God created us with emotions. Why? Sometimes I wonder! We get accused of being overly emotional, emotionally reactive, emotionless, emotionally distant…among others. But the truth is our emotions are vital in connecting us to God and others. So, how do we manage the ups and downs of our emotions? Below are some steps that I have identified and modified over the years in my counseling. I’d like to share them with you in hopes you will gain new insight into managing your emotions.
Achieving Control of Your Emotions
Understand that you have emotions, because God created you that way.
God even calls Himself “love” (1 Jn 4:16). Jesus shows emotions on a regular basis: disappointment, anger, grief, weeping, joy, peace, irritability, hunger, pain, isolation from others, desire to be alone with God, rejection, overwhelmed to the point of sweating blood.
Make a conscious effort to take charge of your emotions.
God created us with a conscience and a will. Unlike the animal kingdom, which responds based on fear (fight or flight), we respond based on rational thought DESPITE how we feel. Tell yourself, “I am going to be aware and in charge of my emotions today”. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you maintain emotional control.
Acknowledge that negative emotions (depression, anger, anxiety, sadness, jealousy, guilt, etc.) will be felt at times. Also remember these are JUST emotions. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to these emotions.
Jesus experienced negative feelings yet DID NOT SIN. Recognizing emotions involves attending to what your body is doing (tightened muscles, stomach pain, sweats, sensory changes), and labeling the experience: sadness, anxiety, fear, depression, etc. Keep in mind that it is impossible to have an emotion without a thought first. For example, if I told you to ‘feel angry’ right now as you sit there, nothing would happen. However, if asked you to think back over the past week while driving in Denver traffic, that likely will evoke a feeling of anger! Identifying thought patterns is the best way to begin to understand the emotions that follow.
Once you recognize the feeling(s), it is time to make a choice on how to respond. This is where the value of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ can be placed. For example: ANGER is just a feeling, but there are healthy and unhealthy ways to respond. “Be angry and do not sin” Eph. 4:26
Example: “I am feeling depressed today and don’t seem to have any motivation.
PATH A: Get out of bed, think something positive, pray and focus on God’s Truth, attend to appointments, call a friend, exercise, journal, set a small goal.
PATH B: Lie in bed all day, allow negative thoughts to continue, avoid people, don’t go to work, neglect chores, believe the lies from yourself and Satan.
Taking PATH A places YOU in charge. The more you choose PATH A, the more confident, functional, positive, and empowered you will feel. Over time, this will weaken the feeling of depression to the point where the lies have no more power over you. You grow closer to God and experience His strength in your weakness. (2 Corin. 12: 9-10)
Taking PATH B means the depression is in charge. It will likely get worse over time if you do not choose path A. It takes a conscious, rational, bold effort to overcome these feelings.
It is important to remember that no one is perfect. No one chooses path A every time. If you have a day, a week, or longer where the emotions are taking charge (path B), then you have the ability to turn it around at anytime by choosing path A! God desires to be your strength in these moments. He is not offended by emotions; he CREATED YOU THAT WAY!! However, we do have a responsibility to handle our emotions in productive, mature ways.
If you find yourself in the place where your emotions tend to frequently overwhelm you, or you are constantly living in path B when you really want to live in path A, please don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a counselor who can help you reign in your thoughts and emotions!! Remember, Jesus came so that we may have life and have it to the full—take him up on his offer! There’s absolutely no shame in getting a little guidance along the way.