Institutional contexts present us with our best opportunities for psychological growth. On the flip-side, it’s within institutions that we may suffer the gravest of damage to our emotional health. Institutions embedded with bureaucracies and hierarchies, where power plays are rife are places where we are most susceptible to damage. Again, such places if navigated well, pose enormous opportunities for emotional growth. When I say institutions, I include the whole lot, meaning the family, places of worship where religion is practiced, schools, colleges, business firms where we work, and so on. Of course, some of those are places where we are subject to normative influences and therefore have a greater power over our psychological makeup, like the family for example.
It’s also important to note that as we rise up the hierarchy in these institutions, our ability to either grow or inflict damage on others too is enhanced.
To make an assessment of our emotional well-being, it would help if we put under scrutiny our relationships within institutional contexts. Now this is a two way street. Meaning the state of our relationships with others within the family and outside, at social and business institutions, will majorly impact our mental state of being. Conversely, our psychological health will be the key to the kind of relationships we foster in these places.
If the state of human relationship can be seen as a barometer for psychological health, what about our relationships with products and brands via acts of consumption? Studies have shown the two to be linked. A 1998 Rutgers study whose purpose was to ‘examine the emotional, cognitive, and behavioural influences of mania and depression on consumer behaviour’ found that the ‘mania-depression continuum can account for several consumption phenomena previously thought to be unrelated including risk-taking, sensation seeking, product involvement, addiction, innovativeness, information search and hedonic consumption.’ This correlation between mental health and consumption habits means the stuff we buy and consume has much to do with how we feel about ourselves. Conversely, what we buy and use in turn has an impact on our state of mind. Take content consumption on the idiot box for example. What we pick and watch is an outcome of our mental makeup (for example, happy people watch less TV), and what we watch ends up fashioning the attitudes we harbour.
A taking stock of our emotional state of being and doing something about it is as important as our efforts to keep ourselves physiologically healthy. When we do take such stock, a look at our buying habits may prove to be invaluable in arriving at an assessment of our state of mental well-being.