Ok, let’s get back to the purpose of this blog and talk about leading our emotions so we can be led by the Spirit of God instead of being dragged around by fear, pain, anger, and the pursuit of distraction.
We are often at a loss for what to do with our intense feelings and how to use them as information instead of directions. How do we get from being so angry we can’t see straight to having a level-headed conversation with healthy boundaries?
We are often equally at a loss for what to do when our positive emotions are low key and lack the intensity we desire. How can we experience the joy we desire to share with our families, friends, at work, and in our hobbies?
I’d like to introduce you to The Formula. It’s a simple, 4-step tool that forms the foundation of leading our emotions and it goes like this: Grab a pen and paper, or open notes on your phone, anything to get it out of your head and make your brain put it into words.
- Write “I feel ____________”, and fill in the blank with the words that best describe how you are feeling. You might have more than one feeling, that’s ok!
- Write “Because _______________”, and fill in the details of the situation that produced your feelings. While you’re writing out the details you might become aware of more feelings. Just add them to the feelings line at the top and keep going.
- Once you’ve gotten out all the details of the situation start a new line and write “and I want ____________”. Fill in that blank with what you want for yourself, other people in the situation, and any other affected parties. Also consider what God wants for you and others in this situation! You might have conflicting wants. For example, one part of you might want to eat the whole box of cookies because you feel lonely, while another part of you wants to stay on track to meet your health goals. Be honest about conflicts. We will resolve them in the next step.
- Then, on a new line, write “so I will _____________” and fill in the action steps you will take to get to what you and God want for yourself and others. If you had conflicting desires consider your goals and priorities – which desire represents your long-term goal or highest priority desire? Ask God to show you a 3rd option that could remove the conflict. For example: so I will invite someone over to share a serving of cookies with me and put the rest of them in the top of the pantry. That addresses both the desire for a treat, the desire to stay on track with health goals, and the underlying loneliness all at the same time!
The Formula helps us resolve our negative emotions and get peace by choosing a course of action. It helps us grow our positive emotions by practicing mindfulness and making space for positive emotions to grow to their full potential.
You can use the formula as a format for prayer when you find it difficult to know what to say to God. At the end add, “So God will you please” to ask him for help with what you want to see happen in the situation that is outside your control.
You can also use the formula to help you talk with other people about your intense feelings with healthy boundaries and ask for what you want without yelling, blaming, and manipulation.
So the cookies are kind of a silly example, but the formula is really helpful. Here is a real life example of how I used the formula on Mother’s Day to increase my happiness:
On a walk with my husband and boys for Mother’s Day. I noticed I felt sad that our day was coming to a close and had started thinking of all the things that needed done on Monday, so I explored it more.
“I feel sad because our day is almost over and I’ve really enjoyed today which is rare for me, and I don’t want it to end. I want to enjoy it as much as possible and I sense there is more joy to be had here if I could unlock it. So I will use the formula to grow my happiness.
“I feel happy because I’m outside with my family and the weather is beautiful and the boys are laughing and exploring and Steven is holding my hand and smiling at me and the sun is filtering through the trees so beautifully and we saw deer and a little grass snake and listened to the water run over the rocks in the creek. I want this to last forever, or at least as long as possible. I want to remember this and be able to come back to it and feel the joy again when I remember. I want Steven and the boys to experience me joyful and enjoying them and in love with them and this moment. God wants me, and Steven and the boys, to enjoy each other and his creation as part of enjoying him and living in his presence and his love. So I will focus on this moment. I will smile big and wide on purpose. I will notice the happiness welling up inside me to joy and allow it to grow. I will not hold back the tears of joy forming in my eyes because they are part of my expression. I will laugh out loud with the boys and look each of them in the eyes. I will ask God to make this a long-term memory that I can come back to complete with the happiness I feel. I will tell Steven how happy I feel right now, and I will share this happiness with everyone who asks me how my Mother’s Day was. Tomorrow I will add all these details to my gratitude journal so I can come back to them later.”
Even as I typed that out I noticed I was smiling and feeling the happiness grow inside me again as I remembered all the details I had noticed on purpose and stored away!
Try it out for yourself! If you get stuck or have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments or reach out to me through the contact page!