In the last Blog called the Beach Ball Effect, we discussed how feelings are like a beach ball. When we suppress them, it is like pushing the beach ball under the water. If those feelings are not dealt with, they pop out, usually hitting whoever is nearby when our emotions get vented. There are several reasons we push the Beach Ball of our feelings under the surface.
Contributing factors to the Beach Ball Effect (3rd of 3)
Fear of Reprisals
Sometimes we don’t express our emotions because we are afraid of what will happen if we do. We fear that if we are totally honest, we might hurt someone else’s feelings. Or we fear that someone might retaliate against us if we are completely truthful with them. We might be afraid that someone will leave the church if we confront them about how they’ve made us feel. Or we might be concerned that we will appear unspiritual if we don’t always have a positive and joyful attitude, despite our circumstances.
The problem with emotions is, that they are there whether we acknowledge them or not. Actually, we do continue to deal with them, by exerting lots of emotional energy pushing the negative feelings down. And then, as we all know, those negative feelings end up popping out anyway! So, what is a better way to deal with the beach ball effect?
Dealing with the Beach Ball Effect (3rd of 3)
Express Your Feelings by Naming Them
I have a golden retriever named Cooper. When he’s running around our neighborhood, out of control, the way I get control of him is by calling his name. The same is true of emotions. Being able to name the emotion we are experiencing helps us get control over it, instead of it having control over us.
Jesus gives us a great example by verbalizing his emotions to his disciples. In Mark 14:34 he says, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” This is a terrible time in Jesus life. He could have just decided to stuff the beach ball way under the water and said to his disciples, “Everything is going great! This is the best night of my life!” Instead he bares his soul and names his feelings to his closest friends. In so doing, he gives us permission to talk about our feelings, even the negative ones.
One communication tool that is helpful in expressing emotions that involve another person, is to use the sentence, “I feel _____________, when you __________, because I value ____________.” For example, “I feel anxious when you say you are going to discontinue your giving to the church, because I value the financial well-being of our church.”
This may feel formulaic, and it is. But it helps in the process of naming what we are feeling, what provoked that feeling and why it matters to us. It can also be a starting point in finding reconciliation with another person. Sometimes by sharing our feelings, we come to realize that we have sin that needs to be confessed and forgiven. But chances are, if we don’t share them, we won’t get in touch with that fact.
Keeping an Eye on the Beach Ball
God has made us as wonderful, complex beings in his own image. Our emotions are a gift from him. From time to time we are going to shove the beach ball of our emotions down. The goal is to be aware of that fact. When you sense you have something on your beach ball, try to put a name on it. It might be anger, disappointment, envy sadness, or hurt. Each time you name the feeling, it lets a little pressure off the beach ball. The beach ball can begin to come up a little bit.
Begin to talk about it with someone you can trust about what you are feeling. That could be the Lord, your spouse, or good friend. In fact you might say, “I can tell I have a beach ball of emotions I am pushing under the surface. I can feel the pressure it’s creating. I can even picture some words on that beach ball. Would you mind letting me explore what’s on my beach ball?” If you can do this, there’s a good chance the beach ball slowly resurface and you can avoid having it pop out and inadvertently hit somebody you love.