God at Work, Personal Growth

Emotions and Personal Growth

It is strangely surreal to sit here and allow the emotions to pass through my thoughts, and to run the gamut of them without shame.

I have spent most of my life running from my emotions and denying the pain that lingers, ready to surface with the slightest provocation. You know the emotions, the ones attached to painful memories in your own life. The worst ones are those that turn nasty and bitter if we allow them to linger for any length of time in our thoughts. The cruelest trick of fate came as I grew to understand that my spiritual, mental, and emotional growth required me to face the music so to speak. What a strange turn of events. Who knew that the very things I had sprinted away from and refused to deal with were the very things that would always cause me to grow?

There are times when I face challenges, no matter what form they take, and I want to simply hide away. I do not want to feel, I do not want to blame, I do not want to look at the many ways my life does not measure up to what might have been.

That line of thinking solves nothing, and in fact, puts me in direct opposition to what the experience should do. The experience should make me a stronger person if I allow it to. The experience may directly or indirectly, cause me to face fears about myself and others, or about life in general. Every time I shut down and fail to acknowledge the emotions surfacing, I cheat myself out of the gift of growth.

Our first instinct when someone hurts us is to deflect and become defensive. “You didn’t hurt me. I would have to care for that to happen.” We deny that we are human. We deny that we hurt, and once we utter the above statement or something similar, we begin the first stages of a wall between us and people. Not just the ones who hurt us but all people. We also take the first stepping-stone that makes lying to ourselves acceptable. “I am not going to let them know how much I hurt or how much I care. I am not giving them any power over me.”

The reality is, when I allow the hurt or their behavior to have that much of an impact in my life that it changes my behavior in relationships negatively, I have already allowed them to win.

Identify emotions and process them real-time is the best medicine.
Like I said in the first paragraph, “It is strangely surreal to sit here, allowing the emotions to pass through, and to run the gamut of them without shame.” When I allow myself to feel the sadness, the hurt, anger, or even joy or excitement there is an easy flow. Nothing sticks for there is no shame. I can feel sad but that does not make me a sad person. I can feel hurt but that does not mean that I am destined to stay in that position. When I allow myself to feel the ‘feelings’ then let them slide on by instead of them snagging on shame like a finger slides through a pair of nylon stockings, they stay just feelings. It is only when shame rears its ugly head that feelings become something nasty. When we react from shame, we take on the label as if we have become the label instead of it being simply how we feel.

How do I process these emotions in real-time and use them as a balm that heals rather than create a deeper wound?

Inner narrative:
“I feel a little sad today, I do not know why.”

Without shame my response is:
“It is ok to be a little sad, but you do not have to live there, that’s not who you are. You are right! It is all right for me to be sad, but it is also all right to move on from it. I do not have to sit here and figure out why. If it is something I need to address, God, I know you’ll show me so that I can release it all to you.”

Without shame, the narrative is acceptance of the feeling with a healthy recognition that emotions come and go. It is not personal, and our feelings do not dictate our success or failure, or our worth as a person unless we allow it to happen.

With shame my response is:
“I do not care how sad you feel, suck it up! We do not have time for you to figure out your feelings. What difference does it make anyway? Nothing is going to change; nothing is ever going to change. You just do what you always do, and you are a lousy judge of character too!”

This narrative is based on denial and shame and stagnates any personal growth from happening. Time and time again I find myself right back where I started to repeat the cycle.

The next time you are face-to-face with your own thoughts, make a conscious choice to filter them through acceptance and not shame. You have the power to direct your thoughts!

7 thoughts on “Emotions and Personal Growth”

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