Anger isn’t bad! That was one key point at the one-hour break-out session on “Anger and Aggression – Getting Behind It and In Front of It.” It was presented by Dr. Steven J. Chen, a psychologist friend. The annual two-day Generations conference in Salt Lake’s cavernous Salt Palace convention center covered diverse topics on mental health and addiction. Not being a mental health professional, some of the material was over my head. But I found all of the presentations interesting and uplifting—reinforcing my hope and optimism that the understanding and treatment of mental illness continue to improve.
So back to anger…and all emotions: The discussion reminded me of my own journey in understanding them. For many years beginning in my preteens, I was numb to my own feelings and oblivious to those of others. Emotions were taboo. I thought (not felt!) that emotions were bad and reason was good. My career in accounting worked with that, though I often struggled in my interpersonal relationships with coworkers. It took many years of psychotherapy for me to first, understand that all emotions are good, and second, to begin recognizing my own emotions and learn how to process them and respond to them appropriately.
So I was quite intrigued when Prince Harry recently spoke about his struggles with emotions. “The Telegraph” news website quoted him as saying that he “shut down all emotions for almost two decades after losing his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales” when he was twelve years old. Boy do I relate! I was ten when my mother passed away from cancer. While I didn’t recognize it at the time, but do now looking back, that was likely the beginning of my own “shutting down.” Harry speaks of “enduring two years of total chaos while struggling in his late twenties to come to terms with the death of his mother.” When I was eighteen, I ended up in a hospital psychiatric ward in a catatonic state as part of a major depressive episode.
So I’ve come to appreciate just how important emotions are.
I’ve taught twelve and thirteen year-old boys in church Sunday classes multiple times over the years. When I asked them to recite their favorite scripture, their answers were usually predictable: “Jesus wept” from the book of John in the Bible. Their young minds caused them to giggle—knowing that it was the shortest verse in scripture and easy to remember. I don’t think they appreciated its meaning or context.
But over the years, this verse has become one of my favorites. The One many of us hold up as living a perfect, exemplary life felt emotions deeply. His empathizing with the grief of his friends Mary and Martha about the death of their brother Lazarus brought Him to tears. The Bible in many places speaks of how His kind acts were brought on by His compassion for others.
So I try to learn from His example and from years of psychotherapy. I try every day to really feel—to recognize my emotions and to respond appropriately to them. I try to better understand the emotions that others around me are feeling and to empathize with them. When I catch myself forgetting to do these things, I get angry…and that’s okay, too!
via Esperanza – Hope To Cope
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