Connecting the Mind to the Emotions
By Robert Schaeffer
Children experience feelings long before they learn how to process them. Painful or traumatic events that happen in childhood often produce long-lasting feelings of fear, shame, guilt, envy, hurt, abandonment, embarrassment, loneliness, disappointment, and rejection. Because these emotions are difficult to face, a child may not want to think about them or even admit to having them. In some homes, a pattern exists of not talking about personal feelings and so the child learns not to share his/her pain. In other homes, emotions are expressed in ungodly ways creating an atmosphere of contention, anxiety, violence, or chaos. The child may fear that if he/she speaks up, tensions will explode and the situation will spin out of control. The sensitive child who fears confrontation reasons that it is safer to stay quiet rather than to “make trouble”. If a child doesn’t feel comfortable opening up to a parent for fear of rejection, harsh punishment, ridicule, or shame, powerful negative emotions will be suppressed. Because the child fears or distrusts authority, he/she will try to handle the pain alone.
Unfortunately, the unexpressed emotions do not go away – they intensify. The stored emotions become very painful, and because of this the mind separates from them. That is, the rational mind does not take charge over the negative emotions but is cut off from them. This happens involuntarily – the child does not think about it or choose it. As the child joins in with the ungodly emotions they gain power and are never brought under the dominion of God’s truth. The unexpressed emotions contain unrepented sin and ungodly reactions to pain. Because of them the child draws the wrong conclusions about him/herself, the opposite sex, God, and life in general. When the child joins in with these emotions, Satan is able to take up residence in them and has access to the child’s mind. As the mind separates from the emotions they are sealed off by demonic power. A blockage is put in place making the emotions seem “unreachable”. When these emotions are stirred, the rational mind is put on hold, blanks out, locks up, or fogs over. The unexpressed emotions become strongholds from which Satan motivates the child to sin.
The child comes to believe the lies of these unexpressed emotions, namely that he/she is different from “normal” children and cannot handle life as they can. In response to this painful message, the child pulls into a world of unreality or fantasy. This inner world is a place of the child’s own making – an alternative to the real world where things are as he/she would have them. These thoughts he/she has in this inner place are twisted yet give the child an ungodly sense of satisfaction and pleasure because they help “overcome” the hurt that was done to him/her. The child returns to this inner world again and again precisely because it feels like an emotional refuge – a place where he/she will not be hurt. This inner world is the person’s own secret place where no one can reach him/her. It is the place to which the child goes when the unexpressed emotions stored inside are stirred by external events or people. It feels safer than the real world and becomes the only thing that he/she trusts.
But this inner world is a dangerous place because the person’s motives and means while in it are ungodly. In this world, thoughts typically center on seeking revenge and triumphing over one’s abusers, feeling sorry for oneself, planning a life away from pain, trying to avoid harsh punishment or ridicule, exaggerating the hurts and dangers of relating to people, taking on a false identity that comes from being labeled or cursed, resenting being born, feeling that being alone is better than being with people, and other negative thoughts. In this place of twisted, emotional “reasoning” the child becomes the unchallenged judge of what is true and right and good, with “right” being defined as whatever helps the child survive. The stored emotions are the motor for sinful behavior – whatever behavior seems to make the child feel better or relax is what the child goes for in time of emotional upset. This is why a person will engage in behavior that is sinful and dangerous even though his/her conscience may resist. Reason and conscience are cut off and overruled by lying emotions and twisted thinking.
By escaping to this world of unreality, the child feels that finally he/she has figured out a way to deal with life. Yet it is immature and impulsive – reflective of the perceptions and resources of a wounded, alienated child. At puberty the negative emotions connect to the child’s sex drive. The first sexual experience a child engages in makes a lasting imprint. The sex helps the child forget about the painful emotions. More and more the child lives in a world of unreality where evil “tastes sweet” and sex is a “fix” to numb the painful emotions. Continuing in sin further clouds the mind and hardens the heart.
Here is a true example of the power of unexpressed negative emotions to shape thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Rachel* grew up the youngest of three girls in a home with an alcoholic father and emotionally distant mother. Because her father was in the military, she spent the first six years of her life in Japan. When her father was transferred Rachel was uprooted from her friends and forced to leave behind certain toys and her cat. At her new school she was called “Jap” and “kamikaze”. Her father was a strict disciplinarian. Rachel began to wet the bed because she was afraid of the dark yet more afraid of being punished if she called out for her parents to take her to the bathroom. She was told never to say anything about her father’s drunkenness to anyone outside of the home. When angry she would throw temper tantrums – a practice that continued into her early teens. Rachel’s mother would give her cookies or other food to make her behave. Rather than talk to Rachel about her problems her mother would say, “Talk to God about it.” More than once Rachel overheard her parents ask themselves ruefully, “What is wrong with that girl?” They often described her as their “problem child”. Rachel knew that her older sister was “mommy’s girl”. In high school Rachel developed a close relationship with a schoolmate and envied her mother’s tenderness and warmth. Rachel lived her life vicariously through the experiences of this popular friend, and the two became inseparable. Physically strong, Rachel beat up the boys in her school who teased her, earning for herself the nickname “Knuckles”. By the time she finished high school she had only a passing interest in boys, disgusted by the one and only date she ever had. She wanted to be married and have children but doubted that it would ever happen.
Her emotions: “I am afraid.” “I am all alone.” “I don’t like my sister.” “I want mommy to love me.” “I’m embarrassed about my dad.”
Her thoughts: “I don’t understand what is happening to me.” “When things are out of control I get hurt.” “My mommy doesn’t love me as much as she loves my sister.” “God is not with me when I need Him.” “I want to kill myself.”
Her beliefs: “Being a woman means being weak, therefore I will be strong and independent.” “If I am good, people will love me.” “There must be something wrong with me.” “Who needs a man as long as I have my girlfriend.” “God doesn’t give good things to bad girls like me.”
Her actions: rejection of femininity; refusal to receive compliments; co-dependency; overeating as a comfort and a punishment; refusal to cry; case against God; fantasy about lesbian sex; masturbation as a release from stress.
In order to find freedom from homosexuality, a person must pray for God to reconnect the mind to the emotions. God never intended unexpressed lying emotions to control our thinking and behavior. But in homosexuality these emotions have assumed a place of authority, and must be dethroned. In other words, instead of just having an emotional reaction to a situation, you must start looking objectively at that reaction! Taking the power out of the lying emotions begins there! Write your feelings out in a journal every day – especially if you are upset or tempted to evil. If you express your feelings on paper you will be able to see their patterns or cycles. As you begin, pray very simply, “Lord, connect my mind to my emotions.” God will meet you in your journal as you write.
For some of you this will mean allowing yourselves to feel again. Be aware of any blockages that make it difficult to work the stored emotions. These blockages are demonic and rooted in self-pity, double-mindedness, rebellion, unforgiveness, fear of responsibility, or a case of against God. Have someone pray to break the demonic seal on the emotions you have buried so that you may begin to work them. Previous vows that you may have taken such as “I will be above feelings,” or “I will never allow myself to feel pain again,” or “It’s better to remain could and numb rather than risk being hurt,” must be broken. Renounce them and ask God to replace your stony heart with a heart of flesh. If you have taken on the identity of a brainy or cerebral person who doesn’t feel, realize that this was your attempt to avoid pain by running from it. (If you consider books your “best friends” you may have this problem.) Cast off this false identity so that you may experience the true fullness of being made in God’s image. Agree with God that it is better to experience emotions than to avoid them.
The Lord will put you in situations or bring people across your path to stir buried emotions. (Many people tell us that they work with someone who annoys them just as someone from their past did.) He will open up your memory to show you when you first experienced these upsetting emotions. If you have numbed your feelings with drugs, sex, food, or alcohol, turn from the “fix” and the stored emotions will surface! Many people resist opening this canister of emotions for fear of what they will discover. Some are embarrassed to admit the ugly feelings they have; others feel that opening all of this will send them out of control or into deep confusion. Push through these irrational fears. God will protect you as you get in touch with any emotions you have suppressed. This may be the first time in your life that you have tried to look at these emotions objectively. God understands all of this and is not ashamed or angry with you.
Don’t be surprised if you experience angry outbursts, tears, short temper, or even swearing as you get in touch with your emotions. This is very common. The emotions have compacted over time into rage, hatred, murder, bitterness, or betrayal. Be assured that as you express your negative feelings and refuse to join in with them, their intensity will diminish. Most people want to move on from these emotions as quickly as possible without actually looking at them too closely. If, when you experience these negative emotions, you quickly repent and pray that God will remove them, they will sink down again into the place from which they arose. Do not be afraid to “sit” in these emotions for a while. Your addictive behavior is rooted in them. The Lord is connecting your mind to your emotions so that you can examine them and clean out this storage once and for all. He will meet you in your journal.
Most importantly, the inner world you escape to must be demolished. Doing this may feel frightening but it makes all the difference between just learning to control homosexual urges and having no homosexual thoughts, identity, or urges at all. Many counselees have said that the reason they refuse to come out of this inner world is because they understand it. This “understanding” gives them a false sense of control and safety. They are convinced it is better to go into unreality than to face reality. But attempting to survive by escaping from reality is dangerous because it takes you into a world where Satan dwells. God dwells in reality, and you are only safe when you live and move in Him. The Lord does not call us to “survive” as best we can, but to trust Him for our protection and peace. Jesus came into this world to destroy the works of the devil and to set the prisoner free. You can know that freedom if you confess that the way you have dealt with life is flawed and based on unexpressed lying emotions. Ask the Lord to help you trust Him rather than your emotions. Connecting your mind to these buried emotions is a first step toward total freedom!