Most people spend a portion of their life trying to figure out what to do with their feelings. They often ask themselves, “how do I manage feelings?” That’s a very good question.
What Are Feelings?
Feelings tell you, “Listen up. I’m trying to tell you what is going on inside you.”
And it’s a good idea to listen. Feelings give you additional, helpful data to live your life well. They can give you strong information or just impressions. Feelings add a whole dimension to celebrating, hoping, waiting, and grieving. They enhance seeking, loving, exploring, developing, and so much more. Feelings can be stuffed, ignored, and denied. They can be imprisoned, suppressed, or over-indulged.
Feelings can help you live with more fullness. However, to live by them is a mistake. They can literally take over your life and hijack your ability to manage daily situations. Many people give far too much power to their feelings. They don’t just “feel” their feelings. They become a servant to them. You are still the master, and your feelings should serve you as you manage your life and serve God.
Where Did Feelings Come From and What Do They Do?
God gave you feelings. They are a bit like indicator lights on your various appliances and equipment. They let you know what’s on. What’s running. What you need to be aware of. If something is malfunctioning. And even if something died. They keep you alert to things happening inside you and around you. Bottom line? You need them! You really must let feelings be part of your life.
People who don’t learn how to manage their feelings can end up in an unhealthy place. They are afraid of what’s going on inside them. They may be overwhelmed and confused, perhaps directionless. It’s possible to even lose yourself in your feelings. Some people completely shut down because they don’t know how to manage their feelings. To them, “shut down” is easier than dealing with how to identify and manage feelings.
Best management is really a flexible thing that varies from person to person. But generally, there is a line you can follow with helpful results:
- First, try to understand/identify what feelings are present. This is committing to be real – an authentic person.
- Once you identify, seek God through prayer. Tell Him what’s going on inside – and if you can, why you think feelings might be there. God loves you! Steps 1 and 2 are recognizing feelings.
- Resolve to trust God to help with your feelings. He cares how you feel and wants to help you learn how to apply this amazing resource of feelings He built into all people. This is called faith.
- As you begin processing, you will get clues that help you begin to understand your feelings. You need to come to terms with them and admit them. This is called acceptance.
- Then prepare to do what is right and best (despite how you feel). Just make up your mind to do it. This is called follow through.
- Go to Scripture for direction or for comfort/healing. This is your plumb line and starts you into a practical plan.
- Use your intelligence and creativity to fill in the details of your plan. This is your chance to engage your unique skills and personality.
- It helps to tell someone you trust about your feelings. This is called companionship.
- At this point, before God and man, do what pleases God no matter what your feelings are doing. This is called obedience.
- Keep doing what is right and best. It makes your character grow strong! This is called maturity.
To Manage Feelings, You Must Identify Them
Feelings are not right or wrong, generally. They are indicators that give you necessary information. Let’s go through a list of feeling examples and their contrary forms. These 6 pairs function as indicators for you, giving opposing emotions that show the range of feelings you might have in various situations. They aren’t even identified as feelings in some cases, but they describe what might be going on inside you. Figuring this out helps you then move on to put a “feeling word” to your experience.
- Something is very good right now. Contrarily, something is amiss or wrong.
- “I wish this moment could last forever.” Contrarily, “I’d give anything to skip this moment.”
- A deep contentment is now filling my heart. Contrarily, caution rises as concern deepens.
- You may experience peace about a certain decision. Contrarily, “I am confused. This all seems nebulous.”
- Confidence surges up into new energy and creativity. Contrarily, “My insides are tied in knots and I feel sick.”
- Well-being floods with assurance in my heart right now. Contrarily, frustration rises and stress takes over.
It helps to spend time understanding the “how, what, when, where, why” of your feelings. Answering those questions gives you valuable information about you, how you function, and what you can do to contribute to this world. In fact, the answers help you embrace and/or confront your feelings, bringing excellent management to them. The answers can also help you enjoy feelings to the fullest healthy extent. You need to stay in the driver seat, even as you accept and manage feelings. Never let your feelings manage you.
Summary So Far to Manage Feelings:
- Feelings are not wrong or bad. God gave them to you.
- It’s normal to have them. In fact, you need them.
- Feelings are indicators. They communicate necessary information to you – and you should listen. You need this data.
- They should not be allowed to control your life, especially decisions and responses. They need to be managed – not allowed to run your life.
- People are often afraid of their feelings.
- It’s a sad day when a person decides it’s better to shut down than manage their feelings.
- It’s important to “name feelings” – identify them.
And A Couple More Points
The above list would be incomplete without adding two more observations about managing your feelings.
- It helps to pay attention to issues causing your feelings.
- It’s important to God that you talk to Him about your feelings. Be honest. He cares. He will help.
The Dog and How to Manage Feelings
Let’s say you are a dog. You have a head, a body, and a tail. (Yep! I admit. This is a really bad drawing of a dog! But hang in there with me. I’m going to make a point.)
FEELINGS are like your tail – which is important! It is not cool to cut off your tail, but it is foolish to let your tail lead you through life. Much better to go head first into your future. You are not whole without your feelings. Still, that tail can really get going. Sometimes you wonder if it will wag your back end off completely. All that “noise, motion, and busy-ness” can be unsettling sometimes. Other times, a tail wag is very satisfying and encouraging.
You also have a head – a place of logic, thinking, and calculating data. This thinking center was created by God to function from a platform of FAITH. You may disagree, and I’m OK with that. But to realistically “play out” every fact you employ in your brain, it may surprise you how many of those facts are based on faith.
Some examples: You trust gravity will hold you to the earth. You trust your car will take you to work and not blow up if you maintain it properly. Without thinking, you trust your body will digest the food you eat. It wouldn’t even occur to you to tell your heart to keep beating – a function you simply consider as “normal.” You trust your chair will hold you when you sit down. – And many more.
Life is filled with thousands of simple examples of your head functioning in the world of faith. You are actually oozing with faith. In fact, all your decisions flow from this process. So, to include data points about God is really normal, appropriate, and a healthy human thing to do. In fact, if you don’t include God in your thinking capacity, you are missing a critical piece. God is the only central Being who will help you make sense of everything as you apply your mind to the principles of His Word. Your Faith head is also where you manage your “tail.”
The action portion of your life (the body of your life that joins head and tail) is your FOLLOW-THROUGH. Everything you think, feel, observe, or process doesn’t mean a thing unless you also put a follow-through plan into place. You need to “act” on the data you keep in your head. As already mentioned, you need to manage your tail that keeps wagging back and forth. Decisions and choices reveal your management of “both ends” of your life. Why not become a mature and intellectually/emotionally/relationally healthy person? Follow-through gives you opportunity to choose what is pleasing to God, what matters most in life, what is loving and kind, and what brings best solutions to problems. This is what the body of your life is dedicated to.
Application Thoughts and Questions to Manage Feelings
So, how is your dog? Faith – Follow through – Feelings. All are important to have a healthy dog.
What do you typically do with your feelings? Do you find yourself being controlled by them, or do you manage them? Have you found the blessings associated with your feelings? Do you rely on their helpful strong information to help you navigate your life decisions? Have you surrendered your feelings to God to serve His excellent ways?
* Material from Reach Back, wk. 8, pg. 69:
** Available also as Kindle book.