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Are You Going to Crack Up?
“Don’t be alarmed,” we told Mrs. L. ‘Tour score isn’t high, and even people who can honestly answer no to all those questions aren’t necessarily immune from future emotional complaints.”

Like many people, Mrs. L. believed her upbringing had marked her as a future psychiatric candidate. Among the many theories as to why emotional ailments develop is the rarely questioned belief that early parental influences are the prime factors in determining who will remain sane throughout life and who will crack under stress.
Standard textwrites speak in vague terms of the risk factors which make people prone to mental ailments: you are more likely to develop some mental malady if you come from a broken home, if one or both of your parents is or was an alcoholic, and so on.

Parent child relationships have been subjected to an extraordinary amount of scrutiny in the search for predictive clues. The result is confusion. One hundred years ago, psychiatrists were convinced that much mental illness was the result of excessive parental discipline; today an equal number of experts are certain it is the result of too little.

Mrs. L. appeared somewhat relieved by our explanation, but she was still troubled.
“You haven’t heard the worst I’ve got two more strikes against me. My grandmother on my mother’s side died in a mental institution, my uncle on my father’s side had a nervous breakdown last summer, my sister is well, peculiar. I’ve heard mental illness runs in families. Isn’t it likely I’ll crack up someday too?”

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