So much of the work I do with clients revolves around discovering a soul language. Finding ways for the mind to understand the language of emotions expressed in the body (i.e. crying or rage or terror), rather than assuming that feelings are dangerous and shutting them down.
In the theological circles I have been a part of the past several decades has, for the most part, interpreted Scripture in such a way as to make the mind the most important part of the body. In fact, it might be fair to say that the mind is the only important part and the rest of the body is simply dragged along for the ride, for better or (more often) for worst. We tell ourselves that if we just ‘believe’ the right things, then everything will be fine. And when we are angry or frustrated, we assume that we are the aberration; we assume that those feelings are rogue agents sent as temptation to undermine our ‘correct’ ideas.
Within these circles we have made our minds responsible for controlling everything that happens in our soul and then wonder why our thoughts are rampant, insistent and vigilantly searching for the next ‘threat’ to our well-being. We perceive emotions to be conducting guerrilla warfare against us and organized by a soul that is the epicenter of all that is unholy.
As a result, we have created a theology that has inadvertently pitted mind against body against soul against spirit, and then wonder why we experience being at war with ourselves. And, when we add the complicated and complex factor of trauma and/or childhood wounds into the mix, all manner of inner hostility can be unleashed with toxic confusion.
So yes, much of my work with clients is to help them untangle fact from fiction regarding the function and design of the soul, to demilitarize and ‘decriminalize’ emotion, to practice expressing feelings (especially anger) in relationally useful ways, to bring curiosity to understanding the presence of feelings as something that can teach us – about ourselves, about our relationships, about our situations. To discover pathways that cleanse the soul of buried and toxic feelings because too much emotional clutter means that there is no space for the emotional states we actually want to foster: peace, joy, hope, love.
Peace, joy, hope and love do not naturally grow in a combat zone. When we are at war with ourselves, how can we ‘believe’ God? In the traditional Jewish culture (and still to this day), ‘belief’ is both ‘correct’ theology (mind) and action (body, soul).
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart, your mind, your soul and your strength.”
If we are actively engaged in the kind of battle skirmishes that aim what the mind believes against what the body (and soul) experience, then there is not much energy left to love the LORD. There is not much energy left to believe God in ways that compel us towards the ways in which Jesus behaved – with kindness when others were unkind; to bless those who were hostile and condemning; to pursue those on the fringes; to empower those who had been stripped of voice and/or influence; to acknowledge God with awe and affection.
We have blamed ‘emotion’ as the culprit stealing our spiritual inheritance, but I would like to suggest that perhaps ‘emotion’ has simply been wrongly accused. Perhaps the actual culprit has been the ideas we have accepted about emotion that have paved the way for all manner of distraction and struggle and defeat. Perhaps the problem has more to do with what we think about feelings than about what we actually feel.
And maybe, if we could accurately interpret what we feel with a language that connects body and soul and mind, faith would not be such a terrible burden to accomplish but a gift to be received.