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Untangling Emotions

I just finished reading Untangling Emotions by J. Alasdair Groves and Winston T. Smith, and I thought I'd give a summary. It had some good points and was easy to read. It reminded me of the Enneagram literature that I've been reading lately, especially when it gave the four steps to healthy processing of emotions: identify, examine, evaluate, act. We identify what we're feeling, we examine and evaluate our emotions, and then we decide how to act. Very helpful stuff.

Here's a few quotes to whet your appetite:

"Our emotions broadcast loud and clear what's going on in our hearts." (Groves and Smith, 67)

" . . . God gave us emotions that are actually designed not to change unless what we love changes or what is happening to the thing we love changes." (Groves and Smith, 77)

"We crush them, deny them, or escape from them rather than letting them do their good and healthy work of driving us to him." (Groves and Smith, 130)

The book was divided into three parts: An intro, the meat, and some specifics. This is my labeling by the way, not theirs. Groves and Smith labeled their sections "Understanding emotions," "Engaging emotions," and "Engaging the Hardest Emotions." 

I skim read the intro. It felt rather wordy, although it made some good points: it's okay to feel bad, we feel many things at once, emotions are physical, we relate to others by feeling, and we can't just will our emotions to change. 

The second section I found the most helpful and practical. Groves and Smith begin this section by identifying how people tend to fall into two traps. They either allow their emotions to be king or stuff them into a little locked box. Emotions are not supposed to be our guides or the enemy. I like to think of emotions like that little lizard on the ghost's shoulder in The Great Divorce that was whispering into its human's ear. The lizard was basically controlling the human until the human gave the shining being permission to kill the lizard. Once killed, the lizard turns into a great stallion that the human then masters. I hope I'm remembering that correctly. Anyway, I like to think of our emotions like that. When we have surrendered ourselves to God, we are the masters of our emotions, and upon them we ride to glorious heights. 

Groves and Smith next give steps on how to engage our emotions through a relationship with God. I like their description of how we invite our emotions to teach us things about ourselves and our world. They encourage us to ask why we are feeling what we are feeling. Here I think the Enneagram gives better guidance by asking what instead of why. What do we want that didn't happen? The Enneagram helps different personality types trace that want back to a chore God-given desire. 

The last section gives specifics about engaging anger, fear, shame, guilt, and sorrow. I believe each of these sections could be helpful only in so much as a person realizes that's what they're feeling. Naturally no one can accept help unless they realize they need it.

Overall, a good read.

Groves, J. Alasdair and Smith, Winston T. Untangling Emotions. Wheaton: Good News Publishers,  2019


ShackelMom said…
Very good review! Glad you enjoyed it! :-)

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