Yes, we instinctively want to protect ourselves, but then we begin to see that being defended--building an emotional moat and walling ourselves up inside--also isn't safe. It's a false refuge, as described by psychologist, author, and meditation instructor Tara Brach. By blocking out vulnerability, we also block out joy and happiness. The key is to meet our vulnerability with kindness and compassion. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, it is important that you get them immediate care through a hospital or mental-health facility. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. It's available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Most of the time, the impact of social media on mental health is less critical but more insidious and no less important to address. In particular, in my practice I have seen a clear and direct increase in the part social media plays in the manifestation of four mental-health issues: depression, anxiety, body-image disorders, and substance-abuse disorders. People struggling with depression and anxiety have a harder time than their nondepressed and nonanxious counterparts shaking off the negative feelings and thoughts brought on by social-media use. For those who are struggling to feel comfortable in their bodies, seeing images of unrealistic picture-perfect women can bring on and trigger episodes of self-loathing or binge-and-purge eating. Finally, social media can trigger individuals working on living a sober life into urges to relapse. The good news is that you can strive to lessen social media's impact on these disorders by educating yourself about the importance of developing social-media literacy. Simply put, social-media literacy is the ability to process the knowledge and beliefs we gather from consuming social media through the lens of critical thinking. Finally, the self-actualization of the organism appears to be in the direction of socialization, broadly defined. The directional trend we are endeavoring to describe is evident in the life of the individual organism from conception to maturity, at whatever level of organic complexity. It is also evident in the process of evolution, the direction being defined by a comparison of life low on the evolutionary scale with types of organisms which have developed later, or are regarded as farther along in the process of evolution. Thus the directional tendency which we are discussing will be defined most adequately by comparing the undeveloped with the developed organism, the simple organism with the complex, the organism early or low on the evolutionary scale with the organism which has developed later and is regarded as higher. Whatever generalized differences are found constitute the direction of the basic tendency we are postulating. Ideas similar to this proposition are being increasingly advanced and accepted by psychologists and others.

The term self-actualization is used by Goldstein (69) to describe this one basic striving. Mowrer and Kluckhohn stress the basic propensity of living things to function in such a way as to preserve and increase integration (137, p. This is a slightly different concept, but directional in nature. Sullivan points out that the basic direction of the organism is forward (205, p. We notice what is hard for us, we let it be there, and we offer kindness. Our inner experience exists, whether we like it or not, so we make room for it, with kindness and gentleness. Start recognizing your habitual ways of moving away from vulnerability. Do you fall into depression? What are you accustomed to doing to get approval? What are the personas you put on, the ways you strive to be seen in the world? As I mentioned earlier, I like to be seen as smart, and that puts pressure on me to perform. I feel the need to practice what I'm going to say so I always sound articulate. I do that because I don't want to embarrass myself and not look good. I'm afraid of other people seeing that I'm flawed and inadequate. Social-media literacy gives us the skills to apply multidimensional thinking to a one- In this way, the skills associated with social-media literacy are similar to those associated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Like DBT and CBT, social-media literacy seeks to help the consumer use social media in ways that are skillful and life enhancing, reducing the risk of experiencing aftereffects that can make life worse. In this article you'll meet Leo, a newly recovering substance abuser and social-media user and Olivia, a social-media user struggling with body-image issues. You'll also learn about key concepts associated with CBT and DBT that can be used to minimize triggers brought on by social-media use. But first, let's begin by defining emotional health.

Emotional Health What does it mean to be emotionally healthy? There may seem to be an obvious answer to this question, but emotional health is actually a multifaceted concept. To begin with, emotional health refers to our overall psychological well-being. Horney gives a vivid description of this force as it is experienced in therapy: The ultimate driving force is the person's unrelenting will to come to grips with himself, a wish to grow and to leave nothing untouched that prevents growth (90, p. Angyal sums up his thinking on this point in the following statement. Life is an autonomous dynamic event which takes place between the organism and the environment. Life processes do not merely tend to preserve life but transcend the momentary status quo of the organism, expanding itself continually and imposing its autonomous determination upon an ever increasing realm of events (9, p. It is our experience in therapy which has brought us to the point of giving this proposition a central place. The therapist becomes very much aware that the forward-moving tendency of the human organism is the basis upon which he relies most deeply and fundamentally. It is evident not only in the general tendency of clients to move in the direction of growth when the factors in the situation are clear, but is most dramatically shown in very serious cases where the individual is on the brink of psychosis or suicide. Here the therapist is very keenly aware that the only force upon which he can basically rely is the organic tendency toward ongoing growth and enhancement. Something of our experience has been summarized by the writer in an earlier paper. As I study, as deeply as I am able, the recorded clinical cases which have been so revealing of personal dynamics, I find what seems to me to be a very significant thing. That's my conditioning. The way around this is to make friends with my vulnerability, seeing it as the stuff that makes me human and connects me with others. Hiding what I perceive as my inadequacies is what will separate me from others and make me unrelatable. The tendency to want to hide it, on the other hand, is universal for humans and can bond me with others. The more wounding we have, the stronger the armor. That armor helped us survive in the past.

Hiding it, on the other hand, gives me no opportunity to be free. We need to feel that others accept us and love us; The more we feel we deviate from the standards of our culture, the more challenging this can be, so we need to make space for that. We live with this undercurrent in us that something's wrong with us, paired with the fear it will be discovered. This includes the way we feel about ourselves (self-esteem), the quality of our relationships (degree of meaningful relationships), how well we are able to modulate and work through difficult feelings--such as anger, disappointment, and frustration (regulating and letting go of negative emotions)--and our ability to cope with difficult circumstances (our level of grit and resilience). In short, people who are emotionally healthy feel in control of their emotions and behaviors, have positive and strong relationships, and recover from setbacks. Being emotionally healthy does not mean being happy all the time. Everyone will experience loss and disappointment and undergo difficult, unexpected transitions at some point, and everyone will have periods of sadness, anxiety, and stress. This is normal. This is life. Emotionally healthy people feel stressed and sad, too. What differentiates them from their emotionally unhealthy counterparts is that emotionally healthy people are fully aware of and conscious of their negative feelings. Therefore, emotionally healthy individuals do not deny, distort, displace, project, repress, or avoid difficult and painful emotions like sadness, fear, disappointment, uncertainty, anger, or embarrassment. Studies show that emotional health is a learned skill, and they stress the importance of actively working to maintain our emotional health at every stage of life, from childhood to adolescence and through adulthood and old age. I find that the urge for a greater degree of independence, the desire for a self-determined integration, the tendency to strive, even through much pain, toward a socialized maturity, is as strong as -- no, is stronger than -- the desire for comfortable dependence, the need to rely upon external authority for assurance. Clinically I find it to be true that though an individual may remain dependent because he has always been so, or may drift into dependence without realizing what he is doing, or may temporarily wish to be dependent because his situation appears desperate, I have yet to find the individual who, when he examines his situation deeply, and feels that he perceives it clearly, deliberately chooses dependence, deliberately chooses to have the integrated direction of himself undertaken by another. When all the elements are clearly perceived, the balance seems invariably in the direction of the painful but ultimately rewarding path of self-actualization or growth. It would be grossly inaccurate to suppose that the organism operates smoothly in the direction of self-enhancement and growth. It would be perhaps more correct to say that the organism moves through struggle and pain toward enhancement and growth. The whole process may be symbolized and illustrated by the child's learning to walk.

The first steps involve struggle, and usually pain. Often it is true that the immediate reward involved in taking a few steps is in no way commensurate with the pain of falls and bumps. The child may, because of the pain, revert to crawling for a time. Yet, in the overwhelming majority of individuals, the forward direction of growth is more powerful than the satisfactions of remaining infantile. If we accept our perceived wrongness and give ourselves love and compassion, then we no longer need to fear being found out. THE WORLD NEEDS YOU Your genius is in your uniqueness. The injustice resides in the American Dream, which tells us that anyone can make it to the top, given enough determination, savvy, and grit, when in reality, we aren't all starting from the same place, the same bottom, on our way up. Some of us have been pushed to the basement and have boulders placed in our way, so our inability to get ahead is translated as personal failure when it's really the fault of context. When we buy into that myth, we blame ourselves when we can't live our dreams. We feel shame and lock up those parts of ourselves that are denied value and respect in an effort to be less vulnerable. But it's those very traits that are needed--your unique experience and culture, the stuff that makes you you. I want you to know, you are the gift the world needs. You may not always--or ever--feel that's true. Everything we do, what we expose ourselves to, and how we choose to spend our time significantly impacts our emotional health. Not surprisingly, this includes the Netflix shows we watch, the games we play on our phones, our hobbies or lack thereof, the articles we read, what we eat and drink, the people we bring into our lives, and the social-media accounts and profiles we follow. Below I discuss the power of social-media literacy to mitigate symptoms associated with three mental-health issues outlined in this article: substance abuse, depression, and body-image disorders. How Social Media Literacy Helps Us Stay Emotionally Health in the Digital Age What exactly is social-media literacy? How can social-media literacy help us stay emotionally healthy in the digital age?