Dealing With Feelings

This article is based on excerpts from Pastor James Roberts' sermon titled "Dealing with Feelings."

Our ability to feel is a gift from God.

This is easy to understand with the "good" emotions. But even the uncomfortable feelings have a role in our lives. Emotions are a great asset. They remind us that we are human. If we didn’t have emotions, we’d be robots. It is our emotional ability that allows us to love, create, be faithful, loyal, kind, and generous.
Often people will go to two extremes with their emotions, and both ends of this spectrum will block us from experiencing life to the fullest. One is called emotionalism and the other is called stoicism.
Emotionalism means all that matters is how I feel. Emotionalism is the extreme of saying the only thing that matters in life is how I feel. It doesn’t matter what I think, or what you think, it doesn’t matter what’s right or wrong, it doesn’t matter what’s popular or unpopular, good or bad. The only thing that matters is how I feel. Emotions control my life, they dominate my life, they run my life.
On the other end of the spectrum of extremes is stoicism, which means thinking feelings aren’t important at all. The only thing that matters is my intellect and my will, my volition, and my intelligence. So, the stoics say emotions are not part of life; feelings don’t really matter.
So how do we live in a healthy and productive middle ground? Let's start by talking about how to manage uncomfortable feelings. 

You can only manage the feelings you have identified.

1. Name it.

We must name the feeling. We won't know where to go next if we don't know what we're dealing with. We can't manage vague, unnamed feelings.

This has been a huge learning curve for me. When I first started meeting with my counselor, he would ask me to identify my emotions. I couldn’t. So, he kept slapping this emotions chart in front of me. I still struggled to identify what I was feeling. But, once I took the time to identify my emotion, I could begin to address it in a healthy way.

If we don’t know what the problem is in our lives, then we certainly can’t work on it. Use this chart to help you name feelings. Start at the inside and move out to express more specifically and to identify intensity.

Once we have a feeling identified, we can move to step 2.

Feelings Chart (click to enlarge)

2. Tame it.

How? There are two options: change it or channel it. Some emotions are so destructive, so hurtful, and so non-effective the only thing we can do is to change it. Set your eyes on who you want to become. Does this feeling help you move toward becoming that person? Sometimes we must seek counsel and prayer to transform this feeling through a community and a power bigger than ourselves. 
Sometimes, we take unpleasant emotions, and rather than change them, we channel them. We use them for good.
Rick Warren, the Pastor of Saddleback Church, told this story a few years ago, “Ten months ago, [my son] died, I entered into the deepest possible grief you can imagine. I’m still not out of it. I cry every day for the death of my son and the loss of his life. But I decided from the first moment that I was going to channel that grief for good. And that I would use my pain to help other people. And [my wife] did too. And we have been doing that. That’s one of the reasons we’re doing the conference on mental illness. I’m not about to waste a hurt. I’m not about to waste any pain I go through. If I’m going to have it, I’m going to use it for good.”
What pain in your life are you channeling for good? Maybe you have been in so much pain you don’t even want to talk about it. Take your time. When you are ready, name it. Then, with help from God, change it, or channel it. Use it for good. 

Need some help managing complicated feelings?

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