Unraveling and How to Prevent It

The word ‘unravel’ means a kind of taking apart. In a psychological sense, the feeling is horrifying, discombobulating, analogous to a ship lost at sea in a storm, with a broken-down engine, a shattered rudder, a mal-functioning compass with no sign of rescue in sight.

In literature, Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes (Shakespeare’s contemporary with whom he celebrated a four-hundredth anniversary this April) embodies the classic example of a man who verges on the border of sanity and insanity as he battles windmills. He’s fortunate to have a helpmate, Sancho Panza, who tries to stabilize him.

In the nonfiction world, the psychological state of unraveling can happen to any of us, given the nature and degree of stress lying beyond our personal endurance .We can be influenced by external forces or changes in the environment: relocation, loss of a loved one, financial problems, job loss, as well as intrinsic factors like physiology, biochemistry and illnesses.

We’re vulnerable to this horrific state throughout our lifetime but the impact of stresses changes. For example, losing a parent uproots a child to a greater extent than an adult.

The relative invisibility of the state increases the treachery. Unless a person has experienced it, the condition is frequently misunderstood. For this reason, the sufferer feels alone, isolated, crazy, often wishing he could trade his psychological discomfort for a physical malady to receive sympathy.

Stresses that unmoor a given individual can seem to like a positive event to others–like a job promotion. But some are burdened by added responsibilities. For example, Ms. K, a teacher, was promoted from teaching a class to heading a department. Overwhelmed by the burden, she asked to return to her original job.

A personal vignette embodies an example of changing course to stay afloat. I lived with my father during the first year of medical school. At the end of the year, Dad declared that the arrangement wasn’t working, and said I’d have to leave his home. Shocked by the news, I reviewed my options: should I dash home to the comfort of my mother’s house? That choice would mean withdrawing from medical school and abandoning my goal. So I nixed that possibility; instead, I found a tiny room in the YWCA nearer the school than Dad’s house. In brief, I shifted my focus from family relations to my studies, and sidestepped the danger of unraveling.

The questions to ask is: What uproots and what anchors us? Discovering the answer and following the steps that connect and stabilize us, may prevent the treacherous state.

Here are a few suggestions:
Positive beliefs
Nurturing relationships with friends, family, pets
Interests and or Projects: writing, reading, sports etc.
Home and Homeland

Conclusion: Identifying the factors that stabilize us can prevent the torment of unraveling.

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