6/4 Where do we get our Emotions for Total Wholeness?

If we see the overall picture, Emotions are observable behaviours because of the chemical changes in our body. That is why chemicals (drugs) can be used to ‘alter our moods’. Using a definition from Selwyn Hughes in his Every Day with Jesus, May, 1998, emotions can be defined as:

“The state of mind …… that produces a feeling …..  which then shows itself in a physical change within the body.”

These chemical changes are influenced largely by how we ‘see’ the world around us.  That is, how we interpret what we see, smell, touch, hear and taste.  The brain is the organ that interprets reality and ties the five senses to thought and emotion.

A.  What can we do about our behaviours that are triggered by our Emotions?

1.  Behaviour can be changed.

Often people complain that they can’t change their bad habits, or they keep making the same mistakes or they can’t get to sleep at night.  All three of these complaints involve faulty thinking.  It is often said that the ‘battle’ is in the mind.  Consider this basic model:

Our Behaviour comes from our Emotional reactions.

Our emotional reactions come from our thinking patterns.

Our thinking Pattern comes from what is in our Heart, our unconscious.

2.  An example:  If I walked into your room and threw open my hand and you saw a spider.  How would you react?  What would be your emotions?  What would be your thinking?

I grew up with a Grandmother who loved gardening.  She would tell me about the good insects, the good spiders that help with the garden.  As a results, I do not fear spiders.  I am certainly cautious around them, such as the huntsman spiders in Australia.  I certainly don’t hairspray them to death; we catch and release them outside where they belong.

The point is my behaviour – no fear, curiosity, etc. – causes little emotions – calm, appropriate response – because my thinking pattern has been trained as a child ( “Some spiders are harmless”. Because of your heart’s belief about spiders, different people would react in different ways.  Emotions are an inevitable part of life, adding zest and meaning to life.  If emotions are handled wrongly, they can throw us into disastrous consequences.

2.  Beliefs about event more important than event

It is not what happened to you in the past that is causing the pain today; it is what you think about the past that is causing discomfort.  The past is gone and cannot hurt us anymore.

3.  Feelings about events are coloured by attitudes about past events.

Our attitude about an event or person will determine our feelings towards that event or person.  Let us illustrate this with an example of Joe visiting Martha:

Trigger Event         =       Attitude             =             Emotion

i).  Joe is late               “My day is ruined.”                 anger

ii).  Joe is late              “I can do things now.”            gratitude

4.  A few comments about this illustration:

a. ‘Catastrophic’ attitudes cause intense feelings.

In the example above, the exaggerated value given by Martha to Joe being on time is called “catastrophic thinking”.  Other negative self-talk are: “my world will end”,  “I will never get over this”,  “I am going to have a really bad day”. – If I think negatively, I will feel negatively.

b.  We have no control over other people’s Behaviour.

We have no control over whether somebody is on time to an appointment.  They can be having car trouble, the baby made a mess, they forgot.  There is nothing more frustrating than trying to control the uncontrollable, so it is best to ‘set them free’ to be late.

c.  We have no logical control over our Emotions – which ones we feel and which we do not feel

Given that Martha has ‘catastrophic thinking’, she is going to be angry.  Martha has no choice over whether she is angry or not, only when and how to deal with her feelings (Eph. 4:26).  She has control over her angry behaviour, but not over her internal feelings.

d.  We only have control over our attitudes

The only place we can change the outcome of this example is in the change of attitude.  Notice that when Martha decided to make her time useful while she waited, she was glad to get the dishes washed.

God is looking at how we respond to others, more than changing our circumstances.  The problem was not that Joe was late, it was Martha’s attitude towards him.  By catching the self-talk that sparks the emotion, we can learn to ‘substitute’ the right thinking patterns.  This will then change the emotional response that will then change the behaviour.

B.  Emotions impact on our drives and instincts, our needs and wants. 

Emotions can upset every gland in the body, thus causing up to 85% of the treated illnesses seen by doctors.  Examples:  Resentment can eat like acid into the whole body frame.  Hidden, internal anger often results in depression.  Unresolved grief uses up mental and emotional energy and will keep us ‘stuck’.

1.  Emotions can be seen as Helpers or Enemies

People view their emotions in different ways, some as an enemy others as their friend.  Some may have lost touch with their emotions, repressed or denied them for so long, that they have great difficulty getting in touch with what they feel.  Others may see their emotions as their allies, and have learned to face their inner world courageously.

2.  Emotions are part of the old nature?

Many people believe these lies:  “Emotions are part of the Old nature so need to be ‘killed off’”  or  “Just ignore them and they’ll go away.”

More truthfully, emotions are messengers of the heart’s sadness or contentment.  Emotions can signal the existence of undealt with issues, evidence of our wounding in childhood.  Recognising emotions as tools can unlock new potential growth areas.  Emotions can’t be eliminated but they can be tamed and viewed as gifts, ways to show us what is within.

Conclusions:  When we understand that our emotions can be controlled and more healthy, we make a good step forward to Total Wholeness.  Changing our thinking means changing our emotions.  This can then change our emotions.  However it is very important to note that all of this cycle comes out of what the Bible calls our Heart!

This is one of the future ‘parts’ of your personality we have yet to explore.

Susanne Fengler, Blog Author




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