By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.
Captain Picard of the Star Ship Enterprise is intent on the screen before him. He is standing firm and tall. His jaw is set and the tendons in his neck are extended. He is speaking in a stern and captainly tone to the Romulan captain on the enemy vessel. As the Romulan replies, Picard turns his ear toward Counselor Troi, who is standing on his left on the bridge of the Enterprise. He asks her advice, her empathic understanding of the meaning behind the Romulan’s words. She nods knowingly and advises the Captain that the Romulan is speaking the truth, but that he is holding something back…that he is scared, though no signs of it show on his face nor in the tone of his voice. With this new information the Captain makes a bold decision. Then he turns to Number One and gives the command that saves the day. Those of you who are Trekkies relish these tense moments, fantasizing that you too are aboard the Enterprise playing the deadly games that the crew of Star Trek always win. But even if you are not a Trekkie, the allegories of Star Trek are remarkable. The relationship between Captain Picard and Counsellor Troi represents the importance of team work, or utilizing the talents of several people in making decisions for the whole. The relationship can also be viewed as the one we have within ourselves; the relationship we have with our conscious and unconscious minds, or with our intuitive and our analytical minds. Like Picard you can have a healthy relationship with your unconscious or intuition. You can trust her as he does with Counselor Troi. Or you can resist her input because you don’t understand. And with lack of understanding, you can conjure up fear or anger. Picard accepts Troi’s advice as valid feedback; incorporates it into his “map of reality” and creatively arrives at a decision. Then he entrusts that decision to his Number One to carry out for the benefit of the entire crew.
The third part of the equation for psychological health is to have the courage and to take action, like Number One. Creating a healthy balance between your unconscious and conscious minds is what we call Mental Health. Mental health is not just something that’s an extra. It is vital if you want to run your family Enterprise just as Captain Picard does his starship. Being healthy psychologically means being able to utilize all of your mental resources. This requires the same attention and commitment as does your daily physical work out. If you miss a day at the gym, you can be set back for weeks. If you are inattentive of your psychological and emotional health, you can be set back for life. A few years ago we heard the expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Unfortunately many people take this attitude with their mental health. Only in times of crisis do they seek professional consultation. Similarly to waiting until after you have a heart attack to start eating and exercising properly, you may wait too long to attend to your psychological health until the dysfunction causes permanent damage. Or perhaps you have the attitude that you can handle any problem that comes your way; that in fact, you should not ever ask for help. Week after week on Star Trek we are witness to characters who try to go it alone and always the Enterprise outwits them because Captain Picard relies on his trusted advisers. Attending to your mental health is the willingness to “Boldly go where no one has gone before.” Hire a psychologist. Explore that uncharted unconscious of yours to discover your latent talents or unresolved conflicts. Don’t leave your weaknesses there for others to misunderstand or abuse. There is a Counselor Troi inside of you waiting to teach you about yourself and others. People who regularly attend to their psychological health are not only stronger emotionally, but they require less physical health care.
Research has shown that psychotherapy reduces medical and surgical costs in 85% of the studies. Also the research has demonstrated that among those individuals who are regular users of psychotherapy, they are the group who use medical and surgical procedures the least. Rather than the crisis management attitude of waiting until you are broken, it makes more sense to trust the humanistic slogan: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE SICK TO GET BETTER. Individuals who attend to their psychological health prevent illness and improve their own personal well being. You will find that utilizing the full range of your conscious and unconscious talents, unburdened by neurotic hangups, creates opportunities that you never knew were there before. A healthy mind also draws to you other healthy people. In a family business or any endeavor for that matter, having mentally healthy employees, coworkers and family members can only improve business functioning. The old “if it ain’t broke; don’t fix it” mentality leads to mediocrity. In a family enterprise where there are two goals, that of nurturing a family and keeping the business competitive, there is no room for mediocrity. Within any average are extremes of excellence and extremes of inadequate performance. To compare yourselves to others is a waste of time. Instead ask yourself “how can I achieve excellence?” The answer is a simple one. Take charge of your Starship Family Enterprise as Captain Picard would do. Engage in psychotherapy to enhance your analytical and intuitive abilities. Cultivate your inner resources until they are healthy so that you can trust the inner guidance (Counselor Troi). Using your conscious and unconscious awareness as a team, you will have multiplied many times over the mental resources available to you. With this dynamic team in place, Number One (i.e., family members, managers, employees) is ready to carry out your ideas and plans in ways that only could have been dreamed before. Three to beam up!