Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Are You Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I’ve worked with the public for years in many different capacities.  I’ve worked in retail, the food industry, the hospitality industry, the non-profit world, and as a consultant.  As a psychotherapist I’ve spent twenty plus years studying and observing people to see what motivates people to do certain things and to understand what motivates us to change.  I’m learning about an entirely new species of people, those who suffer from the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome.

These are otherwise rational and I’m assuming nice people who under stressful or fearful situations become rude, verbally violent, and quite irrational.  I’m consulting for a company that has been around for 30 years and is going bankrupt.  The consumers are afraid that they won’t get what they are owed and when they phone in they are monsters. 

When I started to pull myself away from the screamfest and take a step back to see what’s motivating this behavior it became  clear; these people are afraid.  I don’t have time to explore their fear on the phone, only time enough to be the brunt of their discontent.  I wonder what would happen if I could explore this fear with them; I think it would calm the savage beast.

Now let’s talk about you and me.  Following our diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness when do you exhibit signs of Jekyll and Hyde syndrome?  Maybe the doctor has to reschedule an appointment of is running late.  Perhaps there was a mix-up at the pharmacy and it will be an extra day till your medication comes in…that would cause fear. 

How is fear triggering behaviors you wouldn’t normally exhibit?  I ask this because for those who work with the public, the irrational behavior drives people away at a time we want or need them the most.  They do say that you get more flies with honey than vinegar.  The funny thing is we don’t feel any better after we’ve exhibited these irrational behaviors triggered by fear and to top it all off we may have alienated those we would want to be on our side.

The other factor to consider is what that type of expression of anger does to the cortisol levels in your system.  Cortisol is not a good hormone and when we show this irrational side it floods our system.  We end up doing more harm than good, even if we get what we want from the other person.  What’s the solution?  Before you engage in battle take a deep breath and understand or feel the fear.  Once you can name it and claim it; you can take a different approach so you’re more successful in getting what you want or need.

You’ve already been diagnosed with one illness, do you really want us to diagnosis you with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome?  Sometimes I think this one is more harmful and harder to cure…it’s possible, but you have to explore the fear.


I've lived my life in service to others. I'm focused on mental health and how it impacts our relationships, culture, and society. Through creative expression and narrative I believe we can impact change.

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