When Emotions 
Get Out of Control

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D.

There are times in our lives when we find that we don't have as much control on our mental and emotional state as we would like to have. One time or another, we've all regretted our anger getting out of control. On occasions, especially in vulnerable moments, I am sure that we all have felt embarrassed for bursting out crying in front of everybody. Those who do public speaking or perform in front of the public will agree with the statement that at least on one occasion, every one of them has felt paralyzed by anxiety and couldn't even get out of his or her seat when he or she intended to get up to get on the stage. Many times, we desperately want to ask a question or make a comment in a meeting or a special gathering, and we just are not able to do that because we can't shake off our hesitation.   

All of the above are examples of ordinary circumstances where we know that we are not always in control of our emotions. How then can we expect ourselves or anyone else to exercise perfect control during an emotional illness? How can a person simply bounce back to health by sheer will power from a mental disorder, the impact of which, however temporary, can be powerfully gripping and disabling? 

But this is exactly what a husband of a severely depressed woman wanted his wife to do. This couple came to me for consultation. The husband's complaint was that his wife doesn't have to be depressed. She should "just cheer up and quit griping all the time." He did not see any point of coming to a clinic for something that she herself could take care of if she really wanted to, and tried. As a result of his lack of understanding of how depression works, he was unsympathetic to her emotional pain and helplessness. He stayed angry with her all the time and lost his temper whenever she cried. It irritated him to see that she wouldn't crawl out of bed in spite of his asking her to do so. He took her crying and depression personally, "I provide her everything so what is she crying about." 

Disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and phobias, in their severe form, can be quite disabling.  They can dislodge the will power of a person to fight and recover from them. Note that I used the word, "dislodge." The loss of will power is not a permanent loss, it is just dislodged from where it is supposed to be. Perhaps an example of a computer illustrates this point better. It is like you have a software program in your computer, but you can't bring it up because you don't remember the exact commands which would bring it up. It is still there in your computer, but you just can't bring it up without the right combination of the key strokes. However, the good news is that it's all in there and you just have to do more work so it can be "up and running," once again.  

I have heard the remark more than once that "Only losers become mentally ill." Nothing is further from the truth. Many successful, highly productive, and very intelligent people, at some point in their lives, seek mental health services. Mental health services are also used to help people through the "passages" of life more smoothly, such as, the time of marriage, divorce, child birth, and loss of a loved one. The objective of people who take help is to do better in whatever they are faced with. 

Some health-reform committees have touted the idea of using mental health services as part of family medical practice. It is a revolutionary idea. We go to our family physician through out the life cycle for various medical needs such as the cold, cough, or flu, don't we? Likewise, for problems related to marriage, children, and for our own emotional health, we may visit a mental health professional at different stages as the need arises. 

To view mental health as part of general health is not a new idea. In the ancient medicine systems of India and China, and homeopathy in Europe in the more recent times, the "doctors" diagnosed and treated the whole person by analyzing both the mental and physical symptoms. They treated the whole person. After all, the mind is the most complex and most important part of the body. It is the commanding center for the rest of the body. It is more complex and sophisticated than any computer designed by the humankind. There is no operating manual for this and we receive no training in the school to operate it or take care of it. Education and expert advice are two ways to help ourselves do better when we feel sense emotions and thoughts are getting out of hand. 


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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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