Are Your Emotional Issues Really Just Mental Illness?

A serious and common effect of growing up in a community and/or family that's dysfunctional is a lack of ability to attach an EMOTION to the original CAUSE of the emotion.
So if one had a conflict with a loved one in the morning, they can feel an apparent free-floating, random sadness, anxiety, or frustration in the afternoon.

Looking at it from the outside, it's easy to see that their sadness or anxiety was from the morning conflict they had.
But the person themselves does not make the connection; they've been trained to see their "negative" emotions as some kind of personal flaws or emotional illness that has nothing to do with anything that actually HAPPENED.
If they do make the connection that it has to do with that conflict, they may then diagnose those feelings as over-reactions, or inappropriate responses to the incident.

When a child in many dysfunctional groups expresses an emotion, ANY emotion, the child may be told "not to feel that way", or that their FEELINGS are "WRONG".
They may also be told that what they saw didn't really happen. OR that what they THINK happened didn't really happen.
Or they are countered, dismissed, ignored, or argued with whenever they TELL something that happened, and are often told to calm down and stop acting so happy...sad/angry/excited/hopeful/proud/upset/scared.

When they verbally express their feelings, describing their feelings to another person, they are often told that they shouldn't feel that way, or that they're not being grown-up, or that they're acting babyish, or to "stop whining" or complaining.
Many children are even PUNISHED or DISCIPLINED for expressing any emotions that ANNOY the adults around them.

Children in such environments start to BURY their emotions and their emotional expressions in order to avoid humiliation and other consequences.
It's common for them to try to shut them off, or shut CERTAIN ones off (most boys in Western cultures try to shut off emotions such as sadness, fear, and joyousness, and most girls try to shut off anger, fear, and excitement and pride).

Since shutting off emotions is not actually POSSIBLE, they often end up FUNNELING all of their emotions THROUGH only a couple of emotional expressions.

So Jimmy's FEAR looks like an ANGER/Rage reaction, because ANGER reactions from BOYS are accepted by the people around him, but not normal fear.
Jenny's ANGER looks like SADNESS/FEAR reaction, because sadness and fear from girls are accepted in her group, but not the normal human emotion of anger.

Johnny and Mary, however, were punished or attacked for any emotional expressions by the people around them, so they tried to SHUT OFF ALL of their emotions equally.

All four of them, but especially Johnny and Mary, experience frequent episodes of "free floating" depression, sadness, anger, frustration, and love, joy, pride, and euphoria.
They've even been diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders.
HOWEVER, these "free floating emotions" have not been addressed in therapy with any suggestion that they're not RANDOM.
They are all still under the impression that REAL EVENTS are NOT CAUSING their changing feelings. They have bought into the presumption that they have chronic mental illness that causes these supposedly random emotions.

For example: Johnny was laid off last week from his job of ten years. He's lost his benefits, and he's having no luck finding another job. He's married with a five-year-old son, and a fifteen-year-old Retriever. He has nowhere to go if he can't pay the rent, and he'll lose the car if he can't make his payments. His wife does not earn enough to cover their expenses by herself.
Johnny thinks he has depression and has an anxiety disorder. But he does NOT attribute his feelings of loss, sadness, anxiety, shame, worry or fear to the fact that he was LAID OFF and his family could lose their HOME and their vehicle as a result. Losing either or both of course would cause further consequences for Johnny and his wife, and also his son.

Johnny is actually in counseling for depression and anxiety, but neither him nor the counselor draw the obvious lines between what has actually HAPPENED, and what he's FEELING.

All the adults actually feed this DENIAL process. The only thing anyone is willing to validate or acknowledge is that Johnny might be worried, and also that Johnny is angry about getting laid off. (Those things are acceptable for males in his regional culture, no one will belittle him for those emotions.)
Other than worry and anger, all of his other real feelings are categorized as UNATTACHED to any REAL events, and so are attributed to mental illness.

Johnny's brother Rod has been told he has chronic Depression as well, but neither Rod, nor his psychiatrist, nor Johnny has drawn any connection between the way Rod feels, and the hardships that he has experienced in his life. Hardships like the death of their father when they were children, or getting abused by their Uncle when he came to "help out" their Mom, or getting in an accident when he was 16 that caused his grades to drop, which ruined his track for a Scholarship to pre-medical school, which meant he couldn't afford to go because there was no one to co-sign a student loan. So instead of becoming a Surgeon like he had planned all of his life, Rod has been struggling in low-paying jobs, trying to support himself, trying to figure out a way back to his original track and trajectory, and worried about his Mom and his brother, and his brother's family.
If only he hadn't gotten in that accident... he'd be a Doctor, and he could help take care of his family runs through his mind many days.

BUT, instead of giving any of that any consideration, making any connection between REAL events and Rod's FEELINGS, his Psychiatrist and his psychologist diagnose him with Chronic Depression and an Anxiety disorder, as if they're innate defects that Rod was simply born with
(just like his brother... oh, right, it runs in the family, yeah that's it...), and prescribes medication. 

This disconnecting, burying, dismissing, and detaching from one's own normal emotions is a pervasive, globe-wide issue that many, many people have been "trained" to do, either by family members or by being exposed to dysfunctional individuals in the the larger culture.

That free-floating feeling of ANXIETY I had last night was not random, or from a past experience, it's from my hour-long drive home in freezing icy conditions.
That free-floating feeling of anger I was having this afternoon is not self-loathing, or some kind of "rage issue", it's from the conflict I had on the phone with a nasty customer service person.
That free-floating feeling of love and joy that permeated my being the other day was not because I'm just a sunny, lovely person inside or that the world is so wonderful, it was from having a great time with my son and his best friend at the dinner party we had.

When we have a long-time habit of DISCONNECTING our EMOTIONS from REAL EVENTS, often due to a dysfunctional environment where DENIAL is the norm (for control purposes), we often end up NOT KNOWING WHY we feel certain things, and we may also ATTRIBUTE our feelings to the WRONG things, the wrong reasons, and the wrong people.
We might have been SCARED when the neighbor's dog came racing around the corner, snarling, but an hour later we think we're having an anxiety attack because the phone is ringing.

Emotions are natural and normal, and are caused by our thoughts, and by our reactions to external events. Naming what emotions we are feeling can help heal the disconnection rift that so many experience, and help us to feel grounded again. We can also then explore whether our emotional reactions seem appropriate in relation to the actual events that took place, and we can then find out how to improve the way we deal with things that seem to cause stress and problems.