A young lady fell into depression in her late teenage years and spent a decade of her life buried in murky feelings that consumed her life. Yet today, despite her temptation to revisit those unhappy feelings, she is able to get on with life.
Something changed for her. And what changed involves a lesson that everyone needs to learn along the way. So, whether you are given to emotional instability or depression, or not, this discussion may be very important for your overall wellbeing.
I Feel Bad
One of the challenges of adolescence is the awakening of our emotional faculties. In our younger years emotions are dormant and we face life with its good and bad with the ability to be practical about what comes our way. We shed our tears, feel our upsets and face our challenges, in the matter-of-fact way that children can.
However, during our teenage years emotions begin to stir within us. We begin to encounter feelings which can sweep with the force of ocean tides over our life. We discover that we can feel bad, for no apparent reason. We can feel euphoric, for as little good reason. We are able to rise to new heights and plumb new depths, like never before.
It Feels So Real
Our challenge, during this new season of our lives, is to discern what is really going on. If we do not have adult counsel from people who have been there and done that and worked out what is going on, we can be quite confused and destabilized by these emotional surges.
Our new-found feelings “feel so real” to us. They demand our attention and present themselves as tangible expressions of something of substance.
When people “feel” something, that feeling is completely real to them. It may be irrational and unreasonable, but it will be “real” to the one feeling those emotions.
Controlled By Vapour
Feelings have the capacity to activate just about any kind of sensation at whim. We can be having a perfectly happy time and then suddenly “feel” sad, or lonely, or unresolved. We can be in the middle of a serious situation and suddenly “feel” irrationally happy.
Those feelings are vaporous. They are not the product of real experiences and they may not reflect the correct response to the present set of circumstances. They can be completely irrational and persist in the face of hard evidence that they are out of place.
Thus, if we allow our feelings to control us we will be controlled by vapour. But to us the vaporous feelings will “feel so real”. And that is where we can end up bogged in an emotional quagmire.
Emotions Out of Control
If we do not realise what is happening we will be inclined to believe our feelings. Since they “feel so real” we could assume that they are a clue to what is really going on. We might think, “I feel really bad, so something must be wrong.” We might then go looking for some justification for our feelings.
If we wake up one day feeling as if no-one loves us or cares about us, we can then look for evidence to explain why we think and feel that way. Since we have all been neglected to some degree, a person could assume that their feelings genuinely spring from the treatment they have experienced.
Rather than control their emotions, seeing them as a faculty that needs to be tamed, many people allow the wild emotions to run freely, assuming they are some genuine response to the real world.
In such situations it is possible for a person to step into adulthood, with their emotions out of control. Thus, their life becomes “out of control” too. They will be controlled by the vaporous feelings which “feel so real”. They may never question those feelings or recognise that they are being fooled by their emotions.
Break-In The Bronco
Each new colt has to be broken in. All the energy, strength and majesty of a powerful steed must be brought under control if ever the horse is going to be useful and successful. And that’s how it is with our emotions. They must be broken in.
If you allow a horse to run wild, the process of breaking it in will be much more difficult. And so it is with our emotions. If we allow them free reign in our lives, it will be much more difficult to bring them under control when we need to.
Part of emotional maturity is to achieve the place where emotions are our “servant” not our “master”. When we can tell our emotions to stop interfering with our life we can live a much more stable life, but also call upon our emotions in appropriate ways.
Professionals must learn to harness their emotions and put them out of the equation, so they can do what they have to do consistently and without inappropriate reaction. Doctors, police, emergency services, officials, ministers and many others are required to have emotional maturity. If they “lose it”, getting upset, venting their frustrations, acting on prejudice, or the like, they will be disciplined and may lose their job.
The young lady I mentioned in the opening paragraph has been on an emotional journey. In her younger years her emotions swamped her. Feelings of depression commandeered her life and cut short her studies and her career aspirations. Her health, physique, personal disciplines, relationships, self-worth, hopes and dreams, friendships, and more were damaged by her emotional spiral.
Since her emotions were out of control she could not bring herself back to normal. She burned most of the bridges in her life and became increasingly depressed. She abandoned the values she was raised to respect.
She is now moving out of that mess. I credit her recovery to her dad, who is praying for her on a daily basis, although she doesn’t know he is doing so.
Somehow she has come to her senses. She is not free of the tendency to be depressed. She still faces most of the challenges which have grown around her over the years. Yet she has changed her attitude.
Can’t Afford to Be Depressed
She recently told her parents, “I can’t afford to be depressed!” The bills don’t go away just because she is having a bad day. The problems don’t get solved by her having a pity-party.
Now, despite the fact that her emotions are just as real, her resolve has changed. Rather than indulging her emotions, she is resisting them. Instead of going with the flow of her feelings she is telling her feelings to “Shut Up!” She thinks her feelings are real, but she has become pragmatic enough to realise she can’t afford to indulge them.
What is happening in her life is that maturity is emerging. She is gaining emotional maturity, not by giving in to her emotions, but by resisting them. She is finally learning to do what she could have done as a young teenager.
And that process is just as real for you. Your emotions will present themselves to you, as “real”. They will demand that you serve them. But you must learn to put them in their place and get on with life. If you give in to them they will rule you. If you resist them, they will serve you.