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Would you rather panic for no reason or face your known, but shameful experiences? If you refuse to face your experiences, you will probably end up with increasing anxiety. But if you choose to face your negative experiences, you can transform them into God moments.
When you push specific emotions out of your awareness, they will eventually resurface as some unnamed but equally uncomfortable emotion. You might experience some relief if you don’t have to name the feeling. But unnamed feelings only increase in intensity until you deal with them. The feelings associated with negative experiences are like an undetected virus that moves freely through your body.
Trauma disorganizes and it takes significant effort to restore order. Facing the sickening emotions can drain most of your reserves. But that effort produces healing.
God designed you to respond to the difficulties of life. Whether you like it or not, God made you able to feel the pain of your negative experiences. God declares a law of reaping and sowing (Galatians 6:7-8). You’ll reap what others sow if you are powerless to step out of harm’s way.You can't control what happened to you, but you can control how you respond. The longer you avoid dealing with emotional unrest, the more time you give it to establish a stronghold of chaos. Click To Tweet
During the first few years after I became a Christian, I journaled almost every day. Becoming a Christian enabled me to look back at my first twenty years and realize how much I didn’t understand. I processed through my experiences with new insight. As I connected life events, I also connected with emotions that I didn’t know I had.
Becoming a Christian felt like waking up from a bad dream. I was thankful I wasn’t stuck in the former reality. But at the same time, I had to face the reality of all I had experienced.
Today, I don’t need to process the distant past as frequently, but I’m always learning something new and working to have it make sense with my personal history.
This kind of processing is like decompressing after a long day. What would happen if I didn’t take the time to express everything? What do you call
Do you realize when you hold in emotions that God intended you to release, you create a ticking time bomb? The pressure starts building and a date with destiny is set. When time runs out and the bomb goes off, there will be personal and collateral damage.
There are only so many ways you can manage uncomfortable emotions. You can Numb Out, Burn Out, or Ride Out.
Numbing out means you shut down your emotions. You cut the power; you trip the circuit breaker. Your brain circuits are overloaded and you are fortunate your automatic shut down is working.
This averts the immediate disaster. You dodge the bullet; you avoid feeling the crushing weight of what happened. You gain some immediate relief, but also more than you bargain for: some long-term problems.
In the midst of re-experiencing an overwhelming event, you are unable to find the automatic off switch. The intensity of your emotions continues to grow. The pain and panic become so unbearable that you must look for a way to force the shut down.
You might start cutting yourself. Or drinking a lot. Or end up in the emergency room because you think you’re having a heart attack.
You endure the waves of painful emotion without going in critical overload. If you’ve been through trauma, this is easier said than done. But it’s possible.
Riding out is a commitment to re-engaging your emotions while learning how to manage them so they don’t create a new trauma. When you can’t manage this without going critical, that’s when you need support.
What happens when a newborn baby cries? The baby is expressing discomfort about a situation that she can’t control. She is
God didn’t provide newborns with the brain wiring to self-sooth. If no one addresses the problem and no one soothes her, she must eventually choose to Numb Out.
Because of the severity of the trauma you’ve been through, you could be in a situation like the newborn. You don’t have enough practice to calm yourself down, so you need to borrow the support of others. You need a surrogate mom to help you soothe.
With the right amount of support, the energy from the waves of emotion will die down eventually. With the tension gone, you experience peace instead of panic.
Choosing to Ride Out by facing dreaded emotions is an act of bravery. Remember, you reap what you sow. If you confront your past, you can move beyond it.
How much time do you spend in Numb Out, Burn Out, or Ride Out? Why is that?
What questions do you have about facing unpleasant emotions?
Are you ready to gain more peace? Tell God you are ready to face and then embrace your emotional pain. Ask Him for insight into your suffering. Allow Him to guide you on the journey to greater emotional wholeness.
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.