Why does God create us with messy, complicated feelings? How frustrating when the head and the heart are not in sync? We try to arm wrestle our emotions into agreement with our belief system by telling ourselves or others, “Stop worrying about that,” “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” or “It’s not that big of a deal.” When those admonitions don’t work, we usually resort to condemnation. “You’re just a drama queen,” “I must not be good enough,” or “Stop being so sensitive.”
Many folks try to cut feelings completely out of their life. This makes sense if you’ve chosen to live an outcome-based lifestyle. Pushing the feelings into the emotional holding tank does allow you to be more dependable, responsible, accountable, and all the other qualities prioritized in that world view.
It reminds me of the Incredible Hulk TV show. Dr. Banner turns into a huge, scary, green monster when he becomes emotionally overwhelmed. The Hulk destroys things and causes mayhem, but he also rescues people and delivers justice to wrongdoers. Dr. Banner’s goal was to find a cure so he could live a quiet, peaceful, controlled life.
I think the Hulk was formed out of unprocessed emotions. While Dr. Banner was educated, intelligent, and focused on his work, the Hulk embodied his most important, interesting, and unique qualities! I’d love to invite both Dr. Banner and the Hulk to sit on my counseling couch and talk about how they can bring their strengths together to live an integrated, empowered life. Or we could just talk about what it’s like to be huge and green!
Truth is, our ability to be moved emotionally is another area where we’re made in the image of a relational God. Compartmentalization happens because our capacity for feeling complicated emotions is in place before we can intellectually process and interpret their meaning. It’s impossible to have healthy relationships and love ourselves and others well without experiencing feelings. While emotions do not equal truth, they do give us valuable information as to who God made us to be based on how we experience the world.
Embracing permission to own and feel your feelings is like standing on the top of Mt. Everest. The exhilaration clients feel when given permission to view the world through their own experience is awe inspiring.
Were you told not to have feelings or given indirect messages that others were uncomfortable with your emotions? Permission creates a drawbridge to the tank holding past wounds while allowing you to process feelings differently in the present.
Sometimes it takes months or longer to become comfortable with acknowledging and experiencing true feelings. Some folks have trained themselves to take cues from others as to what they “should” think and feel. Kind of like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride. Her character had literally run away from three different grooms during three different wedding ceremonies. A news reporter was sent to do a story about the bride. He interviewed all three men asking the question, “How does she like her eggs?” Each one answered, “Same as me.”
As the reporter observed the bride interacting with family and friends, he observed she wasn’t living her own life, but became a chameleon to please others. Making this realization, the bride spent time learning who she was, what she felt, and how she liked her eggs. Several months later the runaway bride sought out the reporter to report she preferred eggs benedict. Giving herself permission to emotionally experience her own life allowed the bride to eventually enter into marriage as a whole person.
Do you embrace or reject your feelings?
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