“Many of us grew up under the impression that internal stuff shouldn’t be discussed – it should be swept under the rug.” – Forbes
We all have feelings. Women do. Men do. Kids do. Parents do.
Many parents didn’t know how to deal with their emotions. And they definitely didn’t know how to deal with ours.
Other parents had very rigid ways of dealing with emotion.
Sometimes the range of “negative emotions” – sadness, fear, embarrassment – were suppressed.
What happens when you don’t talk about your feelings?
Well, you don’t stop having them.
1. When you don’t talk about your feelings, your suppressed (unconscious) feelings may control you without you even realizing it.
For some of us who grew up in Christian homes, we were told that negative feelings indicated a lack of faith. For instance, if we were sad, our parents may have told us we needed to put our hope in God. Maybe they even quoted a Bible verse to drive their point home.
I believe that our parents did this with the best of intentions. But the irony is that, without realizing it, our parents may have actually been motivated more by their own anxiety than the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Suppressing feelings, even in an attempt to obey God, doesn’t make them disappear. In the example above, our parents probably thought they were obeying God. But in reality, their desire to find a quick fix to help us feel better may have been borne from their own anxiety and discomfort at seeing their children in pain.
When we don’t know how to explore our feelings, those feelings may actually begin to dictate our actions.
2. When you don’t talk about your feelings, you may start feeling bad about having feelings at all.
Often, people get the impression early in life that having negative feelings is a bad thing and shows that you are a weak or immoral person. Imagine the outcome – now, not only do you feel sad, but then you feel embarrassed about feeling sad, as if you were doing something wrong by being sad.
Feelings were designed by God with a purpose – to be indicators of the state of our minds and hearts and to gear us up for appropriate action. He gave us a broad range of emotional indicators – joy, peace, surprise, excitement, sadness, fear, embarrassment – they are all useful when we know how to pay proper attention to them.
3. When you don’t talk about your feelings, all your feelings may convert into just one big feeling, such as anger.
When all feelings get turned into anger, we have lost our ability to recognize the range of emotional indicators that God gave us.
Anger can be a helpful emotion too. Anger clues us into the fact that underneath the anger we are feeling something else. But anger is no place to stay and hang out. If we fail to identify the original emotion behind anger, and just brood in our anger, we can cause grave harm to ourselves and others. Most of us have witnessed firsthand the havoc and destruction that anger can wreak.
I think that’s why the Bible says,
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Eph. 4:26-27.)
A few verses before, Paul reminds us of our new identity in Christ. He goes on to give us some powerful applications as to how to live out of this identity. One of these applications is to learn how to use the emotion of anger properly – as a guidepost rather than a campsite. If we build our anger into a campsite, the devil has ample opportunity to wreak havoc and destruction in our lives.
Therapy is a place where we can begin to reconnect with the wide range of feelings – emotional indicators – that God created. It’s also a safe place to explore what lies underneath our anger.
If you would like go on this journey, I am available to walk by your side. For more information or to set up an initial appointment, please call (626) 351-9616 X143 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.