No one likes to talk about emotions, or feelings. No matter which you call them, they make a good multitude of people cringe when someone mentions them, eye rolls can be seen and long sighs heard. Over time, we learn to just keep them to ourselves and not talk about them with anyone. This may lead us to a therapist and we keep that all "hush-hush" too. The alternative is to just keep stuffing them down until our emotional stomach is full to bursting and there is no more room left; We suddenly become overwhelmed at the most inopportune times and the we erupt! We start regurgitating old emotions and hurts like a volcano that has been dormant for years. We. Must. Purge. More often, we do the latter, because seeing a counselor, let alone admitting it, comes with its own stigma. Suddenly, people see you as severely flawed if you can't handle yourself when in fact you are seeking help to do just that. Oh, the irony!
I regularly see a licensed therapist and participate in a group therapy session 2 times a month when my schedule allows. What I have learned over the years of doing this, is that I have become better, stronger and smarter about my feelings and emotions. I use both words because, for me personally, they have two different meanings. My feelings are what I experience temporarily, I have learned to recognize many of them and take them for what they are: Temporary and not reality. I try hard not to let them guide my choices daily.
Emotions are different, for me anyway, these are deeply held, almost like my personal beliefs but different. They can come from past hurts and trauma or experiences, both good and bad. They can form because of wrong beliefs about myself or even correct ones. See, even self confidence is an emotion, we FEEL it. The same with gratitude, love and kindness or with dislike, hatred and pain. But we feel them differently, way deep down, not just at the surface. They can cause us great joy or great anguish. Those temporary feelings, they don't usually go deep down, but they can trigger some of these deeper emotions.
We aren't usually seeking help with dealing with those happier feelings, like joy, excitement, gratitude; We don't run to our closest friend and say "Hey, I'm too happy today, help bring me down!" No, we enjoy those and want them stay around! It's those negative feelings that we so often seek help by wanting to talk or vent. And it's those negative feelings that are so often rejected. I've been there, my friend, turning to someone that you thought cared, who claimed to be a friend and trustworthy, only to be chastised, reprimanded, then ultimately rejected. You only wanted HELP. You are not wrong for feeling what you feel, or having those deep emotions. You are not wrong for seeking help and counsel, either.
The only wrong choice we often make is in how we act because of those feelings. I'm talking about violent outbursts, physical altercations, turning to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain as so many do, or other means of relieving the pain that never get to the root of the issue. There is a better choice. You can learn to manage your own thoughts, feelings and emotions. It takes some effort from you, friend. Are you ready to take control and be in charge instead of letting your thoughts, feeling and emotions run the show? There is hope.
First, we need to change what we believe about emotions. We have to work on our mindset. Once we do some of this internal work, we can learn to manage our emotions, instead of them managing us. Emotions can be helpful indicators of what's going on in our hearts. Use them as a gauge. Out of control emotions, do not produce God honoring results, or results that show respect for self and others. (James 1:20)
Emotions are greatly influenced by our flesh--so they do need to be managed. We don't want to allow them to control us. We are to allow the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us, being the main influence in how we live our lives and make choices, not our feelings or emotions. (Romans 5, Ephesians 5:15-18, 1 Peter 5:6-11)
When we recognize our emotions, we can bring them to God and allow Him to work in us. If we never take time to identify them we won't allow the Holy Spirit to help us or God to work in us and through us.
The Psalms are filled with raw, pure human emotion! Anguish, anger, sadness, depression and more! These emotions were poured out to God in order to seek His truth and righteousness. We are to rely on Him for everything. He supplies our need at any given moment and that supply is activated by our Faith.
We are also not meant to do life alone. Other Believers are meant to be a gift to us, with whom we can share our burdens (and them with us--relationships are meant to be mutually beneficial and a blessing to all involved). Other Believers are meant to be a source of help when seeking to manage our emotions. Often, just the simple act of sharing, being heard, is enough and can be so helpful. A listening ear is a blessing. When we share with another we can be reminded of God's simple truths and be offered a new perspective. (Romans 12, Galations 6:1-10, 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 and Hebrews 3:13) However, all too often when we share with a fellow Brother or Sister in Christ, even a Pastor/Minister, we are shamed, guilted, criticized and even accused of being in sin when we have taken no sinful actions as a result of our feelings or emotions; We are seeking help which is right and good. IF a Believer, Pastor or Minister has done that to you, then they are in the wrong, and you will need to forgive them. You weren't sinning by seeking help and counsel, in fact you are doing exactly what is suggested in God's Word. I end conversations with people who are seeking to condemn me, instead of offering up some compassion and Godly counsel. I also don't go back to them in the future! Pray and ask God to show you who might be a better option for you. You also don't owe someone an explanation as to why you no longer share issues like this with them.
Other Believers can be a source of encouragement, exhortation and reassurance. Friendships can be mutually beneficial relationships, especially when there is mutual honor and respect. It can be so difficult to share one's innermost feelings. You can be a source of great help to others as well, just be sure to honor that relationship and never treat it as common. Don't betray a trust, unless someone is speaking of harming themselves or others. Get them help. STERN WARNING: NEVER, cover up for an abuser. If someone shares with you what is emotional, mental and/or physical abuse then help them get help. DO NOT PROTECT THE ABUSER. Abuse happens in the "church", and within the homes of Believers too. Just because someone regularly attends church, volunteers and is involved does not mean they are perfect or even leading a Godly life outside of church. Many abusers will actually use this as a way to cover up and "hide" their behavior from others as a way to project a "perfect" image to the outside world when at home they are very different to their spouse and children.
Grow in your walk with God, read His word and it will help you to learn to manage your emotions. Those two actions will help you renew your mind and transform your thinking. As we seek God more, we grow spiritually. This also brings about changes in the natural. We grow in our faith and experience emotional maturity, intelligence and learn healthy boundaries.
I'll continue this topic in my next blog post, where I share what I've learned and use for emotional healing.
Be thankful for the ability to feel and recognize them as a gift from God.