Understanding the Language of Our Hearts
by Audrey, Assistant Executive Director
Growing up, I always thought that anger was bad, and if you were a Christian, you were always joyful, and anger should be far away from my heart. Sadly, I found that this simply is not true.
Whether we are Christians or not, we are all human. Through the ups-and-downs of life, we have a variety of emotions to identify and regulate—both positive and negative.
I eventually learned as an adult; emotions were revealing far more than I was ever saying about how I felt. Growing up in a dysfunctional home, I looked at emotions as bad, but as an adult, I learned they are not bad—they are just emotions.
For many years, I spent a lot of time trying to understand this new language of the heart—the ability to name and regulate my own emotions. How did emotion affect my nervous system? Was it ok to have a negative feeling and not have my physical body shut down? How could I reflect God’s love in my life even though I experienced difficult emotions?
Snowstorms of All Snowstorms
A story years later in my life illustrates how emotions are processed and how we can look to understand another person’s perspective better.
I and my family endured many winters on the East Coast with a significant amount of snow. One year, we had one snowstorm after another. If you have not lived in a place that gets a lot of snow, let me tell you, this kind of weather tends to wear on us East Coasters! It takes everything we have to dig out of yet another tough snowstorm.
In this story, I’ll be referring to a neighbor, Mary. She is an elderly lady and her husband has End-Stage Renal disease. He needs to go to dialysis every other day to stay alive.
In this winter season, we had several snowstorms. We were outside in arctic blast temperatures shoveling snow weekly to keep up with the snowfall. In the middle of the night, one of my teenage sons decides to shovel the snow on the driveway to keep up with the blizzard so we wouldn’t have such a snowbank collected to handle within the morning. While he is diligently shoveling, (trying to be a good boy for mom), Mary the neighbor starts yelling at him to not throw snow in her driveway.
My son, trying to do something good for his family felt slighted and was affected deeply by Mary’s anger. After all, he was only trying to help!
The next morning my son says, “Mom, Mary is so mean! I don’t like her, she was yelling at me last night. And I didn’t even throw snow in her driveway. She yelled at me for no reason. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
I thought about it. What was Mary really saying? What was the language of Mary’s heart?
“You didn’t do anything wrong, honey. Mary was afraid that if her driveway was blocked, she wouldn’t be able to get her husband to dialysis.”
At first, he still felt defensive against her, but he continued to think about it.
He soon realized how powerless she must feel living in such horrible weather never knowing how the snow will affect her ability to take her husband in for medical care.
“That makes sense. I never thought about it from her perspective. Maybe I can help her out sometime.”
Understanding Different Perspectives
We all have our perspectives. Sometimes those perspectives keep us in a reaction of our reality, instead of the reality of someone else’s trauma.
My son’s reaction was that he felt shamed by Mary even though he was trying to be “good.” It only took a moment for him to think through and see the perspective that caused Mary to feel powerlessness and fear. In understanding Mary’s perspective, my son could recognize his reaction of shame was from his unique perspective of the event.
Are you able to differentiate your perspective from someone else’s perspective?
Are you able to look at your reaction to an event and understand what your perspective is?
What is the perspective of the other person?
In relationships, we all want to be seen, known and heard. Discovering MErcy’s desire is for you to know the language of your heart!
Keep an Eye Out for our first curriculum course, entitled, “Discovering ME: Foundational Counseling Course,” which explains a journey out of fear into love, exploring emotions, attachments and how our brain forms our beliefs, emotions, and behaviors. Our goal is to equip counselors, faith-based groups, and individuals how to recognize your own ever-changing emotions, so you are better able to help trauma survivors.