Dealing with strong emotions


Photo courtesy of Pamela Logan.

God created us in His image. This image includes our emotions and desires. Emotions are a part of our human experience, a gift from God. Emotions are an essential aspect of being human.  Some emotions are pleasant and welcome: happiness, joy, contentment, while others hit us like waves on the rocks: grief, anger, or shame.

The intimacy anorexic has learned to suppress his emotions, especially strong or extreme emotions, in order to avoid appearing weak, vulnerable, or foolish. For an unhealthy individual or an intimacy anorexic, how did we react when experiencing a strong emotion such as anger, grief, or fear? In the old way (the pattern of this world), we suppressed our emotions, stuffed them, and did not validate them. In response of these pent up emotions, we eventually acted out in wrong behavior, hurting ourselves and pushing away those closest to us.

We avoided acknowledging and resolving our emotions.

What is an honest, healthy way to deal with strong emotions?  First, one must step back, recognize and identify the emotion. For example, “today I feel scared.” Next we have to rationally explore what lies under that emotion. We must ask: “What is causing this emotion? What unmet need is contributing to this emotion?” It may take time to honestly dig deeper underneath the surface of our apparent emotion.  This step is difficult, but to truly heal from emotional dysfunction, one must do the challenging work of identifying one’s unmet needs.   This process is the “renewing of the mind” that Paul urges.

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.     Romans 12:1-2

When you realize that you feel out of control, your unmet need may be more order and control in you life. Now you must dig even further. You must identify the lies you are believing, such as “the future is uncertain, dangerous things await around the corner”. Then, with each lie, you must counter it with truth. God’s Word is TRUTH. God loves you. He holds your future in His hands. He will never leave you or forsake you.

This is the renewing of the mind that brings transformation in our lives. When faced with strong emotions, the intimacy anorexic doesn’t know how to handle the emotion and lacks sufficient tools to do so.  Eventually these emotions become overwhelming, and thus the intimacy anorexic must act out to “self-medicate” the emotion (this is the root of addictive behavior). He did not recognize the unmet need and seek to find a safe, healthy way to meet that need. When faced with a strong emotion, even to the point of suffering, a thoughtful, transformed man will recognize his need, call on God’s truth in the situation, and chose to meet his need through a right, healthy action.

Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do what is right.      I Peter 4:19

Through this mental and emotional discipline, we test and approve God’s will, and draw closer to Him. We begin to understand how He created us in His image. We take action that offer our bodies as holy sacrifices to God (through righteous acts rather than selfish sins). Our emotions become something to embrace as a precious gift from God rather than some evil to avoid and suppress.

What do you think? Do you know someone who struggles to acknowledge and deal with their strong emotions?  Take action today to help them see the TRUTH in their situation!

About John Forrest