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Emotions are good. They are God-created dimensions of being human and He gave them to us to enhance our lives. Emotions are essentially a burst of energy which seems to take place spontaneously within our bodies. Basically, they act as a motivating force, driving us toward certain objectives pertaining to the situation and/or people who prompted the emotion. And there are a variety of emotions which are stimulated by the variety of people and situations we encounter.


The following is a list of some emotions with one or more possible objectives for that emotion:

1. Fear - motivates us to flee, or to avoid danger, or to protect ourselves from real or imagined harm.

2. Pity - motivates us to feelings of sympathy or sorrow over the misfortune of others, or motivates us to give aid to someone in need.

3. Anxiety - motivates us to mull over a situation looking for ways to effectively deal with it, or to solve a problem, or to prepare for handling a task.

4. Pride - motivates us to praise ourselves and think well of ourselves for good behavior, accomplishment, or triumph.

5. Anger - motivates us to take the action necessary to change a frustrating, disappointing, hurtful, threatening, or unjust situation.

6. Grief - motivates us to give expression to our sorrow, or adjust to loss.

7. Happiness - motivates us to celebrate, or to enthusiastically involve ourselves in a particular activity, or to engage others in our celebration or activity.

8. Excitement - motivates us to raise our energy level, concentration, and level of activity, or to develop talents and abilities, or to engross others in what we are doing.

9. Adoration - motivates us to promote and protect the good of the one we adore, to pursue companionship and intimacy, to make a commitment, or to remain faithful, or to be patient.



It appears that all emotions are related to the same basic physical responses - the blood pressure rises, sugar is released into the blood stream, the heart beats faster, etc. In effect, the body is preparing for action. Which action is determined by the emotion which is determined by our interpretation of the situation or person directly related to the emotional surge we are experiencing. Therefore, different emotional experiences are the result of how we LABEL the physiological changes taking place. The sequence goes like this:

    »    something or someone arouses, or excites, or incites us

            »    the body's energy level rises

                   »     we LABEL the energy burst as a particular emotion

Being thinking creatures, we are constantly taking in information from our world and evaluating it, interpreting it, and trying to make sense of it. Our various labels for emotions (anger, fear, joy, etc.) represent our attempt to evaluate the cause of our energy burst, interpret its objective, and make sense of all that's involved in the surrounding circumstances so we can respond appropriately.

While emotions are themselves good, serving a God ordained function in our life, they can become a problem. This happens more frequently with some than with others, and more frequently under certain conditions than under others. Yet we've all experienced problem emotions. So what causes emotions to create problems for us?

Emotions become a problem when we mislabel them. For example, if we label our emotions "fear" in a situation that has no danger, we have mislabeled. If we label our emotions "true love" when we merely lust, we have mislabeled.

Typically, mislabelling happens when we exaggerate the significance of an emotion or artificially elevate the intensity of an emotion.

We develop the habit of mislabelling by placing the same label on a variety of situations with commonality due to a single similar element (i.e., rejection, criticism, intimacy, danger). For example, labelling our emotional response to a situation with an element of danger (be it ever so small) with the same label we would place on our emotional response to a truly dangerous situation is to mislabel. To carry this example further, if we repeatedly mislabel our rise in energy as fear when there is only a minor element of danger, we will repeatedly over-react to non-dangerous, non-threatening situations. This results in excess energy use and irrational behavior - both of which create more problems for us than they solve.

We are inclined to exaggerate the significance of an emotion when our "emotional trigger" is too sensitive. This means we are telling ourselves that a particular situation is horrible when it is merely bad, or that it is hopeless when it is merely difficult, or that we can't do anything when we have merely run out of ideas about what to do. We tend to do this when someone criticizes us. We exaggerate the significance of the criticism itself by exaggerating the importance of the one doing the criticizing, or exaggerating the degree to which the criticism applies to us (we are no good verses we have a problem area which needs addressing), or exaggerating the criticizer's negative feelings toward us (he hates me verses he is unhappy with this particular behavior). And when we exaggerate our emotional response to criticism we exaggerate our verbal and behavioral responses, too. This is manifested by pouring energy into self-defense, self-justification, denial, and/or attacking our attacker - all of which solves nothing. In fact, it increases our problems. It further damages our reputation (shows we lack the honesty and humility to take responsibility for our behavior) and sabotages our relationship with the one who is criticizing us (we are seen as caring more about ourselves than them and the relationship).

We artificially elevate the intensity of our emotions by stoking the fire of our energy burst until it is roaring out of proportion to the actual situation. A particular situation may be life threatening, calling forth the emotion of fear. By ruminating on all the bad things that might happen because of the situation (think about over and over again - replaying again and again), we artificially elevate our fear beyond what the situation calls for. This will paralyze us - leaving us unable to think clearly and act wisely. But if we control our thoughts and keep our fear within reasonable boundaries, we'll be able to think clearly and act appropriately. Another example of this is grief. Deeply felt sorrow is an important part of dealing with the death of a loved one. But if we dwell on our loss so as to generate overwhelming grief, we will drive ourselves to depression.

When emotions are mislabeled - when we exaggerate their significance or artificially elevate their intensity - we turn them into MALIGNANT EMOTIONS. Malignant emotions cause us to mentally malfunction and self-destruct.

Therefore, take heed. Regard malignant emotions as a warning sign that some how you are going off course - leaving the path of rational thinking and sensible behavior and heading for the path of misbelief, irrational thinking, and erratic behavior.


     1. Poor judgment - irrational thinking, inaccurate interpretation of an event, self-deception
     2. Excessive lows and highs - senseless fear/unjustified confidence, depression/exhilaration, hatred/idolization
     3. Impulsiveness - hurried, thoughtless actions which too often reap unwanted consequences
     4. Impaired problem-solving
     5. Damaged or broken relationships
     6. Physical deterioration - ulcers, high blood pressure, headaches



If we can identify malignant emotions we will be able to see our mislabelling of these emotions. But what motivates mislabelling of emotions? Why would we exaggerate their significance or artificially elevate their intensity?

We mislabel our emotions because we have false and/or irrational beliefs. Consider the following:

    " 1 " = something or someone arouses, or excites, or incites us

    " 3 " = we experience an emotional response to the stimuli and make a verbal and/or action response to the stimuli

We tend to believe that "1" directly causes "3". Not so. If we put fifty people through an identical situation we would get a variety of responses. And how do we explain such a variety of responses? Something is happening inside us which takes place between "1" and "3".

But what is happening inside us which so powerfully affects our ("3") emotional response and our verbal and/or action response to the situation? What happens inside of us is the process of defining and interpreting the stimuli to determine what emotional, verbal, and/or action response we will make in relation to the situation. This 'something' we will call "2". This will help us see its relationship to "1" and "3".

"2" is our system of beliefs. This means every time something or someone arouses, excites, or incites us the consequent stimuli passes through our system of beliefs (where we define and interpret it) before coming out as our response. We use this process to determine our emotional response and our verbal/behavioral response. The process goes like this: "1" filtered through "2" produces "3". So in spite of what most of us think , "1" doesn't cause "3". "2" causes "3".

Therefore, our emotional experiences look like this:

        " 1 " = something or someone arouses, or excites, or incites us and

        " 2 " = we pass the stimuli through our belief system to define and interpret it so we can know which

        " 3 " = emotional and verbal/action response to make based on our beliefs about the stimuli

Our system of beliefs ("2") is based on such factors as:

»  our expectations and hopes
»  our assumptions
»  our past experiences and memories
»  our attitudes
»  our mental pictures
»  cultural influences
»  self-interest



Malignant emotional responses are based on misbeliefs and irrational beliefs which in turn promote irrational thinking and erratic behavior. Irrational thinking and erratic behavior are self-defeating. To find our misbeliefs and irrational beliefs we should start by identifying our self-defeating thinking. Self-defeating thinking exposes itself in the following ways:

1. We make unconfirmed/unsupported assumptions.

2. We draw conclusions where supporting evidence is lacking.

3. We disregard some aspects of the situation that actually contradicts our conclusion.

4. We use "all or nothing" reasoning, placing our experience into one of two opposite categories (saint/sinner, perfect/worthless, totally right/totally wrong, completely trustworthy/completely untrustworthy, clean/filthy, wonderful/horrible, etc.)

5. We think the worst. Anything bad is seen as a catastrophe. Unwanted circumstances are viewed as intolerable. We tell ourselves that we cannot stand what is happening to us, or we cannot take any more when in fact others have endured worse things and handled themselves well in the midst of it all.

6. We demand that life and/or our current situation MUST be other than it is. We think we are entitled to better circumstances as if we should be immune to difficult times. We think God is OBLIGATED (since He is the most powerful and therefore the most able) to make our life just as we wish it to be. We think others MUST treat us the way we want to be treated - that this is our right and others MUST ensure our rights.

7. We think we should be able to/that we have the right to control the people and/or circumstances in our environment. And where we lack the power to control, we think God or others (important people in our life) with more power than we have should step in exercise their power on our behalf.

Such self-defeating thinking exposes our misbeliefs and irrational beliefs. It exposes our unwillingness to accept reality and the limits placed on our lives by things and people over which we have no control. It exposes our commitment to the good of self and our lack of equal regard for the good of others.



The consequences of filtering our experiences through our misbeliefs and irrational beliefs are destructive to us and others. Consider the following consequences to see if you are experiencing any of them.

1. depression - feeling hopeless, helpless, tired, wanting to give up

2. residual anger - a storage of left-over anger from previous anger producing situations which compel us to respond with abnormal levels of anger in subsequent anger producing situations

3. fears - looking at life with the expectation that the worst will happen so that we resort to excessive self-protection when dealing with certain people or situations

4. control - trying to control people and situations for our own sense of well-being, security, peace, and happiness

5. self-damnation, self-denigration - putting self down for failure that was not the fault of any wrong thinking or doing

6. false-guilt - feeling guilty after having accepted responsibility for the wrong we've done and making things right with those wronged so that we feel hopelessly stuck in unforgiveness, unacceptance, worthlessness

7. appeasement - trying to keep others happy with us so as to be at peace with them so they will continue to accept and love us

8. perfectionism - trying to be perfect in almost everything to prevent criticism, failure, loss of acceptance, and/or the loss of self-worth

9. excessive criticism - of self because we think higher and more strongly enforced expectations will motivate us to do better, thus preventing failure and rejection / of others so they will do what we want or live up to our code of conduct or do what we believe is best



Our life can of course be happier, more fulfilling, more joyful if we learn to control emotions that are harmful to our emotional well-being or interfering with our relationships.

But who can control their emotions? We can. We can? Yes, we can. One way we can control our emotions is by controlling our self-talk.

Self-talk is our way of telling ourselves what we believe about a particular circumstance or person as we filter that situation through our belief system. 

Our self-talk looks like this:

" 1 " = something or someone arouses, or excites, or incites us
" 2 " = and as we pass the stimuli through our belief system to define and interpret it we tell ourselves (self-talk) what we believe about it before deciding which
" 3 " = emotional and verbal/action response to make

Do people really talk to themselves this way? Yes we do. In fact we are constantly talking to ourselves this way. We are engaged in an ongoing internal dialogue whereby we continuously tell ourselves what we believe about the people and circumstances which are affecting our world, and more directly, ourselves.

We develop patterns of self-talk much like we develop the pattern of tieing shoes or riding a bicycle. Once the pattern is learned it is performed without much thought, and often without paying much if any attention to what we are doing. Therefore, we may not be aware of our internal dialogue because much of it is automatic - and all of it takes place very rapidly. Nevertheless, we talk to ourselves each time we filter a situation through our belief system. And, the affect of our self-talk on how we feel and what we do is profound even though we may not be cognitively (consciously) aware of its presence and activity.

The good news is: we can learn to listen to our self-talk, and we can change or modify it if it is harmful to our mental, emotional, spiritual, and/or physical well-being.

The process of identifying our self-talk so we can get our malignant emotions under control involves five basic steps.

1. Identify your self-talk (discover what you are telling yourself).

2. Identify the irrational, false, self-defeating, and/or fear-bound beliefs on which your self-talk is based (self-talk is a direct reflection of what you believe - and what you believe affects what you expect of yourself and others, hope for, and fear).

3. Identify the short-term and long-term consequences of your self-talk (discover what your self-talk motivates you to do and the immediate and future consequences of that action on you and others).

4. Develop a strategy for replacing the irrational, false, self-defeating, and/or fear-bound belief with a mature belief, and correcting your self-talk so it agrees with what you are now choosing to believe (make a plan that you will follow).

5. Work your plan until the old way of believing, thinking, and behaving is broken and replaced with your newly chosen mature way of believing, thinking, and behaving (remember you are breaking an old habit automatically put into motion when triggered by a particular circumstance or person and building a new habit that will become as automatic as the old one was).

To help determine your misbeliefs and irrational beliefs, review the seven self-defeating thinking patterns listed above, to see which ones you participate in. Then compare each of your self-defeating thinking patterns to the ten irrational belief statements listed in the chapter on Beliefs and Emotions. Note which irrational belief is promoting a particular self-defeating thinking pattern.


1. Determine the length of time you will work your plan. Three months should be a minimum. Ask someone to help you by holding you accountable to this time-table.

2. Determine what time each day you intend to work through your process of preparation. Find a time you will keep! Review the previous days activities related to what you are working on here. Mentally redo failed experiences so as to get practice for what will surely come. Practice what you will tell yourself in relation to situations or people you fully expect to encounter that day. Remind yourself why you want to change - reviewing the consequences of staying as you are and the consequences of changing.

3. Begin keeping a daily record of upsetting events, the resulting emotions, the related self-talk, and the underlying beliefs. Do this for two weeks or until you clearly see the patterns which you need to prepare for.

4. Talk to God often about this process and tell Him you want His involvement, His wisdom, and His help in breaking the old ways of thinking and establishing new, mature, God-oriented ways of thinking.

5. Select a scripture verse or portion which speaks to you about what you want to change (both put off and put on). Memorize the verse or portion and think about it daily until you feel change has taken place.  

6. WORK YOUR PLAN until you see the results you want.



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Revised 2020