Faith transitions are rife with strong emotions. If you are anything like me you were not taught how to process emotions and have developed coping mechanisms that sort of work or do not work at all. My faith transition coupled with the strain it caused on my marriage caused me to get real about how I deal with emotions and seek better ways of processing.
Emotions can easily become overwhelming and overpowering. My default reaction to strong emotion (whether positive or negative) has been to bury or ignore whatever I feel and solider on. While on the surface this may have the appearance of someone who has it together, it has some problematic consequences. Ignoring or burying emotion will inevitable lead to it it oozing or even exploding out. Think of a volcano, the pressure builds up and has to escape often in situations that do not even remotely relate to the original emotional event. This type of release often hurts innocent bystanders and can be confusing to everyone, including the person having the emotional eruption.
Others may react to strong emotion by doing somethings immediately – yelling, going silent, or just being mean. They quickly release the emotional pressure in potentially harmful ways. This type of release often hurts innocent bystanders.
Many people numb their emotions. When someone numbs their emotions they engage in an activity that helps to avoid feeling any emotion. When you numb emotions both positive and negative emotions get numbed. Alcohol and drugs are super obvious methods of numbing emotion. Less obvious numbing actions are shopping, eating, binging on FaceBook or Netflix and over scheduling.
Think about your own experiences. What do you typically do when faced with emotions? What do you typically do when you have a stressful conversation with your spouse about church? Do you see yourself burying, numbing or reacting? Of course, many people process their emotions in a healthy way or release them using techniques or actions that actually have a net benefit – think of exercising or meditation. However, many of us do not have great habits around how we deal with strong emotions.
It takes work and it takes practice to really develop the practice of emotional processing. However, it WILL help your marriage. It will help process the faith transition. It is a life skill that will serve you in many areas.
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