When Emotions Run High

Dear Pope Francis,

The last couple of weeks have been very emotionally draining: I’ve received some fantastic news, I’ve received from terrible news; I’ve had some awesome conversations, I’ve felt completely burnt out and stressed by others; and I’ve felt gratitude for friends who noticed that something was wrong. One friend commented that I’ve been freaking him out lately because he’s never seen me have such intense emotions. And he’s right, most people haven’t seen these wild, intense emotions, because I try my darnedest to keep them under control.

The truth is, I can be embarrassed by my emotional reaction to things. I can feel out of control, and that really scares me. When I take the time to reflect on them I can learn so much from these deep feelings. Society tells me that I must be strong and independent; that I need to pull myself up the bootstraps and work hard. Showing emotions is a weakness; it means that I am sensitive. But is that really such a bad thing?

I don’t mean to suggest that having extreme emotions all the time is a good or healthy thing. Sometimes they indicate that there is something wrong, be it depression or a hormonal imbalance, or something else. Instead, I believe that being aware of these extreme emotions, rather than being a sign of weakness, can be a sign of great strength. For instance, because I am sensitive to the world around me, I empathize with others quickly. I consider this a very important and necessary quality.

Because I know what my emotions are like normally, when I do experience these emotional extremes, like I have been lately, I know that they are unusual. They tell me that there is something going on inside that needs to be sorted out. I begin to sift through those emotions, looking for the root cause. Sometimes this involves digging up thoughts and feelings that I either forgot, or wish I forgot. This can be a painful process, and can require companionship from different people, like my close friends, my family, and usually my spiritual director.

Ultimately, these emotions can sometimes help me to understand where God is calling me in a particular instance. When God calls me in a particular direction, there is usually peace and joy (which is different from pleasure and happiness). This can get buried under doubts and fears. When I take the time so sit with my emotions, I can sort out what I’m feeling, and their source. In many ways, this process helps me become closer to God, and isn’t that part of the Christian life?

Peace,

Lauren

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