Eros and Thanatos: Finding Meaning and Mental Health in the Middle Ground
Eros and Thanatos are situated at the opposite ends of the philosophical human spectrum: very simply put, Eros represents love or the basic life force of mankind; Thanatos represents the death drive. Each of these human elements has many various connotations throughout history and even within modern psychology, and their combined spectrum of basic positive and negative humanity lends an ideal basis for philosophical study. In terms of the individual personality, excessive leaning in one of either direction – towards Eros or Thanatos – leads to several different varieties of psychological disorders such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Jonah Syndrome. That said, a moderate lifestyle within the philosophical spectrum can lend itself to the artless, conventional neurosis of a philistine. Finding mental health and happiness when balance between the extremes of Eros and Thanatos is not necessarily the ideal answer is what philosophers, psychologists and every human individual struggles with.
The most complicated issue within the Eros/Thanatos dilemma is the concept that striking a balance between the two is by no means a catch-all solution that affords a state of mental health. To establish a meaningful human existence without neuroses in terms of the Eros/Thanatos scale it is most useful to rid oneself of the idea of balance. Usually the catch-all, conventional and simple answer to questions of humanity, balance in this case is neither the answer to finding meaning and mental health, nor is it relevant. When we take the whole idea of balance out of this equation, it becomes clearer to the philosopher how to find the ideal human mental state: a natural, beneficial imbalance. An Eros-heavy personality can lead to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and a Thanatos-heavy personality may lead to Depression; to avoid a midpoint Philistinism, individual mental health comes of finding which side can be healthily leaned on. Inevitably it becomes necessary to settle in one area of the scale, therefore one side will offer benefits where the other will not.
Choosing one’s own healthy side of the Eros/Thanatos scale is a task that must be done in conjunction with self-diagnosis. Just as an individual must discover on which side of the scale he or she can lean with stability, he or she must also keep constant tabs on which neuroses have a more natural tendency to wreak havoc on mental health. Individualism is the most important factor in conquering the Eros/Thanatos scale because each brain is ruled by a different concentration of chemicals as well as behaviour systems learned in infancy and childhood. The individual brain will need not only its own treatment, per se, but primarily its own specific diagnosis. To reach a comfortable state of mental health and to achieve a sense of purpose in life, the individual must achieve a good sense of his or her own behavioural systems and brain functions in relation to those forces that can be considered either Eros or Thanatos in nature. Only then can it become clear which side of the scale can be occupied beneficially.
Finally, to achieve mental health, happiness and a sense of purpose in one’s life, it is important to incorporate elements from both the Eros and the Thanatos sides of the scale into one’s personality. It is already understood that to lean too far to one side of the scale will lead to various forms of neurosis; despite avoiding the most harmful individual elements by choosing one side on which to focus it is still necessary to keep both life and death forces dynamic in one’s personality. In doing so, one can nurture a rich, diverse and meaningful viewpoint on life that will allow an individual to recognize and benefit from new ideas and realities on a day to day basis.