I was reading Emotionally Healthy Spirituality for my class. In one chapter, the author lists the eight main families of emotions. It’s a common list. I’ve probably seen it before. But this time, I stopped. I realized that I hadn’t ever paid attention to the categories of emotions.
It’s not that I am unaware of emotion. Anyone who has spent much time with me knows that I cry, I feel, I ache. I even have a passion statement that says, “my passion is to help people emotionally understand the truth of God’s work.” It’s why I love story so much.
That said, I avoided psychology and interpersonal communication and small group communication as much as possible through my education. I slid by with “Child Psych” for my undergrad psych requirement. I took only the required interpersonal courses in my grad programs. I stuck with the mind side, pursuing rhetoric. There, I only had to think about emotion as one of three modes of persuasion: logos, ethos, and pathos (logic, character, and emotion).
Walking into this retreat, I noted that I wanted to ask God about this. Why did I structure an entire academic program that avoided emotion?
I’m wondering, as we’re talking today, God and I, if the reason I don’t want to take apart feelings is because I am afraid. Intellectually, I’m afraid of learning things that I will use strategically (“Here’s a way to appeal to guilt even more effectively.”) Personally, I’m afraid of learning things that I don’t like about my vulnerability. There is a fear of finding that I’m an imposter, appearing stable but emotionally adrift.
Even as I write that, I know the lie. Learning more about emotional health, about contemplative spirituality won’t unmake me. It won’t disintegrate me. It may, in fact deepen integrity.