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Episode 54 - Can You Trust Your Emotions?


Have you ever woken up one day and just felt all stirred up? Or maybe you’ve had a few days where you just couldn’t put your finger on it, but you knew things felt out of sorts. Heavy. Maybe you’re even angry and you’re not even sure why exactly, and you don’t even know where it came from. Confession: I’ve got some big decisions I have to make right now and it’s bringing up all kinds of feelings of vulnerability. I’ve also got a situation in my life where I feel like I’m being pushed aside, underappreciated, unimportant, and ignored. It’s a situation that’s not yet rectified. And in the meantime, when the dude cut me off in traffic and then proceeded to try to run me off the road with his big truck, on purpose, those feelings that were there with my other situation, there just under the surface, came rising up: unimportant, pushed aside, invisible, unimportant. Wow. Are you wondering how I reacted? Yep, go ahead and let your mind run wild. Ok now, it probably wasn’t as bad as that, but suffice it to say, I did react. And I’m not proud. Okay, come on now!

So, I think I may have even said in a recent podcasts that sometimes I feel like my emotional stability can be defined by my most current emotion. Or sometimes I gauge my progress on this journey towards healing from past trauma by my current emotion.

You may have heard a time or two that you can’t trust your emotions. The primary argument for this statement is that emotions or feelings come and go; they can change so quickly. I agree. And emotions are not facts, they are derived from thoughts that we have about circumstances. Just because I feel useless, or hopeless, or unloved, or worthless, doesn’t mean I am. So, they’re derived from opinions or thoughts, not facts themselves. But I also believe that there are some good reasons why you can trust your emotions.

Emotions are given to us by our Creator for several very good reasons. And may I add that God has made each one of us emotional beings with the capacity to feel all the complexities of feelings. I have a Feelings Wheel that I use with my Life Coaching clients to help them get very specific about the way they are feeling. It takes you beyond the main categories of happy, sad, fearful, and angry, and pulls you into the awareness of deeper emotions like courageous, powerless, eager, inspired, remorseful, appalled, and curious, just to name a few, that some of us may have a difficult time identifying. According to even this rudimentary Feelings Wheel, there are 82 outlying feelings alone. You, my friend, have the capacity to feel all these emotions. You were created with this capacity, even if you don’t think you’ve ever really experienced some of these. You are able, because God created you that way.

So, you can trust that your emotions are important and good because God gave them to you. Period.

Another reason you can trust them is that they are necessary for our survival. Emotions give us clues as to what we want and need. They are guides for our self-protection, and much more. They are also the reason why we can connect with other people in a deep way, creating bonds that are uniquely human. Your emotions are constantly sending you messages all day long that provide you with vital information for your survival - both physical and mental. It’s from this place of awareness that we’re able to make choices and decisions for ourselves. Emotions are powerful directors.

Our emotions originate in the base of our brains in the limbic system. But we feel our emotions in our body. Worry or fear is that weird feeling in your belly - the same flip of the stomach you have when you see a police car behind you with their red and blue lights whirling, even when you weren’t speeding. And it’s that same flip in the stomach that we feel when we get excited or anticipate something wonderful. Many people also report feeling sadness in the stomach. Or anxiety in their throat, and anger in their chest and arms, and stress in their neck and shoulders. It’s literally a brain to body connection. I talked a lot about the way our bodies respond and manifest our thoughts in a physical manner in Episode number 2 - Mind, Body, Spirit Wholeness. There’s a fascinating book about the brain and body connection called The Body Keeps The Score by Dr. Bessel Vander Kolk. I highly recommend it! The cliff notes edition is: Whatever you’re not dealing with, those emotions you’re suppressing, will manifest somewhere in the body in many different forms like physical pain, or ulcers, or disease. Your emotions are a clue that something in your thought-life needs attention. You can trust your emotions here. Not that it’s indicating that something necessarily needs to change but needs attention at the least. And that could be something as simple as learning to identify and process emotions.

So, let’s talk a minute about what happens when you refuse to attend to your emotions, and you choose to stuff it all down inside instead. You can think of your emotions like a beach ball being held underwater. Momentarily you can’t see it so it’s just easy to ignore. But the reality is that it is there, just underwater, just under the surface. And at some point, that beach ball can’t be held under any longer and it explodes up out of the water like a rocket. That’s exactly what happens to your emotions when you choose to ignore or suppress your emotions. At some point, they are going to explode - all over the people you love.

There are three ways we put ourselves in danger when it comes to our emotions. And that is by resisting, reacting, and avoiding them.

Resisting is like the example of that beach ball being held underwater. Resisting an emotion just creates more tension and will at some point explode to the surface. This is when you know you’re feeling something, say anger, but you put a smile on your face and pretend everything is okay. You’ve heard the idiom: What you resist persists. If a situation that brought up strong emotion for you has passed, like for example something that happened to you long ago but you never dealt with it, you may think you’ve gotten past it. But instead, you’re just hiding it away. But it’s there. Looming. Persisting.

Reacting is pretty self-explanatory. It is acting out of our emotion, like yelling or crying or hitting. Obviously, it’s not the emotion itself and is not a form of processing at all.

Avoiding emotion can be confused with resisting. Resisting is literally knowing that the emotion is there but stuffing it. Avoiding is literally pretending you don’t have anything to be emotional about. It’s living in denial or ignoring reality. We avoid emotion by overeating, overdrinking, bingeing Netflix, “shopping therapy,” overworking, or keeping ourselves so busy that we don’t even have time to think about it. We don’t allow ourselves. I’ve heard several people say that they’ve purposefully kept themselves busy in order to avoid the emotion because they’re afraid that if they started down that road - especially if it would make them cry - that they may never be able to stop crying. Like something might break the dam and the flood waters will never be contained again. But just like resisting, the emotion is there, always there, and at some point, will demand your attention by showing up somewhere in your life. And at that point it can no longer be ignored and may cause irreparable damage.

You’ve no doubt heard the term lately “emotional intelligence.” It has become a colloquial term used by corporations, universities, and all kinds of organizations. There are emotional intelligence trainings and educational courses. But what does emotional intelligence mean and why is it so important?

Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) includes five skills: Emotional awareness (the ability to identify, understand, and name one’s own emotions), Self-regulation (the ability to manage emotions using self-control to reduce how intense an emotion feels.), motivation (the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving), empathy (the ability to recognize and be in tune to others’ emotions, and then respond appropriately), and finally social skills (being socially adept with the ability to quickly read a room and adjust oneself accordingly).

When someone has high EQ they are able to understand, use, and manage their own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, and overcome challenges and defuse conflict.

If you have not paid attention to your Emotional Intelligence, then you may be at the mercy of your emotions - allowing your emotions to run away with you instead of you being in control of your emotions. You also may frequently be mystified by your own behavior, choices, and actions. Unattended emotions have been understood by the psychological field to be directly linked to mental pain and anxiety. We are self-sabotaging by resisting, reacting, or avoiding instead of becoming aware of and processing our emotions.

Now, here’s the context in which we absolutely cannot trust our emotions. And that is to allow them to guide our decision making. Again, because they can change on a whim. They could change just by a comment someone makes, or an apology, or being in your favorite environment, or having success in your business, or any other big or small experience in your life. Your emotions can give you whiplash like no other. Out of which emotion should we make our decisions, right? The one I had 10 minutes ago, or the one I’m feeling now? Well, for me personally, I have come to rely on Proverbs 3, verses 5 and 6 which say, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” The “Do not lean on your own understanding” part literally means, “don’t trust yourself.” Instead, trust God.

Sometimes a strong emotion comes over me and from out of nowhere, and I just cannot help the way I feel. But I canhelp if and how I attend to those emotions. I can choose to submit them to God and trust His ways in my life. I can choose not to resist, react, or avoid, but instead ask Him to help me process those emotions rightly so that healing comes. Doing this honors God because it’s giving Him an opportunity to right wrong emotions that are born out of lie-based beliefs. And allows me the opportunity to respond in ways that are based on His truth.

Friend, remembering that it is the Creator of you, your heavenly Father, that placed within you all of your emotions; that gave you the capacity to feel all the emotions on that Feelings Wheel, even the ones you don’t yet thinking you’ve experienced - it is Him who made you this way with the ability to laugh and grieve and love and feel deeply. Remembering this gives us the ability to experience the fullness of emotions that’s included with all the beautiful highs and lows of life. To trust that He intends for us to feel these emotions, and then to trust that as we submit them all to Him, He will heal us, direct and guide us. Lean not on your own understanding. Do not trust yourself or your emotions to be your guide. But trust God and He will make your paths straight.

Friend, if you feel like your emotions tend to run away with you, or you are frequently mystified by your own behavior, choices, and actions and would like some one-on-one help, I’d love to be your coach and mentor. I’ll teach you some simple but seriously effective tools that will help you understand, processes, and get control of your emotions.

I’ve put a link in the show notes to my calendar to book at quick 30-minute chat just to see if we’re a good fit. Or you can visit my website and send me an email there.

Have a great week, friends! See you next Wednesday for the next episode of Another Beautiful Life podcast.

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