26 Pages

The “Mental Crisis”

John Stuart Mill's mental crisis was a profound spiritual experience. It welled out of his deepest emotional needs and called into question his firmest intellectual commitments. It is also an experience that demands our most enlarged psychological understanding. John Stuart Mill knew he was suffering pain when he should be experiencing pleasure; thus personal pain and philosophic disillusionment were conjoined. It seemed a catastrophe for him. The fact is that John was deeply involved with the composition of his father's Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind—his fundamental work on Associationalist psychology—during a period of time that overlapped completely the mental crisis. In retrospect, one could see that John Stuart Mill's mental crisis was a kind of "growing pain." By 1830–1831 he was emerging as a "developed" young man. The image of growing pains, however, is partially misleading, because it suggests something outgrown.