The Roller-Coaster

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So funny how silence can feel like a cold, uninviting void or a soft welcoming blanket. Chocolate a calming balm of Gilead or a secret, forbidden indulgence. Children’s laughter a musical joy that sends your heart singing or a rake of noise that boils your irritation. A song can be a warm whimsical welcome to nostalgia or a deep aching remembrance of heartache. Even a hug can become a two-sided coin of acceptance and love or of awkward realization of detachment.

What can make such straightforward things have two totally different outcomes? Well……you……

It’s us, our feelings and memories of feelings that create our world. Even very logical people are susceptible to the human code of emotion. I would argue that our deep emotions make us human. So why is it that we are so confused about what to do with them?

I ponder over this a lot. As a youth I used improper coping mechanisms that buried all negative emotion to the point of becoming blank, unfeeling. I can tell you that I did not feel human, actually life became very meaningless.

Fortunately, I continued my habits of prayer, gospel study, worship and devotions during this difficult time and the right people, experiences, and thoughts were put in my path so that I could find my way out of that dark and dreary waste. God is good.

Once I started allowing myself to feel again it was a bit of a mess. A mess that unfortunately, I still find myself in every now and again. I knew and know that learning to control my emotions did not mean that I would get rid of them or ignore them or belittle myself for them…..I must feel them and deal with them…..Easier said than done.

So, now as I still am working on dealing with negative feelings in a healthy way I find three things that have helped me beyond measure;

  1. God

–          If I am putting God first in my life, it is just easier. I show Him that He is first by reading and studying His words every day, praying daily, going to my Sunday worship services, and trying to do as He would do. Then I have His Spirit to guide me, and  I can know the BEST way to deal with an emotion or avoid many negative ones altogether.

  1. Step Away but don’t Put Away…yet….

–          When I’m feeling something negative I try to take a step away from the emotion to look at it, identify it, and see why I would be feeling this way. This helps me see the problem and I can better attack it at its source.

Also, many times I think I am feeling one thing but the root of the problem is really another (anger turning out to be loneliness or mourning, etc)

There are also times when my emotions are so mixed up, usually because other people are involved and I don’t have enough information to come to a conclusion, that I HAVE to put it away or get rid of it altogether. If I think for some reason I will need to analyze the feelings in the future I literally picture putting them in a glass jar and twisting the top on and putting them on a shelf in the corner of my mind. If I don’t see any reason for hanging on to those feelings then I blow them away into the sky and picture them fading away into oblivion. This may seem corny, but it works!

  1. Make a Plan

-Sometimes we need a game plan.

My biggest downfalls are depressive/discouragement type feelings and anger so when I get inklings of these feelings I first analyze and find the source and then I get to work.

With the “down” feelings I usually find that it’s one of three things, over-worked, under-worked, or comparing. When I’m over-worked, I take a break. When I’m what I call “under-worked”, it means I’m not striving for excellence, just going through the motions and not improving and learning. If this is the case I start the goal-setting and planning and add other interesting and uplifting reading material to my daily study.

Comparing…. Well, this is a hard one. Sometimes it is good, because it makes me realize something I need to improve on. Many times though it’s destructive because I’m comparing the surface level of what I see in someone elses life, with what is most likely one of their strengths, with a deep, down and ugly view of my own life with what is usually one of my weaknesses. This is when I have to slap myself into being realistic, make any changes I think are necessary and turn the rest over to the Lord.

Emotion is a beautiful gift from God. But like everything else, there is opposition. This is necessary, how can we know joy without sorrow? Forgiveness without offense? Love without loneliness? Humility without anger? However, we will decide what becomes of us by how we deal with these complexities of life. For me, there are days when it’s a minute by minute battle of what I will allow to take over my life. But when I put God first, take a step back and make a plan, the battle becomes a mere discussion and my virtue can increase. And that is what I strive for, a virtuous life.

What helps you to deal with the emotions of life?

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Excuses

Excuses are tricky. The common held belief is that one should not excuse his/her follies but take action to change them. I completely agree.

On the other hand we are constantly excusing ourselves and those we care about. “Oh, I forgot to eat breakfast and that’s why I’m so irritable.” “Oh, he’s just overtired and that’s why he’s throwing a fit.” “Oh, she comes from such a strict upbringing that’s why she’s rebelling.” “Oh, they just drank to much that is why they are acting that way.” The list goes on and on and on….Is there some truth to these excuses? Of course. Do the excuses make it acceptable to act in way that is harmful to yourself or other people? Of course not. So where do we draw the line?

Well, this is how I strive to use excuses…tell me what you think…

When it comes to behavior that is abusive and harmful, especially to more than just the person who is creating the behavior, I think action is more useful than an excuse. Yes, maybe they did have a rough childhood. Yes, maybe they are dealing with some very stressful things. However, harming themselves and other people will not only cause more problems now, but many more untold ones in the future. It is much more conducive to a life of future happiness to stop the excuses and do something about the issue.

Now, what about when ours or someone’s behavior isn’t exactly harmful, but it is rather annoying, and/or inconvenient, and/or just plain rude?

When I’m dealing with myself, I try not to excuse any type of negative behavior. Even if I am tired, overworked, hungry, stressed, etc. That does not give me the right to be a brat. Also, all of those excuses have an action that needs to be taken. I need to focus on the resolving the issue rather than trying to find a place to lay the blame. When I resolve, rather than excuse, it leads to not only relieving the problem, but also an added burst of happiness for being proactive and more wisdom to do better the next time.

When it comes to other people I have an excuse rule. If, like I mentioned earlier, is not really dangerous or abusive then I always give the other person at least three excuses. This helps me either not take offense in the first place, or make it easier to forgive if I’ve already taken offense.

For example, if I am shopping with my three children for shoes, (Which every parent knows is SO much FUN! Ok, I need a sarcasm font…) and the sales person is clearly ignoring me as I stand in front of them with the shoes I need to find sizes for, as they text someone or check their emails, I have two choices. I can either A.) Choose to be offended and angry or B.) Give them three excuses.

If I choose “A” not only will I now be in a bad mood but I will also most likely have an even more unhelpful sales person. If I choose “B”, let’s say there Mom is in the hospital and they need to check on her, or their child is needing to be picked up, or they are checking on the availability of cumquats in Beijing, China because they are moving there next month and their husband adores cumquats (O.K. so sometimes you have to be creative to give someone an excuse…you never know….).Well, if I choose to give them excuses then I may not even take offense at all, I will be more amicable and thus they will too (most likely).

This practice is simple and seems like it wouldn’t make a big difference, but it really has for me. To take offense is a choice. To get angry is a choice. To be upset in any way, justified or not, is a choice. So, when there is not going to be any long-range damage done to me or anyone else why not just let it go? Well, that’s why I give the three excuses. It helps me remember that the world does not revolve around me and that other people have lives and problems. If I remember this then I can lower the negativity and anxiety that bombards us in this world and choose to be happy.

How do you use excuses? Do you think they are helpful or harmful or both?