly, then they go into a human “mood”, in which they lose their mental sensitivity and dignity arising from the characteristic of human vitality. It has nothing to do with genetics or any other type of “naturalness”. However, even though humans are considered a mechanical part, they are not like that under any circumstances. They are made of flesh, bones and, most importantly, of a soul. Let’s remember Charlie Chaplin’s cult movie “Modern Times”, which is the best critique against this mechanization, by considering within this context. When a person goes beyond the borders of the work place where there is a constant race against time and where people are oppressed at work places (which is called “mobbing”), it is not possible to expect that person to change as simply as changing their overalls.

A job that is carried out professionally is actually an essential part of the entire life. The heavy burden on the shoulders of a person at the workplace environment will descend over their social lives like a nightmare. This burden will initially get lighter, and then fully disappear if possible, when the work takes humanistic conditions on an ordinary level. This fact is also shown by the recent researches made under the title “capitalism and psychology”. Business life indisputably affects both our physical and mental health. If we do not take this situation into consideration as a clear phenomenon, we end up in a tragicomic situation of person who says “you should take up new hobbies” to a person who’s in depression due to the main triggering aspects of unemployment or economic reasons. “Hobby”, in its general meaning, is naturally a great and necessary occupation; however, it is a logical condition for everyone not to break the order of priority in terms of vitality.

Let’s go back to the social situation and the thing called “mood”. Our mood is an extraordinarily humanistic thing, which is not “abnormal” and which is also indubitably shaped by social factors, which is separately a good thing. For instance, acting like nothing happened during the days following the gigantic wars, world wars in particular, where millions of people died/were killed, or after an explosion where witnesses lost their lives or limbs, is not essentially “normal” at all. Feeling sorry, getting worried, mourning those deaths, feeling for those people, even losing sleep, and feeling uncomfortable are what is “normal”. Feeling grieved is more of a humanistic move instead of feeling senseless and drifting apart from humanity in the face of great human dramas that hurt human’s soul. It is useful to remember that the thing called “wellness” also includes grief, sorrow, sadness and tears, which would be correct to be taken into consideration both individually and socially. These are the feelings that remind people that they are people, and that come from the depth of their souls.