One of the most helpful things I learned in grad school for my counseling degree is how our emotions are primarily physical.
when you “feel angry”. What you are actually feeling is
your heart beating faster, your blood pumping to your brain, your
senses sharpening, your muscles tensing to react quickly . . . it's
the Fight part of the “Fight or Flight” response your body
experiences when your senses perceive a threat. It is a physiological
thing that your brain gives a label to: Anger. And most of the
emotions we feel are similar phenomenons.
that time, I applied this knowledge to my depression problems, and
with much success. I would find myself feeling “a little blue” –
low energy, moving and reacting slowly, not thinking quickly or
clearly. And because of previous experience, my brain labeled that
“feeling” as depression. But the truth was, there were any number
of things that could have been causing those physical symptoms in my
body (the top suspect, now, being the sleep deprivation I was unaware
of at the time).
my brain told me, “I'm depressed. Why am I depressed?” Well,
goodness – if you start looking for reasons in your life to be
depressed, you're going to find something. Poor me – I'm so
unfulfilled in my life! Poor me – my husband doesn't understand me!
Poor me – I had such a difficult childhood! Yeah . . . you'll find
something. And then I nursed that little blue feeling into a
full-blown depressive episode.
I started seeing those feelings as simply physical things --
signals I need to pay attention to but not necessarily reflections of
reality -- I was able to keep my depression problems pretty much in
was reminded of these lessons again the first night we had the new
dog here last week. I was nervous. A new family member meant changes
in our household that I couldn't yet anticipate and didn't know how
to deal with. So, I sat there feeling all the typical anxiety
symptoms – racing heart, tension, restlessness, mental super-focus
on the object of my anxiety. And justifiably so.
But of course, the Enemy took the opportunity to whisper other potential
concerns into my ear. What is my daughter going to wear in the
school play? What is our other daughter going to do after she
graduates? How are these friends of ours doing with their marriage
problems? What about that friend in the hospital? What if hubby loses
his job? What if one of us gets sick? And on and on . . .
because my body was already feeling anxiety, my brain attached that
anxiety to every one of those other questions and built my little bit
of nervousness up to nearly a full-blown panic attack.
I had just done my BSF lesson about Peter walking on the water. You
know – how he only started to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus
and looked at the waves.
are only waves, I told myself. Just tense muscles. Just a
quickly beating heart. They don't define the reality around me. Just
because waves are crashing around me doesn't mean I'm going to sink .
. . because I'm not.
Jesus is right there in front of me, telling me to walk. So walk I can . . . and walk I will.