5 Tips for Dealing With Your Emotions in a Healthy Way Instead of Bottling Them Up

What do you do with your emotions? A lot of us bottle them up and pretend they don’t exist because we’ve grown up thinking it’s not okay to express problematic feelings like anger, or that strong people don’t cry, or that being too happy makes you look ridiculous. There are also people who swing to the opposite extreme and give all their emotions free reign, but that’s a different issue than the one we’re talking about in this article.

Emotions are a complicated subject. We all have them, but what are they really? And what’s the best way to deal with them? Those are questions typically answered by trial and error or by whatever messages regarding emotion we were targeted with as children. As such, we can make several mistakes when approaching emotions. We might see them as something that’s pesky and distracting rather than a core part of being human. We could make the mistake of thinking everyone has (or should have) the same emotional temperament as us. Or we might decide all emotions are negative and it’s better to hide our feelings than to process them.

As someone struggling with anxiety and depression, I often find myself stuck in negative emotions instead of working through them. In many cases, I also react to situations that could be positive in a negative way. But even people with great mental health can still struggle to process emotions effectively. And the more we bottle up emotions (particularly negative ones) without processing them, the greater the risk that we’ll reach a point where they’re released by something like a burst of out-of-place anger or by collapsing into tears for no apparent reason. So how do we avoid such problems and learn to process our emotions in a healthy way? Read more

What Does It Mean to Be the “Best Version” of Yourself? and How Can We Use That to Live More Authentically?

I once really puzzled someone by talking about being the best version of your true self. They wondered how there could be different versions of you. Aren’t you “yourself” all the time? What else could you be?

In some ways, this young man had an excellent point. For example, if you do something that hurts a friend and then say, “That wasn’t really me,” because it’s something your ideal self wouldn’t do that doesn’t make your friend feel better. That might not be how your idea self would act but you actually did the hurtful thing in real life.

Other people interact with each of us based on the assumption that what they see is the real version of you. They might also see your potential and encourage you toward it, but for them who you are right now is the only version of yourself that exists.

But there are also different roles we play based on context. And many of us struggle with feeling like there’s a true self we hide from the world and then a different self that we show other people. We might also think about an ideal self we don’t measure up to yet. So even though who you are right now is “yourself,” you might also feel like your true/best self isn’t who you’re living as right now.

What is a “best version” of you?

The idea that there’s a “best version” of you assumes there are several different versions. There’s the version of you that your parents, teachers, bosses, and other authority figures wanted you to be. There’s the version of you that fits in with the people you want to call friends. There’s the version of you that you don’t like very much when you look at yourself. There’s the version of you that makes you feel whole and authentic. I’m sure you could come up with others as well.

But are those really different versions of the real you? Or are you simply “you” and all those other “versions” are masks you wear or roles you choose to play?

This might just sound like nit-picking word choice, but there’s a difference between believing there are many versions of you and believing that you’re already your real self. If we go with the latter, being the best “version” of yourself isn’t about picking one of many versions that you want to be but rather about living authentically as the self you already are. Read more

Put on the Light: Choosing to Walk with God Instead of Darkness

One phrase I frequently pray is, “Thank you for bringing us from darkness into light.” It’s an incredible blessing that each believer partakes of. Without God the Father drawing us to His Son, the Light of the world, we wouldn’t even know the world around us is in darkness.

Do we really understand and value this light, though? And, equally important, do we live in the light now that we’ve been called to follow the Light?

It’s not a popular thing in today’s society to make distinctions between right and wrong, holy and profane, light and darkness. But that’s something we must do because it is something God does. We have to know the difference between light and darkness so that we can choose the light and live in relationship with God.

Confusing Light and Dark Hurts God

When we read the phrase “woe to those who ___” it seems like a scary, sobering pronouncement. It means great sorrow or distress, which is what comes on those who forsake God. Hebrew carries another shade of meaning as well. “Woe” is hoy (H1945), which is an exclamation like ah! alas! ha! O! In the sort of context we’re looking at today, we can read this word as a cry of grief and despair from God at seeing the evil His people are doing that’s leading them away from the light.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! (Is. 5:20-21, WEB)

God has good reason to exclaim hoy! over these people, for He knows what happens to those who “have rejected the law of Yahweh of Armies, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel” (Is. 5:24). Spoilers: it’s not pretty. Read more

Feelings Don’t Care About Your Facts: Here’s Why Its so Hard to Change Someone’s Mind

A few weeks ago, I was in a conversation with someone who quoted Ben Shapiro saying, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” The tension between facts and feelings is a topic that’s been coming up quite a bit in discussions recently for me, as I’ve talked with people who are frustrated by how many people today ignore scientific research related to several issues that I don’t want to get into right now. My reason for bringing this up is that listening to these comments prompted a related thought.

Feelings don’t care about your facts.

You can have all the research in the world to back you up but when feelings are involved people (as a whole) just don’t care. You can’t root out deeply help opinions by inundating people with logical reasoning. It’s like if you’ve ever spilled cooking oil on your clothes and then tried to scrub it out with water. The facts just run right off because they doesn’t mesh with what we already hold true.

“As a result of the well-documented confirmation bias, we tend to undervalue evidence that contradicts our beliefs and overvalue evidence that confirms them. We filter out inconvenient truths and arguments on the opposing side. As a result, our opinions solidify, and it becomes increasingly harder to disrupt established patterns of thinking.” — “Facts Don’t Change People’s Minds. Here’s What Does” by Ozan Varol

At its most simple, “Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea or concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true.” Once we get an idea in our heads, we tend to hold on tight to information that supports it and ignore or reject anything that would threaten this idea. These tightly-held ideas can be anything from a political view, to an understanding of how the world works, to a belief about yourself (“What Is Confirmation Bias?” by Shahram Heshmat Ph.D.).

It’s Not Just “Them”

We tend to think that we’re right and other people who disagree with us are wrong. We can easily see confirmation bias at work in others, and many of us are more than happy to point that problem out and offer correction.

This isn’t just a problem with other people, though. It’s a problem with you and me too. We all have confirmation bias about the things we believe. We all filter-out opposing information and gravitate toward the things that agree with us. No matter how rational and fact based we think we are, we’re also influenced by confirmation bias. If we want to understand why it’s so hard to change people’s minds we need to recognize what’s happening in ourselves as well as in them. Read more

Taking Responsibility for Our Own Feelings and Learning to Talk about Complicated Issues in Today’s Society

I love getting into deep, complicated discussions with people. For example, what are the political and social implications of the fact that people who score high in the personality trait Conscientiousness tend to identify as conservative and those who score high in Openness tending to identify as liberal? Or what does it mean to “live your truth” and can one do that as a Christian while still accepting God’s truth as the absolute moral authority?

Talking about those sorts of things (or even just listening) makes me come alive. This is one reason I love podcasts that deep-dive into complicated topics. Two of the most recent were “The Heart of the Abortion Debate” from Crossway Podcast and “Radical Self-Discovery with Jator Pierre” from the Awaken With JP Sears Show. On this latter one, they opened with talking about “this interesting, tight-knitted, hyper-constricted PC culture” and the question, “Why the hell do you think we’re so PC here in 2019?”

This latter question went in a curious direction that I’ve been pondering for more than a week now. Because PC topics are so emotionally charged, “many of us become emotionally blinded and we don’t bring in a lot of logic,” to quote Jator Pierre. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that most of us don’t know how to take responsibility for how we feel or how to effectively communicate and share in a back-and-forth dialogue.

Taking Away Voices

Wikipedia says the term political correctness “is used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society.” It sounds good in theory, but in practice it has turned into a culture where certain people try to silence any ideas or words that offed them without caring how that might affect others outside the PC-protected groups. Instead of seeing words as vehicles to communicate different viewpoints and facilitate dialogue, they see words as violent and react defensively.

“Not many of us are taught how to communicate, how to share, how to dialogue, how to hear, how to reflect, and how to notice when we’re emotionally charged to be able to take maybe a step back for a second or two to feel what’s coming up, to notice what’s coming up, and then to continue on with a dialogue. Most of us go into a defended posture, in my experience, and then go on the attack.” — Jator Pierre

It also has the side-effect of encouraging the offended person blame others for how they feel. We’re heading toward a culture where people think they have a right to avoid being offended by someone else. What they don’t realize or care about is that their refusal to hear offensive things leads to them hurting and/or shutting down others who don’t agree with them. Instead of bringing people together the PC movement creates further polarization and enmity. Read more

Working Through Cycles of Personal Growth

We often think of growth as happening one direction. Growing things expand and get older, they don’t shrink or get younger. If something is not moving forward, then it’s not growing.

But maybe that’s not always the case, especially when we’re talking about personal growth journeys. Growth like this doesn’t happen all at once or in a steady direction. Sometimes, a thing that you thought you dealt with will come back and needs to be worked through again. You often have to keep going back over the same ground in order to make progress.

This isn’t failure to grow. But it might look like it depending on our perspective. If we’re the type of person who wants to get everything right the first time, then it can be discouraging when we find ourselves having to deal with something we thought we’d already worked through. We might even decided that since we failed once there’s no point in trying again. But that isn’t really a healthy or helpful perspective.

New “Thought Paths” Take Time

Last year, I wrote a post about changing thought patterns related to anxiety. In that post, I talked about my counselor’s analogy of our minds as a big open field. As we live and grow, our thoughts travel over this field and we start to wear-down paths as we think along the same lines over and over. When we identify “thought paths” that aren’t doing us any good we need to create new pathways in our mind by learning to think in a different way. To do that, you have to keep going over the new paths again and again. Read more