What are emotions?
The dictionary defines emotion as a person’s internal state of being and involuntary physiological response to an object or a situation based on or tied to physical state and sensory data. “State of being” in this context means one’s disposition or frame of mind, which influences one’s action(s) or reaction(s).
Every action, conscious or unconscious, is influenced by a force, whether known or unknown. Actions may be taken based on a conscious decision or an involuntary impulse. A conscious decision begins in the mind, it is premeditated, planned and then executed. One of the factors that influences a person’s action or decision is emotion. Emotions are a natural part of every human being. No one can do without them. However, they have powerful impacts, both positive and negative, both of which if not properly managed could be disastrous.
Kinds of emotions
There are several theories about emotions; whether they are psychological, neurological, physiological or otherwise. Some have argued that there are a given number of emotions. Aristotle opined that there are nine (9) basic emotions. Without particular reference to any theory, the following are some examples of emotions: happiness, excitement, pity, anger, lust, sadness, passion, zeal, resentment, fear, confidence, depression, anxiety, stress, and so on. I intentionally did not include some of the most common ones, such as joy, love, peace, compassion, and similar virtues in this list, because the Bible presents them as “fruit” of the Holy Spirit, and not as natural feelings.
The Effects of Emotions
Everything that God made was for a purpose. Every part of you—physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological—is necessary for your total well-being. If any one of these is affected, it also affects the others.
Consequently, your emotions affect your health, either positively or negatively, which totally depends on you. If you practise the good ones, they will help improve your health. For example, when you dance, there is a feeling you get—excitement, happiness, etc.—and your heart is free from ill feelings like depression, worry, anxiety, among others. If, however, you practise the bad ones, they will have adverse effects on your health. For example: when you harbour hatred in your heart, you will also be angry, unhappy, and depressed.
Emotions tell on the body. Studies show that it takes more muscles to frown than it takes to smile. So, which kinds of emotions are you allowing to have effect on you; the good ones or the bad?
Our emotions also affect our spiritual life. Such emotions that lead to sin—anger, lust, hatred, and so on, affect our relationship with God. Our relationship with God determines our spiritual well-being. If we allow our emotions to lead us to sin and separate us from God, we will lose eternal life. It was the uncontrolled inordinate desire of David that led him to commit adultery with Bathsheba, and subsequently, arranged for the killing of Uriah her husband in order to marry her (1 Samuel 11). Another example is Amnon and Tamar in 1 Samuel 13.
Another aspect that emotions have effect on people is their mental health. There are people who become insane as a result of too much worrying. Mental health is very important, as there is no coordination without sound intellect.
How to Control Your Emotions
There are two basic ways that you can control your emotions: personal effort, and the help of the Holy Spirit. The two go hand-in-hand, as your own effort is needed to cooperate with the grace of God in order to control your emotions.
Personal Efforts: Some of the efforts you can make to control your emotions include:
- Weigh the Cost: before you act based on your emotions, critically evaluate what could be the possible outcome of such action. For example, if you vent your anger, what will be the consequences: helpful or harmful?
- Engage in activities that will help you manage your emotions. There are certain emotions that affect us because we are not engaging in such activities that can help us overcome them. For example, exercising, and hanging out with friends, can help fight depression and boredom.
- Practice virtues: practicing acts of righteousness can help us overcome negative emotions. For example, self-control can help you overcome lust. Patience also can help you: before you act, try resisting the urge, delay the gratification. For example, when you are provoked and have the push to react, count 1 to 10. By the time you must have finished counting, your temper must have been calmed. Try it!
- Master your emotions: the concept of emotional intelligence is the ability, capacity, or skill to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. It is important to train yourself to be in charge of your emotions, rather than it being in charge of you.
- Talk to someone. If you are finding it difficult to control your emotions, seek help from others. You can talk to a trusted friend, your pastor, or a psychologist.
Yielding completely to the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit understands us better than we even understand ourselves. He knows best how to help us deal with our emotions. Galatians 5:16 says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.” All the emotions that lead us to sin are against God’s desire, and only fulfil the desires of the flesh. The Holy Spirit helps us to please God. Therefore, you should submit your emotions to Him as you make your own efforts to overcome them.
Emotions are an integral part of our lives that we cannot do without. They have an impact on our lives, health and relationships. They can impact us positively or negatively, depending on how we manage them. It is important to yield daily to the Holy Spirit to help control our emotions so that they will not affect us in any negative way. It is only by His help that we can achieve this.
Written by Jude Ayua – a Lawyer, an Artist, Entrepreneur and the Author of Finding Purpose. He currently resides in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.