Heightened emotions have a way of taking us off course. One minute we’re fine and dandy, taking care of life. The next minute something happens which sets our feelings into overdrive. Maybe it’s the proverbial spilled milk, in a literal sense. Maybe it’s the umpteenth interruption of the day, the last minute expectations piled over an already unmanageable workload, the critical words, or the bad news. It hits us when everything seems to be going fine.
When we suddenly burst into strong emotions, we “flip our lid”. My counselor reminds me what my psychology background taught me; inside our brains a chemical reaction happens which causes us to go into fight, flight or freeze mode.
I’ve seen a lot of this in the last three years. In myself, as hyper-vigilance became a way of life. And in the windfall of responses from others around me. All of us dealing with some level of trauma.
Strong emotions were frequently evoked from small events.
I’m told it takes 30 minutes for the body to calm down enough to respond logically. Because of this, when my son responds with intense emotion I know that barking orders and spewing a litany of thoughts aren’t helpful in the moment. It’s not the time to reason with him. Once he calms down, our ability to work through what just happened is exponentially increased. Sorrow follows and his heart is cared for even if consequences for his actions need to take place.
My responses to him are a result of caring for multiple wounded foster children. We realized we couldn’t respond like we used to when intense behaviors were common place, multiple times a day. Sometimes to the point of biting, hitting, pulling hair, running away, even attempting to get out of moving vehicles. Consistently, with much cursing and throwing things. My twenty-one years of parenting methods weren’t going to work.
Instinct leads us to respond with orders and commands. Some are required, but often we add words which not only don’t work, but are harmful. Like telling another how to feel or expecting them not to feel a certain emotion.
Have you ever told a child, or someone else, “Stop pouting.” “There’s no reason to feel…” “Get over it.”
Have you ever told yourself something similar?
Often, we tell ourselves how we should or shouldn’t feel without even realizing it. We tell others the same, even if only in our thoughts. If we tell ourselves that we shouldn’t feel a certain way, we deny the purpose of those feelings which are instilled in us by our Creator.
I’ve been triggered more times than I can count in the last couple years as I’ve healed from extreme stress. Part of it was my own making and part of it circumstantial. Much like the children we cared for, my body was responding with an instant belief which said I was in danger.
At the heart of our responses is what we believe, not what we know or think we know.
I reinforced the fears by telling myself how bad things were, but something shifted recently which rocked my faith. God nudged my heart to do some asking, rather than solely telling.
What is true about this situation?
What truth do I need to know right now?
When my mind wanted to focus on the pain, the hard and the hurt, when I wanted to think about the how, the why and the fixes, God asked me to bring truth to the situation.
Truths such as:
I am not alone, God is with me. I have the ability to say no. My feelings are valid. My ability to make a decision for myself has not been stripped from me. It’s OK to get it wrong. It’s OK to set boundaries. I am fully-loved.
Asking myself these questions, and allowing God to speak to me, affects my responses. [Tweet “It’s less about ruminating on the hard and more about worshiping the holy.”]
His truths bring light into dark places. They shape, not only what I understand, but what I believe about who God is and how He works.
His truths revealed show me a bigger God and one who is greater than my circumstances.
Telling God about our feelings, our thoughts and our beliefs is vitally important & beautiful. We need to be honest with ourselves and with God about our hurts, doubts, and fears. In these places we wrestle with Him in safety. At the same time, I find myself getting too caught up in the telling that I forget about the asking.
Now I ask. Then I listen.
Join me, friend.
In seeking God’s truths, we will often find ourselves getting back on course.
Cultivate Connection Sheet
This FREE Cultivate Connection sheet, with instruction video, is available for all subscribers to the A Cultivated Life newsletter.
Receive encouragement and resources. PLUS, you'll also gain access to a FREE community on Facebook and additional resources as they are available.
Yep, I often tell myself how I should and shouldn’t feel but it honestly doesn’t matter! Beating yourself up for feeling a certain way just makes things worse. As you said, you’re better off being honest with yourself and God about how you feel, ditch the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” and then go from there.
Thank you for this Jolene! It’s so true, all of these ups and downs of the journey. I recent realized that so much of my fear, self-doubt/hate has been about not latching on to my core identity: I am loved by God. I’ve been practicing when something comes up and I need to ground myself, saying that phrase to myself, remembering that it is the most important and very much a stand alone truth of who I am. I’m expecting the Lord to really use this small effort to heal old, deep wounds and false core beliefs that, through other efforts, did not budge. Thank you again for sharing! It’s good to know others are growing in similar ways!
Oh, how I know this so well! Bless you on the journey for healing. God has worked so much in my heart and I suspect he will continue to do so. 🙂
I can SO relate to this – from both sides. I’ve learned to live with combat trauma, and with the hypervigilance issues…and one way is NOT to try to suppress them.
It’s not a matter of ‘having earned my scars honorably’, or anything like that. I did, but it’s beside the point.
Combat changed me, and to pretend that I can go back to what I was before is stupid. I can try to put on the ‘clothes’ of normalcy, but they don’t fit.
So I’m always scanning my sector, and a pile of trash by the side of the road makes me very uncomfortable. I’ve stopped the car to go footmobile for a recon.
Makes people with me uncomfortable, but their level of discomfort is less than mine would be if I tried to pretend. So be it.
God’ll accept me, no matter what. I wish people would, too.
With God’s help we can learn to accept and love one another 🙂 I pray that His grace would overflow to the people around you and you would see His love for you through them.
Andrew – thank you for your words. I’m so sorry for the trauma you experienced and how it affects you. Thank you for serving. I am praying for you today and for others around you to be nudged in their hearts to show compassion. You’ve been through a lot.
Yes and double YES Jolene! I am writing these questions down for myself too. Thank you so much for sharing!