Uncle Remus, Br'er Rabbit And Emotions
In the state of health, emotions are like arrows in a quiver: They are orderly, related, capable, purposeful yet spontaneously and readily available in a wide assortment. With the variety and frequency of emotional reactions that people have, there must be a method, a form, an organization to these emotions, lest these emotional reactions become chaotic and dangerous. As an example, think about a rose plant, another metaphor for emotions, growing freely yet orderly on a trellis as opposed to roses growing in a bramble such as where Br'er Rabbit lived (Songs of the South, by J.H. Cox), a metaphor for an impossible emotional tangle.
When rain falls on a mountain, how many different paths can it take from the top to the bottom? There are countless interweaving, completely disorganized, unrelated paths which the rain, like our emotions, can take down the mountain of life. There is no predetermined way that the rain or emotions will flow. The rain paths are usually random, unpredictable, disorderly, chaotic even destructive, just as can happen with uncontrolled emotions unless there is a channel, an order.
Mental health is dependent on the ordering effect of the trellis, the quiver that keeps the arrows/emotions organized, the channel for the rain. There will be order, which we choose; or we will choose chaos: Mental dysfunction including depression, stress, and even schizophrenia. Mixing parallel metaphors, the anatomic and biochemical changes documented in depression, stress, and schizophrenia may very well follow or become worsened by not choosing reasonable emotional order. One cannot choose to kill, rob, sexually engage whenever we wish to or such randomness, mental law-breaking and disorder will lead to mental dis-ease, worsened biochemistry, and physical and/or mental jail with loss of freedom.
If you stay in bed and never exercise, your muscles will degenerate and you will be unable to walk or function normally. That is why astronauts must exercise during lengthy stays in no-gravity space so that they have reasonable muscle tone and are able to walk out of their space capsules when they return to earth's gravity. So to with emotions: The proper exercise, restraint, direction, and order must be accepted and used, and actively chosen, to protect mental health. Br'er Rabbit's rose bramble, the impossible thorny tangle, is what becomes of our emotions if we do not choose to the rules of physical and mental health and there are rules, or there will be disease.
There cannot be an infinite number of choices that human beings can choose unless these human beings seek an infinite number of diseases! We can choose heroin and cocaine, or exercise and brown rice. We can choose cigarettes and becoming overweight or we can choose restraint and health.
I do not love to choose brown rice-vegetables-beans, exercise, the avoidance of coffee and alcohol, and I still wish I could return to smoking cigarettes. All the bad things including most unrestrained emotional reactions tend to be less work up front or more fun and give you an exciting or restful high. But the price of those choices is disorganized emotions and disease: You lose your freedom, your health, your ability to succeed in life, which is difficult enough without working against yourself.
Stress, tension, and depression and possibly even some of schizophrenia can be the results of not accepting, or not choosing to accept, the difficulties of life and the need to remain solution-oriented, determined and optimistic even in failure. Somebody's child will die, somebody's wife or mother will die, somebody's arm will be amputated, someone will have a brain tumor, and someone will develop multiple sclerosis: So why should we be so immaturely surprised and upset when it happens to us? I am not cold or uncaring. I care so much that I must be so clear and strong for you. My role is to support and help you reach this safety and sanity. But you will choose to do it, or not and incur the consequences one way or the other.
This is not to suggest that you or I, should be unfeeling; this explains that besides feeling the full range of appropriate emotions which occur when we experience tragedy/any difficulty, we must choose to practice simple, decent, human restraint and responsibility whether we wish to or not if we want our health and freedom. We must choose to remain positive throughout adversity, not seeking the too many choices or alternatives that we usually allow ourselves and by which we allow ourselves to become sick, depressed, surgical candidates, in debt up to our necks on our credit cards, and the vast majority of problems that do happen to us.
H. Robert Silverstein, MD