Your Emotions – Two Important Details

Your emotions are not very reliable. If you want to see life more through the lens of reality, then consider two important details about your emotions. This will help you remove some of your speculation or opinion.

Suppose You Watch a Scary Movie

Do you have a favorite scary movie? Maybe the classic movie Psycho? Mine is the original Alien and even though it is my favorite, I really don't like to watch it, because it does such a good job of scaring me with its special effects and creatures!

Your Emotions: Two Important Details

Why do you get scared watching Psycho or Alien? When the creature jumps at someone on the screen, why do you react? Is it because you are in danger? Of course not – it’s just a movie!

Suppose you are watching a scary movie, but you tell yourself, “I am watching a story filmed for entertainment, especially to create fear and excitement. There will be scenes created specifically to scare me, but I know that is not really happening to me.”

That would take all of the fun out of the movie, wouldn’t it?

The film draws you into the story and engages your emotions making you part of it. When you remind yourself of reality, you reduce your fear, or even remove it. Your thinking about the danger for the person in the movie is what your emotions respond to. Therefore, thinking it is just a movie reduces the film’s efforts to engage your fear.

That brings up a very important thought. If I can tell myself, "It is just a movie" and I have less fear, then I can control my emotions! Many people think your emotions are not controllable, they just show up. Obviously, that is incorrect and we know it. You can control your emotions!

Two Big Implications

With the scary movie in mind, consider these two important implications.

First, feelings and emotions are primarily RESPONDERS. When you watch a movie and you are scared, sad, happy or crying, your emotions are responding to the movie. Feelings need something to respond to.

Second, and most important, feelings are UNTRUSTWORTHY. If you are scared, but are not in any danger (like watching a movie), then your emotions are untrustworthy in that situation. Your emotions are real, but they are responding to something that is not real. That is why when you tell yourself “it’s just a movie”, the emotions are reduced or removed, they are responding to your thinking.

Which Order Is Best?

With that in mind, consider the options for three words: Think – Feel – Act. Which sequence do you suppose most people use? How about you?

Like it or not, people typically react and respond like an amoeba – a single cell organism that has little or no ability to think. Poke it, and it will move away. Offer sugar, and it will come to you.

For you, something happens, it triggers your emotions, you react or respond, and then you think about it later (often with rationalization or regret). Or perhaps you don’t even think about it at all. There’s a stimulus and a response. Or to say it another way, a stimulus excites feelings, which prod to action, followed by thinking.

What About This Quote?

Consider the following oft-quoted passage from the Bible:

Jesus said to him, “‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:37-40

Which is first in those verses – Thinking, Feeling, or Acting?

Everything hinges on what “love” is. The construction of the sentence says “love” is a verb; therefore, an action is first. Further parsing would lead most to say that “love” is a feeling, so, the conclusion would be that God is asking us to act on a feeling.

Actually, God is asking you to make a decision. If you use the working definition of love as, “Pursuing the best for others; patiently, kindly, sacrificially and unconditionally” then that is a decision! That requires thinking to make a conscious choice.

Furthermore, possibly more important, you read this or have it told to you first! The processing of the information is first, even if you did decide that love was a feeling. So, a reasonable conclusion is thinking is actually first in those verses.

Let me know what you think about this.

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