Enjoyed reading this blog Why did God make emotions? just now on our feelings, and to encourage you to be honest about your emotions. Over the last five years I have gone on a journey recognising that when it comes down to it, there are four core or base feelings: mad (angry), sad, glad and scared. Parents are the main influence, certainly during the first few years of a child’s life, to help children cope with the floods of chemicals and thoughts that life releases, and if parents do not understand their own feelings, for example by flying off the handle and never acknowledging it, or by never talking about their emotions at all, then their kids will have to learn about their feelings from someone else kind enough to teach them. While ‘mad, sad, glad and scared’ is very basic and simplistic, for me who first am a bloke and secondly desperately needed when deciding to adopt children to have a better handle on deep-seated feelings and how they can totally govern behaviour and identity as a result of trauma, I have found it very helpful when articulating for children what they may be experiencing, and to say ‘It’s okay to have that emotion’.
In various subcultures of our society it is thought that we should repress our feelings. Personally I’m very grateful for those people I know who have taught me that it is VITAL to express what you are feeling, and to own the feeling, to say: ‘I’m really cross about this’. Nine times out of ten, when we I-message and express our feeling, we are much less likely to let that be suppressed and come out in a hurtful way to someone else. When we own up to our own feeling, we also own up to our responsibility to deal with it and to find out way out of the other side. We can also then take it to God and the Holy Spirit can deal with it; we are not limited by the way we were wired!
Also, when someone else realises that they may have caused a difficult emotion in me, because I have acknowledged it, but not blamed them, then they will normally back down from their attack (if they are in ‘attack’ mode) and find some empathy. It is so easy to forget that the person who has caused us a swamp of feeling is also a ‘swamp of feeling’ themselves. I have found that both in the classroom and also in the home, when I say ‘You’re feeling cross that I told you off’ or whatever I have done, it opens up the option of a different kind of discussion. It actually takes someone away, sometimes, from that place of blind anger (and of course whenever anyone is letting rip with an emotion they cut off the lines to their power to reason, and become enemies to logic) and helps them to climb back down the steps to a more regulated, balanced frame of mind.
It goes right back, chemically, to the level of cortisol raging around our system, and the extent to which we are habituated to letting that cortisol into different receptors and calm ourselves down again. Isn’t it a beautiful thing to watch a mother tenderly soothing a screaming baby? That ought to be our model for understanding emotions – it’s just that normally with adults (not always with children) we can’t see the screaming. They’re still feeling that inside. The cost of not being able to deal with our feelings include sleepless nights, poor and broken relationships, failure in work and the home, immaturity that belies our actual age, and worst of all a towering barrier to regular and honest intimacy with God.
There are those who talk far too much about their feelings (and indeed far too much about themselves!) and others who never mention them. A Jesus-centred, and other-centred lifestyle enables emotions to take their proper, God-given place.
Why not ask God to help you understand more about your heart, and your feelings? Emotions matter, and where emotions are not being ministered to, often the head will not receive anything either. Know where you’re at emotionally, and you will be able to receive so much more from God.