You find yourself getting angry while you wait for the light to turn green. You’re increasingly on edge as you watch the light turn green, hands gripping the wheel, with your right foot poised over the gas pedal. You get angry when the cars in front of you don’t go on the green! While this story may sound all-too-familiar for most, there is a theme being revealed that if left unnoticed, has the potential drown you in a pool of lies and emotional overwhelm. This is where Satan wants you to be; drowning in a pool of blurred emotions that have become unrecognizable and undifferentiated. The same old same old. Another day, another headache!
Whether you find yourself getting angry at the red light, behind that full cart at the grocery store, or 5th in line at the gas pump, Satan wants you to feel the same emotion in all situations. Angry! Sad! Lonely! In our daily life, vagueness to our emotional experience prevents us from being able to separate out our authentic experience to a specific situation from our pre-programmed responses.
If you stop and ask yourself the question: “Am I actually angry that I am at a red light?” You may find yourself answering: “Yes, it sucks waiting at red lights because I want to get home!” No argument there. But if you notice, when you stop and ask the question, the actual emotion is revealed. You were not experiencing an emotion of anger, you had an emotion of yearning and/or desire to get home. Maybe you're hungry, missed your spouse, want to get packed for that big weekend trip, or simply want to kick back on the couch.
You are not angry, you were feeling something else.
When you are unaware of your emotional experience, you live in a vague existence of few emotions. Being vague about how you feel causes a reduction to the quality of your lived experience. When all things are experienced through the emotion of angry/sad/frustrated/or the worst of these: “I’m fine”, you are left feeling bland and empty. It is like going to that 5-star restaurant you have always wanted to try to find out that they serve wilted lettuce, stale croutons, and an over salted bland main dish. Is that what all the fuss was about? Really?
Maybe you are beginning to notice new thoughts and new questions about what you thought was true for your emotional experience. Perhaps you approached this material in search for answers you haven’t found elsewhere. What new questions are you aware of now? God offers us his Will to model. A guy who new many emotional variations of pain, suffering, Joy, and happiness wrote in Ephesians 5:17: “Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.”
Monitor: If you would prefer to go to a metaphorical “5-star restaurant that offers a mouth-watering, mind-blowing, amazing experience”, get curious about how you monitor and judge events and situations you encounter. When you find yourself in line again, ask yourself questions like: “What thoughts am I having right now?” or “Why are my hands clenching?” Through this process, you can begin to monitor what your mind and body are experiencing separately from your emotional experience.
Satan wants you to remain disconnected between what your mind is thinking and what your body is feeling. This allows you to remain in a grey cloud of emotional stagnation, confusion, and overwhelm. God wants you to have an amazing, rich, flavorful abundance of emotions to enjoy during every moment you encounter. As you separate out your thoughts, what your body is feeling, and what your actual emotions are, you can move from monitoring yourself to doing something about all this information.
Modify: Proverbs 14:23: “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” The question becomes: "why do you want to have more emotions?" The lie you have been given and have believed is that emotions are bad and too big to handle, so you settle for only a few emotions you know well: anger, sadness, loneliness and bland happiness. Never authentic pleasure.
If you decide to take back control over your happiness, the question then becomes: “How will you choose to think, feel, and respond to life around you?” It is a simple choice. By monitoring your mind (thoughts) and body (emotions), you can modify your emotional experience to become authentic to the situation. You are no longer captive to Satan’s desire for you to live a vague bland existence getting from one place to another while being angry about a red light.
Where is the change in this system? (1) Your internal filters of what you want and what you think you’re getting. (2) Recognizing your memories for what they are, past events. (3) Understanding the disconnection to how your body experiences the external world compared to how your mind experiences the same events.
You can instantly choose to let your current thought float away and have a different thought. However, your body remembers an old memory or experience that looks, sounds, tastes, or feels similar. Your body has already sent a signal to your brain informing you that you should “feel” a certain way because the situation is close enough to the past and thus you should respond the same. When you begin to monitor and modify your internal experience, you become aware of how you currently respond to the world around you. You begin to realize that old memories are keeping you in the past and unable to enjoy the present moment. You recognize that your heart rate, blood rush to the face, and clenched hands can’t actually make you choose the emotion of being angry; only you can do that. Maybe it’s time to stop focusing on what you are losing and consider what you could gain by changing your system.
It Takes Time
You have developed a way of living, feeling, and responding to life around you. Taking a step to experiencing the joy and fruitful emotions God intended you to feel takes direct effort and time. Proverbs 16:32 encourages us by stating: “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than who takes a city.” In the race of life, we put a lot of effort into how we want to feel in the moment. Satan wants you to get really comfortable with just a few basic emotions and become unable to experience an abundance of amazing and joyous emotions. The Deceiver’s goal: Keep you blind to yourself, turn to anything that will make you feel better in the moment, and forget about the future because the moment you’re in feels bad.
But God (The best two words put together) wants something VERY different for you.
1 Corinthians 9:25 gives us guidance about the training ahead to take back our emotions and our joy: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” Get curious about the thoughts you are having and the emotions you are actually experiencing. Why settle for a quick fix to feel less terrible when a life of Joy and abundance is available to you right now?