Your Emotions – Two Important Details

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Your emotions are not very reliable. If you want to see life through the lens of reality, consider two essential 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 film Psycho? Mine is the original Alien, and even though it is my favorite, I don't like to watch it because it scares me with its special effects and creatures!

Your Emotions – Two Important Details

Why do you get scared watching Psycho or Alien? Why do you react when the creature jumps at someone on the screen? 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. Scenes will be created 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 or even remove your fear. 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 critical 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. That is incorrect, and we know it. You can control your emotions!

Two Big Implications

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

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

Second, and most important, feelings are UNTRUSTWORTHY. If you are scared but not in danger (like watching a movie), then your emotions are untrustworthy in that situation. Your emotions are real, but they are responding to something unreal. That is why when you tell yourself, “It’s just a movie,” the emotions are reduced or removed; they respond 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 with little or no thinking ability. 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 asks us to act on a feeling.

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

Furthermore, possibly more important, you read what Jesus said or have it told to you first! The information is processed first, even if you decide love is a feeling. So, a reasonable conclusion is thinking is first in those verses.

Let me know what you think about this.


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