Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Emotions Aren't the Enemy

I’ve tried a million ways to avoid, stuff or numb emotions. They always felt like too much, made me feel like I was too much. When I made emotions the enemy they had power and over time became overwhelming. Maturity has taught me emotions aren’t the enemy, it’s what I do with them or my response to them.

My life has been filled with trauma, which gave me a heightened sense of emotion about a lot of things and made it difficult for me to be rational in many situations. It actually made me afraid of emotions, especially my own. That was never God's design. He gave me emotions to work for me, not against me. They are tools, not weapons.
God has put a specific fruit of the spirit
next to every negative circumstance in your life.- Graham Cooke
I’ve spent years growing and maturing as a daughter, wife, mother and woman and I’m learning that I am in control of my emotions, not the other way around. Even when things feel scary or overwhelming, there is always a “but” - I am feeling (fill in the blank), but I can make good decisions.

I don’t have to agree or like all aspects of myself, I just need to acknowledge them and part of that is recognizing emotions. I don’t have to accept them.

Self-awareness leads to dealing with things I've stuffed and moved me toward healing. It’s just about acknowledging what I’m experiencing.

When I let this practice of self-acceptance go (recognizing and acknowledging my true feelings) I tend to spiral into a vortex of self-practices…


It’s not loving! To avoid my emotions is not practicing self-love. It’s key in the greatest of commandments.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
As I sat with these thoughts I made an interesting but not startling discovery, it starts with self-care. If I am not taking care of myself, I cannot be present with my emotions, I don’t have the strength, mentally or physically. Turns out my biggest struggle with self-care is self-avoidance.

As a young girl, I had an eating disorder and it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I ever voiced my struggle out loud to another human being. It was freeing. By the time I was in my mid-thirties, I no longer struggled with eating and by 40 I was free. Then life happened and patterns began to resurface and because I was neglecting myself by not practicing self-care it quickly got out of control. I don’t have an eating disorder again, but rather use food to comfort myself when I’m being mistreated, ouch! That is not loving either.

If I would take the time for myself on the front end I’d gain stamina to sit with my uncomfortable emotions and rationalize the truth. The truth of the emotion, the situation and myself.

When I’m taking care of myself and by that, I don’t mean eating chocolate cake, I have peace in my mind and body and am able to come to rational thoughts and decisions easier and quicker. My emotions are in check, I’m confident to face emotions, good, bad or indifferent and process through to a wise choice for myself.

This way of living gives me the tools I need for total self-acceptance and again that doesn’t mean I am accepting that things are the way they are or that they will stay that way. It simply means I’m present in the moment to acknowledge emotions without making irrational decisions. I no longer have to punish myself. It’s a new kind of freedom.

This new practice allows me to:

Let go of expectations
Bury dead dreams (grieve and let go)
Be kinder to me
Have more patience
Practice self-care

This revelation didn’t happen overnight and it has been work to get to these conclusions and I’m still on the journey toward further self-discovery and acceptance, but these are foundational concepts for continued growth.

Self-care has become a buzz word, everybody is talking about it. We see it in magazine articles, advertisements, and blog posts. For me every time I saw it I felt worse about myself because I still couldn’t achieve it. Turns out, I was just missing one of the most important parts of self-care, self-acknowledgment. I have to acknowledge I even exist or have needs and emotions before I ever do anything to care for myself.

If your struggling today with “self-care” please know you are not alone. Spend some time in prayer for yourself and ask the Lord what He wants to show you on your journey to living the greatest commandment. It starts with self! We can’t love others if we don’t first love ourselves.
“I don't trust people who don't love themselves and tell me, 'I love you.' ... There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.” - Maya Angelou

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