Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘emotions’

7 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Angry

SOURCE:  Bob McCully/Thriveworks

Everyone gets angry, but some of us get angry more often and with greater intensity than most people. If you’re one of those people, here are some questions to ask yourself that might lead to less anger.

Am I truly understanding the other person?

Perhaps you misunderstood. Maybe you assumed inaccurately that he or she intended to hurt you with their comment. Maybe you really got angry because her posture reminded you of that teacher years ago who used to berate you. Stop and think.

Are my expectations reasonable?

Larry grew up in a household where his Mom was a full-time housewife. She cleaned every day and expected him to help. Now his wife works full-time and they have a 2-year-old son. He gets angry at her when anything is out of place. Is he being reasonable? Sarah expected her adult daughter to call her every day. Is that realistic? Examine your expectations, and change them, if appropriate.

Am I angry at the right person?

Stress can build up from a hundred little annoyances during the day. You’re angry at your boss, but you can’t express it or you’ll lose your job. The weather is cloudy and cold; the traffic is slow and irritating on the way home. Then when your son leaves his bicycle in the driveway, you blow up. Breathe deeply. Focus on the present moment.

Is my anger getting me what I want?

Alex spent much of his time at home yelling at his wife and his children. What he wanted was a cooperative family. What he was getting was a distant relationship with everyone. His wife was contemplating divorce. His children resented him and never talked to him for fear that he would start yelling. If anger is not working, try calm dialogue.

Is my anger out of proportion to the offense?

Teresa had a way of making mountains out of molehills. Every little inconvenience was a great catastrophe that she complained angrily about to her friends. Her friends learned to tune her out or avoid her. For this kind of anger, the deeper question is, are you going to spend your life angry because the world does not conform to your needs, or are you going to accept the fact that real life circumstances are often inconvenient and sometimes difficult? Accept life as it is.

How are they feeling?

That is, how are the objects of your wrath feeling? Are your children feeling oppressed and unloved? Is your employee feeling hopeless and frustrated? Is your spouse feeling irritated and resentful? Empathy can make us stop in our tracks and try a different strategy.

Can I really change this situation?

You are only one person in a great big world. You have some power, but it is limited. You may be wasting your energy being angry. Twelve step groups use this helpful prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to tell the difference.” Practice wisdom, not anger.

——————————————————————————————————–

Bob McCully is a licensed professional counselor with Thriveworks Counseling Charlotte.

Advertisements

SIX STEPS TO CHANGE OUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS

SOURCE:  David Murray

Feelings have big muscles.

They are often the most powerful force in our lives. They can bully our minds, our consciences, and our wills. They can even knock out the facts and bring truth to its knees.

This is perhaps okay when the feelings are good, when we experience joy, peace, and happiness. But more often anxiety, fear, sadness, and guilt rear their ugly heads and start shoving us around. That vicious tag team can quickly bruise and bloody us, confusing our minds and blurring our vision. Nothing looks good when we’ve gone a few rounds with them. We just want to slink out of the ring of life and crawl back into bed again.

How then can we get our emotions under control? How can we knock down guilt and wrestle fear to the ground? How can we summon allies like joy and peace to our side, especially when we often feel so alone in the fight of our lives? How can we be happy when there is so much to be sad about?

The Bible trains us to think ourselves out of bad moods and painful feelings. Consider, for example, Asaph’s experience in Psalm 77.

Step 1: What are the facts? Asaph’s life situation is not defined in detail in Psalm 77. Asaph calls it “the day of my trouble” (v. 2), a deliberately general description that fits many life situations.

Step 2: What does he think about these facts? When he considers the troubles in his life, Asaph concludes that God has rejected him, doesn’t love him, has broken His promises, and has even changed in His character (vv. 7–9). As a result, he thinks that the past was great (v. 5), but the future is bleak and gloomy (v. 7).

Step 3: What is he feeling? He is inconsolably distressed by his trouble (v. 2) and overwhelmingly perplexed when he even thinks of God (v. 3). He feels abandoned by God and pessimistic about enjoying God’s love and favor again (vv. 7–9).

Step 4: Can he change the facts? There’s no evidence that Asaph could change the facts or that his situation changed.

Step 5: Can he change his thoughts about the facts? At the end of verse 9, he pauses, and he takes time to be quiet, to still his soul and calm down. When he does that, new thoughts begin to form, transforming his perspective and outlook.

In verses 10–12, he deliberately forces his mind to think new thoughts, to explore new areas for meditation. He says, “I’m not going to think like this anymore. I’m going to change my thinking habits and patterns.” He firmly resolves:

I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.
I will remember the works of the Lord.
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will also meditate on all Your work,
And [I will] talk of Your deeds. (vv. 10–12)

Notice that he refocuses his thinking upon God’s powerful acts of providence through the centuries (vv. 13–20). Specifically, he notes how God sometimes leads His people through deep waters (v. 19) and sometimes through the wilderness (v. 20), but ultimately He leads them to the promised land (v. 20). For the believer, this is not just about thinking better; it’s also about believing better. It involves thought patterns in the head, but it also involves faith patterns in the heart.

Step 6: What is he feeling now? Judging by Asaph’s words in verses 13–20, there’s a very different tone in his voice. He no longer questions God’s existence, character, and providence but praises Him:

Who is so great a God as our God?
You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples.
You have with Your arm redeemed Your people. (vv. 13–15)

Instead of doubt, there is confidence; instead of pessimism, there is optimism; instead of vulnerability, there is security; instead of distress, there is comfort. Asaph’s facts have not changed, but his feelings have because, with the help of God’s Word and works, he has changed his thoughts about the facts. We can see similar patterns of spiritual and emotional therapy in Psalms 42 and 43; Job 19; and Habakkuk 3.

Notice, I’ve asked six questions in two groups of three. The first three—about facts, thoughts, and feelings—help us identify our thoughts and recognize how they affect our emotions and behavior.

The second three—also about facts, thoughts, and feelings—help us challenge our thoughts, change them, and so change our feelings and actions. That’s fairly easy to remember, isn’t it? In summary:

  • How did I get into this mood? Facts, thoughts, and feelings.
  • How do I get out of this mood? Facts, thoughts, and feelings.

The key is to identify which specific thoughts drive particular emotions. If I think about loss, I’ll be sad. If I think about sin, I’ll feel guilty. If I think I’m too thin or too fat, I’ll feel embarrassed.

But if I think about God’s gifts, I’ll be thankful; if I think about God’s beauty, I’ll be inspired;  if I think about God’s sovereignty, I’ll feel peaceful.

Develop an ability to challenge and change your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions by using this biblical pattern.

——————————————————————————————————————

This article was extracted from Dr. David Murray’s new book, The Happy Christian (2015).

FEELINGS: Keeping Them In or Letting Them Out

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

When The Laughter Ends…

Most of us have some degree of trouble admitting our true feelings and expressing them, especially if we are struggling with life-interfering problems. But throughout the Bible, God encourages us to be in touch with our feelings and to know them. Then, once we access our feelings, He doesn’t want us to keep them hidden inside.

Jesus set an example for us: He had emotions and he expressed them. He cried. He got angry. He was sad. He was extremely concerned and sweated blood in the garden before His arrest.

We often hide the way we feel behind a defense to keep our real selves from showing through. Inside we may feel angry, or fearful or sad. But we hide those feelings by joking … or acting superior … looking important … using sarcastic comments … being silent … deflecting attention to something else … anesthetizing it with substances or food … or employing some other defense. We often try to cover our sadness with laughter, but when the laughter ends, the hurt or loss remains. Eventually, hidden shame and sadness are roadblocks to hope and healing.

An important tip: Hiding our feelings gives them dysfunctional control over our lives. Unexpressed anger, fear, hurt, unforgiveness, bitterness, humiliation, and guilt have a destructive influence on everything we do. Inside we have only a small box to hold these feelings … and it can overflow quickly. When it does, those feelings bleed out and ooze into our real everyday functioning. That is a fact. Often it leads to passive-aggressive behavior.

Your choice is very simple.

1: Express your feelings as they happen, in ways that are controllable, functional, measured, healthy, respectful, and useful to you while they match the situation.

2: while you are trying to hold in your feelings they will start to overflow from that little container you have inside and ooze out in ways that are uncontrollable, dysfunctional, and random, sabotaging your efforts to deal with the situation at hand and hold you back in your psychological and spiritual growth pursuits.

Unfortunately, this last scenario is what usually happens, reinforcing the false belief that expressing our feelings is destructive. So we falsely learn to be afraid of our having feelings, expressing feelings, or letting others express theirs.

Today, ask yourself this question: has your “cover-up” helped? Or have you learned first-hand that when the laughter ends, the grief remains?

Your suppressed feelings will come back to undermine your happiness and relationships. Admitting your negative feelings (in the right way) can be a turning point for you. Be honest with yourself … and with God … and then with a friend. Being real will open the door for healing. Journaling your feelings as they come up is a good step towards having better command over your emotions. Whether you express your feeling in a healthy and appropriate way or you them and they ooze out in dysfunctional ways is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I’ve been hiding my feelings for a long time, but I know now it’s time to be honest. Help me to be real. Help me to have a better awareness of my feelings and more control in expressing them. Set me free from their grip. Help me,  not be afraid of them, but to see them as Your gift to me. They are my warning system, and a very good warning system. Soothe me and increase my awareness of Your soothing. Help me to share my real feelings with my loved ones, and give me restraint as I express them. I pray in the name of the One whom You sent to be my perfect emotional role model, Jesus Christ – AMEN!

The Truth

Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when laughter ends, the grief remains.

Proverbs 14:13

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.

Ephesians 4:26,27

How To Deal With Emotional Doubts

SOURCE:  Jonathan Morrow/Think Christianly

Our thought life is central to living a vibrant Christian life. In Romans 12:2, Paul says that the way we resist the pattern of this world is by renewing our minds. Now he could have said a lot of different things instead of mind—heart, emotions, worship—but he didn’t. The reason is that what we think about and what we believe are critical to how we live.

Dallas Willard, a Christian philosopher who has done a lot of work in the area of spiritual formation, offers penetrating insight into the interplay of thoughts and emotions:

Our thoughts are one of the most basic sources of our life. They determine the orientation of everything we do and evoke the feelings that frame our world and motivate our actions. Interestingly, you can’t evoke thoughts by feeling a certain way, but you can evoke and to some degree control feelings by directing your thoughts. Our power over our thoughts is of great and indispensable assistance in directing and controlling our feelings, which themselves are not directly under the guidance of our will. We cannot just choose our feelings.

We don’t have direct control over how we feel. But we can indirectly affect our emotions by thinking in certain ways. If we want to get at the root of the emotional doubt, then we have to change our thinking and stop allowing ourselves to believe lies. We must tell ourselves the truth—God’s truth—until we accept it. Again, this is not a one-time remedy; it’s a habit we need to build into our life.

In light of this, I hope that you will no longer feel ashamed when you experience doubt, nor idly sit by and allow emotional doubt to paralyze you with fear. I will let the poignant words of Oswald Chambers conclude our discussion:

“Unless we train our emotions they will lead us around by the nose, and we will be captives to every passing impulse or reaction. But once faith is trained to control the emotions and knows how to lean resolutely against weakness of character, another entry way of doubt is sealed shut forever . . . Much of our distress as Christians comes not because of sin, but because we are ignorant of the laws of our own nature.”

Not in the Mood? Ask Yourself, “Why Not?”

SOURCE:  Arlene Pellicane/Family Life Ministry

Overcome romance barriers in a respectful way that doesn’t offend either partner.

When you’re pregnant with your third child, sex isn’t usually high on the priority list. Sleep and chocolate are.

But one strange day when I was about 13 weeks pregnant, I was actually looking forward to some romance on a Friday night. Earlier in the day, my highlight had been devouring pita chips and garlic hummus.

I changed my clothes and got ready for my evening of romance. My husband, James, walked in, and as he drew close, he stopped dead in his tracks.

“What is that smell?”

It took two seconds to figure out it was my beloved garlic hummus.

“I can smell you and that garlic in every room,” he moaned.

I apologized and winked.

He hesitated and replied, “I don’t know if I can handle your breath.”

You probably know what happened next. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. My breath was the deal killer. After he talked himself into plugging his nose and taking the plunge, I was no longer in the mood. Romance dies quickly after any kind of confrontation involving Listerine.

Whether it’s bad breath, a headache, that time of the month, or hot flashes, something often gets in the way of romance. Sometimes it’s your spouse; sometimes it’s you. How can a couple overcome these roadblocks to intimacy in a respectful way that doesn’t offend either partner?

I don’t really have a headache

It’s the classic bedroom scene of the couple that’s been married for a few years. The husband inches toward his wife in bed and gives her the look. She sighs and says, “I’m sorry, dear. I have a headache and just don’t feel like myself.”

From a wife’s perspective, she’s thinking, Please leave me alone. I just want to go to bed. It isn’t meant to be an insult to her husband.

From what I’ve heard, many men are thinking, You’ve been having a lot of headaches lately. I don’t think you care about me anymore.

Radio talk show host Dennis Prager, in an article titled “When a Woman Isn’t in the Mood: Part 1,” encourages the wife to rethink the axiom that if she’s not in the mood, she doesn’t have to make love to her husband.

Women need to recognize how a man understands a wife’s refusal to have sex with him: A husband knows that his wife loves him first and foremost by her willingness to give her body to him. This is rarely the case for women. A man whose wife frequently denies him sex will first be hurt, then sad, then angry, then quiet. And most men will never tell their wives why they have become quiet and distant. They are afraid to tell their wives.

If your husband became quiet and distant, wouldn’t you want to know what was going on? And if he told you he was upset about the lack of sex in your marriage, how would you respond?

Too often women blame their mood when it comes to making love. If you wait until you are in the mood to go to work, head to the gym, or change your baby’s diaper, you might be sitting on the couch for quite some time. Every day, you decide to behave in ways that go against your mood. Yet somehow when it comes to sex, mood trumps everything else.

Sex in boots

I sprained my ankle badly last year and wore a big black boot up to my knee. I wasn’t bathing every day, and on one particular day I had greasy hair because I was planning to get a haircut later that day. My kids had gone over to my parents to give me time to write. Three words described my state: gimpy, greasy, gross.

In walked Casanova with a dozen white roses. It was such a sweet gesture. A little bit later, James walked up to my desk and asked if, you know, we had time for “wink wink.” I could have said I felt too gross. I could have reminded him that this was the first time I had been able to write in days. But instead I said, “How about in a half hour?”

Did I feel sensuous wearing my clunky black ankle boot? Did I feel attractive with my greasy hair? Did I want to have sex instead of getting some work done? Not really. Did it make sense to make time for sex? Definitely. It had been a long time since we were alone in the house without the kids. I found out that if you do the right thing, your mood will follow your behavior. Besides, don’t people say black boots are sexy?

It’s not the boot, it’s …

What’s killing your love life lately? Since it’s probably not garlic or a big black boot, maybe you’re struggling with one of the following.

I am hurt by something my husband said. While it’s true our husbands can say things that require a grand apology, many times they unwittingly hit a hot button or say something small that gets blown out of proportion. When James asks, “What have you been doing all day?” that makes my blood boil. I have to learn how to snap out of the defensive mode and answer the question calmly. (By the way, I have instructed him not to use this question anymore.)

I am exhausted, really. You have pressures with your work, caring for family members, and keeping your household running. Those nights when you can barely brush your teeth, let alone make love to your husband, will come. Do your best to carve out time each week for lovemaking when you’re not so tired.

I am preoccupied with all I have to do. When your head hits the pillow, you’re not thinking what would feel best sexually. You’re thinking of how you’re going to deal with that difficult person at work, what you’re going to wear to the party, and how you’re going to get to the grocery store tomorrow since the schedule’s so tight. A place to jot your thoughts down before bed may help silence that nagging to-do list.

From duty to decision

Should a wife have sex with her husband out of duty or obligation? In a personal interview I conducted of Joyce Penner, sexual therapist and co-author of The Gift of Sex, she offered a helpful answer to this question.

We like sex best when we have the desire for it. But there are stages in life when we won’t have the desire for it, like when the kids are young and we’re exhausted. Duty sex and demand sex never work. When you do it out of obligation, it may work for tonight but not long term. But sex by decision can work, and there’s a big difference.

Duty says, “I know he needs it. He’s a man. It’s been seven days. But I’m tired and I don’t feel like it.” That’s duty sex, and it’s not going to work. Sex by decision says, “You know what, it’s been seven days. I know I need it, and I know we need it. Let’s make a plan for how we can make it the best for both of us.” It’s got to be as good for her as it is for him if it’s going to work for a lifetime.

Wives need to design life so we can get with the program sexually rather than saying I need to put out even when I’m exhausted because he needs it. That will never work.

When you make the decision to honor your marriage bed, both you and your husband will benefit sexually. So the next time garlic, stress, mood, or anything else threatens your love life, make the switch from duty to decision and go for it.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Taken from 31 Days to a Happy Husband Copyright © 2012 by Arlene Pellicane. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR.

Overcoming Fear, Anxiety and Worry

SOURCE:  The Gospel Coalition/Brian Borgman

Anxiety and fear are increasingly becoming a way of life. Unemployment and under-employment continue to rise. People continue to lose their homes. The world theater plays out its dangerous acts, with one maniac after another taking center stage. Our own beloved nation is in turmoil. If ever there was a time for fear, anxiety and worry, it seems like it is now. Yet, for God’s people we are called to “be anxious for nothing,” “do not fear what they fear,” and “do not worry about tomorrow.” Either these are outdated truths for simpler times or they are the abiding and timeless principles of God’s Word. I am banking on the latter!

Fear, anxiety and worry are definitely emotions. Worry is a feeling of uneasiness. The word “worry” comes from an old English word meaning to be seized, usually by the throat, shaken, mangled and killed. An unpleasant thought to be sure, but an apt picture of how a disturbing thought can seize us and shake us. Fear is a distressing emotion of impending danger or pain, real or perceived. Anxiety is full on mental and emotional distress caused by fear. In the range of human emotions, this trilogy seems to be most out of our control, or so we think. After all, fear, anxiety and worry are most commonly associated with circumstances beyond our control. But here is a challenging thought: the very emotions we believe to be most outside of our control are the very ones God tells us not to have. To put it another way, God tells us to control our emotions. To take this a little farther, God actually diagnoses our fear, anxiety and worry and gives us the remedy to overcome them.

Not all fear is bad by the way. If I am afraid of getting my hand too close to the blade on the table saw it will make me cautious and I get to keep my hand. If I am afraid of travelling too fast on a snowy Nevada road it will inspire me to drive at a reasonable speed and keep my car out of the ditch. The kind of fear, anxiety and worry that the Bible forbids is not the legitimate fear that keeps us from diving head first off our roof, it is fear about the future, fear of others so that we are people-pleasers, worrying about the cares of this world or of tomorrow. This kind of fear, anxiety and worry leads to more sin (Psa. 37:8b; Isa. 57:11).

The problem with fear, anxiety and worry is that it is ultimately rooted in unbelief. Not fearing God, not believing that He is for us, not trusting His will for our lives and His ability to work things out for the good is the root of fear, anxiety and worry. The way to overcome these feelings that can easily grip us and throttle us is to think rightly. I know we can run to the doctor to get a pill to help with anxiety, but real peace and confidence doesn’t come from masking the emotions, it comes from dealing with the emotions through truth and right thinking. In order to overcome these powerful emotions of fear, anxiety and worry we must know and understand that these things are contrary to what God has made us in Christ. He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). These emotions are also in opposition to all that God has provided for us and He has provided nothing less than Himself! “The name of the LORD (i.e., His character, who He is) is a strong tower (i.e., a safe place). The righteous run into it and are safe” (Prov. 18:10).

God’s character is good, faithful, wise and sovereign. I can trust Him because He is all that for me! Because He is all that, and more, I can take His promises to the bank; I can cling to them, preach them to myself and pray them back to God. There is real power in the Word of God and knowing “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10). God’s promises can wither fear. God’s promise to be with us can calm our anxieties and relieve our worries. He invites us to cast our anxieties on Him because He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). He tells us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

Our God is sovereign. He loves His people. He cares for us. He is strong. His promises are sure, “Yes and Amen” in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). He calls us not to be overcome by fear, anxiety and worry, but to overcome them through faith in Him and His promises. When we preach the promises to our hearts and pray them back to God, His peace comes to us. This approach to life does not nullify pain, it does not turn a blind eye to trouble or danger, but it does say, “My God is King, He is for me, He is bigger than my problems or my trials. Why should I fear? Why should I worry? My name is graven on His hand, my name is written on His heart.” Amen!

Tag Cloud