18.1.10

Psst, I'll tell you a little secret

I want to share something with you. It changed my life when I finally realized what I'm about to tell you, but that was so long ago that I forget now that not everyone shares this basic assumption. It's recently come to my attention again. So I thought I would share it here.

Emotions are just information.

They tell us something, about how we are feeling and about what is going on around us. All too often though we misinterpret this information, allowing our emotions to govern us, and that can cause problems.

More often than not, emotions tell us a lot more about ourselves and what's going on inside us than what is happening outside of us. How we feel about what someone said often has very little to do with their intent in saying it, or even with the actual content. It has more to do with how we have been conditioned to respond to certain situation by our life circumstances. You know that person who always overreacts to a gentle correction? Their emotional reaction is completely disproportionate to the situation. Odds are that their takeaway from the moment is that no one appreciates how hard they work, or something. What they should be doing is asking themselves, "Why do I respond so strongly to mild criticism? What is it about me that I find it so upsetting?"

These are the kinds of questions that lead toward wholeness, and understanding and healing eventually.

Taking our emotional response at face value without considering it often leaves us hurt, and the people around us hurt as well.

If you are feeling abnormally angry and irritated at your children for leaving a mess all over the floor of their room you can be reasonably sure that it's not because they are being abnormally naughty. Those emotions are more likely telling you that lack of sleep is catching up to you, or that you need to stop skipping breakfast, or that you are still upset over the last conversation you had with a friend.

When you are feeling as though your husband is distant and cold or angry it's just as likely that the information you are supposed to gain is that you have insecurities, you feel guilty about a mistake you made, or you need more social outlets than you are getting.

And let's not even talk about the tricks your emotions can play when you are hormonal. Can we just agree not to act on any thing we may feel or think as a result of those feelings for at least 4 days? You will always regret the fight you had while you were PMSing. If you just hold your tongue for a day or two it will all look different. That is, if you can realize, really understand, that feelings, while true, can be misleading and that you shouldn't act on them without careful consideration of their real implications.

If you can understand this, you will be happier, and your relationships will be healthier. I guarantee it.

5 comments:

  1. Uhhh, Carrien, were you looking in my window this afternoon?? ;)

    Seriously, it was a bad day. Started with Murphy's Law and added in a little "the things I don't want to do, these I do" and a bunch of "my sins are ever before me." I am glad my hubby came home because I was fed up with me, big time.

    I have learned about keeping my tongue during certain times. I always wonder if I'm not dealing with real problems, because after the "fire" of the irritation is gone, I forget about whatever it was that was bothering me. Perhaps it's because it was more hormonally caused than true offense.

    Anyway, thanks for the reminder. I got to remember this for tomorrow.

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  2. Looking at it as information also gives us the power to change it, or at least take an active role in what is going on around us.

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  3. This is such an excellent post. I "know" this, but I do not really know it yet.

    One thing I am good at, thanks to my mother, is realizing the times when my negative emotions are caused by basic physical discomfort. Sometimes drinking more water can take away the headache and make it so much easier to be kind to others.

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  4. What an encouragement this post is....I've left comments a few times on your blog but not for a long time.... de-lurking again to say- very timely post!!

    I have been having such a strange week having had some mild and not so mild criticism directed my way. I've been feeling glum, and poor me....and it came to a head today when a stranger said something well intentioned but crazy-rude... and I sat down in the middle of the mall on a bench and cried.

    I know in theory what you are saying, and I've kept myself from sending any emails, or making any responses of any kinds because I know my emotions are out of proportion to the situations, and I've been praying it through.... but it was just so interesting to come here tonight and read your post which seems so in line with what I'm going through right now.

    Thanks for the encouragement, and the reminder that God is working things out in my life for healing the wounds that are there.

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  5. Feelings are a hint at our beliefs. If we can figure out what we believe about things, then we can decide if we want to keep that belief, or if we want to change it.

    Example: If I get upset about how messy the girls room is, again - I can take the opportunity to think about why? What is my belief? Wow, I believe that their messiness is a sign of my bad parenting. Why do I believe that? Oh, it's because I was feeling like I haven't been spending enough time with the kids - so I was already judging myself on this issue - now I see the girls' room as more evidence that I am a bad mom.

    So now I get to decide - do I want to believe that? Is it a helpful belief to have? What belief do I want to have about the messy room?

    I might decide instead to believe that the girls (ages 6 and 4) could use time each day to clean up their room. And I could see their messiness as part of being a kid, instead of saying something about me. I could still want their room to be clean without making it about my parenting.

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