Emotional granularity

By Dave Henning / May 1, 2024

“Emotional granularity is the ability to describe your emotional state using nuanced words and phrases instead of general ones. . . .  The more specifically you are able to describe what is going on inside you, the more flexible you will become in the face of that emotion.”- Jennifer Allen

Jennifer Allen concludes Chapter 9 of Untangle Your Emotions with the final three of the Big Four emotions.

2.  Anger.  God calls us to be slow to anger (James 1:19) and to not sin in our anger (Ephesians 4:26).  But that doesn’t make anger evil.  Therefore, Jennifer boldly stresses: It’s what we do with our anger that determines it something good turns into something bad.

Above all, Jennifer observes, it’s not really helpful to judge our reactions.  However, it helps to understand and accept that we will get angry.  Hence, we must notice and accept our anger.  Because that’s essential to choosing what we do with that anger.  Let your anger draw you to God.

3.  Sad.  Sadness, the author notes, often gets a bad rap.  Too many people buy into the idea that Christians must constantly exude joy.  Otherwise, they fail to represent their faith well.  But in the Bible all kinds of people express sadness (aka lament).  Prophets, God’s people, even Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Therefore, Jennifer exhorts, resist passing by difficult things or paying scant attention to them.  Instead, grieve the hard things.  And, the author adds, “There’s not a right way to be sad — you’re just sad.”

 4.  Fear.  Most significantly, Jennifer sees Jesus’ statements about fear as an invitation.  Rather than a command.  In other words, Jesus essentially says to us, “Eyes on Me.”  Jesus intends to comfort us.

In conclusion, Jennifer counsels:

“But He’s not scolding us like a disappointed father when we fear.  Otherwise we would be afraid of being afraid.  Fear is our constant reminder we need God and that He is there. . . .  Like every emotion, fear can entangle you and become a stronghold, but it is more likely to do that if you do not recognize it, name it, and share it with others.”

Today’s question: Where do you stand on the road to emotional granularity?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The earnest work of feeling”

About the author

Dave Henning

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