How Do You Feel?

Type A personalities are not physically damaging. The Type A person who is also hostile is at risk of early death. One of the most lethal characteristics is cynicism. It is not primarily the thinking that heightens the risk, it is the feeling that accompanies the toxic thinking.

Brene Brown defines shame as a cluster of thoughts and feelings of not being worthy of love or belonging. Name the trauma or assault. Over time, feelings are the fuel that keeps the fire raging. Feelings of worthlessness or diminishment caused by any wound flood us and then the thinking comes to support the legitimacy of those feelings.

Thinking and feeling are interactive, but different activities.

A business meeting we had scheduled didn’t materialize last weekend. How three people could not find each other in a coffee shop is hard to figure out. If my math is correct, that is number 87 in a list of things that didn’t turn out within a hemisphere of what we planned, worked toward, expected or assumed would happen—if mere normal were attained.

As we drove the two hours home from the aborted million-dollar meeting—for which I will undoubtedly be billed! (Just wanted to demonstrate cynicism.), I tried to name what I was thinking. My thinking and verbalization focused on the possibility that I am a world-class screw up. I was also talking and thinking about the competence and/or credibility of the person we were to meet. I was also thinking about the spiritual activity, if any, in this non-meeting.

We’ve been very serious about doing God’s will as we understood it. We’ve been searching for guidance for nearly a decade. So we are left with the confusion. Is God in this? Perhaps, I think to myself and then heatedly explain to Carole, this is God throwing a huge wall up because…because…I listed several possibilities most of which make no sense even to a twisted imagination. Perhaps, it is His will and our enemy disrupted things. Maybe our enemies are calling forth opposition from the dark world.

We used more words trying to think through what this odd event was all about than most people use for all purposes over a ten-day span. We concluded nothing.

I sure became aware what the experience made me feel about myself. “Feel” is the appropriate word. It was a feeling.

Carole stumbled over a table the other day. She thought she had broken her leg, six toes and maybe an Achilles’ tendon. She can pull up her jeans and show you the ugly bruises and tell you, “It hurts right there!” Where do “feelings” dwell?

Abandonment, assault, failures, mistakes, screw-ups, lack or specific inabilities make us feel badly about ourselves. After the bleeding stops and the bruises go away and we’ve filed the embarrassment, dread, mortification, we are left with how we feel. I don’t think that feeling will evaporate by itself or can we will it away. I think only God’s healing can remove its debilitating power. That especially is true the longer the history. The “feeling” becomes one element in the structure of a stronghold. It becomes part of our personhood. It has magnetism—it pulls toward itself proof that it is right. The feelings have the power to become self-fulfilling prophecies.

So, we pray for healing. This is a soul issue. The elements of the soul are: what we think, what we do, what we FEEL. God heals and we actively cooperate. I suggest these activities:


FLOSS. (I am writing this at the College of Dentistry.) A supervisor gave me a package of wood flossers. Since then, I have found gentle plastic ones. Now, I can drive for miles while flossing. The practice of considering what thought has gotten stuck between your synapsis will dislodge toxic feelings that lead to truth decay.

The law that guides interpretation of feelings is: experience them, feelings are feelings. Do not deny them, but know that emotions—feelings—can lie to you. They are yours—you decided to feel them. That doesn’t mean they are all legitimate.

When we talk about healing of memories, we are talking about healing of emotions—the feelings that have controlled or crippled us.

When we talk about emotions, we list such things as anger, joy, peace. When we talk about feelings we may determine them to be feelings of inadequacy, feelings of inferiority, feelings of incompetence, feelings of shame, feelings of hopelessness.

Leanne Payne is one of my most respected thinkers about healing and walking with Jesus. I randomly read from her book, Restoring The Christian Soul this morning. She always takes me to deeper places and makes me mentally floss.

This is a maxim. Until we have “grieved out” what abandonment, abuse, assault, bad choices or deficits have created in us—been healed and that vacuum filled with God’s holy working, we will have feelings that block us, keep us stuck or barricade our destiny.

Ms. Payne prints a letter from a woman in law school who had attended one of Payne’s conferences and then wrote to her. When the woman (given the name Linda) was born, she was cared for and loved on by her mother. On her third day, the child was diagnosed with staph infection and was quarantined and separated from her mother. She experienced abandonment. She feels unfilled. Her feelings of touch deprivation and failure to come to an adequate sense of being have pushed her into feelings, choices, behaviors that have not satisfied the driving needs. She concludes the letter with a P.S.:

“I confess that I don’t want ‘healing’ so much as I want to be filled up. I can’t explain this; it just seems that ‘healing’ means the feelings will be taken away, but I will still be left empty. Is that the way it’s supposed to be?”

Her feelings are coping mechanism as are her habits of repression and denial. Take away those things before she is ready or before there is something to put in their place and she will crumble—probably come apart emotionally or mentally.

So I’m driving and “flossing.” What am I thinking and what am I feeling? Most of our questions are legitimate. We need to process what caused the problem or misunderstanding. But what has caused me to feel and exactly what am I feeling? Could it be that I am feeling something that is connected to another time and place and situation? Is this just a trigger that automatically made me to re-experience something?

I think of those who are blocked, sabotaged and turned back from challenges they are capable of accomplishing–turned back by the feelings of inadequacy, feelings of not being good enough, feelings of expected disappointment (it always turns out that way), the feeling that accompanies fear of rejection and others. These feelings are expressed by anxiety, depression, fear, refusal to try and hiding out, among other things.

Because feelings trump thinking almost every time, emotional health includes defining what we feel and why we feel them. It is possible I’ve made more of the Saturday event than I should. There probably was no malice intended and there is a simple explanation. But the event uncovered some feelings that I better not oversimplify.

Begin with defining what you are feeling about yourself (called self-esteem), what you are feeling about others and your concern about what they feel about you. What are you feeling about God? Not what you think, but what you feel.

There is a storage place for feelings. Jesus said, “Out of your innermost being (belly) shall flow rivers of living water.” Or toxic feelings. Deeds of the flesh are often the attempt to smother those hurting feelings.

Not all negative feelings are toxic. I was feeling disappointed. I felt bewildered. I felt confused. So far, nothing neurotic. It will be helpful to set a time limit. I will feel sorry for myself or feel…until mid-afternoon, gives us time to process the questions and honor our feelings without indulging them.

Since this is a soul issue, we ask God to heal the toxic feeling(s) and deal with the root event that caused us to react with the feeling. We then build a healthy plan to respond to feelings. I say healthy because repression, refusing to think about them or denial does not fix anything.

Seams to me that this is critical to being ready when they hand us the ball.

 The rest of this is in Seams To Me—Section 8: Truth in Your Emotions


©2014 D. Dean Benton


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