Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.
There's a man ranting and raving at traffic, proclaiming every slow, equivocal driver, "stupid idiot," getting red in the face as his blood pressure rises and exposing his wife to his vile temper. He hurts. He's hating his own weakness and powerlessness and trying to experience some power in proclaiming others' mistakes criminally offensive. He says he's irritated and has a right to self-expression. The wife says it's unpleasant, even abusive, to trap her in this angry atmosphere of verbally violent blame. She's on the verge of tears, remembering better times in life, wishing for a patient, sweet man to sweep her away on the white horse of love. He thinks she's a crybaby and should just tolerate and forgive his lapse. Her self-respect teaches her that she can think whatever she wants, that she's entitled to her feelings and that he's not perfect but could still make a better effort. He knows she's right in the core of self where his self-respect exists.
There's a doctor who had an inappropriate blast of temper and blame when he was feeling small. He apologizes to his patient. She knows that it took a big person to do that and there's a modicum of self-respect, in addition to protecting his reputation and not alienating a patient, in his apology. It takes a kind of courage and faith in survival of the healthy self to be small enough to admit wrongdoing and repair a situation. It takes self-respect both to apologize and to accept an apology graciously.
A dramatic woman who volunteers a lot in her community and thinks of herself as popular harbors a grudge about not being included in the confidendences of a suffering acquaintance who prized his privacy and shared with the real friends on speed dial when his wife was ill. She killed the messanger of that wish for privacy with her occasional death stare and rude look away, so it took some self-respect for her to say "hi" finally to the messenger-friend-of-the-couple-in-need. And the other woman didn't mind and felt no need to fuel the previous enmity, which probably stemmed from a rough younger life of exclusion.
Self-respect takes many forms. It can be elusive or forthcoming, dramatic or subtle. When it's lost, all hell breaks lose. That's when people become more hopeless, mean, afraid, or irrational. There's a need to look inside and find the human right to be loved, respected and accepted as vulnerable by oneself. Oh, what troubles we could avoid if there were more of that, or is that too simple-minded on the part of my idealistic self?