When Feelings Have Me
Better to be a patient person than a mighty warrior. It is more admirable to control your temper than to conquer a city. – Proverbs 16:32 (adapted)
Too often, I don’t have feelings. Feelings have me.
If you find yourself captive to an emotion or to “all of the feels,” if you would like more tranquility in your temperament, here are a few reminders I find helpful:
1. Find the root thought. Emotions are reactions to thoughts, usually well-rehearsed thoughts. For me, the thought “I’m a terrible preacher and shouldn’t be doing this” causes much misery on many a Sunday afternoon. When I have a troubling feeling, I identify the core thought and tell it to be quiet or I compassionately observe the thought that has appeared … again. Misery retreats.
2. I am not my feelings. We commonly say, “I am angry,” but consider the cost of identifying totally with a feeling. I am angry? I am afraid? I am happy? Nonsense. I’m more than an emotion. Why not “I am experiencing anger” or “A happy feeling is present”? I have feelings. I am not my feelings. I am the house. Emotions are temporary guests. Therefore:
3. Let them flow. Let them go. Denying, rejecting, or clinging to feelings is as productive as fighting an ocean wave or holding an armful of water. Feelings happen. Let them come and let them go. Instead of combating or clinging to emotional waves, learn to float.
What about joy, peace, compassion, gratitude, love? Should we detach from them? In my experience, those aren’t feelings, those reflect our essential nature, the mind of Christ, the ever-shining sun behind emotional clouds.
I understand well that emotions can be severe and bullyish. More approaches could be added to the above including yoga, meditation, prayer, support groups, professional guidance, and medication.
Remember emotions are a part of the ride of life, but they don’t belong in the driver’s seat.
Holy One, when feelings have me, remind me that You had me first and hold me forever.