RSS

Emotional Health

Emotional Health

By Jenny Heckman, MS LPC NCC

Can you imagine life without emotions? No wonder at the beauty of creation, no anger to identify when an injustice has occurred, no sadness to assist us in adjusting to loss, no happiness that allows us to laugh with friends, no compassion to suffer with others. Life would have a strange flatness rather than rich complexity.

Emotional health is a combination of the ability to accurately identify the internal experience of our emotions; the ability to convey those feelings to another in ways that honor their dignity; and the ability to understand the emotional world of another.

We also identified that our incompleteness, wounds, and life experiences often diminish or magnify our emotional experiences, making it difficult to be effective in these three areas. As an early adolescent, I made a silent vow that only positive emotions would be welcomed in my experience. Due to the depression and anxiety I carried as a kid, paired with generational “rules” about negative emotions, I attempted to make my internal life as tidy as possible.

That did not work so well. As Brene Brown states in her talk The Power of Vulnerability, there is no selective numbing of emotions. When negative emotions are suppressed, the positive ones get suppressed at the same time.  

It was a learning curve for me to begin to accurately identify and allow myself to experience the range of human emotions God designed. As I did, my internal world became less frightening, my range of emotions broadened, I allowed people to know me, and my empathy increased for others. This is how powerful this first facet of emotional health is; it directly impacts the other two facets.

What makes it so difficult to identify and befriend our emotions? Below are common hindrances that may be keeping you stuck. 

Fear that if a negative emotion such as anger or sadness is experienced, we will either be engulfed by the emotion or it will become a permanent state of being. As George Bonanno reminds us in his book The Other Side of Sadness, emotions by their very nature are temporary. They appear for adaptive reasons, serve their purpose, and subside. Certainly they reappear, but if we cooperate with their purposes we will learn that not only can we tolerate them, they help us move forward, make decisions, and form and keep relationships. Amazing!

Shame that certain emotions are either a sign of character weakness or point to a spiritual deficiency. Imagine this: every time an emotion in this category makes an appearance, an immediate experience of shame is attached to that emotion.  The shame keeps us from moving with the emotion and we get stuck. The families, churches, and cultures that formed us early on, and continue to do so, are tremendously powerful in forming beliefs about the role of emotions. Our emotional practices come from these beliefs. The good news is that shame can be challenged and resolved, allowing emotions to flow freely and flexibly for the adaptive purposes God designed them for. 

Infirmities involving mood or personality. When brain chemistry or nervous systems do not have the “happy messengers” to regulate mood, or are “revved up” by chronic overload, emotions will either become escalated or diminished. These are infirmities of mood, have a strong genetic component, and can be brought on by significant stress. God’s gift of psychotropic medications can effectively restore brain chemistry and nervous system function so that emotions can be experienced accurately. 

In addition to infirmities of mood, some people have infirmities that reside in the personality and significantly distort emotional perception and expression, including the ability to empathize with others. Common names for these include: Borderline, Histrionic, and Narcissistic Personality Disorders. These infirmities require more intensive therapeutic work in a safe, consistent atmosphere.


Just Between Us (JBU) has compiled numerous articles on emotional health to help you examine difficult areas and work through specific emotions. It is our prayer that you will find encouragement as you strive to work through challenging circumstances and keep yourself in good emotional health. 


Often when mental health issues are discussed, there is another side to our emotional health that needs equal attention: understanding and fostering joy in our lives. Read more

Emotional Health

Is it really okay to be happy? Contrary to what many of us have been taught or perceived, we don't need to be afraid of God's good gift of happiness. Read more

Life

With our culture increasingly obsessed with self, could it be we are using technology to satisfy our need to be noticed? Read more

Life

Deciding whether medication is needed to manage our moods is an important decision. Explore these common myths of medications and side effects. Read more

Mental Health

What role does medication play in helping to restore and maintain healthy emotions? Read more

Mental Health

We were born with a bias to self-centeredness. This center core must be subdued by love - the love of God. Read more

Spiritual Warfare

Finding balance isn’t about having a well-maintained calendar, it is about caring for all the parts of you. Read more

Finding Balance

How many of us live with emotional pain from our formative years, constantly searching for somebody to fill the void created by a tragedy that’s left a lasting impression? Read more

Emotional Health

Worry doesn’t have to steal your life - you can climb out of the emotional black hole of worry! Here are some steps to help you win the war against worry. Read more

Worry

Do you have difficulty sharing your feelings, especially the difficult ones? Here are some healthy ways to communicate your emotions. Read more

Emotional Health

The goal is to become as like Christ as possible, but to allow our future appointment with God, when we see Him face-to-face, to motivate our behavior and give us hope. Read more

Featured Authors

Learning we are not responsible for "everything" is a lifelong lesson. Certainly we need to own our transgressions - but sometimes the pain and guilt we carry isn’t our "stuff" to own. Read more

Emotional Health

Feeling overwhelmed is not new. Yet a lot of our striving only seems to make us more tired and empty. Read more

Finding Purpose

As followers of Christ, what are our rights? God is calling us to surrender. "To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also." Luke 6:29 (NKJV) Read more

Featured Authors

The stigma attached to depression, even within the faith community, can be more scary than the depression itself. Read more

Depression

Do you tend to worry about the problems of other people? Learn the signs of suffering from secondhand worry. Read more

Worry

By facing your painful past, you will uncover your true identity in Christ and be free to become the person He made you to be. Read more

Emotional Health

Learn to let go of your pride and find blessing in allowing others to help carry you to Jesus. Read more

Relationship Health

Restoration steps for helping women work through their hurts and heal from the inside out. Read more

Leadership Advice

Do you find yourself in a never-ending cycle of worrying about other people’s problems and trying to fix their lives for them? Read more

Worry