Have you ever had a bottle of soda explode on you when you open it? Usually, it is because the bottle has been shaken or dropped so there is a lot of pressure under the cap. As the pressure builds, it can no longer be contained and will either explode or begin to seep out slowly. These soda explosions can be a lot like our emotions. In my years as a therapist, I see one of the biggest issues that individuals face is the fear or lack of ability to express emotions.
Emotions are like that soda bottle because the more people try to stuff or ignore them, the more likely it is that there will be an emotional explosion, or it will begin seeping out in small ways (and usually at inconvenient times). It is healthy and necessary to express emotions.
The struggle to express emotions is often rooted in fear. There may be fear of what the emotions will bring out, what others will think, they won’t be able to stop them, or that they are invalid. I have found that this typically comes from the individual being shut down when emotions are attempted to be expressed (usually in childhood). This leaves people with the feeling that no one cares or that their feelings aren’t important.
I often find myself encouraging those I meet with in counseling to learn how to begin connecting to what they feel. This usually begins by identifying what is happening in the body (i.e. heaviness in chest, rapid heartbeat, heaviness in back/shoulders, etc.) as well as vocalizing what the feeling is (i.e. mad, sad, happy). In doing this, emotions can then be processed and worked through. Other forms of expression can include journaling, drawing, using exercise/movement, talking with a trusted counselor or friend, writing letters, etc. All these forms of expression are necessary to prevent explosions. Emotion will come out, one way or another. Expression allows a slow release, which also enables the individual to learn to cope with the emotion and process the cause of it.
On the flip side, being ruled by emotions can be detrimental. Being in touch with emotions is healthy but allowing them to determine important decisions in life can cause problems down the road. Emotions ebb and flow, so making decisions or engaging with relationships all based on emotion can cause confusion, hurt, and frustration. It is important to have a healthy balance of expression and logical problem-solving.
Emotions are God given. He wants us to feel and to experience life more abundantly with all the emotions that come with it. Many are taught that certain emotions are bad. However, it is not the emotion that is bad, but the way it is expressed. And perhaps bad isn’t the right word; rather unhealthy. This might look like someone being angry and throwing objects at someone. Instead of leading to violence, anger can be expressed through exercise, yelling into a pillow, or punching it, or even taking deep breaths to calm down. Healthy expression is key for emotions.
The Bible has a lot to say about our emotions and the healthy expression of them. One of my favorite verses about anxiety is Philippians 4:6-7, which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (ESV). If you are struggling with expressing your emotions, I encourage you to study scripture and talk to a counselor, who can help you connect with your emotions and learn to express them in a healthy way. This could begin the process of healing and change that you are seeking.