“Emotion” is a word that originates from the following:
“E” means “out”.
“Motion” means “move.”
Emotion motivates us to move out into motion. Emotion is what makes action. If you are moved to action, an emotion is behind it.
For some, emotions are only imagined as drama, turbulence and the unpredictable chaos someone is bringing into our space. The word “emotional” stirs reflections of escalating intensity, disorganization, swinging from extremes, having no limits or guidance, a person being captive to the dominance of their feelings. Professionals call this an example of “explicit” emotions.
However, there is another expression of emotions called, “implicit” emotions. This means emotions can be understated, even unconscious, and without an awareness of feeling. Our absence of conscious emotional awareness is because we are unattuned to our present stimuli, or even our biological reactions; the way our bodies process emotions.
Whether a person is acting from an implicit (unconscious) or explicit (conscious) emotion, the emotions still are the compelling factor in our actions. This is true whether a person’s actions are executing, avoiding, or completely shutting down.
If actions are always motivated by emotion, then we need to ask, “Does God care about our actions?” And of course, the answer is “yes!”.
God wants us to “act” towards Him in love, faith, worship, obedience, receptivity to His nurture, and more. God wants us to have “acts” towards ourselves in self-compassion, self-kindness, and self-encouragement. God wants us to have specific “acts” towards family, friends, neighbors, strangers, and more.
If all our human actions are motivated by emotions, then emotions are necessary to function spiritually.
Throughout Scripture we see admonitions to “live by faith”. James says, “Faith without works is dead.” Faith must be action oriented or it is not faith at all. You cannot have “works” without movement. Movement is motion. E-motion is to move out in motion. So even faith itself is emotional!
Isn’t faith a decision? Yes. Faith begins as a choice. But faith must mature by emotional integration, as emotions must be integrated with intention, choices, preferences, and values. Many say they have faith, but their emotional disintegration puts them in constant conflict with their intentions, choices, preferences and values. So, they say they believe, then “act” in opposition to what they say they believe.
When a person says they have certain moral standards - but they live in conflict with those standards - they are disintegrated. Interesting enough, this is the real meaning of lacking integrity. Integrity is when we are fully aligned with our values and behaviors.
When a person says they believe God is their source for material provision - but they live in anxiety, self-preservation, panic and striving to control their outcome – they are disintegrated.
When a person says they love God with all their heart – but they neglect consistent church attendance, find reasons to not embrace devotional times, or prioritize social media reading over affections for God’s Word – they are disintegrated.
From a brain perspective the aspired beliefs and standards are rehearsed and trained into their orbital prefrontal cortex. This is where the rational, logical and doctrinal compartmentalization happens.
The limbic system of the brain is known as the emotional brain. The emotional brain, or midbrain, is where our emotional and relational injuries are housed. The part of the brain correlates with the Book of Hebrews when it speaks of a root of bitterness springing up to trouble us (excite, agitate or compel) and defile us (stain our sense of identity) (Hebrews 12:15).
Disintegration is when we have our cognitive, prefrontal cortex believing and intending one thing, and our emotional, limbic system believing and intending an opposing thing.
The Apostle Paul said that our transformations in life happen in process as we renew our minds. Because our behavior is linked to actions and actions are linked to emotions, we know our minds are not renewed until our emotions are renewed. Our emotions are not renewed until our emotional injuries and beliefs are confronted with truth and reprocessed.
Renewing the mind, or reprocessing with truth, cannot be done by suppressing the conflicting emotional programming. This renewal can only be done by leaning into the emotion to explore what narratives are creating the undertow, pulling us out into irrational emotions and behaviors. These unwanted narratives have been looping deep below the surface, inciting and agitating us with anxiety, panic, depression and rage.
EMOTIONS ARE DESIGNED TO FLAG US
Emotions were never designed to be our governing authorities. They were designed to be indicators, gauges or flags to alert us to deeper processing within our hearts, souls and bodies. When we suppress emotions, or make them out to be evil, we lose the gift God designed them for.
How do emotions flag us or alert us to deeper processing?
All emotion is fused with thoughts, narratives and scripts. Emotions alert us to something that is blocking our deeper processing. When we have emotions, we must tune into what the thoughts are below the surface, giving the emotions energy.
For instance, consider Joe - Joe has recently noticed an increased state of depression. In Joe’s case, it isn’t clinical depression, or depression that needs medical or psychiatric attention. Joe connects with his therapist who takes him on a journey through recent happenings.
Joe describes an event that happened a few months ago. He came into work three hours late one morning due to mismanagement of time and home conflicts. Unfortunately, it was the morning that a huge mandatory staff meeting was called. When he arrived three hours late, walking into the large meeting space, his CEO called him out and embarrassed him in front of everyone. He was humiliated, embarrassed, and shamed. Joe’s direct supervisor felt it reflected on her leadership, so she came immediately following the meeting to Joe and reamed him again.
It felt like to Joe that the whole staff, peers, team members, the group he leads… everyone… was emotionally shunning him. He felt disgusted with himself, and felt like he was a disgust to all in the organization. Joe’s feelings towards job security began to enter into a panic zone. It usually didn’t become a full panic attack until he was alone at night, laying in bed and trying to sleep. Thoughts would run through his mind like a run-away freight train.
At this point Joe’s therapist asked him what the thoughts were saying to him. Joe began to share how he “always screwed things up” and that he feared he would do it again, without warning.
Joe went on to describe his thoughts of how “he doesn’t belong anywhere” and that he will never get back the trust of his colleagues. Finally, Joe described how he worried he would lose his job and that in the present job market he was doomed to be without income for an extended time.
The therapist tuned into each statement and began asking deeper clarification of each script. He asked Joe to remember a time when he didn’t screw something up, where he succeeded. Joe came up with a few times even in the past year that his company had awarded him with exceptional work. He was even given an increase in compensation and celebrated among his peers.
Because the therapist was a Christian, he asked what God’s grace means. Joe responded that it is God’s power made available for our human weaknesses. The therapist jumped onto that idea and asked Joe if “I always screw things up” was considered a weakness. Joe paused, reflected and breathed in the idea. He then said “yes”, he did believe that it was a weakness. The therapist asked if God was big enough to offer power in Joe’s imperfection and flaws to make him return to favor, celebration, and new successes. Joe emotionally felt the truth of God’s grace dismantling his fears.
The therapist continued with Joe beyond his recent thoughts and woundings, and asked Joe when the first time Joe remembered ever having thoughts of “I always screw things up.” Joe went back to grievous memories from his childhood and told the stories. The therapist went into those memories with empathy to confront the memory-falsehoods with truth. The memories were emotional. So the therapist delivered truth while the emotions were raw and felt.
Joe took his primary scripts of “I always screw things up” and “I don’t belong here anymore” and “I’m going to lose my job and will be out of work for an extended period of time” and processed them down to the roots, confronting each with truth.
Joe’s mind began to work towards renewal that day. Not because of a mere concept of truth, but because he journeyed to the deepest roots of thoughts and the correlating emotions, then addressed those roots with rational and revelatory truth.
Joe’s therapist was artfully rebuilding the cognitive brain’s circuits in connection to the emotional brain’s impulses. By naming it, Joe was able to begin taming it. By knowing it, Joe was able to begin growing it. Once his grievous memories and recent false beliefs were worked through, Joe snapped out of this ongoing depression and the panic attacks he was having. Joe’s confidence returned and new projects were entrusted again. Finally, a few years later Joe looked back and realized that this small chapter in his life was more an illusion than structural reality.
Exploring our emotions is a way to discover what thoughts, narratives, scripts and false beliefs have been disrupting your life. Exploring emotions is not tantamount to giving them governing authority. Exploring emotions is tuning into the gauges to tell you information about yourself. Integration can only happen when your emotional brain is supporting your cognitive brain.
This misalignment of our two parts of the brain is what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he said that the things he wanted to do he couldn’t execute and the things he didn’t want to do he couldn’t stop himself from doing it (Romans 7:19-25).
A mind is never renewed until it is emotionally renewed. You can’t renew the mind by rehearsing concepts. You can’t renew the mind by only memorizing Scripture. You can’t renew your mind by praying ongoing desperate prayers for God to deliver you. A renewed mind happens when truth reprograms your emotions so that desired actions begin to happen. A renewed mind is building new neuropathways, where neurons wire together releasing corresponding emotions.
In future e-newsletters we will continue this exploration with the following ideas:
“Emotionalism” is not the same as “emotional”.
The devil targets emotions but the emotions are our gifts, not our enemy.
Emotions aren’t what randomly happen TO us; they are to happen WITH us.
Also, you can see the following in our past few ENewsletter posts:
Emotions are spiritual
God is an emotional being
God’s emotions are unique in contrast to human emotions
Emotions are purposed and can be studied.
Emotions are experiential – You can’t have an experience without an emotional component.
QUESTIONS TO REFLECT ON
What skill level do you presently have for following the emotional narrative-trail to find the deepest part of disruptive and misaligned thought roots?
How will you take “next steps” to mature in emotional intelligence?
Who will you invite to guide you in your journey?