I just graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a BFA in Acting. College for me was great. Marymount was what I needed even though it was never in my plans to go to school for Acting. Not every year was perfect. In fact, College came with a lot of hardships. College does a lot to a person emotionally. I realized in College that I have a difficult time processing emotion. Funny to think that as an actor I can't process my own emotion. I call this emotion swallowing. This sounds gross. It’s a big problem that I have had to get better at slowly. I am very protective of myself and my feelings. I don’t think it was something a parent or teacher taught me. I think it's a habit that I have taught myself. You might be asking yourself “What is emotion swallowing?” Well, let me tell you it’s when you start to get emotional: sad, angry, or embarrassed. Rather than you allow yourself to feel the emotion, you immediately swallow it. You don’t let the tears come. You push it down deep into your subconscious.
A side effect of this is being unable to talk with other people about how you feel. So I will push my emotions away and change the subject. To me, vulnerability has always meant weakness. I swallow my emotions for several reasons and the main one if I'm honest is because I don't know how to deal with them. And I don't want to. I used to tell myself that I did this because I had to be the strongest person around. That people expected me to be this way. The thing is no one has asked me to do this. No one said,”Hey Katie, we need you to be the person who doesn’t get to process your emotions and just deal because everyone else needs to be emotional.” Emotion swallowing can also appear in different ways. I recently realized that not admitting if I have feelings for someone is a big way of me trying to make sure my feelings don’t get hurt. I don't like to tell people if I have a crush. This has been something I have always done. I usually only tell my best friends. If I do tell other people, I always make it seem like my emotions are not important. That the crush is so small so that if the person doesn’t end up liking me, it looks as though I never even cared.
College has a way of bringing out emotions. Especially as an acting major. I remember during a pivotal season in my college career a friend looked at me and said, “Katie, God can handle your emotions.” It was a big turning point. My journaling changed drastically. I allowed my relationship with Christ to become more than a daily awkward pen pale note.
Like most things in life balancing your emotions and learning how to process them is crucial. One of my friends recently told me she does the opposite of emotion swallowing. She’s more of an emotional spout allowing herself to feel all the time. This is also not good. Finding the balance of emotional boundaries with yourself is something that I have started to think about. How do you have emotional boundaries with yourself? Well, you need to become aware of if you are an emotion swallower or emotion spouter. If you feel yourself swallowing your emotions, you need to learn to let them come up. Then you need to surrender them to God.
I lost my aunt last year to cancer. She was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and was gone within two weeks of the diagnosis. When I was grieving my aunt's death, I had a choice to make about the emotions I was going through. I could push the emotions of anger, frustration, and sadness away and ultimately keep them with me. Or I could surrender them to God. If I hadn't learned to process my emotions with situations that were a lot less intense, I would have probably have sat with those feelings of anger and frustration for years. I had to choose to surrender my thoughts and emotions of anger, sadness, and confusion. It wasn’t a one time deal. It was a process, and that processing is something God is willing to walk through with you. The next step is to monitor your thoughts. Our thoughts at times lead us into an unhealthy emotional spiral. Become aware if you let your thoughts continue in negative ways. Seek a friend who you trust that will listen to you. That won’t offer you advice but to sit there while you verbally talk through the emotions and situation that you have been going through.
So what does the bible say about emotions? Last week in church the sermon ironically was about emotions. Pastor Nathan at Hillsong talked about cultivating godly emotions. He pointed to Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV) “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” The King James version says to, “set your affection on the things above.” What does this mean? Well, I think it means that we can have emotions. But remember to check where your emotions are coming from. Are you responding from a place of selfishness? Of love? Of joy? Of regret? Of jealousy? If you are going through something emotional such as conflict with a friend or grieving someone, or anxiety about your future give your emotions to God. Especially if you don’t know where the emotion is coming from. Ask God to help you work through the situation. Write out how you feel. Sing about it. I’m not saying that this will make your problems go away, but it does help you to process through the emotion. When I process through my emotions, I usually make the biggest breakthroughs, or I can make the decision that I couldn't make before.
If you read through the Gospels and observe how Jesus chooses to respond to emotional situations you might be surprised by the emotions he went through. He is never closed off to people or overly emotional. In fact, Jesus calls us to be emotional. John 15:12 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” To find out more about what biblical emotions I would suggest reading through John, Romans, or Colossians. These books have a lot to say about emotions. The bible also tells us to be there for others who are going through hard times.
But how can we help our friends and family who are going through a difficult situation? Pastor Nathan referred to Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” I suggest being the listening ear and when appropriate be an encourager. If you find a piece of scripture that pertains to the situation send it. Pray for and with your friends and family. Without my amazing friends in college, I probably would not have gotten through a lot of difficult situations.
I'll leave you with this: being emotional is not a sign of weakness. You have permission to be emotional with God. Your feelings are valid, and you deserve the space to process them. So if you find yourself as an emotion swallower take the space and time for yourself. We are not called to be the Savior for people. Jesus is the Savior. Let go of the expectation of needing to be strong for other people. In the end, you are probably lying to yourself about your emotions and your emotions will catch up to you. Instead, take the time to communicate with Jesus those feelings. Seek Him. He can feel those emotions with you even when we don't want to or don't know how to.
Romans 8:26-28 (NIV)
"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."