Is it okay to feel what I am feeling?
Defining a feeling or emotion is a good place to start when considering if it is okay to have certain emotions.
In this quarantine life, it seems that everywhere we turn, someone is telling us how we should feel. Or rather how we shouldn’t feel what we are feeling. Are you afraid? Stop! Are you too calm? Stop!
Why aren’t you angry that people aren’t wearing masks? Why aren’t you angry that people are making a bigger deal of this than it should be? Things posted on social media, the news or even just the responses of people around us are full of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts.” How is it even possible to decipher what we are feeling right now with all the unclear messages and expectations?
When considering the idea of mental health and the church during this time of COVID-19, I have struggled to know what to share - to know what message would speak to everyone in our diverse mindsets and situations. It seems that we often want to face challenges with our intellect, throwing out reasons why or why not.
What if the initial response to hard life events shouldn’t be with our minds and throwing responses? Perhaps the response is in the sitting still, sitting with the situation and in that process knowing that He is God. Presence and not flailing, being and not doing. (Ps. 46:10). There is nothing scarier than recognizing the depths of our fears, hurts, and sadness; it is why I suppose many people are turning to anger.
Defining a feeling or emotion is a good place to start when considering if it is okay to have certain emotions. The simple definition for an emotion would generally consist of one word like sad, scared, angry, content, confident, happy, etc. Often when a phrase is started “I feel that…” a long sentence follows full of the interpretation of the emotion.
What if you could just say “I feel sad.” Leave out the reason why for just a second. What does sad feel like? Does your shoulders droop, does it feel like a huge weight is on top of you and even breathing takes effort? What does being scared feel like? Does your whole body tense up? Maybe your stomach ties in knots? What does anger feel like? Does your heart rate increase, facial expression change, constricting of the whole body yet again? What does happiness feel like, or peaceful, or confident?
So, what if we stop? Sit still. Be present to the churning feelings within us. Gently releasing our human intellect which is fighting to explain, reason and blame. This might be the hardest step. Keep in mind the often quoted verses in Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it”. This verse in context is not about feelings (sadness, fear and anger), but rather our interpretations of those emotions or our own deep inner motivations.
Thoughts wrapped up in intense sadness, anger and anxiety are often unhelpful and aimed at destroying self or others. This is why we pause in the stillness, and submit all the thoughts to God (1Cor 10:5). We sit in the stillness, present and aware of the feeling for 5 or 10 minutes. Then in that stillness, ask God what He is telling you. Maybe He wants to remind you that you are not alone (Heb 13:5). Maybe He wants to sit with you in your grief (Matt 5:4, John 11:35, Ps 56:8). Perhaps He wants to be your rock, place of trust and giver of peace (Is 26:3, Ps 56:3). Maybe He wants the passion of your anger turned to the real war (Eph 6:12, James 1:19-20).
I cannot pretend to know what your heart needs at this time, but I do know who does. This is a way of meditating on God - listening to Him through quieting our thoughts, releasing our interpretations, our offenses and our judgments. Then we can hear what God is saying to us through the situation and our feelings.
Please keep in mind that if you are experiencing depression or anxiety that is debilitating (impacting how you function) and has been present for two or more weeks, or if you have had thoughts about hurting yourself or others – please reach out! If you are in an emergency situation, please call 9-1-1. The Center has a 35+ therapists who specialize in all areas to help from children to senior adults.
Tabitha has been a staff therapist with The Center for 5 years. She lived overseas for five years in Southeast Asia and South America before studying for her Masters in Social Work. She has extensive cross cultural experiences that have shaped the way that she practices today. As a Texas native with an understanding of the culture in this state, she is able put into practice her other cultural experiences to help clients explore their unique identities. She is a professing Christian who respects the diverse beliefs that she has encountered in her time abroad and here in the state of Texas.