by Fabio Zabala
Bachelor of Psychology, Colombia

When we analyze the etymology of the word emotion, we find the roots in French. It comes from emouvoir, ‘move.’ From the etymological family of  move, therefore, we can con­ firm that emotions are  the manifestations of a physical, psychological, spiritual, or  social state that moves us-by pain, social  rejection, loneliness,  happiness, enthusiasm, or  other feelings. Psychology defines emotion as a tool of empathy, which helps the individual to communicate with others what he  feels  and thinks without even using words.

Emotions in some cultures, groups, and com­ munities have been judged or qualified, however, as symptoms of weakness. For this reason, in many situations we  hear  parents saying to their children: “Don’t cry. You’re  not a baby.”

Between childhood  and youth,  each human being faces moments where he does not know how to express his  emotions, and the easiest thing he finds is to smile to disguise his  mood. Psychologist Daniel Goleman proposes in his book “Emotional Intelligence” that when each human being can recognize how he is feeling, he can then manage his emotional state in the easiest and wisest way.  No  one, of  course, has the right to express emotion whenever or however he  desires. It is important, then, to learn to recognize and name your emotions so you will be able to handle them in the wisest and most prudent way, without offending others or  falling into behavior about which you will later feel sorry or ashamed.

Young people and their reactions to emotions

It is common  in adolescence to navigate  through a sea  of emotions, which we do not know how to manage or treat. On one hand, a young person is  anxious to finish secondary school and go to a university to achieve his or her dreams. On the other hand, feelings for  the opposite sex will most likely arise at  this time and become more than a passing interest. Some frustrating failures will probably be experienced during this period of life as well.

All these circumstances can produce in the  young many emotions (fear, anxiety, happiness, euphoria, sadness, distress, etc.). causing great suffering. One  day, while I was  doing my  pro­fessional  practice in a public school, a young man who  was about sixteen years of age came to me  and  asked, “Fabio, what can  I do to stop  feeling emotions? What  psychological tech­nique do you recommend so I do not fall in love again?” As I looked at him, 1 understood the situation he was facing. I saw  myself reflected in his  ex­perience. At  his age, I had also been searching for a way to stop “feeling.”

But  God  did not  make us with the capacity to block  either the  nervous system or the limbic system (the area of the brain in charge of directing and interpreting our emotions and sensa­tions). The reformulated question of this young man would be, “How can I learn to understand my emotions intelligently and  at the  same  time act in a prudent way  to avoid  unnecessary suffering?” It is not that psychol­ogy  or the  Lord Jesus will always try to spare us pain  (of course  not). But even  though pain  does  not  please us,it is occasionally necessary. Some­ times pain produced by an emotion becomes the  best  learning tool  for our lives.

Three simple  steps to manage your emotions

1    Name your emotion

When you  feel yourself enter­ing  that sea of emotions, the best  thing to do  is to stop, reflect, and  pray, like king David says in Psalm 55:4-5: “My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trem­bling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.”

David names his  feelings “fear­ fulness    and    trembling.”  When we  identify the  emotion that we are  experiencing,  this   will   help us to focus  on the  response that such  emotion deserves.  It is like when we  go  to the  doctor: first, the doctor asks what our  symp­toms are, then makes a diagnosis, and  finally, gives  us treatment. It would be a disaster  if the  doctor reversed the process.

2  Employ  self-regulation, or self-control

King  Solomon, in Proverbs  16:32, says this, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and  he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city [emphasis supplied].” Here  is emphasized the  impor­tance and  the  value  of exercising self-control over our  own emotions.  Let’s remember it is not  to deny the emotion or put on a pre­ tend smile, We do  not  deny our emotions or wear a false smile-we accept being sad, fearful, or upset. We will  not, however, allow these emotions to  determine our  atti­tudes toward life. Never should a human being make major deci­sions based only on emotions, be­ cause  emotions change accord­ing  to context, environment, and situation.

3 Self-motivation

Let’s take  into consideration that human  beings experience two types  of motivation: one, called external motivation, comes from others. The  other is  self-motivation, also called  intrinsic motiva­tion.

The  child, youth, or   teenager that from an  early  age  develops the  capacity to motivate himself will have an extra  tool to intelligently manage his emotions. When he faces strong emotions, he will tend to think that as he trusts in God, everything will  be fine, that  better times will come. Ultimately, experiencing emotions  is  some­ thing completely natural in the  biology of a human being. This perspective will help him to find a way to not focus only  on  the  negatives of life. He will realize that emotions themselves are neither  negative nor  positive.  Rather, we are the interpreters of our own emotions. Eduard Punset, a research­er in the area of neuroscience, used to say that “It is very bad  to get  carried away by emotions, but  it is worse  not to have them.”

Jesus was a human who, like you, also experienced strong  emotions. How­ ever, during His emotional storms, He knelt before His heavenly Father. Jesus prayed fervently! He did  not  give  up until He felt that God had  taken care of His griefs  worries,  and/or  sadness. Today  we  also have this  kind Helper. Jesus felt what  you are feeling, and  is patiently waiting for you to come and deposit your burden on His shoulders.

May God bless you and give you the emotional intelligence to walk  quiet­ly and placioly through this life–even when adversity threatens to destroy you.  •