Stepping on Crocodiles
Miss Essie was 20 years old when her three small children were swept away by a flash flood. For the past 60 years she has been severely depressed. All was blamed on the grief over her children. Psychiatrists prescribed many antidepressants over the years but none solved the depression problems. Miss Essie was in and out of hospitals all her life struggling against her sadness, grief and overwhelming feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. When I met her in a church assisted living program, she was quite lucid. I shared information about an innovative program I had developed called “Understanding and Controlling One’ Emotions”. She wanted to pursue the course. So I provided the five one hour classes free of charge. Her eagerness to learn about herself was payment enough.
The patterns of emotions we discovered reminded me of three squirrels chasing their tails. She had a very complicated emotions pattern. When she felt joy or fear, those went nowhere. When she felt sad, however, her feelings went straight to helplessness and hopelessness. When she felt helpless she immediately felt either angry or hopeless. Guilt took her nowhere but shame sent her back to sad or helpless, which took her back to angry or hopeless. It looked like she had no way out. That was apparently what the doctors had surmised all those years in the hospitals and clinics when the medications had no positive effects. But what I noticed was just a wee bit different.
When a person is hopeless there is no energy for escape. Helpless has more than enough energy as does anger and rage has more than helplessness. What I learned was her only way out was to feel angry to become a “normal” person, free of the squirrels chasing their tails. I talked to her yesterday and she was feeling as sad and hopeless as ever before. “Miss Essie”, I said, “What did I tell you about stepping on crocodiles?” I heard the brightness in her voice. “You said it was the only way for me to get from the boat to safety on the bank. Thank you for reminding me. I’m gonna get angry.” She did and she was fine, no depression, sadness or hopeless in sight.
Lane Stokes, CounselingServicesAtlanta.com June 5, 2022.