What strategies do you use to process your painful emotions? Can you label them? Do you know what sadness feels like? Do you know how fear feels? What does anger do to your insides? Sad, mad, glad, and fear. Those are often considered the four basic categories of emotions.
Labeling is the first step. A few of us had parents who taught us to label feelings, with all their nuances. Google “feeling word lists” to help identify emotions. That’s first. Labels help us know what we’re dealing with.
What’s the next step? Finding a way to give ourselves permission to feel the feeling. Actually, sometimes, permission is the first step. It’s possible to be so unaware that we either don’t feel much of anything or the emotion slips by with almost no awareness. Emotional health starts with permission to feel.
After permission comes expression. But if we’ve not been given permission previously, our expression may be out of bounds. Over-the-top angry, like I was once with my daughter when she dawdled over homework. Throwing our children across the room is not what I mean.
Stopping, finding a pen and paper and putting my feelings into words would have helped both me and my girl. Stopping, going for a walk around the block, talking to Jesus about how I felt would have helped. Asking my husband for a long hug would have calmed me down.
Feeling emotion–anger, tears, or fear–may seem tricky. But we can learn healthy ways to express ourselves. Studying emotional health helps. Google Peter Scazzero, Minirth and Meier, and Cloud and Townsend. Emotions are part of being made in the image of God. We are meant to feel them, within God’s bounds.
Father, we need your wisdom and your self-control.