Life without emotions?
“Can you imagine life without emotions?” An ad that I saw today on BYU Magazine (online) asked this question. “Emotions create texture and richness that illuminate our everyday lives and punctuate our mortal experience.”
The exhibit is at BYU in the Joseph F. Smith building and is called “Jesus Wept: Emotions in the Scriptures.” The ad explains that the exhibit teaches “about the wide range of emotions found in the scriptures, universal emotions across time and cultures, and emotional coping tools. Enjoy several interactive displays, too.”
I want to go! The exhibit runs through November of 2018.
Jesus wept, and sometimes we do, too. Holidays such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day–when there may be unmet expectations or disappointments–can stir up negative emotions. How do we handle those moments?
I’m grateful to know that we can draw upon the atonement of Christ, not only to ask for comfort when someone disappoints or hurts us, but also to forgive and to feel understood. So prayer has been one way that I have tried to learn to manage intense negative emotions. But I also have felt grateful knowing that Christ knows every pain I could feel. He wept. He weeps. He knows what we are feeling.
Learning to manage intense negative emotions
Learning to manage emotions–particularly intense negative emotions–can be challenging! I appreciated an article I read today by Peggy Worthen, wife of BYU President Kevin Worthen (who, interestingly enough, used to home teach my mom before she moved. My mom said he was a good home teacher. Kudos to a university president who takes time to visit a widow in his neighborhood with his companion every month.)
Mrs. Worthen’s touching article discussed the power of a “soft answer” in helping her to deal with strong emotions. I was particularly impressed by the story she told of a student in a class she took who handled an angry outburst with complete calm and patience. He told the other student who burst in upon him, “I am sorry that I have upset you. What can I do to make this right?”
Wow. I love that.
Deciding to ignite or squelch the fuse
I also love her closing paragraph, which I am finding more and more is key to practicing patience and speaking good instead of ill to a family member who may not have acted their best:
“In every situation—even those that are packed with high emotion—we all have our agency to choose how to act. Someone observed that “between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response” (unknown author quoted by Stephen R. Covey, Living the 7 Habits: Stories of Courage and Inspiration [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999], p. 21). In other words, there is always an instant in which we decide whether we will put out the fire or ignite the fuse.”
My husband has taught me a lot about self-control in dealing with strong emotions. If I am super stressed out or upset, he listens. He wants to understand and help me calm down. Calming down allows me to then be open to feeling the Spirit. He doesn’t yell at me. He may have been frustrated with me at times, but he doesn’t get angry in a way that is out of control. He doesn’t use angry words or actions. He has never called me an unkind name. He expresses love and encouragement. I have watched him exercise great patience and at times long-suffering as we have worked through disagreements. I have learned so much from him. I am so grateful for that example. Over the years, it has taught me more about how to respond calmly and with control in situations that were difficult emotionally.
I am still learning.
Jenny and the Mop
I remember another person whose example in one moment taught me about handling frustrating situations. Over 10 years ago we had a nanny named Jenny who helped our family while I healed from illness. There was a child who spilled something on the floor–was it after she had just mopped it?–and instead of getting mad at that child, she turned it into something funny. I don’t remember what she sang, but she made up a little song on the spot and did a little dance with the mop, as I recall. We all laughed! And we all loved her more in that moment for the way she handled that tense moment. I awed at how she turned a frown into a smile. I love Jenny so much for so many things she taught me while she was helping us, but I will always be grateful for that wonderful moment when she modeled how you can respond to a challenge with humor.