You are mandated by God and empowered by Jesus to take control of your thoughts and emotions.
The integraton of God’s design of the human nervous system and applying the powerful dynamic of God’s word is what God encourages and admonishes us to do. Said another way, we are to master our emotions and renew our minds.
Immediately after the fall, God encourages/admonishes Cain to master the anger/rage that he was experiencing toward his brother, Abel. God told Cain to master his emotions. God does not master our emotions for us. He designed us in such a way that we are to master them.
“. . . this made Cain very angry, . . . ‘Why are you so angry?’ the Lord asked Cain. . . . if you refuse to do what’s right, then watch out! Sin(anger) is crouching at the door eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” (Genesis 4:5-10 NLT)
All of us are emotional hostages in some area of our lives. For example, we learn to give the best of ourselves to people we hardly know while hurting the people we say we love. We have counseled thousands of people and found that many of them have developed skills to communicate effectively for a productive and successful work and social life. However, they struggle with intimate relationships.
Emotional hostages have learned to do what they do. The Bible says what we believe, we do (Proverb 23:7). Said another way, our beliefs determine our actions. Our beliefs were installed (learned at some point) in us. As an example of this, take a minute and think of the word liberty. Write down what comes to your mind.
The meaning of Liberty
When we asked people what came to their minds when they thought of the word liberty, we heard many different answers, as seen below.
At some point, the meaning of liberty was installed in you. Ultimately, everything in the human nervous system is about meaning.
Meaning and Installation of Emotions
Another example of installed meaning is what happens for some couples during the courtship/marriage process. Many couples have been traumatized immediately after getting married. The husband or wife knew the meaning of courtship and therefore, knew how to do courtship. They did it with excellence; they were the very best at romance prior to marriage. However, once they got married and said their wedding vows, the “I do” meaning of marriage now becomes what they do and is altogether different than the meaning of courtship. Now that they are married, they do what they learned that husbands or wives do. Too often the difference between doing courtship and doing husband or wife is dramatic and the spouse thinks they were fooled, deceived, or lied to. The truth is they didn’t know that their meaning of this relationship would have to shift after they became husband or wife; they were never married before, but as soon as they said, “I do” their meanings shifted to being and doing married exactly the way they learned it and many times the meaning held by the husband and wife don’t match, thus causing strife.
As children we learn what husbands do, we learn what wives do, we learn what friends do, what leaders do, what teachers do, what police do, what parents do, what cheats do, what addicts do, etc. There are hundreds and hundreds of roles that hold unique meaning to each of us. We learn the meaning of everthing because of the installation of beliefs that occur, for the most part, prior to the age of 12. There are four primary ways that these beliefs get installed in us.
- Modeling and Observation: what we observe
- Vicarious Traumatization: hearing about or seeing the outcome of someone else’s experiences – usually someone we care about.
- Experientially Installed: good and bad experiences that we have
- Direct Installation: when someone credible tells us the truth according to his or her maps of meaning. When we are little, we do not have the intellect or the authority to challenge the lies that people we love tell us.
God designed us with the ability to choose how we will live and what emotions we will experience. He has also given us hundreds of distinct emotions to live life through. We are responsible for learning how much, how often, and in what situation any given emotion is appropriate. Regardless of how much we have been hurt, victimized, or abused, God encourages/admonishes us to master our emotions (Genesis 4:5-10), guard our innermost thoughts (Proverbs 4:23), and transform our minds. (Romans 12:1-2).