Archive for the ‘emotions’ Category

On Anger

September 12, 2022

Marcus Aurelius, “How much more harmful are the consequences of anger…than the circumstances that aroused them in us.”

Anger erupted from within me usually when I felt threatened. The source was fear of loss of something–job, status, relationship.

Vitaliy Katsenelsen says in his book Soul in the Game, “The venom generated by anger, when allowed to spill into others, is always followed by regret.”

And yes, even to this day I have deep regret for some outbursts from anger.

John Climacus the abbot of St. Catherine’s at the foot of Mt. Sinai writing in the early 600s said that “anger is an indication of concealed hatred, of grievance nursed. Anger is the wish to harm someone who has provoked you.”

John counsels, “The fist step toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart is stirred; the next, to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset; the last, to be totally calm when unclean winds are blowing.”

It’s that moment between thought and action when you have an opportunity to take a breath, perhaps count 3, 7, 10, 100. That pause is the freedom–the freedom to choose our best response. It is in breath that silence and calm have the opportunity to prevail.

I have learned this the hard way.

Lonely People

September 8, 2022

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Elenor Rigby, Lennon/McCartney

Not being lonely constitutes one path to longevity.

Have you friends? A friend? Someone?

I think of Jesus and how he was at times alone among friends. Have you ever been in a room full of people and still feel alone? Have you called that room a church sometimes?

Maybe a family? I have memories of being a child at home and being alone even with three brothers. My mom probably wished for alone time.

Being alone does not equal being lonely. I like times to be alone. I like times to be with others. I am both extrovert and introvert—like most of us.

But lonely? When that visits, we hope it intends a short stay hotel not an extended stay residence.

I wish I could advise you on being unlonely. If I knew, I’d practice it. Go to a coffee house, see someone and ask a question, I guess. Questions are your friend.

That Complex Relationship With Emotions

August 26, 2022

Once when somewhat stressed and flooded with email requests of my time and energy, I responded to one with some extra comments. I don’t remember the exact topic or words or the exact response from the woman who sent the original–someone I’d known for several years–but her response pricked at a sore point. She said something like, “I know how you are…”

That stung. And 15 years later, I still feel it.

And, god bless electronic media. It’s so easy to delete 2/3rds of your response to an email or entire Twitter or Facebook posts!

I am emotional. I try to keep the emotions in check. I hate emotional movies–I tear up.

This thought from Pema Chodron came my way:

“If you open to all your emotions,

to all the people, to all situations,

staying present and trusting,

that trust will take you as far as you can go,

and you will understand all the teachings

anyone has ever taught.”

– Pema Chodron 

If you pause to consider this little poem, you’ll find complexity and compassion.

Try “open to” as a key word. And then “trust”.

So much of Jesus’s “blessed’s” that I’ve been pondering lately contain these. Open to God, open to yourself, open to others. Trust God.

I need this. How about you?

Personality

August 4, 2022

The woman next door dressed most of the summer in the back yard in very skimpy bikini swim suits. Yet, she did not exude sensuality–that special personality.

A teenage girl talked with me about a career in entertainment. She possessed a marvelous singing voice. Her posture, however, portrayed defeat. I tried to guide the discussion into the areas of self-assurance, personality,

I was a nerd as a teenager with no particular personality until I was almost 30.

Listening to Guy Kawasaki’s podcast interview with Abraham Paskowitz about surfing brought out a key component of personality–that inner joy with being and with doing what you love.

I think Jesus had that characteristic–doing what he was meant to do and enjoying it immensely (well, except for those three days).

The Apostle Paul’s preaching was so bad that once he put a young man to sleep. He was unfortunately sitting in an open second floor window, fell out, died, and had to be revived by Paul–who went on preaching. But he must have exuded that inner joy of doing what he was meant to do.

Having a personality infused with the fruit of the spirit–love, joy, peace, and so forth–shines through the personality. People can tell. We can tell. It’s quite a way to live.

Equanimity

July 7, 2022

I found a new word to learn and apply. Equanimity.

This appeared in a book describing characteristics of the various Enneagram types. Evaluations I’ve taken are somewhat conflicting sometimes typing me as a 4 and sometimes a 5. Reading through this latest book, The Road Back To You, I’ve settled on typing myself as a 4 with a strong 5 wing. That may not mean much, but 4s tend to have more mood swings. You can’t always tell mine from the outside, but sometimes this writing reveals them.

So the author, Ian Morgan Cron, brings out this word for 4s–equanimity. “Fours need to cultivate what’s called equanimity, a sorely ignored virtue in the Christian tradition. Equanimity refers to the ability to remain emotionally composed and steady regardless of what’s going on around us.”

People almost everywhere in the world live on a diet of social media and biased TV news specifically designed to unbalance us emotionally. We too easily get sucked into the vortex of hyped up emotions. Some people thrive (emotionally and financially) on being perpetrators.

We, the recipients, must cultivate this virtue called equanimity. We need a daily (hourly?) reminder.

Motives

June 24, 2022

People who lived prior to 1890 or so described emotional/psychological issues as caused by spirits. Or demons. In “Discernment of the Spirits,” the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing describes someone driven by the spirits of wrath, malice, and wickedness.

“For that wicked accursed wretch will sometimes change his likeness into that of an angel of light, in order that, under the color of virtue, he may do more mischief. He leads them on…always under the pretext of devotion and charity, not because he takes any delight in works of devotion or of charity, but because he loves dissension and scandal.”

Does that describe anyone you know? Church leader? Politician? Neighbor? Yourself?

Discern carefully the spirit of those you meet. Some will be genuinely full of the spirits of love (charity) or devotion. Others may be masking anger, anxiety, fear, or just plain wickedness.

Always be aware.

Why Worry

February 3, 2022

My mom was a worrier. She suffered from anxiety, depression. Even was temporarily hospitalized. She passed that on to her four children. We all dealt with it in our own ways.

If I try, I can remember lying in bed before sleep worrying about tomorrow and next week and next month.

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.

Mark Twain

I soon discovered a truth that Viktor Frankl had uncovered. We humans have the power of choice. We can choose what to think about. While still in my 20s, I discovered the antidote. When thoughts began to dwell on what could go wrong, I would intentionally direct my thoughts to something pleasurable. It works. Between that and a lifetime of meditation, I have almost cut worry and anxiety from my life.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus taught that we can zoom out on our focus.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendorwas dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus gives similar advice. Focus our attention on the kingdom of God. That is more profitable than focus on what can go wrong.

Unless We Control Our Affairs By a Guiding Purpose

October 26, 2021

Lay’s Potato Chips once had an advertising challenge—“Bet you can’t eat just one.”

When we find something pleasurable, we cannot stop at some sensible place. We rush headlong into overindulgence—or, as the ancient philosopher Seneca put it, “the abyss of sorrow.”

I could take that Lay’s challenge—sort of. I could eat just one. One bag full, that is. No matter the size of that bag. And then I would get on the scale the next morning and read the results right there between my feet in large, black, unforgiving numbers!

Seneca pointed out how hard to keep something pleasurable within bounds. Food, drink, sex, games, whatever. He told us “there are only a few who control themselves and their affairs by a guiding purpose; the rest do not proceed; they are merely swept along, like objects afloat in a river.

We can read the Hebrew Proverbs learning the difference between the wise person and the fool. Or the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Or the teachings of his brother James in the Christian Scriptures. Here and many other places we are taught about that guiding principle that keeps us from going overboard with our freedom to pursue pleasure being swept away by the currents.

Bet you can’t eat just one!

Anger

October 13, 2021

It happens sometimes that someone disappoints me. A low-level anger grows within my gut. Not rage. But my emotions are aroused.

It happens sometimes that I react with an email promptly.

That is always a mistake. I know better. Walk away. Let the new situation digest. Then I can respond from a recognition of the new situation.

Time. Allow for understanding. Readjust thinking. Now response comes more calmly and constructively.

For example, a referee calls and says, “Sorry, but I cannot do that game tomorrow that I promised I would.”

Anger does not help. The new reality is that I must find a replacement. My thinking must quickly move toward accepting the new reality and devising solutions. That requires calm.

Sometimes the anger may be deeper. Politics can stir deep and lasting emotions. Injustice in the world. Someone in the workplace or within the organization beats me out of a position and I lose status and money.

We cannot let the anger grow and control us. What is the situation? What can we do? If we can do nothing (like politics in Washington other than vote every couple of years), then we have to accept our limitations and work where we can provide solutions.

Maybe I can’t solve world hunger (I worked for an organization once that tried that.) But we can feed the hungry family down the street or send money to an orphanage to help feed the kids. I can let the anger provide energy for useful responses.

Once we go that far, then as we rest daily with God in the spirit of meditation in our daily disciplines, we can let the spirit of God guide our responses now that we’ve calmed enough to accept it. When anger is in control, we can’t listen. When we decide to recognize this new situation, we can listen for God’s guidance. This channels our life into more useful responses.

Finding A Heart

October 1, 2021

The New Testament, as well as more ancient advice and modern spiritual explorers, teaches us to be aware and be careful of being ruled by our passions.

This can be as mild as foolishly spending money on unnecessary things. Or choosing to spend time with the wrong people.

It can be as bad as letting fear, lust, anger, greed, pride, and the rest rule our lives.

On the other hand, a coldly rational outlook following the rules and inhibiting relationship fuels a life alone and unsatisfying.

A TV series from Belgium explores some of these themes with deep probing and gentle understanding. Professor T features the struggles of a genius criminologist professor who assists a former student now detective inspector in solving murders. Along the way the writers probe the struggles and growth of perhaps 10 other characters.

The acting is superb. The soundtrack outstanding. The spoken language is Flemish (with some French—it is Belgium, so both languages are spoken—and English). We found it on Amazon Prime. I realize there are people reading this in countries where you may not be able to find this program. But if you can, it’s worth it. It was recorded in 2015, 2016, and 2018. Three seasons of 13 episodes. We’ve watched it over the past month. I’m going to miss the characters.

There is an English version, as in performed in England in English. We have seen this one. Not as good. There are also versions in German and French. We have not seen those. Watch the Belgian one. I cried at the end.

Overcoming passions keys a sound life. But as a preacher I used to listen to said, “Jesus was the first cardiologist. He was concerned with the condition of our heart.”

Unless your heart is in the right condition, overcoming passions will leave you cold.