Within the context of a day I can cover a lot of emotional ground and not realize the toll it takes until I lay in bed at night with a numb heart. I used to think numb emotions resulted from lack of caring, but over the years I’ve realized it results from too many unresolved and unrecognized emotions. Like mixing too many paint colors at once, I just end up with a brownish muck color.
I mastered this art of color mixing as a kid living in an adult world. The emotions were too big for me to handle, so I mixed them up…good and bad, and moved on. It was survival of the one who cared the least, and I won. That mode of operating served me well for a long time. I could rock cool and detached emotional status like a pro. However, there’s nothing cool or loving about being a detached wife or mom. It’s just not an option if I wanted a healthy, thriving family. There’s nothing attractive about being a detached friend or sister, it’s hurtful to others and keeps me from experiencing authentic relationships. I woke up in my late 20’s and knew I needed to be retaught how to feel again. The bright side is that since this is a learned self-defense mode my heart defaults to in order to avoid painfully ‘feeling all the feels’, that means I can relearn a new, healthier way of approaching emotions too.
I started recognizing my emotional red flag. It’s when muted, muck brown is the color of my heart. My head knows I have too much to be thankful and joyful for and, honestly too much valid sadness to feel nothing at all. I wind up with a heart clogged up with a tangled knot of vacillating muddy emotions. Can you relate? How do you gauge your emotional health? Have you seen this color wheel of emotions? I don’t know about you but I want to authentically feel appropriate emotions for life’s situations. Angry when I should feel angry, sad when I should feel sad, happy when I should feel happy… What are your emotional red flags where unhealthy or unresolved emotions dictate your perspective and responses?
I want to feel emotions like colors, bright and recognizable. Blended emotions naturally happen and they create beautiful combinations on life’s emotional color palette. Many of my most treasured moments are blended hues: love with fear, bittersweet, sad and hopeful, excited yet afraid, scared and determined…but mix them all together and I get an unidentifiable puddle that’s nearly impossible to work with. Where do I go from there?
I take my muck-covered heart to God and get painfully honest. The book of Psalms refers to God as a place of refuge (I counted 8 times but maybe more?). King David who often talked about God as his refuge needed a place for both physical and emotional safety. Right now the refuge I need most often isn’t a physical but an emotional one. Every year of marriage, each daughter born, every move (14 so far), and through the waves of life I am learning to seek emotional refuge in a safe place where I’m neither condemned or manipulated. Anxiety and worry don’t like to sit still, so I sit myself down in God’s presence and wait for the muck-brown to wash away. Every time (it’s been years now) I sit down with this intent I get back up with a sense of freedom and release. I experience the truth that God is the ‘strength of my heart’ (Psalm 73:26).
Emotions aren’t wrong or bad unless we give them more control than they deserve. The paints are never meant to dictate the brush or the hand holding it. When surrendered before God, emotions step back to their proper place as beautiful, vibrant colorful expressions of our heart.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. ~Psalm 73:26