The Anatomy of Anxiety
Part 37: Emotions 411–Emotional Intelligence
Big Idea: Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. We need God’s prescription for victory over anxiety.
Note: Today’s blog post is excerpted from my book Soul Physicians. You can visit here to learn more about Soul Physicians and to read a free sample chapter.
How We Relate, Think, Act, and Feel
Obviously, our emotions are useful, beneficial, and very good. Just as obvious, our emotions often are hurtful, harmful, very bad. We are to be angry, but not sinfully so. Anger can be good, it can be evil. So it is with all emotions and moods. Designed for mood order, we experience mood disorders, and can experience reordered moods.
We tend to develop rather patterned approaches to life. Relationally, we cling to our Creator or to created realities—pure or impure affections, lovers of the soul or idols of the heart. We worship God our Spring of Living Water or we dig broken cisterns that can hold no water. We enjoy intimacy with Christ or we weary ourselves pursuing false lovers.
Rationally, we develop mindsets that persist over time. Either we direct our lives according to the mindset of the Spirit or we pilot our lives off course according to the mindset of the flesh. Either we guide our lives along the narrow path of wisdom or along the broad road of foolishness.
Volitionally, we develop purposeful pathways of intentional interacting. We trod a path toward what we perceive will satisfy the hunger of our heart. We habituate ourselves either toward willing God’s will or willing our own will. “Your will be done,” or “My will be done.”
Emotions are no exception. We not only experience instantaneous emotional responses, we also encounter ongoing mood states.
Emotions and Moods
A mood is a background feeling or emotional state that persists over time. It is less intense and longer lasting than emotions. My mood is my prevailing tone or coloring, my state of mind, frame of mind. In a sense, it is my emotional outlook that occurs both at a particular time and settles deep inside me over time.
Moods are the intersection of our emotional/feeling responses and our rational attitude/perceptions. My mood reacts both to the external events of my life and to the internal longings, images, ideas, goals, and actions of my soul.
Created by God, moods, like emotions, were a very good thing. God intricately fashioned us to experience a variety of positive emotional states, the most optimal moods. Our moods and emotions contain vital signals of readiness not simply for action, but for interaction, and rest from interaction. They signal when we need to interact and when we need to come apart (before we fall apart). Jesus identified within himself moods that led him to seek solitude (Mark 1:45; Luke 5:16) and that led him to engage in intimate interaction (Luke 5:15; Mark 3:1-6).
Our moods guide us to mobilize our resources for wise relating. They work with our self-awareness so that we can become attentive to our emotional states as our inner person interacts with our outer world. Moods motivate, or better, moods jolt us into awareness, promote pondering, and motivate us toward appropriate interaction.
Taken together, we can define mood order as:
• My God-given ability to feel my own feelings, to sense my own life experiences, and to become self-aware of my prevailing emotional mood state(s).
• My God-given thermostat that quickly gauges the relational temperature outside and my personal temperature inside.
• My God-given capacity to courageously, lovingly, and wisely respond to my inner and outer world. I perceive what I feel and I choose how I respond.
In the Beginning…Moods
What was the mood process like for Adam and Eve? All order ultimately arises from connection. So when Adam felt happiness and joy in the presence of Eve, his entire being became focused on connecting, attaching. “I like being with her. I want to be with her. When we are together, I am outrageously happy.”
Sinless Adam and Eve also could have experienced legitimate sadness—a sadness due to absence that impelled them to reconnect. Adam is working in one part of the Garden. Eve in another. Happy in her work, but aware of a growing sense of sadness, a developing mood of aloneness, Eve stops. She ponders. She recognizes the source—she misses her hubby. She runs to him, throws her arms around him, kisses him impetuously. “Just wanted you to know how much I missed you!” Separation, whether physical or psychological, is a basic cause of human sadness. Sadness provides a driving force to restore attachment, in the same way that hunger impels us to eat.
Keeping It Real
What “mood” are you in right now? How could you apply today’s biblical principles of “mood order” to better understand and manage your mood?
The Rest of the Story
It would be nice if we could stop at “mood order.” However, the Bible tells us and we all experience “mood disorder.” Why? What can we do about our disordered moods and emotions? And how can we “reorder our moods”? How can we manage our moods? Our next post begins addresses these vital personal issues.
Join the Conversation
Why did God create us with emotions?