Coming Face to Face with Our Feelings


When we’re caught up, running on the gerbil wheel of life, it’s common to be guided by surface emotions and overlook the deeper, underlying feelings that are at the root of our joy and pain.

“A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.” -- Ecclesiastes 3:4 (NASB)

Are you able to control intense feelings and emotions? Or — do they sometimes control you?

God created feelings and emotions as warning signals to tell us when something needs to be examined. They range from mild to intense, positive to negative. And, no matter their intensity or type, we must appreciate the insight they provide. When we take time to examine our feelings, we can value what is truly right and clearly wrong in our lives.

The Bible does not hide the emotions of its men and women. Just like us, they experienced a wide range of feelings, and depending on how they chose to manage those feelings, their choices often drove them toward success or calamity. In either case, there are valuable lessons to be learned from looking into their lives and into ours.

In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul took a good look inside himself to observe the struggles he faced as he worked hard to live a godly life.  As he reflected on his feelings of inadequacy, Paul realized his great need of deliverance through Christ; therefore, he chose to daily surrender his wants, needs and desires to God. Like Paul, we too can learn a great deal about ourselves by looking inside to carefully observe our feelings so that we can base our choices on more logical thinking.

Emotions can distort our thoughts and lead us to make irrational decisions.

When we’re caught-up running on the gerbil wheel of life, it’s common to be guided by surface emotions and overlook the deeper, underlying feelings that are at the root of our joy and pain.

When I first began counseling, I simply didn’t understand the importance of digging deeper into the underlying emotions that were feeding the ups and downs in my life. I remember struggling to get below the surface of my anger, depression, and anxiety in order to unearth my real feelings. Anger, although acceptable (after all, even God gets angry), like all other surface feelings, is secondary. I had to take the time to uncover the feelings that were actually causing me to be angry, depressed, and anxious in order to expose my feelings of disappointment, rejection, and fear. That way, I could understand them better, express them more appropriately, and deal with them more effectively.

Secondary, surface feelings, like resentment, bitterness, and worry are typically easier to identify. In fact, it’s in this category of feelings we often get stuck and these feelings are generally the ones that cause us to say and do things we regret.

Reaching a place where we can uncover, identify, and actually feel our underlying primary feelings takes time. But it is a worthwhile process that can bring rewards of greater self-awareness and self-control.

Have you ever been asked, “What are you really feeling?”

This is often a much more difficult question to answer than it seems.

Below I’ve listed some negative primary and secondary emotions. Read through the lists and see if you can begin to identify the primary feelings that may be feeding your secondary, surface ones.

Easier to Identify                              Harder to Identify

Secondary Surface Feelings             Underlying Primary Feelings

Angry                                            Fear (many types)

Annoyed                                       Embarrassed

Irritated                                          Disappointed  

Frustrated                                      Helpless

Depressed                                     Hopeless

Hate                                               Lonely

Furious                                          Rejected

Resentment                                    Sad

Overwhelmed                                Trapped

Bitter                                             Unforgiving

Paranoid                                        Frustrated

Nervous                                        Shameful

Insecure                                         Guilty

Distrusting                                    Hurt

Jealous                                          Dissatisfied

Worried                                         Neglected

Unhappy                                       Alienated

Embarrassed                                  Alone

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