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Judy Lair is a licensed counselor and owner of Counselorplace Christian Counseling. She is the author of “From the Other Side of the Couch: A Biblical Counselor’s Guide to Relational Living.” Judy’s personal struggles with fear led her through the valley of hurt and sorrow. She now embraces a joy-filled life grounded in God’s truth and freedom in Christ. Judy uses her professional counseling expertise to tell stories that help people find healing and freedom. Her vulnerable, godly approach helps people find courage to move from Fear to Freedom. For more information or speaking requests, email JudyLair@counselorplace.com or sign up for blog posts at http://judylair.blogspot.com

 “Freedom is attainable. Trust me, I’ve been on the anxiety side, gone through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and now I’m praising God, eating at the banqueting table, and helping others make the same journey. Whether you find yourself stuck in anxiety, disappointment, grief, or confusion, your heart can be set free.” Judy Lair, “From the Other Side of the Couch.”

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dr. Banner vs. Incredible Hulk

Why does God create us with messy, complicated feelings? How frustrating is it when the head and the heart are not in sync? We try to arm wrestle our emotions into agreement with our belief system by telling ourselves or others, “Stop worrying about that,” “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” or “It’s not that big of a deal.” When those admonitions don’t work, we usually resort to condemnation. “You’re just a drama queen,” “I must not be good enough,” or “Stop being so sensitive.”

Many clients tell me their goal is to cut feelings out of their life. This makes sense if you’ve chosen to live an outcome-based lifestyle. Pushing the feelings into the emotional holding tank does allow you to be more dependable, responsible, accountable, and all the other qualities prioritized in that world view. 

It reminds me of the Incredible Hulk TV show. Dr. Banner turns into a huge, scary, green monster when he becomes emotionally overwhelmed. The Hulk destroys things and causes mayhem, but he also rescues people and delivers justice to wrongdoers. Dr. Banner’s goal was to find a cure so he could live a quiet, peaceful, controlled life. In my view, the Hulk is formed out of all the emotions Dr. Banner failed to process. While Dr. Banner was educated, intelligent, and focused on his work, the Hulk embodied his most important, interesting, and unique qualities! I’d love to invite both Dr. Banner and the Hulk to sit on my couch and talk about how they can bring their strengths together to live an integrated, empowered life. Or we could just talk about what it’s like to be huge and green!

Truth is, our ability to be moved emotionally is another area where we’re made in the image of a relational God. Compartmentalization happens because our capacity for feeling complicated emotions is in place before we can intellectually process and interpret their meaning. It’s impossible to have healthy relationships and love ourselves and others well without experiencing feelings. While emotions do not equal truth, they do give us valuable information as to who God made us to be based on how we experience the world. 

Embracing permission to own and feel your feelings is like standing on the top of Mt. Everest. The exhilaration clients feel when given permission to view the world through their own experience is awe inspiring. Were you were told directly not to have feelings or given indirect messages that others were uncomfortable with your emotions? Permission creates a drawbridge to the tank holding past wounds while allowing you to process feelings differently in the present.

For some clients, it takes months or longer to become comfortable with acknowledging and experiencing their true feelings. They’ve trained themselves to take cues from others as to what they “should” think and feel. Kind of like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride. Her character had literally run away from three different grooms during three different wedding ceremonies. A news reporter was sent to do a story about the bride. He interviewed all three men asking the question, “How does she like her eggs?” Each one answered, “Same as me.”

As the reporter observed the bride interacting with family and friends, he observed she wasn’t living her own life, but became a chameleon to please others. When the bride finally saw the fortress she had built, she decided to focus on learning who she was, what she felt, and how she liked her eggs. Several months later, the runaway bride sought out the reporter to report she preferred eggs benedict. Giving herself permission to emotionally experience her own life allowed the bride to eventually enter into marriage as a whole person.

What is your view about the role of emotions?

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