Friendship Factor #3: Comfortable with your Emotions.

From Bonds of Iron: Forging Lasting Male Relationships by James Osterhaus Ph.D. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994) pgs 74-5.
Whenever two people draw together in friendship, they need to be able to handle the demands that such a relationship accords--that includes emotional demands.

Our emotions spring from responses to four human situations:

pain, danger (the anticipation of pain), pleasure, or desire (the anticipation of pleasure).

From pain comes the emotions of shame, grief, and depression. From pleasure comes happiness, and joy. From danger comes fear, both real and imagined (which we call anxiety) and sometimes anger. Those emotions can actually be experienced locally in the body: For instance, pain in the abdomen, pleasure in the pelvis, fear in the throat, anger in the chest. Indeed, much of our emotional life has to do with responses as our bodies prepare us physically and psychologically to cope with stimuli of all kinds.

It's really not so complicated. Emotions are natural responses we make to the world around us. They occur naturally over the course of our day, ebbing and flowing depending on how our minds perceive the various situations in which we find ourselves. Therefore we should expect them in relationships with others, especially friendships, for here we spend more time with an individual.

Realize that your attitudes affect your experience of emotion. Your attitudes are those core beliefs you hold deep inside, in many cases, far from your ability to rationally scrutinize. Attitudes are laid down by people close to us as we grow and soon become uninspected laws that govern our thoughts, feelings, and ultimately our behaviour.

For example, John is taught from a young age that people can't be trusted. It's hammered in over and over by his parents. This attitude relates to John's basic survival, life and death, so it's a very powerful attitude. Along with this attitude comes the feelings of fear, pain, and anger. As John comes in contact with other people, he takes a defensive stance, which keeps people off balance. As they act off balance in John's presence, he becomes more fearful, and his basic atttitude of mistrust is continually reinforced.

Six common emotions and attitudes:

Anger: I will go crazy, destroy others, be destroyed be bad.
Fear: I'll be helpless, crazy, unable to defend myself, unmanly, weak.
Sadness: I'll die, fall apart, hurt forever, disappear, go crazy, be ugly.
Shame: I'll be seen as limited and not adequate
Joy: I'll be bad, childish, irresponsible; someone will be angry,
jealous, punish me. I'll have to pay it back.

For many men, their attitudes toward these emotions are negative. In addition, many Christian circles have taken a dim view of emotions, viewing them with suspicion and outright contempt. They believe emotions should disappear, or at least be suppressed, when the Holy Spirit leads a Christian. As a result, many Christian men have developed deep-seated negative attitudes about expressing certain emotions.

The man who is able to have friends is in the process of coming to terms with his emotional life. He realizes that he has emotions that emerge at various times in response to the differing situations. He neither denies his feelings nor gives absolute sway to them. But he realizes how much feelings play in his life as a person, and he is able to discuss this aspect of himself with his friends.

Again, I'm under conviction at this point. What does this say to you? Please feel free to will be helping someone, including yourself.

No comments: