The Vital Balance: The Life Process in Mental Health and Illness

The Vital Balance: The Life Process in Mental Health and Illness by Karl Menninger is widely acknowledged as a basic work that offers a new, unitary concept of mental health and illness.


It dispenses with the old confusing labels and substitutes a method of diagnosis and treatment in which all disturbed states of the mind and the emotions are seen as stages in a single process.

It marks the culmination of a complete revolution in the outlook of psychiatry – from helpless resignation to active hope and assurance.

Body and Mature Behavior

In BODY AND MATURE BEHAVIOR: A Study of Anxiety, Sex, Gravitation, and Learning Moshe Feldenkrais uses an intellectually rich and eloquent style, delving into neurology, prehistory, child development, gravity and anti-gravity, reflexive versus learned behavior, the effects of emotion, especially anxiety, on posture, and most importantly, the inseparability of body and mind.

A victim of debilitating injuries, Moshe Feldenkrais was intimately aware of the link between bodily suffering and mental health.

Through healing himself, he made revolutionary discoveries, culminating in the development of the method that now bears his name.

Karl Menninger

Karl Augustus Menninger (July 22, 1893 – July 18, 1990) was known as the Dean of American Psychiatry. Dr. Karl Menninger was one of the most practical and influential psychiatrists in America.

While Menninger specialized in neurology and psychiatry, he built an international reputation through his writing. His books included The Human Mind, The Crime of Punishment, The Vital Balance, Man Against Himself, and Love Against Hate.

Together with his family, he founded a world-renowned psychiatric clinic modeled after the Mayo Clinic, and located in his home town of Topeka, Kansas.

President Jimmy Carter awarded Dr. Menninger the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition in recognition of his wide-ranging contributions.

Unlike many psychiatrists, Menninger was neither hostile or indifferent toward religion, even though he was well aware of the vulnerability of those with mental illness to sick religion.

Menninger spoke of the power of love in a manner that was consistent with the teachings of Jesus. According to Dr. Menninger, love is an essential element of good mental health. He wrote of the need to “replace with love the blind compulsion to give hostages to hatred as the price for living”.

Someone once asked Menninger what to do if you felt you were having a nervous break down. He said, “Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks and find someone in need and do something for them”.

In The Human Mind, published in 1930, Menninger explained in common terms that psychiatry was a science. The book was quite successful; upon publication it immediately became a Literary Guild selection and sold 200,000 copies.

Menninger was said to have made more of an impact on American psychiatry than any other person. He was an advocate for social justice and nuclear disarmament.

He supported the rights of neglected and abused children, American Indians, and those in prison.

He received numerous awards including induction in 1960 into Washburn University’s Sagamore Honor Society. In 1981 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Menninger worked until the end of his life. He died July 18, 1990, in Topeka.