Managing Our Emotions

"Be angry and do not sin; on your bed reflect in your heart and be still" - Psalms 4:4

I believe that there are many parallels in life that many people don’t notice, but I consider myself blessed to have discovered some of the revelations and insight that I’ve gained over time. One of the biggest is the parallel between the two most dominant areas of my life: spirituality (biblical knowledge) and psychology. This verse in particular makes me think of it most.

A big lesson I’ve learned in understanding myself and counseling others is that our emotions are our own, and that we must own them. This was challenging for me because it was always so easy to point the finger and say, “You made me feel_______"; when in reality, no one can make us feel anything. Yes emotions can rush in unexpectedly, and yes a particular situation may have elicited that emotion. However, it is up to us to own that emotion, take responsibility by saying, “I feel ______”, and then to choose our behavior.

*That's Tweetable* No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. No one can make you feel ANYTHING without your consent

This passage reminds us that we do have emotions. We will experience them, but we do not have to allow them to control us.  We can’t choose them, but we can choose what we do with them. We can point the finger, throw a tantrum, and depend on someone else for a solution. Or we can take responsibility, feel what we feel, and choose our behavior! This may sound oversimplified but that’s because it is that simple; it’s our twisted human nature that makes it complicated.

There’s no doubt that emotions are powerful, but when you understand the belief system that dictates your emotions, it makes it easier to choose better behaviors. Some beliefs no longer serve us; like that belief that says because you have "anger issues", it's okay for you to be a jerk. LIE. Or the other one that says that since you never saw healthy emotional expression modeled, it's okay for you to explode at everything. Even bigger lie. Emotions last but a few moments, and if we sit with it long enough it will pass. But when we allow our emotions to give birth to negative unhealthy behavior, we give our power away.

I’ve had my fair share of overly emotional episodes where I felt so overwhelmed that I behaved in ways that I didn’t recognize as being myself. After it passed I was left feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and confused like “why the hell did I just do that?” Crazy right? Well it’s real. During those experiences, I realized that much of my emotional responses were tailored from my childhood. I was the baby girl, and when I couldn't get my way I threw a tantrum. My family eventually became conditioned, and I no longer had to act out. I also learned to get my needs met on my own. However, I realize that I never actually learned how to express my emotions in a healthy manner; I just started getting what I wanted more, therefore I had no reason to act out. It wasn't until my grown behind was in a relationship and I was acting like a 3 year old when faced with unfavorable situations, that I realized I had to do better. What a rude awakening that was! 

After a few years of counseling others and having some myself (yes I have a therapist and you should too), I understand the importance of healthy emotional expression, and the fulfillment you get when you can manage and own your emotions. We're not 3 year old's anymore; we can't force our way out of every uncomfortable situation, and it's not everyone else's fault that we're going through it. Growth includes learning to sit with ourselves, tolerating discomfort, and responding appropriately. 

This passage simply says, "Be angry but do not sin; instead reflect in your heart and be still." My understanding: feel your emotions; don’t allow them to cause you to act out of character. Ride the feeling out like a wave, and trust that it will pass.

*That's Tweetable* Maturity is about feeling your emotions, understanding your thoughts, and choosing your behaviors

Be honest, are you still acting out of your three-year-old-self? It's okay to admit it, as long as you know that it's YOUR choice.