Managing Feelings

The ability to analyze our behavior allows us to more closely determine what causes it. If we want to make a change in our lives, we need to gain awareness about the current behavior and why we do it. Extensive psychological research has identified connections in how thoughts and feelings affect overall behavior. Based on this clinical research, the Behavior Chain Analysis model below helps us gain perspective on habits and emotions that are common struggles for those who seek counseling.

Feelings are Like Sand on the Beach

Our feelings can be a great barometer that can guide effective action. However, emotions on their own, are extremely unreliable. Like sand on the beach, which can be swayed by almost any wind, water, or general passerby, so can our emotions be influenced. If we are relying on feelings to define our life outlook, to guide decisions, or define our identity, we open ourselves up to dysfunctional and destructive behavior. Feelings have a place in our lives, but we should not let them rule over us.

Soul, Spirit and Body

In Scripture we learn of the concept that man is created with multi-dimensional qualities. An example of this reference is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (located left).

Spirit, soul, and body represent three different realms of human existence that require our attention. An important life choice is to focus on God’s leading, or God’s will despite things that we experience in our body, like conflicting emotions.

The above diagram demonstrates a Biblical model for how we process feelings:

Body – This is our physical body which contains our 5 senses. Feelings and emotions are “sensed” within our physical body.

Spirit – This is the life that God has “breathed” into us at our creation. “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).” God’s word shows us a spiritual reality, that our lives and worth, come from God. Regardless of physical feelings and what they may signal, God chooses to give us the gift of life, which is sacred and full of His purpose. Because feelings are generated in connection to the physical world, sometimes they are consistent with our true worth and purpose, sometimes they are not. Our true life and purpose reside in our spirit, not in our feelings or our physical senses.

“But the one who joins himself to the Lord
is of one spirit with Him.”

1 Corinthians 6:17

Most importantly, after receiving the Lord Jesus as Savior, the Spirit of God becomes one spirit with our human spirit. This is often referred to in the church as the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, we have the ability to “sense” the Holy Spirit, and His leading in our human spirit. This is a “spiritual sense” that goes beyond or deeper than physical feeling.

Soul – The soul is the seat of the mind. Therefore it spiritually brings together the physical body and the human spirit. This is the place where we get a sense of “self” or where we spiritually experience our conscious identity and personality. The soul is a product of the combination of spirit and body. Therefore, it is an aspect of ourselves where we need to be “watchful” of feelings and spiritual senses we experience, and then attempt to discern their meaning. This discernment then informs our choices and life direction, or what is referred to as our human will.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
Isaiah 55:8

Heart – The heart is the center of our soul. In the midst of our human experience, we have the opportunity to sense the difference between our will and God’s will. The heart is connected to our human spirit, so it is also the place in our soul where we have the opportunity to experience the indwelling and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The spiritual heart is where we can align our human will with the will of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, the heart is also connected to our physical body, which at times can experience powerful or deceptive emotions. In this way the heart can be vulnerable to physical desires, that if followed, can point us away from God’s will.

The writer of Proverbs declares, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life (Prov. 4:23 NASB).” Scripture tells us to guard our hearts above all else, and carefully attend to what kind of emotions and desires spring forth.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).” God designed our emotions and feelings to be gauges, not guides. Feelings can sometimes help us attend to important aspects of our spirit and soul, however, they are not the ultimate source of truth.

Effective emotional management is learning to be watchful of feelings, from a heart perspective. The key to emotional management is to learn to observe feelings from a spiritual distance. Feelings should not define us or rule our “will” or life direction. Often, feelings gain undue influence when we are too close to them psychologically. This is what we term as being “fused” to your feelings. In this state of experience, it is difficult to see past an emotion and sense spiritual guidance.

Reflection Point

Use the CCA Thought Reflection Worksheet with a focus on challenging feelings (click on button below).

Write down your most challenging feelings.

  • What are their frequency? (Rate from 0-10)
  • 0 = Low Frequency; 10 = High Frequency
  • What are their intensity? (Rate from 0-10)

Describe how these feelings define your identity or outlook on life.

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