A friend likes to remind me that our emotions are not right or wrong; they simply are. He goes on to add that what we do with them is key – will they be used for good or for something else? It is not always easy to remember his words in the heat of the moment. I recently rediscovered how overwhelming emotions can be in one’s life. The question resurfaced; was I sure that emotions were neither right or wrong? In that moment, I had no idea.
As I find myself looking back, I find myself in renewed agreement with the point of view that emotions are not, in themselves, right or wrong. They simply are. What follows is often for me a struggle. Will I use them for something helpful, or will I give in to the need to act immediately? Perhaps you have it all figured out. In my case, I find myself holding onto these mantras.
Recognizing your emotions opens up the possibility for an intentional response. Denying their existence has never been helpful for me. When I given them voice, I find myself open to a process of understanding myself. David was candid with God about his emotions – “Up, God! My God, help me! Slap their faces, first this cheek, then the other, your fist hard in their teeth!” (Psalm 3.7) For both of us, it helped.
Recognition is not the same as understanding. The latter, for me, takes time. It may not be long, but it is more than I realize. I often take a deep breath and within my mind tell myself that I am not going to act for a period of time. Then, and only then will be the time to put things motion.
Emotions often reveal more than I realize. In being open to hear what I am feeling and experiencing within, I find myself seeing a story that is greater than the moment. We are part of a bigger story and our emotions are a gateway to hearing and seeing.
Candor can be useful, in context.