I'm going to be very honest and admit upfront that dealing with my emotions has been one of the more difficult aspects of my spiritual life. As a matter of fact, maybe the most difficult thus far. Those who were raised in dysfunctional households as children may be able to relate to this post more so than those whose emotions are well integrated into their "personhood".
I spent years living as an emotional "train wreck". Of course, I wasn't aware I was an emotional "train wreck", I barely acknowledged my emotions at all. This left me feeling very fake - almost as if I was a robot in some ways. I don't know how many times in my life I've plastered fake smiles on my face for others so that all would look well on the surface. This is what I was trained to do, to keep up appearances at all costs. This is not my parents' fault - they were taught to do the same. Plus, society also sends us the message that only certain emotions are "acceptable" and the less acceptable ones should be shut down before they cause trouble for ourselves or others.
Do you suffer from a lack of peace? Do you sometimes feel as if the joy that's supposed to anchor a Christian's life passed you by? As in:
God, I think you might just have forgotten to put the joy gene in me.
I believed this for a good portion of my life.
It's a lie.
If we suppress our emotions our entire lives the joy that lies beneath them gets buried under the avalanche of this emotional junk.
And I had a heavy-duty avalanche on top of me that left me feeling crushed and excessively burdened.
I had trouble believing Jesus' words, "For my yoke is easy and my burden light."
Every time I'd read this I'd think, "Oh no, your yoke weighs a ton, Lord."
Then I realized that it wasn't the Lord's yoke I was carrying (which I'll speak of further in another post).
A large portion of my "double" yoke (lol) was from the weight of years of emotional turmoil that had not been dealt with. It was so darn heavy that I felt like I was trudging through water most of the time!
And it still does sometimes... but it's getting better. It's funny, but I thought my load would get heavier as I grew in Christ but the opposite seems to be happening. Though I deal with similar circumstances, its impact is lessening.
So how do we know if we are under an excessive emotional burden? (You all know how I love lists so here comes another one...lol.) While this may not be true for everyone here are certain "signs" that may point to it (you may have a number of these symptoms or just a few):
~ You sometimes feel like you are wearing a mask. You feel a bit "unreal" or "fake".
~ There's a lack of steady peace and joy in your life
~ You feel numb ( Your body may even go numb, as in panic attacks, because your body is giving you
clues as to your emotional state.)
~ You are confused or spacey
~ You lack energy (because suppressing emotion uses up A LOT of energy, so does pretending)
~ You get sick often ( The body expresses what you cannot. There has to be an outlet. We are body,
soul, spirit and one reflects on the other. When they are in conflict with each other there are always
symptoms of some sort whether it be illness or other bodily manifestations of the turmoil within
~ You were taught that certain emotions were unacceptable.
~ You have a lot of "triggers". Someone will accidentally touch one of these hot spots and you over-
~ You have difficulty naming your emotions for what they are. Grief, sadness, anger, etc.. - you aren't
quite sure which one you are experiencing. (For me, I've often found that when I dig beneath my
anger I find grief. This surprised me at first.)
~ A troubled thought life. (Things bubble up as the avalanche of "stuff" dislodges. This is not a bad
thing if handled in the right way. Once you get over the shock of what comes up, that is. Some of
the stuff is unpleasant so our first reaction is to deny it access but this just further exasperates the
~ You have difficulty making choices (Those leftover emotions are exerting their influence even when
you are unaware of that influence so you become confused at which choice is best.)
I am in no way suggesting that we should give in to our emotions and let them fly all over the place. What I am suggesting is this:
Your cannot master your emotions if you are unable/unwilling to express them -they will always master you. Whether subtly or overtly, if ignored, they will exert an influence on you. In other words:
You will be a slave to them. A prison is a prison regardless of whether the prisoner is behind the walls of a pretty mansion or an iron fortress.
There is no such thing as a part-time slave.