Mercy Christian Counseling
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Welcome! I hope you enjoy reading my blog, and I invite you to share your responses with other readers. Comments that use abusive or vulgar language will be removed. Otherwise, you are free to agree or disagree. May God richly bless you today and always! ~ Dr. Susan

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FROM ADVENT TO EASTER AND BEYOND: THE GOLDEN CORD THAT BINDS IN ONE

Posted by mercycounseling on November 26, 2019 at 7:05 AM Comments comments (2)

FROM ADVENT TO EASTER AND BEYOND: THE GOLDEN CORD THAT BINDS IN ONE

 


For many of us, the Christmas and Easter seasons are separate and distinct occasions. Each season has its own colors, flavors, and traditions. Biblically speaking, however, they represent the beginning and ending of a very brief sojourn on earth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Savior. Between the two seasons is a longer period of relative inactivity when some forget the Reason for each season. We forget that the two are inseparably linked in a perfect, sinless Life.

 

As I ponder the life of Jesus in this context, it occurs to me that there is a golden cord that runs throughout:

 

Obedience.

 

Jesus Christ, Emanuel—God with us—left His throne in Glory, laid aside His sovereignty for a time, and displayed faithful obedience: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8)

 

To whom was He obedient? To God the Father. He was with God in the beginning, creating and sustaining creation, sharing that Godhead equally with the Father and Holy Spirit, yet obedient to the Father, as Jesus Himself said: “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” (John 5:30)

 

Jesus’ obedience was a crucial aspect of His sinless life. He demonstrated obedience:

 

When he went missing at 12 years old and then was found teaching in the synagogue: So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, your father and I have sought You anxiously.” And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them. (Luke 2:48-51)

 

When He was baptized before beginning His public ministry: Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

 

When He was afraid, before His arrest: And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” (Luke 22:41-42; Mark 14:36)

 

When He stood silently before Pilate, making no defense, that the will of God might be fulfilled: And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing. Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, “Do You answer nothing? See how many things they testify against You!” But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled. (Mark 15:3-5)

 

When dying on the cross, He cried out for our salvation: Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

 

From conception to death on a cross and beyond, Jesus’ only thoughts were to fulfill the mission His heavenly Father had given Him. His journey from Advent to Easter is why we can say “therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

 

Because of the obedience of Jesus Christ, we also can call God our Abba, Father: And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6)

 

This year I hope you will remember that Advent and Easter are not discrete seasons. They are eternally linked by the Golden Cord of obedience.


Dr. Susan Haberkorn is a Minister of Pastoral Care and NCCA Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor.

 

HAPPY (FRENETIC) HOLIDAYS!

Posted by mercycounseling on November 17, 2019 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (0)

HAPPY (FRENETIC) HOLIDAYS!

 

The frenetic season is upon us—that time of year between Halloween and New Year’s Day. Some people love it, and some people dread it. Everybody feels the stress. What drives the insanity?

 

Expectations!

 

We place tons of expectations on ourselves and we fantasize (obsess) over what we believe are the expectations of others for our holiday “performances,” which include everything from card-sending to gift-giving to meal presentations and even trip-taking during the highest and craziest travel period of the year. There is also the visiting marathon. Oh, and lest I forget, sometimes we also burden others with our expectations of them!

 

Somehow we are to cram all this extra doing into an already unrealistic daily schedule. If you find yourself caught up in all this and feel your stress level rising, there are certain things you can do to help you get through the season peacefully.

 

1. Examine the list of expectations you labor under.

2. Prioritize those you feel are non-negotiable, leaving a list of nice-to-do but not absolutely necessary. Eliminate the latter activities for the sake of your sanity.

3. Realize that you do have a choice in the matter, and sometimes we imagine negative consequences for not doing certain things when in reality there will be none.

4. It’s OK to say no.

5. Devote your energy and creativity to the things you really want to do.

6. Own your decisions with positivity and gusto! You’ll be surprised how a positive attitude can energize and refresh.

7. Take care of yourself. Nothing keeps stress at bay like a good night’s sleep, eating nutritious food, and taking a little time for yourself. Breathe deeply and go at your own pace.

 

You CAN navigate this season with grace. Just give yourself permission to choose your path. My prayer for you is that on January 2nd, you will be able to look back on the season with great joy, rather than relief. Blessings to you!

 

Dr. Susan Haberkorn is an Ordained Minister of Pastoral Care and NCCA Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor.


 

SETTING UP YOUR DAY FOR SUCCESS

Posted by mercycounseling on November 15, 2019 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (0)

SETTING UP YOUR DAY FOR SUCCESS

 

We humans generally seem to have a low tolerance for the inevitable valleys, challenges, and changes of life. Don’t you agree? Our lives can be 98 percent good, but we zero in a laser-like focus on the 2% not-so-good. That’s because the human brain is wired to look for danger. While this wiring may seem to be hopelessly fixed, neuroscience has shown that we can retrain our brains to focus on the 98% good.

 

The even better news is that there is a completely free and easy personal practice that will readily accomplish the feat. Interested? It’s so simple you may scoff, but it works!

 

That personal practice is to begin each day by writing down the things you are grateful for both small and large. Start the list with the words, “I am grateful for.” Take about five minutes while having your morning coffee, tea, or juice—instead of watching the news—and when you are finished your list, read the whole list out loud. Repeat daily until you habitually think about your blessings first thing in the morning.

 

If you are a person of faith, give thanks to God from whom all these blessings flow. Then simply ask Him to help you meet the challenges of today.

 

You’ll soon see that this practice sets you up for a very positive outlook, no matter what comes. Your outlook (attitude) is the key to happiness! You can begin right now, even if it isn’t first thing in the morning.

 

Blessings to you!

 

Dr. Susan Haberkorn is an ordained Minister of Pastoral Care and NCCA Clinical Pastoral Counselor.

 


How to Know The Will of God for You

Posted by mercycounseling on November 5, 2019 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

HOW TO KNOW THE WILL OF GOD FOR YOU


Some years ago, a young Christian man came to counseling because he was trying to discern the will of God about whether he should marry a young woman with whom he was in love. His angst over the matter was truly gut-wrenching. The woman in question was also a Christian. They were both leaders in many activities of their church, very devoted to Jesus, and they were afraid to do the wrong thing. They wanted to know for sure if it was God’s will for them to marry. Their indecision had been going on for many months.


This couple was looking for an iron-clad sign from God. They were so intent on hearing His voice that they heard it in every Christian song on the radio, in every Christian message. Sometimes they heard “yes” and sometimes they heard “no.” Confusion reigned.


Maybe you have wondered about the will of God for you. Very few people today actually hear the audible voice of God. For most of us, it appears as an impression on the consciousness, and we must determine if it is our own will generating that impression or maybe even our imagination. There are even times when it may be demonic influence. 


I believe discerning the will of God need not be so anxiety-producing when we fully engage both Christian faith and intellect. A prescriptive scripture for this is Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”


Following are some steps for you to consider.


Be willing to surrender your will. The first step in the process of discerning God’s will is to be willing to surrender your will to His. This means you must truly want to please God in the matter and be willing to surrender yourself to God’s leadership. This is what “walking in the Spirit” is all about. It is an attitude of wanting to align your desires and behaviors with God’s commands. Jesus sums this up in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy will be done.” (Matthew 6:10)


You must know the character of God and His relationship to His creation (you). God has provided the Bible for this purpose (the renewing of your mind), and He has called preachers to proclaim His Word. Read the Bible with purpose and plan. It is full of information God wants you to know, especially about Himself. Attend a church where the Bible is clearly explained and where the members are conversant in its truth. God’s will about how human beings are to conduct life are spelled out, and you can know God’s will—in a general sense—for what He wants from you. Reading and hearing the Word of God will increase your faith (Romans 10:17) and tune your mind to discern God’s will.


Ask God to reveal His will to you. When you need more specific guidance, do several things.

1) Seek counsel from godly people you know, who have the Biblical background needed. Sometimes God speaks to us through godly people (Proverbs 11:14).

2) Pray. Ask God to show you His will in a specific matter. Pray frequently until you feel sure of His answer ( 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ).

3) Wait. Sometimes God reveals an answer immediately, sometimes not. (Psalm 27:14)


Act on what you believe is God’s will, to the best of your ability. Our God is not a God of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). If you have taken the steps previously mentioned and believe you know what you should do, validate your decision by asking this final question: Is what I want to do in alignment with the teachings of God as revealed in the Bible, and do I have a sense of peace?


Finally, remember these words from Galatians 5:19-25, for they reveal the context of the heart in all matters: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, [murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”


As for that young couple—eventually they married and are now living happily and blessed with children. Thanks be to God 


Walking in the Spirit, may you know God’s will today.


Dr. Susan Haberkorn is an ordained Minister of Pastoral Care and NCCA Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor

Dear Christian Parents:

Posted by mercycounseling on November 4, 2019 at 8:10 AM Comments comments (0)

DEAR CHRISTIAN PARENTS:

Do you love Jesus? Do you teach your children to love Jesus?

I’ve heard it said that we are always just one generation away from Christianity disappearing from the earth. Thank God that can never be true! The Lord has promised the “the gates of hell” will never prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18.

Even so, many Christian parents are failing the Lord, the church, and their children in the matter of Christian child-rearing. They seem to have an attitude (and many say) that there is no need to bring up their children in the church; they think it’s ok to say that the child can decide later. So they don’t prioritize assembling with other believers and teaching their children Bible stories. They don’t pray with their children or spouse. How then, will their children develop a saving faith? This attitude specifically violates a powerful exhortation to “train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it,” (Proverbs 22:6).

Like it or not, children learn to value (or not value) what their parents demonstrate as valuable. This includes not just Christian education, but also parental authority. It’s shocking to me how many parents let the kids run the household, most specifically regarding whether the family attends church. A child indulged in this way is on the road to hell and it is the parents’ fault.

Dear Christian parents: you have a God-ordained responsibility to raise your children to love Jesus and to love His bride, the church. Please make it a priority.


Dr. Susan Haberkorn is an Ordained Minister of Pastoral Care and NCCA Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor.


The Prickliest Topic in Christianity

Posted by mercycounseling on July 9, 2019 at 7:15 AM Comments comments (0)

The Prickliest Topic in Christianity


Part One: Than Came Grace


It came to me in the still of early morning darkness, as I roused from sleep. A question floated into my consciousness, a gentle whisper: Why are you willing to spend $20 on lunch with a friend, but you only put $10 in the offering plate at the church you are visiting? As I mused on this, I didn’t feel shamed or guilty, but I realized it was a valid question I needed to consider. Tithes, offerings, and gifts—they’re all relevant to the question—and these became the subject of my inquiry.


To tithe or not to tithe, that is the disputed question. 


The concept of tithing belongs to Old Covenant law. When God brought the 12 tribes of the children of Israel into the promised land, he divided that land among 11 tribes; but for the tribe of Levi no land was given. Levi was the priestly tribe, and because there was no inheritance in the land for them (thus no way to make a living), the Lord commanded that all the other tribes contribute one-tenth (a tithe) of their increase to the Levites for their living and so that they could make the offerings mandated by law. The Levites, in turn, were commanded to give a tithe (one-tenth) of their income to God’s treasury. (Numbers 18:26)


The tithe was mandatory under the Mosaic law, but are Christians bound by it? The answer is “No,” as supported by New Covenant scripture.


With the New Covenant entered a new High Priest—Jesus. He is not of the tribe of Levi but was born into the tribe of Judah. No such commandment was ever given under the Old Covenant to give tithes to Judah. (Hebrews 7:14)


Under the New Covenant, giving is indeed encouraged; but when to give, to whom to give, and how much to give are left to the discretion of the giver. Most notable among these scriptures is Paul’s recounting of the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). In the early church the people were described as living a communal life, selling all their possessions and laying the proceeds at the Apostles’ feet (however, this was not mandatory). Then the wealth was distributed to each according to need. Ananias and his wife Sapphira colluded to sell their land and keep back part of the proceeds but pretended they were giving it all. Peter confronted them for lying to the Holy Spirit and they both were struck dead. Here are the words of Peter that punctuate the notion of free-will offering:


“Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)


In the New Testament, the word “tithes” is only used five times, and it appears only in the context of Old Covenant giving. The concept of mandatory tithing is converted to a system of voluntary giving, as the word is changed from “tithes” to “gifts and offerings.” This makes complete sense! Under the Old Covenant, there was no guarantee of eternal salvation. The people were shackled under a system of works that had to be repeated again and again. God demanded of them their tithes. But under the New Covenant, God guarantees eternal salvation by offering a gift—His Son, Jesus Christ—who died for our sins and rose from the dead to pave the way for us to live forever. It is through faith in Jesus Christ alone that we are saved. We no longer have to give, we only have to receive. This is grace!


Part Two: Substantive Realities 


Being freed from the law in Christ, then, there is still much to consider about our pattern of giving. Note especially 2 Corinthians 9:7,


“Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver.”


What Paul is saying is that no one should give because he feels coerced or because he “has to.” There is no “has to” anymore. Rather, we are free to give because we want to; and this is pleasing to God. As always, God is interested in your heart, not your pocketbook. 


Coerced giving leads to many kinds of sin. If you give begrudgingly, your heart will not be in agreement with the action. You, however, may not feel free to express your disagreement. This leads to passive-aggressive behavior in which you allow anger or fear to fester, causing you to live a lie. The one(s) who coerce you are also sinning, because they have broken one of the great commandments: love your neighbor as yourself. Arm-twisting manipulation is always a sin.


Setting aside these negatives, let’s go on to consider a fact: it takes resources to support the church. Even if a few people meet in someone’s living room as a house church, there will be expenses. To my thinking, keeping a right conscience toward your church (and God) includes contributing to keeping the church going.


In closing, I want to encourage you to take time to meditate on this prickly, though important topic. Why do you give the amount you do? What are the emotions you feel concerning it? Are you able to give freely and joyfully? If not, why not? If not, how can this be resolved?


The decision to give and how much is yours alone. Whatever you do, just own it. Is not the money in your own hand? (2 Corinthians 9:7) God has blessed you with the right to choose how to spend your resources. I pray that you will honor Him not only with your hand, but also with your heart.


Stressing Out Doesn't Make You a Bad Christian

Posted by mercycounseling on July 6, 2019 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Stressing Out Doesn’t Make You a Bad Christian!


We’ve all been there. Feeling so stressed that we are practically paralyzed. Blowing our cork over things that normally wouldn’t merit much attention. Not sleeping. Rushing around. Not eating right. Crying jags. Wanting to run away or simply hide under the covers and not come out.


As Christians, this often leads to feelings of failure and guilt over the “ifs,” “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts.” After all, if we have faith, we should be able to overcome anything, right? We shouldn’t let the pressures of the world steal our joy, right?


Give yourself a break and stop beating yourself up. Even towering biblical characters had melt-downs from time to time. Moses, Elijah, even Jesus.


Overcoming stress means you must evaluate your situation and correct those things that you can. Are you doing too much? Step back from some responsibilities (i.e., learn to say no). Remove ungodly influences from your life, if any. Take time to eat healthy food, not junk food or fast food. Make room in your schedule to rest and sleep. Talk to a Christian counselor to help ground you in objective truth.


Take time to pray and believe your prayers are heard. The Lord will strengthen you just as He did Elijah, Moses, and Jesus. He will not judge your weakness. Rather, He will shine a light on a path to healing. He will send others into your life to help you get through it all. Trust Him. You were never meant to have all the answers and all the solutions. He does. Pray without ceasing.


Remember that Jesus said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He is the great carrier of burdens and light-bearer of truth.


In the midst of turmoil, He will never leave you nor forsake you. Even when your faith seems to fail you, He never will. Remind yourself of that when things get tough and keep reminding yourself. Victory is at hand.

IS YOUR MARRIAGE A COMPETITION?

Posted by mercycounseling on January 11, 2019 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)

IS YOUR MARRIAGE A COMPETITION?

Susan A. Haberkorn

NCCA Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor


Americans love a good competition. In fact, it seems to be central to our corporate identity. We compete for the best deals, for jobs, for the glamor of the spotlight. We root for our favorite individual and team athletes. We compete at home, at work, at school, and at play. Even our economy is based on competition.

 

The good promise of competition is high achievement, but the downside of competition is that whenever someone wins, someone else loses; and it isolates and leads to an excessive focus on self. No where is this downside more destructive than within marriage and family.

 

God has provided His framework for marriage and family that excludes competition and selfishness. He provides Himself as the sovereign authority, the husband/father as the head of the home, the wife/mother as partner to the husband/father, and the two of them together as authorities over the children. This is not a popular notion of family hierarchy today; but when it is executed in accordance with the instructions of mutual love, respect, and grace outlined in the Bible, it is a very elegant and orderly system that brings security and peace to all family members.

 

If your marriage and family are frequently mired in turmoil, could competition be the culprit? Husband, are you loving your wife as though she were part of your own body? Do you lead your family with gentleness and guide them in devotions and prayer? Wife, do you treat your husband with respect and allow him to lead? Do the two of you back one another up in all situations, or do you undermine one another’s authority and character? Do either of you side with a child or other person against the other parent? Do you make each other compete with someone or something else for your time, love and attention? If any of this rings true for you, your marriage is being destroyed by competition. If so, you can turn it around by returning to God’s original plan. You may need the help of a Christian counselor to guide you. Some pertinent scriptures are listed below.


Exodus 20:1-17

Ephesians 5

Matthew 22:36-40

Ephesians 6:1-4

1 Peter 3:1-7

Proverbs 15:22

Here is what marriage competition looks like:


And here is what God's plan looks like:



Immune Health and Digestion 101: Ya Gotta Chew, and Ya Gotta Poo

Posted by mercycounseling on December 16, 2018 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Immune Health and Digestion 101: Ya Gotta Chew, and Ya Gotta Poo

by Susan A. Haberkorn, Ph.D., NHP


That’s right, friends; I did say poo. About 70-80 percent of your immune system operates between your lips and your anus. Your health, in large measure, depends on the trillions of beneficial bacteria that live in your alimentary canal, aka, digestive tract. The alimentary canal includes the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus.



What, you may ask, do chewing and pooing have to do with it? Chewing and pooing are the Alpha and Omega of digestion: the beginning and end. Chewing your food properly provides mechanical breakdown of food into smaller particles. As you chew, saliva is secreted into your mouth. Saliva has a two-fold purpose: 1) to moisten food so you can swallow it; and 2) saliva contains several enzymes that begin the chemical breakdown of carbohydrates and fats, starches, and protein. It also contains an enzyme that destroys harmful bacteria by digesting the cell wall.


The mechanical and chemical actions involved in proper chewing prepare each bite to be converted into energy that your body can use. The probable outcome of wolfing down food without proper chewing is digestive upset, inefficient processing of nutrients, putrefaction of food further along in the digestive tract, gas, bloating and possible illness from the harmful bacteria that come with the food. Under these circumstances, your gut flora (beneficial bacteria) will also become out of balance. Thus, you will experience negative immune effects.


At the other end of the equation is elimination. When your digestion is upset by ineffective chewing, you will experience either diarrhea or constipation. Diarrhea occurs when food moves too quickly through the intestines (often caused by the harmful bacteria not destroyed by saliva); and constipation occurs when food moves too slowly. How you chew your food is only one aspect of the end result, however. Dehydration, poor dietary choices, “bad” microbes, and use of pharmaceutical drugs all play a role in your body’s digestion and elimination processes. They also can lead to reduced numbers of beneficial bacteria in the gut, resulting, once again, not only in inefficient digestion but also in negative immune effects. The bottom line—no pun intended: Failure to have at least one hearty bowel movement every three days (even though you are eating regularly), is generally considered abnormal and means you are likely toxic. A more frequent elimination (at least once per day) will help you feel better.


Partially digested and undigested food due to lack of proper chewing will make you sick. Recirculating toxins from a sluggish bowel will make you sick. If you seem to feel tired and listless frequently, look first to your digestive system. Are you chewing, and are you pooing? The answer to better health may lie therein.


References:

1. “Your gut is the cornerstone of your immune system.” https://www.health24.com/Medical/Flu/Preventing-flu/your-gut-is-the-cornerstone-of-your-immune-system-20160318

2. Definition of alimentary canal: https://www.britannica.com/science/alimentary-canal

3. “Bowel Movements: What’s Considered Normal?” https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/guide-to-constipation-relief/bowel-movements-whats-normal/

MANAGING YOUR EMOTIONS

Posted by mercycounseling on October 22, 2018 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Managing Your Emotions

According to the Collins online dictionary, “An emotion is a feeling such as happiness, love, fear, anger, or hatred, which can be caused by the situation that you are in or the people you are with. They are the part of a person's character that consists of their feelings, as opposed to their thoughts.”


Emotions are a way in which our unconscious mind interprets the world. They are prompted in response to stored memories. As the brain processes the continuous flow of external and internal stimuli, it compares that incoming information to the stored memories of previous experiences, which include what happened and how we responded. It also accesses memories related to personal values and beliefs. When the unconscious mind has finished evaluating and connecting these memories to the present situation, it sends a signal to your amygdala (a tiny organ in the brain that processes emotions), and the amygdala signals the emotional response to the conscious mind. In effect, your unconscious mind creates a simulation. This process happens so fast that we often think the emotion precedes the thought, but it doesn’t. The unconscious thought and value judgment happen before we become aware of a conscious emotional response. Emotions are, therefore, a product of our thinking.


Uncontrolled thinking leads to uncontrolled emotions. In her book, Switch On Your Brain, Dr. Caroline Leaf addresses the value of disciplining the mind: “Getting your thoughts disciplined and under control is one of the first steps in freeing yourself of the burdens of the world and beginning to enjoy life despite the burdens of the world.”79 When we relive memories and their attendant emotions over and over in our mind (whether bad or good), we increase the likelihood that our unconscious mind will form a simulation from those memories and emotions whenever we are in a similar situation.


We all experience emotions and become physically aroused by them. Because they are formed from memories, values and perceptions, we need to check the validity of negative emotions by comparing them to our present situation before we translate them into action (except in the case of real, imminent danger—our fight or flight response).


Assuming you are not in a life-and-death situation, it is a good idea to re-evaluate on a conscious level what your mind has determined on an unconscious level. Remember, the unconscious mind only deals with past experiences, which may not be fully applicable to the situation at hand. In other words, you need to consider the current, objective truth. Objectivity will give you a healthy perspective on life and alleviate much of the pain caused by inappropriate or unresolved emotions. God’s Word is the most objective truth of all, and I encourage you to search the Scriptures for answers when emotions threaten to derail you.


It is interesting that the “works of the flesh” and the “fruit of the spirit” described in Scriptures correlate to negative and positive emotions, respectively:


Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; (Galatians 5:19-21)


But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

 

Sometimes people struggle to understand and describe the emotions they are feeling. There are many different shades of the same emotion. Below is a chart showing six major subdivisions designed to help you interpret your emotions. The list is not exhaustive, and some of the specific emotions fit into more than one category. You can decide how these relate to your experiences.


Anger: Annoyed, Bitter, Bored, Disdain, Disgust, Envious, Frustrated, Furious, Hurt, Irritated, Jealous, 

Resentful, Suspicious, Tense

Fear: Anxious, Confused, Insecure, Nervous, Scared, Self-conscious, Tense, Terrified, Trapped, 

Worried, Shocked, Uncomfortable

Shame: Embarassed, Foolish, Inadequate, Self-conscious, Silly, Stupid, Worthless

Joy: Comfortable, Content, Happy, Hopeful, Inspired, Loving, Peaceful, Proud, Satisfied, Relieved

Grief: Depressed, Despair, Heartache, Lonely, Lost, Miserable, Overwhelmed, Sad

Excitement: Amazed, Determined, Eager, Energetic, Motivated


Can you add any words to the lists?


Susan A. Haberkorn, Ph.D., NCCA Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor


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