Indulge or suppress. These seem to be the two voices that scream the loudest in our dealings with “emotions.” One proclaims that emotions are wrong by nature, unhelpful liars that get nothing done; therefore, hide them, stuff them, will yourself to stop feeling them. Do whatever you need to avoid them, and then you will find freedom. This is untrue. The other camp stands with entitlement — you deserve anything and everything you want! Indulge in “the way you feel,” it’s your “right.” This is also untrue.
Disclaimer: We are writing this as mega-feelers, living straight from our hearts and feeling all those feels. Over our lifetime we have wrestled with our emotions, oscillating between feeling held captive by them, completely at the mercy of the wave of our feelings, to overcompensating by disconnecting all together while mentally backhanding those that dare surface. We have desperately searched for our feelings’ proper place; the place where they inform us of an internal reaction, give us a greater understanding of ourselves and enable us to connect with and better care for others.
There is a way!
What Our Emotions Reveal
There are, of course, positive and euphoric emotions that exist to simply enhance our lives; however, for now we’re talking about the often overwhelming, icky ones. For us, the usual suspects include jealousy, anxiety, bitterness, fear, self-preservation. Practically, our emotions are little indicators, informing us that a certain interaction, conversation, or situation (we like to call these ‘triggers’) is pointing to something deep inside ourselves that is longing to be whole. This emotion comes from somewhere, and is rarely random. The point of looking deeper would be to find that place of wounding, neglect, or other grievance from our life experiences leading up to this point where the heart has not been taken care of well. This calls for us to be well acquainted with our own stories — all the way back to childhood.
After acknowledging those marred places in us, only then is there potential to heal. When we start healing, the effect that those emotional triggers has on us wanes in intensity, which equips us to have a less chaotic inner life. There is much power in understanding one’s story. Our story is directly connected to our emotional landscape; it is what has shaped our hearts. The degree to which we have clarity about our story is the degree to which we can live from truth and not from misbeliefs or fear. This understanding compels us to find stability and security in our heart, and opens us up to be wonderfully connective and selfless friends, spouses, parents and general relationship-ers!
The degree to which we have clarity about our story is the degree to which we can live from truth and not from misbeliefs or fear.
A Helpful Tool in Emotional Maturity
We wanted to provide a different approach that attempts to harmonize the two opposing voices we mentioned earlier; an approach that validates emotions as real things that are actually happening, powerful catalysts in healing, while also choosing to respond to them, not allowing them to drive our every move.
That being said, there is an important distinction to make between responding and reacting. The most common reactions we spoke of earlier, indulging or suppressing feelings, can be damaging and both can hold us captive to our past or the way that things make us feel. In both of those reactions, emotions are leading us, whether it’s over emphasizing them or trying to ignore them, they are still there and continue to exist until they get the the recognition needed. Nothing can take away the validity of the emotional life; that is a true human experience that will continue until the end of time.
The power of response is found in slowing down, recognizing pain/insecurity/anger/fear, finding the lie we’re functioning from, and responding in truth. No big deal, right? It may sound like a lot of work, and it is. It may take some practice, but if we take the time to find what is triggering our emotions, then we will begin to understand our broken places in hopes of finding healing. Learning our needs and expressing them healthily ultimately leads to freedom from the volatile reactions of overemphasizing or suppressing.
The Emotional Bottom Line
The response, then, is self-control AND self-reflection. There is no benefit in inflicting our emotionally charged reactions on one another. Often the victim responds with defensiveness, ultimately missing the value of what we are trying to communicate. This then becomes the classic case of miscommunication, a “fight about a fight.” We’re left misunderstood and shamed by our emotional outburst, unaware of the broken place that prompted that emotion to begin with. It is loving for us (and others) to find the purpose and courage in learning to respond to emotionally-charged situations well. Responding well goes beyond just modifying behavior, it acknowledges the cycle and works to repair the root.
Humility and strength. Perfectly complimentary when paired. Our desire is to live from whole hearts. Living from wholeness is a process, like, “the rest of our lives” kind of process, but it is beyond worth it. Living from wholeness is a life of internal peace, deep joy, greater capacity, and thriving relationships.
Let’s do this for the sake of freedom and for the sake of the abundant life that is available!
Does this ring true for you? What ways have you found to healthily deal with your emotions?
Images via Sara Forrest