Are Your Emotions Controlling You?
Do you feel like your emotions control you or do you control your emotions? Emotions are complex and sometimes difficult to identify. But your emotions are important to building any intimate and healthy relationship. In today's episode, Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace talk through the need for identifying, labeling and understanding your emotions.
Announcer: Welcome to another Art of Relationships Podcast. We are grateful for listeners like you. Let's get right into it.
Chris Grace: Well, welcome to another Art of Relationships Podcast. Hey, we're sponsored by the Center for Marriage and Relationships at Biola University, and here with me today is my lovely wife, Alisa, so...
Alisa Grace: Hey, how you doing, Chris?
Chris Grace: Hey. I'm doing pretty good.
Alisa Grace: Good.
Chris Grace: So, Alisa, we get to do a podcast because we work in this Center, and you co-direct the Center for Marriage and Relationships, been doing that for almost seven years, eight years now we're going on. And I'm also one of the directors. Alisa, it's just been really fun to have a whole center dedicated to relationships at a university, and one that looks at relationships from a biblical perspective.
Alisa Grace: Oh, so healthy. To look at it from a biblical perspective, we look at it from a scientific perspective, really taking into account your background as a research psychologist, PhD, social psychologist, emphasis in experimental social psychology. It really brings a lot to bear. And then to take it and put it in really practical application, where people can hear what we're talking about and really start to put it into play and see a difference in their relationships, in their families, in their work environment. I love that.
Chris Grace: Yeah. I do too. And so, we're going to get right into a podcast, but just one little small advertisement would be Alisa, there's a lot of resources for people. We have a Facebook page, we have a website.
Alisa Grace: We do. Our Facebook page is Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships. Then we're also on Twitter and Instagram, and that is BiolaCMR is our handle there. Anyway, yeah, we'd love for you to check us out. We also have a really great website, the cmr.biola.edu.
Chris Grace: Perfect. Well, let's take this series and launch it on the topic of emotions, and let's talk about the emotional life of people. And here's, I think Alisa I'll just set the stage. It goes like this. All of us understand our emotions, but emotions play an extremely huge role in relationships that people understand. I mean, everything seems like it's about an emotion, right? When two people connect, it feels like, "Oh, they make me happy. I love being with them. They make me laugh. I feel good about it." When we lose a relationship, we feel emotions of sadness, or anger-
Alisa Grace: Grief.
Chris Grace: ... or grief. Right. I think at that level, everybody, and it's just intuitive and makes common sense that we deal in a relational world with emotions as a high priority and or at the top of much of what we feel.
Alisa Grace: Absolutely.
Chris Grace: Okay. Well, what's interesting then, I think, is why then, Alisa, do you and I in our center, and as we go around talking about relationships, but also hearing people come to us with concerns in their marriages, in their dating relationships, in their just in friendships-
Alisa Grace: Friendships.
Chris Grace: They seem to struggle most in the area of dealing with their emotions. Understanding them, processing them, feeling safe. Okay, I'll say that again. Understanding them, processing their emotions, dealing with deeper hidden emotions, feeling safe and setting boundaries, right?
Alisa Grace: Right, right. Absolutely. And as we go through and we look at it, scientifically we see in studies that are done that relationships, healthy relationships play a central role to our physical and our emotional well being, right? And because we connect deeply with another person, that's just fundamental to being human. And it's just a core of who we are as humans. And research shows that when we do our relationships well, we experience better health, we recover from illness more quickly. We even live longer, Chris. And so, having healthy personal relationships is one of the strongest predictors of happiness and emotional well being that psychologists have measured. That's incredible.
Chris Grace: Yeah. It really is, Alisa, because I think what ends up happening is people, we are emotional beings. God created us with emotions. And we'll go over some passages that explain this. Again, it's just clear that God experienced emotions. Jesus, when he walked on the Earth, he experienced emotions, right? If you talk about what Jesus experienced, you could go through the list, but we have passages that would show, okay, did Jesus ever experience anger? And people say-
Alisa Grace: Oh, yes.
Chris Grace: Yeah. I mean, because-
Alisa Grace: Righteous anger.
Chris Grace: Yeah. He had righteous anger, or he experienced things that we would say would be examples of lashing out at especially those who were doing things, like for example selling things, or making the marketplace-
Alisa Grace: In the temple.
Chris Grace: ... in the temple, and not as a place of worship. He experienced joy. People don't realize that one a lot. He did smile. He did sing with the disciples the night before his crucifixion, or before, I guess the Friday before he was hung on the cross.
Alisa Grace: The Passover.
Chris Grace: Yeah. They sang together and he shows... Go ahead.
Alisa Grace: I even think we don't always see this portrayed in some of the movies about Jesus, but I think that it's one thing that I'm really into The Chosen TV series right now. I love it. I've been binge watching it. It is so good. If you have not seen it, you have to watch The Chosen. But one of the things I love about it is in their portrayal of Jesus, he has a sense of humor. He's just so real in this. The disciples are so real, and raw, and relatable. But I think that's often an emotion of humor, especially about Jesus, that we overlook or we don't always think about. I think he probably had a pretty good sense of humor.
Chris Grace: Yeah. And I also think that he shows... By the way, it is a great series, and we have people who are friends who've been able to work on that, and people that we know, and so we recommend it highly. Alisa, I think with Jesus and emotions, it probably is worth camping out here for a long time. He did experience, of course, all of these things that we talk about. Sadness, Jesus wept of course. He of course experienced... Now, the only one that maybe he didn't might have been fear, but some people claim while he was in the garden, and he went away and prayed, he came back with-
Alisa Grace: In the garden of Gethsemane.
Chris Grace: ... deep distress. But you know the most common command in scripture is about an emotion, and that most common command in scripture about emotion says, "Do not fear." And I think that's interesting. It was spoken to us. Those words, do not fear, were spoken to humans by God, by Jesus, by angels, by prophets, and by apostles. Every one of them, angels said, "Do not fear." Do not fear. You know, in fact, I don't know. I've heard it said that you can find that commandment about three-hundred-and-sixty-some times in the Bible, which is about one a day, you know? But it's the most common command, and so, okay, one of the most common commands in scripture is about emotions. Jesus had a full emotional life. God talks a lot about emotions and human emotions and they get us in trouble, they make us happy, so let's spend some time talking about emotions.
Alisa Grace: That sounds great.
Chris Grace: So, emotions 1.0. Everybody understands the primary emotions, Alisa, and I think we could go over just things. There are lots of different numbers of emotions 1.0, but you take a one, two, three-year-old child, and what's one of our most common things that we do, is we teach them to identify their emotions, right?
Alisa Grace: Yeah. I can remember one time when our middle daughter, Natalie, I think she was probably in first grade, and she had had a hard time at school that day, and she came home and I could tell that she was a little bit out of sorts. And so, I was asking her, "Natalie, what's wrong? Did something happen at school today?" And she got very sad and she got big tears. Her eyes welled up with tears and she was very sad. She said, "Mommy, my friends didn't play with me today." And so, I could tell that she was very sad, but I wanted to really help her understand that emotion, and so I was able to help her articulate and say, "Wow, Natalie. I can tell you're sad. I bet that that probably made you feel really left out and maybe rejected. Is that right?"
And she said, "Yeah." And she shook her head and she told me a little bit more about what had happened that day, but that was such a prime teaching moment as a parent, to help my six or seven-year-old be able to label an emotion even deeper than just, "I'm sad."
Chris Grace: Yeah. Yeah. And I remember you told me the story later on that day, or maybe Natalie did, and she used those words, and I remember that was the day I almost went to prison, because I was going to go kill some little five-year-old kid.
Alisa Grace: Go beat up a seven-year-old.
Chris Grace: I was, man. I'm like, "Hey, you include that girl." You just got to be real careful, man, so that emotion could-
Alisa Grace: That's right. That gets your mama bear and papa bear emotions going.
Chris Grace: Yeah, so we help our three-year-olds, two-year-olds, even our younger children-
Alisa Grace: Even teenagers.
Chris Grace: ... and teenagers help identify things like this, right? Emotions that we probably most recognize as those would be anger, happiness, sadness, surprise, that's an emotion. Surprise, fear, and disgust. Okay, there's six. Now, different researchers in the field of psychology and others in emotions might describe 12, or might only have a core of three or four, but six is kind of the... I think if you just took a look at a general number.
Alisa Grace: The primary?
Chris Grace: The primary emotions. And of course, you have secondary emotions, like if you mix some of those, right? So, if you were to mix, well, we could do a whole quiz. What if you were to mix certain emotions? So, let's try this. If you mixed awe, like somebody is... Fear is fear and surprised. You go, like awe, right?
Alisa Grace: Ah. Like that.
Chris Grace: Yeah. Ah. There you go.
Alisa Grace: Just like that.
Chris Grace: What if you mixed anger and disgust? What would we get? Yeah, you're disgust-
Alisa Grace: Contempt.
Chris Grace: That's right. Contempt would be exactly the secondary emotion and I think these are harder for our kids to identify, like I feel angry and mad, or like if you're sad and disgusted. You don't like something and it makes you feel very sad. It may be something you did and you're disgusted with yourself, let's say, or sad. You could feel remorse.
Alisa Grace: Wow. So, what you're saying is that even just being able to recognize an emotion and put a label on it is really powerful.
Chris Grace: Oh, yeah. It's exactly what you did with Natalie. I mean, it's she kind of nods her head like, "Yeah, that's it."
Alisa Grace: Why is that so powerful, Chris?
Chris Grace: Well, I think the reason is because it gives us our emotions aren't just the six primary. In fact, you would think of it, that's like an iceberg. We can identify those pretty quickly as kids with some help, but the problem comes in is when we go deeper. So, let's just say you feel you're angry, and disgusted, and sad. Well, what does that mean? And you can talk to somebody and say, "It just made me so angry, but it made me so sad, and I was so disgusted this happened." We would maybe call that word being dismayed. Well, to be able to do that is really not easy. It's really not easy because it's not in our vocabulary.
Alisa Grace: It's not.
Chris Grace: So, Alisa, let's go to emotions 2.0. If you wanted to help a relationship thrive, if you want to help people do well, whether it's parent to child, whether it's processing with your teachers in school, whether it's helping your kids process with each other, we need to be able to go at a deeper level and understand our emotions deeper. Why? Well, because it just seems like it will help do something when we understand at a deeper level, right?
Alisa Grace: Yeah. I think what it does is when I'm able to label my emotions, and for me, of all things, it's harder for me to do that internal processing and have that self-awareness than I know it is for you. A lot of times the stereotype is that women can do it but men can't, but it's actually easier for you to do it and it's harder for me. But when I'm able to understand my own emotions and really put a label on it and communicate that to you, and you're able to receive it, and embrace that, and carry that with me, and not judge me, but instead it makes me feel accepted. It makes me feel known. And it makes me feel loved and connected.
And so, do you remember the MRI study that was done when they put two people in a MRI machine? And what they were doing is they were mapping the brain to see where the emotions, what part of the brains would light up during conflict, in particular. So, they put two people in the MRI machines, their brains are all hooked up to the machine. They have the little wires. And then they had the people ensue in a conflict, begin talking and having a conversation about a recent conflict they had, and what they noticed was right in the middle of the brain the amygdala lit up, and that's where the emotions, right back in the back there, where it processes the emotional content of a message. And that was lighting up on the screen for the researchers during their conflict. It was just like, "Pow, pow, pow, pow," lighting up.
And so, what they did is they then gave each of the people in the MRI machine a list of emotions and they had them identify the emotion and the definition of it during their conflict, and to begin talking about it, and what they noticed was that the activity of the brain as they labeled that emotion and talked about it, it moved it from the amygdala, that emotional part, to the frontal cortex, which processes logically. And they were able to talk about it with less emotion but with more problem-solving capacity. And so, it's like-
Chris Grace: I think that's the key, isn't it?
Alisa Grace: ... when you do that, it just drains that emotional energy that might be driving that conflict just to be able to label that emotion, to be able to communicate it to the other person, and for the other person to be able to receive it and hear it.
Chris Grace: I think we need to camp out there for just one second.
Alisa Grace: Wow.
Chris Grace: So, what you said was if a person is in a conflicted type of relationship with whomever they might find themselves in it with, that what happens initially is you feel this strong surge of emotion, right? And it could be the anger, it could be disgust, it could be sadness, whatever. And it's probably very much at the front of us, and that amygdala in this study sounds like it just goes overboard, and so what comes out is yelling, or sadness, or crying, or running away, or fear.
Alisa Grace: Hiding.
Chris Grace: And then the study seemed to say, "Hey, hold on, now. I want you to be able to identify and label this." And then it moved it from there, as you mentioned, to the place where they can now begin to process what was going on in a much calmer way. I think just processing in a calmer way, what if we gave you the secret to processing your conflict in a calmer way? I mean, okay, I think this is probably the key point for this podcast. What if there was a tool, what if there was a little golden nugget that we could give you that could say, "You can process and talk about conflict with another person without letting your deep emotions overwhelm you and you could do it with a couple of simple steps."
And one of those simple steps is just first of all learning to label the emotion that you're experiencing. Now, it's not just the primary emotion. It's learning to label what we're going to call emotions point two, right? Or 1.2, or whatever you want to call it, and it's a deeper level, and so Alisa, what are these? Hidden below that let's say iceberg of anger, sadness, fear, surprise, there's a whole vast array, and this study says we can process in a cool, calm, rather than hot and attacking type of conversation with somebody.
Alisa Grace: Yeah. I think one of the problems with conflict is that our emotions can run away with us. We just feel attacked, we feel misjudged, we feel like we're not being heard, and our emotions can just get away with us. If there was a way to tap the brakes, so to speak, this is the way to do that. To be able to understand what you're feeling and then to be able to communicate it to your partner. Whether it's your child, whether it's your parent, your spouse, your coworker, your boss, an angry neighbor, whatever the situation is, to do it in a really healthy way.
Chris Grace: Okay, let's do two things then. For y'all listening to this podcast, here's this gold nugget, I think, and that is to be able to deal with your conflicts in a much healthier, calm manner, while still identifying your emotions and then being heard. So, let's do this, Alisa. Let's talk about what some of those emotions are at the deeper level that we're talking about. Let's give some names. If you're listeners out there, write this down. Record these. Because these can be extremely helpful. And then, what we need to do at that point is once we give you some of these names, if you don't write fast enough, guess what? We even have a handout that we can make available that lists these emotions. All you got to do is contact us at cmr.biola.edu and ask for this handout on identifying your emotions. We call it different things.
So, let's do that, and then let's give them an example.
Alisa Grace: Okay. And this isn't just the negative, but it's also positive emotions, right?
Chris Grace: Right.
Alisa Grace: And so, let's say some of the positive emotions-
Chris Grace: Let's do that. Yeah.
Alisa Grace: ... we might talk about would be feeling accepted, supported.
Chris Grace: Yeah, so describe what that means. In an emotional level, when you say you feel accepted, what does that mean?
Alisa Grace: Well, I think that would mean that you feel known, you feel acknowledged, and recognized. And that they don't hold it against you, that they communicate to you you're still okay even though in this situation I see you, I know you, and I accept you. So, that just means like my friend approves of me, and accepts me, and I feel valued.
Chris Grace: Okay. Give us another one.
Alisa Grace: Okay, so let's say it makes me feel important. When you do something that it might make me feel important, that means significant, relevant, or honored. So, when I feel significant to you, or to my friend, it makes me feel like I'm a priority to you. Another one might be competent. That's a big one for me, I think, especially for you.
Chris Grace: Give us an example.
Alisa Grace: Feeling valuable, successful, or capable.
Chris Grace: So, how does that work? Give us an example of what that means for you if it's important and that you want to be... At times, if I say to you, "Alisa, man, that was..." Is it praise?
Alisa Grace: Yeah. I can think of a great example. In the last year and a half, I don't know if our listeners know, but you actually went through colon cancer stage three cancer treatment, and during that time it was a... Man, that cancer treatment kicked our butts. It really did. It was as rough as people say. While you were so incapacitated and so sick from the chemo, so weak from the surgery, the radiation, it was really up to me to navigate all of the medical issues going on, the appointments, things with our kids that were happening, just household things that normally you might take care of some of those, but it was really left up to me and it was a lot on my plate on some days. And there were many times that you just paused and you took notice of it, and you told me, "Alisa, thanks for holding the fort down while I'm so sick. Thanks for taking such good care of our family. Thanks for taking such good care of me. You're making wise decisions and you're really doing well."
And man, that just really... That tapped into that emotion of feeling competent, that emotional need to feel competent, like you feel like I'm contributing, like you think I'm smart, you think I'm good at what I do, and you approved of me. And so, that was life giving in a time where I was really being... Not to put the focus on me, because you were the one going through the treatment, but it was really tough for me as the caregiver, very draining at the time, for a year and a half. And to have you acknowledge it on that deeper emotion 2.0 level rather than, "Hey, thanks. You're doing a good job." You really said, "You're carrying it well, making wise decisions."
Chris Grace: Yeah. Yeah. Thanks.
Alisa Grace: It was more meaningful.
Chris Grace: Yeah. That's right. Yeah. I do not recommend going through chemo or colon cancer stage three for anybody just to help your emotions and being able to process and express them. Okay, so here's the idea then. Ready? And I think, Alisa, there's another interesting point that you just brought out. If you really want to do this well in conflict, identifying your negative emotions, it might be helpful to start with your positive emotions.
Alisa Grace: Yeah. Practice with those.
Chris Grace: Practice that. So, if somebody does something and says something to you, and you said, Alisa, just now, "It made me feel valuable, successful, or competent and capable." Well, to be able to say that is really helpful because you're labeling now a little bit more about your soul and here's what's important to me as a spouse is to be able to hear, or hear another person, what does make them feel this way? I want you to feel good, and whatever, and competent, and so to be able to express that when you do something like that really feeds your soul and who you are. And it's probably why we like other people that are our friends, because they make us feel something like for example, I might feel the need to feel let's say cherished, or understood.
I think a big one for me might be that. I want to be recognized, or appreciated, or understood. I don't like being misunderstood. Or I don't know, Alisa, maybe you could pick out some other ones like that. So, that's one way to do it, right? You take the positive. So, let's list some of those just real quickly. If you're writing them down, Alisa used the word competent. You talked about, Alisa, feeling accepted. And you can look up these.
Alisa Grace: Admired is a good one.
Chris Grace: Admired.
Alisa Grace: Praised.
Chris Grace: Yeah, so admired, praised, all of these could be used. Look them up in a dictionary, the words we're giving you right now. We have definitions, but what's another one, Alisa?
Alisa Grace: Understood.
Chris Grace: Yeah, that's a good one if you feel-
Alisa Grace: Peaceful.
Chris Grace: I love that one.
Alisa Grace: You feel peaceful. Informed. You know, that you're aware, familiar, up to date with things.
Chris Grace: Yeah. How about satisfied, right? I'm content. I'm fulfilled.
Alisa Grace: Oh, yeah.
Chris Grace: Or I just feel content in my relationship. I'm satisfied. Okay, so here's the point. Start by looking at the positive emotions. Think through those. Identify. Take that list we just gave you. Write them down. Hit replay on this podcast. Go back, write them down, look them up in a dictionary if you want. And then be able to start. When this good thing happened, how did it make you feel? And then when it made you feel that, what did you do, or how did you respond, right? So, if I ever feel understood and listened to, what ends up for me happening is I feel like, "Oh, they get me and they have a good impression of me." If I don't, the opposite is exactly taking all the positives and coming up with a negative.
Alisa Grace: With a negative version.
Chris Grace: And those are the hard ones. So, if you want, let's start at the very beginning, Alisa. If the opposite of feeling accepted is feeling-
Alisa Grace: Rejected.
Chris Grace: Yeah. And so, now you get to see, "Oh, every time I have a good emotion, or I feel good about myself, or I feel acknowledged, I like feeling accepted. That's interesting. My friend accepts me. I feel valued." The opposite, and that's the negative emotion, is if you feel rejected, unwanted. So, Natalie came to you and expressed, "I just feel unwanted. I didn't feel desired by my friends." And you helped, said, "Did it make you feel rejected or not important?" She said yes.
Alisa Grace: Unloved.
Chris Grace: Right. And so, she said she felt maybe... But to her, to feel accepted and loved is the positive of that, so let's take the next one.
Alisa Grace: And I love that example because that would be an example of a parent or a child to a parent. A child expressing their emotion to a parent. How about as a parent to a child? Like I can remember having some conversations with our teenagers, when we've asked them to do a chore, specifically asked them to take care of something, and when it didn't happen, when they didn't follow through, let's say that it happened two or three times. Then I could stop and say, "Hey, you know what? When I asked you to clean your room two days ago, you didn't do it. I reminded you yesterday and today it's still not done. Can I just share that when I ask you to do something and you don't do it, it makes me feel unheard, like you don't think I'm important, and it makes me feel very disrespected by you. And so, I would really appreciate if you would get in there and clean that room, because when you do, that makes me feel like what I think is important to you and it makes me feel respected by you and heard by you."
Chris Grace: Yeah. I remember we even had our kids say to each other, "What happened, Natalie, when you felt like Drew took your toys and didn't put them back?" And Natalie would say, "Well, it made me feel like maybe you didn't love me."
Alisa Grace: Love me.
Chris Grace: "And so, when you took my toys..."
Alisa Grace: It didn't feel fair.
Chris Grace: "It didn't feel fair and right." And Drew would have to then say, "So, Natalie, what you're saying is when I took your toy without asking it made you feel unloved and not fair and is that right?" And Natalie would say, "Yeah. It made me feel sad." And it made you feel sad. Okay, I won't do that again. I'm sorry.
Alisa Grace: And think how wonderful it would feel by the person expressing those emotions to feel known, and seen, and accepted at the same time. Wow.
Chris Grace: Isn't that what everybody wants in life? I mean, to feel known, to feel seen. If people feel unseen, unknown, unheard, you begin to see a diminished soul. A person who-
Alisa Grace: Isolated and alone.
Chris Grace: Yeah, who is lonely and isolated. It's the opposite of this. So, here's the nuggets, y'all, if listening. It really is about taking some of these deeper emotional 2.0 things. Accepted, rejected. If you don't... Supported, what's the opposite of that? You feel abandoned. Alisa, the clear one, you want to feel important. That's the positive. And the opposite would be unimportant, right? What's another one?
Alisa Grace: Well, like a positive one might be that something is fair. It comes across as fair. You feel that they're fair minded. Versus cheated. You feel cheated, like something is not fair. You were tricked, or defrauded, or you feel taken advantage of.
Chris Grace: Yeah. Let's just do one or two more. You feel cherished.
Alisa Grace: Oh, I love that one.
Chris Grace: I think in some relationships cherished is you feel valued, or treasured, or appreciated. You can see how some of these blend together. But I feel greatly valued in a relationship and treasured, then I want to invest in this relationship, and I need to encourage that. But if I don't, the opposite is I feel flawed or defective, right? I feel worthless maybe.
Alisa Grace: Like I'm not valued at all.
Chris Grace: Yeah. Not valued. So, Alisa, we're giving the listeners really this very important truth, and that is to be able to identify at a deeper level the emotions they experience good helps them to identify when they feel when they're in conflict.
Alisa Grace: Right. And the payoff for being able to do this, Chris, is that your relationship, whoever it's with, is stronger. You feel more deeply connected and there is a deeper sense of intimacy. I mean, when we talk on this deeper level, we don't normally do that, right? We don't come into work saying, "Well, I'm feeling very defective. I'm feeling unloved or dissatisfied." We just don't talk that way. But when we're able to share with each other those deeper 2.0 emotions and maybe where they're coming from, maybe why you feel that way, we're sharing on a more intimate, vulnerable basis. And when that's treated with care and respect by the other person and you feel accepted, then that's where a deeper intimacy is fostered and you feel more deeply connected. Your relationship is stronger and healthier and that's where you're able to weather the tough times.
Chris Grace: Yeah. And I think this becomes not just an exercise that is done in relationships maybe that you're thinking about maybe when I go into work, or with my colleagues. I mean, it could be used in so many different areas, but it's not just a simple exercise that doesn't... I don't know, pays off and you forget about it. This is something that you use in every relationship, all of the time, even with God. I mean, we could talk to God this way and I think many people need to. God, I just don't feel valued right now. Or maybe I don't feel secure with you. And I don't know why, but how come I can't trust you? Do you have my best interest in mind? God, I don't know if I feel secure, because I don't feel trust. I don't know if I can trust you because I don't know if you have my best interest in mind, because that person is hurtful to me or that relationship is gone and I-
Alisa Grace: Or you didn't answer my prayer the way I thought you were going to.
Chris Grace: Yeah, and Alisa, so we could just see this not as an exercise only in a relationship, but-
Alisa Grace: On a human level.
Chris Grace: On a human. Yeah. And I think God clearly wants us, knows us. He knows us deeply, knows us thoroughly, right? He knows a thought before it's there. He made us in Psalm 139 in a deep way. And I think if we get good with this, we could do this in our relationship with God.
Alisa Grace: Absolutely. You referenced Psalm 139 just then, how David recounts how deeply intimate the Lord knows him, and yet at the end of that chapter, what does he say? He says, "Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts."
Chris Grace: Yeah.
Alisa Grace: Well, why does he need God to try him and know his anxious thoughts? He just spent a whole chapter saying that God did know him that way. Well, I think it's because he needed God to point that out in his own heart, so David could know his own emotions, his deeper 2.0 emotions. Not just, "I know that something's bugging me, God. There's that kick in the gut that I feel, but I can't put a label on it." And that's where these lists of emotions that we have and we can make available to our listeners, they just write in for it, we'll be happy to email that to you. But that's where we get that emotional closeness with the Lord. Being able to be raw without being afraid because you know you'll be accepted.
Chris Grace: And I think, Alisa, the other thing that as we go over these emotions 2.0, I think one other thing to recognize is that our emotional reactions, those things that we feel, they shouldn't be judged as good or bad. I mean, they're not right or wrong. Just because I feel unloved, unvalued, not admired, out of control, that doesn't make it wrong or bad. But sometimes I think we feel that, like, "Oh, this is bad. I shouldn't feel this." Or, "I can't talk to God about that or express that to him." But I think we really need to rather use these things as information maybe on the status of the condition of our hearts or of our souls. God already knows that. He knows you're frustrated, or maybe you're dealing with a trust issue.
And so, to be able to speak it doesn't mean it's right or wrong. I think people need to be able to see these emotions more as information about, "Oh, I wonder what this means. What's going on in my heart or soul when I feel so unloved, uncherished? Where am I getting my feelings of feeling cherished? Is it from another person? God, why am I feeling so unvalued? Is who I am related to how this other person views me? Or is this related, God, to your view of me? And where am I wrong with this? God, why do I feel so out of control, like everything is outside of my awareness, or everything is outside of my ability to do?" And to feel uncontrolled makes me feel all of these things, like powerless, helpless, I'm incapable, I can't change this situation.
And I think this is where if we express that, God can start talking about what does he mean when he creates us a human being with his image and capable of calling out to him and he provides that? And so, if I feel that on a human level, am I really accurately understanding my heart and my soul? And what's going on there? How is my view of God tied into this?
Alisa Grace: Oh, that's good. That's really good.
Chris Grace: So, just kind of maybe in a summary, Alisa, what we're saying is that we all have these different reactions, personality kind of differences. Some of us are a little bit more outgoing or expressive. Others are maybe a little bit more anxious or less comfortable with change. But we're all very similar in that we need to feel safe, and secure, and happy. We want affection, right?
Alisa Grace: Absolutely.
Chris Grace: And no one likes to feel unloved, or unvalued, or disrespected, and so I think what happens is what we're saying is gaining insight into those reactions is important for relationship intimacy, right? In fact, it may be one of the keys to intimacy is understanding these reactions and to be able to connect with another person.
Alisa Grace: Oh, that's good. I like that.
Chris Grace: And so, Alisa, in summary, as we look at these, what we're saying is practice on some of these deeper emotions. Identifying them, labeling them, understanding them, maybe taking them to God. As the psalmist as you mentioned did, right? You express who you are before God and I think that's an amazing thing.
Alisa Grace: Yeah. Just to be able to say, "God, why is this really... I can feel this in the pit of my stomach. Why is this bothering me? Why does this tick me off? Why does this make me feel so sad? I need you to help me understand." And to really invite the Lord into that process. Don't run away from it. Don't shove it down. Don't just ignore it and try to press it away. But instead, God is a big God. He can handle it if it's toward him or towards somebody else, he's okay with you expressing your emotions, and he wants you to invite him into it. He delights to hear your heart. Even if it cannot always be positive, he's okay with that and he delights. He delights to meet the needs of his children.
Chris Grace: Yeah. I love when you mentioned Psalm 139. The idea of search me and know my heart and then test me, know my anxious thoughts, right? So, Alisa, let's just end here. Some of us are really good at this and can identify and maybe go at a deeper level and already do this a lot. Others could use some help in this, and pause, and take some time, and I would just suggest for some of you who are like, "Oh, who cares about emotion?" I'm going to tell you, man, I do think if you want to get along better at work, with your colleagues, with your peers, with the people that report to you, if you want to have a better relationship with your children, if you want to just have friends and go deeper with them and feel more heard and understood, to practice this stuff would be very important.
Alisa Grace: Absolutely. And it's just the grease of the wheels in relationships.
Chris Grace: Yeah. Yeah. It does. It makes it better, doesn't it?
Alisa Grace: It sure does.
Chris Grace: Yeah, so Alisa, then we'll give it to you if you call, or I'm sorry, even if you email us in. It'd probably better than if you call, because who knows where we're at in the office these days, but just-
Alisa Grace: Yeah, just reach out to us at biola.cmr.edu. You can also reach us again on Twitter, or on Facebook and Instagram, so we'd love to hear from you. If you have questions too that you would like for us to answer, just send those in and we'll work them into one of our podcasts when we do questions from listeners.
Chris Grace: Well, let's do this, Alisa. This'll be a podcast. We'll call it Emotions 2.0, something like that. Let's take now the next topics on our next podcast, things like what are emotional boundaries. How do I set them up?
Alisa Grace: I love that. Yeah, let's do that.
Chris Grace: And then emotional safety. When do I feel safe? And then if we did boundaries, and safety, what do you think?
Alisa Grace: Oh, gosh. We've got a host. We could do 20 podcasts just on emotions, I think.
Chris Grace: And then let's do another one maybe on emotional needs.
Alisa Grace: Oh, good. I love that.
Chris Grace: The needs that we all have in general. All right, well, it's good talking with you.
Alisa Grace: Okay. Thanks, Chris. Had a great time today.
Chris Grace: Yeah. All right. Talk to you guys later.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Art of Relationships. This podcast is only made possible through generous donations from listeners just like you. If you like it and want to help keep the podcast going, visit our website at cmr.biola.edu and make a donation today.
The Art of Relationships podcast, hosted by Dr. Chris Grace and Dr. Tim Muehlhoff, is centered on helping you build healthy relationships and marriages. In this podcast, Chris (director of Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships and professor of psychology at Biola University) and Tim (professor of communication at Biola University and author of I Beg to Differ), weigh in on how to navigate the complexities of relationships in our culture with biblical wisdom and scholarly research. Listen to get practical insights on relationships, dating and marriage that can be applied to all relationships — family, friends, co-workers and others.