Archive for March 25th, 2009

I have been reading the book The Shack by William Paul Young. I have been focusing upon different words of wisdom in the book that can be applied to survivors of child abuse. See my first post for more information about the book.

Today, I would like to discuss the following quote:

Emotions are the color of the soul—they are spectacular and incredible. When you don’t feel, the world becomes dull and colorless. Just think how The Great Sadness reduced the range of color in your life down to monotones and flat grays and blacks … [Emotions] just are. They are neither bad nor good; they just exist … Most emotions are responses to perception—what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too…The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly. ~ The Shack pp. 198-199

I spent most of my life running from my emotions. I repressed the emotion of anger so far down that I truly did not believe that I even knew how to experience that emotion. I lived my life in shades of gray. I mostly felt nothing. It was a dark, cold existence.

After I entered into therapy and started healing from child abuse, I felt emotions in spades, and I was not one bit happy about it. One day, I felt such incredibly deep grief that I questioned whether it was even possible to survive it. When I told my therapist about this, he was pleased. He said that I was finally feeling, which meant that I was healing. I was no longer living my life numb.

I was very angry about this. I could not believe that my options were either numbness or feeling such deep pain that death seemed preferable. However, my therapist was correct that my painful emotions would pass, and they did. After they passed, I was finally able to feel positive emotions – things I had not felt in my entire lifetime. I could feel joy and peace in a way that I never dreamed possible.

The key to managing your emotions is remembering that they are transient. No emotion lasts forever. Whether you are feeling very good or very bad, that emotion is going to pass. Learn how to savor the “good” emotions when you have them, and try not to feed into the “bad” emotions – just let them pass through you. If you will allow yourself to “be” with the bad emotions without giving energy to them, they will pass much more quickly.

Although I know the truth of these statements, I continue to wrestle with following my own advice. I recently went through a period of feeling so low that I did not know if I could make it through. Whenever I experience very deep emotions, particularly despair, I have trouble remembering that emotions are transient. It takes a lot of seemingly blind faith to hold on for better days.

As painful as the bad emotions are, I would not trade away the good ones. Unfortunately, you cannot just shut off the “bad” emotions. They come with the good ones. The emotions really are worth experiencing, and they definitely color your world.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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