Ah, emotional health. I thought about skipping this one. Or finding a new topic for this week. But since I’ve already talked about spiritual health and mental health, I figured I’d need to tackle the emotional at some point (tune in next week for physical health!)
Purely for research purposes, I watched Disney’s Inside Out this weekend. I’d heard great things about it and I was pretty excited. It’s no secret that our family is dealing with some extreme stress in this season (we are living in a camper), so I thought it would be a bit cathartic and fun for the family. I’d heard great things and was pretty excited to see it.
I was underwhelmed.
I mean, it is a cute movie, but let’s be honest, it’s a pretty bad message, right? This idea that we are solely governed by emotions. We have a family, each with personified emotions calling the shots in their head. The dad, with Anger in the lead. The mom, who for some reason has Sadness in charge. And their 11-year old daughter, Riley, who has the bubbly Joy at the helm.
I’ll admit that it is cute and at times it is hilarious. However, I just couldn’t get past the premise. Perhaps I’ve read Lysa TerKuerst’s Unglued one too many times, but I can’t get behind the idea that we are completely governed by emotion. If we’re blessed and have pleasant “core memories” then we can have Joy reigning, but what about those unfortunate souls who end up with Fear or Disgust ruling in her stead?
The movie wraps up with the noble notion that each emotion has it’s place and even if we don’t enjoy Anger or Sadness, they are still needed if for no other reason than to shed light on the happier times. I get that. And that’s good. After all, my favorite line from the Doctor Who episode Blink is “Sadness is happy for deep people.” (Okay, there are a lot of favorite lines from that episode.)
But even with that, there is an idea that we are merely emotional beings going through life with the hope that Joy rather than any other is the predominant emotion running our life. And that’s just wrong.
Ms. TerKuerst does state in her book that emotions are indicators, not dictators of our life. We are not helpless and subjected to the rule of our emotions. No, we are blessed because we can choose how to behave. Sure, we may feel sad or angry, but we are able to overcome that feeling. Not because of another emotion fighting away to make sure we don’t get too angry or disgusted. No, we’re able to act in a different way because we, as humans, have the mental capacity for logic and reason to overcome our emotion – not be ruled by them.
Our emotions do play a part. We can’t merely ignore them or cast them away. I’m definitely NOT saying that. Our emotions are indicators of what we are feeling. We have to decide whether or not this is an appropriate thing to act on or whether we are being irrational and out of place. Our emotions are valid. We do feel these things. But that doesn’t mean that they are right. Sometimes we need outside help with this. This is where accountability and community come into place.
We are meant to live in community for just this reason. Our first line of emotional accountability should be our family. Ideally, your spouse or parent should be able to help. If this isn’t the case, you may need to step outside that to a church setting. Seek help from a brother or sister or your pastor. If this still doesn’t resolve, you may need to go a step beyond and seek out a good Christian counselor to help.
Emotional health is a huge part of your whole person. It’s also so ultimately relative to your person that it’s hard to make a universal. This is why the other pillars of health are so key. If you are working hard to be healthy mentally, spiritually, and physically, then emotional will usually, though not always, fall into place.
In the end, we have to remember that though our emotions are good and valid, they aren’t the ultimate and supreme end. If you are saved and you have the Holy Spirit to guide you then you can absolutely live above being ruled by emotions. After all, we do know that Jesus is called the Logos is Scripture. This is usually translated as Word, but if you’ll look closely you can see this is where we also get our word Logic.