Confronting dark thoughts and balancing emotions. December Wellbeing webinars

“The idea that a follower of Christ has dark thoughts is not something we like to consider”, Sweeney stated.

News December 16, 2021

16 December 2021 | St Albans, UK [David Neal]   

The latest TED Wellbeing webinars focus on two crucial issues for Christians: ‘Confronting our Own Dark Thoughts and Experiences’, and ‘Balancing Emotions in an Unbalanced World’.

In the first, TED Field Secretary, Pastor Ian Sweeney asked how is can be possible to harmonise ‘Always Cheerful’ with ‘Lament’.

 

 

“The idea that a follower of Christ has dark thoughts is not something we like to consider”, Sweeney stated. However, he explained, “Confronting our own dark thoughts and experiences is a necessary matter for the growing Christian to consider, because Christ himself said ‘that for every careless word that people speak, they will give an account of it on the day of judgement.’” (Matthew 12:36)

“So why do we have them?”, Sweeney asked. “Because we are human,” he said, a reality the Apostle James recognised about the ancient prophets. For instance, “Elijah was a man just like us.” (5:17) The prophet Jeremiah’s thoughts were at times far from godly. “Do not forgive their crimes or blot out their sins from your sight. Let them be overthrown before you; deal with them in the time of your anger,” he writes. (Jeremiah 18:23)

Photo credit: Fernando Cferdo/unsplash

“We also have them”, suggested Sweeney “because life is dark”, perhaps as a result of an unjust situation or a bad personal experience. Who in their humanity does not want Jeremiah like revenge when the wicked prosper? (Jeremiah 12:1,2).

Are we to go into denial about what we see because of an inherited faith mindset which commands ‘our hearts to be always cheerful’? “Not so,” because the hymnbook of the Bible, The Psalms, provides ample evidence of the need at times to lament. Is it also possible, continued Sweeney quoting Walter Brueggeman, that our ‘always cheerful’ conditioning can possibly result in “numb denial and deception that does not want to acknowledge the disorientation of life.”

If it is a reality that we have dark thoughts, should we ever share with another human? To Sweeney, the matter is not clear cut. On the one hand, they are matters which God alone should hear. On the other hand, are there times when it is appropriate to share in the context of lament? “There are no easy answers”, concluded Sweeney, “but when it comes down to it, God has to be the answer as we confront our dark thoughts.”

Balancing Emotions in an Unbalanced World

The second December webinar ‘Balancing Emotions in an Unbalanced World’, was presented by Karen Holford, Family and Children’s Ministries director, took place on Wednesday, 8 December. In one sense it was an expansion of the matter raised in Sweeney’s webinar the day before.

Beginning by examining ‘What are emotions?’, Holford used the Apostle Paul in a Philippi jail as the biblical foundation. “How is it that Paul in jail, awaiting execution, overflows with joy?” she asked.

Defining emotions as “Our natural responses to living in a world that has chaos and pain, as well as beauty, love and joy”(1), Holford cited research which found that “most people have a 2:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions”, but “we usually have much better emotional health when the ratio is at least 3:1.”(2)

Negative emotions appear in many forms: anger, contempt, disgust, embarrassment, fear, frustration, guilt, sadness, shame and stress.

Meanwhile the ten most positive emotions are awe and wonder, fun, feeling valued, hope, gratitude, interest, inspiration, joy, and love.

What is the answer then to staying emotionally balanced?

“It’s a matter of perspective,” says Holford. “We can focus on the dark and gloomy areas of life, or we can look at the bigger picture and notice the beauty, light, and joy around us.”

It’s the ‘bigger picture’ that returns us to Paul in jail, a perspective grounded in prayer.
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray!… Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life.” (Ephesians 4:6-7 The Message).

“The message of Paul in Philippians 4” says Holford, “is to focus on the positive and believe the best.” Helpful counsel in today’s world of chaos and pain.

Watch the complete webinar to find practical ways to help increase positive emotions in your life.

1. ‘Positivity’ by Barbara Fredrickson, health psychologist.
2. See www.positivityratio.com

To see the complete list of available seminars visit our Wellbeing page.
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tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Vanesa Pizzuto, associate editor
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