I once heard that emotions are like kids in a car - you can’t let them drive or throw them in the trunk (even though you sometimes FEEL like you really want to). What that means is we can’t let our emotions drive our actions (unless we’re in extreme danger) or suppress them or deny they even exist. Emotions are very real and very normal. They are indicators of our internal world, but when out of control, they can easily become dictators.
Ever been dictated by your emotions? I have!! And when I am driven solely by emotion, my reactions are either rash and explosive or I suppress them until I explode.
I’m sure you know, unchecked anger is toxic to our mental health. Neuroscientist and avid researcher of the mind-body connection Dr. Caroline Leaf says, “Toxic thinking patterns create disorder in the mind and neurological and neurodegenerative chaos in the brain. The mind and brain fail to communicate correctly, which results in reduced cognitive and coping strategies. Toxic thinking is essentially a roadblock in the Perfect You. If these negative thought patterns are not controlled they can even lead to psychiatric symptoms including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, OCD, eating disorders and psychotic breaks.” (Leaf, The Perfect You)
Did you know unchecked emotions, like anger, is also toxic to our physical health?
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), “anger is the emotion associated with the Liver. If you are often irritable, get angry easily, have trouble unwinding from the day’s activities, have trouble reasoning or going with the flow and letting things go, you are experiencing a Liver function problem. Experiencing these emotions chronically or excessively can seriously unbalance the function of your Liver.”(1)
In addition, “emotions are considered to be normal and healthy, it is only when they become extreme or uncontrollable that they can open the door to disease. TCM believes them to be the major internal cause of disease within the body, but also the most easily influenced – meaning, that with the right attention and treatment, emotions and their corresponding ailments can change.” (2)
Further, “anger is powerful -- it is connected to basic survival mechanisms. If you are fighting or fleeing for your life, all systems are on high alert...irrational hostility happens when part of the brain called the hippocampus goes inactive. The hippocampus usually takes notes, locating events accurately in the memory. But when angry, the brain shuts down this scribe. Facts become secondary, and emotion and attack become primary.” (3).
As I dig into Scripture, God is telling us this all throughout Scripture. In the video above, I mention that God tells Cain, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Gen 4:7). Further in Proverbs, “your ways are in full view of the Lord, and He examines all your paths. The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast. For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly. (Proverbs 5:21-23).
So what do you do when anger arises? How do you control it? Here’s what I’m learning, maybe it will help you too!
One of the fruits of the spirits is self control. Notice, it is not self manage. According to Merriam-Webster, to control something is to exercise restraint or directing influence over, to have power over, to rule over.
Honestly it is super hard in the moment to show self-control, so my biggest thing I have to do is walk away, think on it and literally run it out. Also, I think journaling and brain dumping are GREAT ways to get out your feelings.
Here’s what I learned from Scripture about how to control my emotions, these aren’t in any particular order…
Take time to think about it - Tremble in awe before the Lord, and do not sin against Him. Be still upon your bed and search your heart before Him. Pause in His presence. (Psalm 4:4-5)
Seek humility - Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Philipians 2:2-4)
Shift your perspective to what IS good (this does not mean deny what’s bad, but it does mean shift your focus) - “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philipians 4:4-9)
Think on your words to others AND yourself. Words matter. - “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” (Proverbs 4:23-26)
Seek God and meditate on Scripture - “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.” (Proverbs 4:20-22)
Seek WISE counsel (either with a paid counselor or a trusted friend), HIGHLY recommend not polling on social media. - “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18).
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