The Voyage To Safety
“Nuancing Our Emotions”
Bob woke up in the middle of the night with a start. His breathing was labored, his chest tight, and he was developing a mild headache. And he did not know why. In the morning when he got up he was on edge, anxious, out of sorts, a bit curt and sharp with those around him. When he was spoken to he gave one words answers, didn’t make eye contact, his focus was limited, and he was argumentative, and testy. Driving to work he became angry with the slowness of traffic. At work his door which was usually opened was closed. Phone calls went directly to his answering machine. Bob did not want to be disturbed. What was wrong? He did not know, and when asked said “nothing.” But those round him could see a marked difference in mood, and kept their distance. When they did have to speak to him they were on egg shells, waiting for a volcanic blast.
Bob simply was not feeling safe. Although he would not, or could not begin to nuance it emotionally.
Personal emotional, and physical safety is a voyage we have all been on since birth. Some would argue it begins in the womb when we begin to hear, or sense our mom’s emotions. Safety, it’s a precious commodity. It is the opposite of what we discovered with Bob in the paragraph above. Not only was Bob unsafe and did not know why, he made everyone around him feel unsafe too. But if he had stopped to think about it, and was able to nuance his emotions, he might have been able to discover why. He may have on his voyage to emotional discovery remembered that he was scheduled to have his annual work performance evaluation the following week. This always made him nervous and uptight. And it played deep in his unconscious.
The upcoming work performance evaluation was sending off alarm bells in Bob’s Amygdala affecting his mental health and of those around him. The Amygdala is the center for emotions, and emotional behavior. It is an alarm that will shout danger, danger, danger if safety is compromised! And it isresponsible for detecting fear and preparing for emergencies. It also detects unwelcome chaos in our lives. Bob’s brain was in fight, flight, freeze response. His body was communicating emotional danger. His symptoms were a full-fledged panic attack. Something about to affect him in the distant future was affecting him IN THE PRESENT. Bob was on a voyage and yet unable to nuance his emotions. If he had there would have been many coping skills at his disposable, to bring him to a calm place, and safety to those around him, and give his and their Amygdala a rest.
Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual distress, is a part of life. And if we are self-aware, and nuance our feelings correctly, we can be provided with a responsible answer to our safety concerns. Within the Christian faith there are many spiritual answers to distress. The Word of God encapsulates this from cover to cover. God is willing and able to walk with us when danger arrives. Psalm 20, verses 1 & 2 says; ‘May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.”
The Word of God promises coping strategies for emotional distress. The very best coping strategy is found in close personal relationship with God through Christ, and in his promises in the scripture. There is however our responsibility to act upon it. Incorporating key promises as truth into our emotional lives brings about calm reflection, leading to emotional safety. The old adage seems appropriate at this point; “If its going to be its up to me,” holds true. James chapter 1(22-24) helps us to see the power of God at our personal disposal, and yet personal discipline to what we read and say we believe, is crucial.
“ Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror, and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”
When we feel our body emote, our emotions have alerted it to danger. God’s Word is our safe place.
“ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27