Additional thoughts on Emotional Self-Awareness (Trust me, these are really important!)
(An excerpt from Cultivating Love: Finishing Strong by Dr Ken McGill)
Do you remember the word Epithumia (defined at the end of the article), one of the five Greek words for Love? Well, there is additional insight for us to attain as we explore this word, which could prove to be pivotal in your overall ability to be successful in accurately placing your passion. Let’s take a closer look:
1. First, your success at achieving Emotional Self-Awareness depends on the operation of your Spiritual Disciplines: Implementing the best way(s) that you hear from God is crucial, because it is the exercise of your spiritual disciplines that helps you to grow in and gain knowledge about yourself as you increase your conscious contact with God. Whether it be by prayer, fasting, solitude, confession, study, service or worship to name a few, hearing from God will help you, and inform you in your ability to know yourself. Why is this important? Because…
2. Emotional Self-Awareness is key: Epithumia is your passion, your craving, your desire, your anger, your emotions, your appetite and your suffering. Epithumia is a neutral word, which means your emotions can fluctuate on a spectrum, generating accurately placed passion and healthy behavioral responses on one end, or, regressing to misplaced placed passion and unhealthy behavioral responses on the other end. The main point is, in light of the emotions you feel and will eventually demonstrate, what will be the resulting behavior that we observe when you express your emotions? So why is emotional self-awareness important?
3. The Four “Keys” to Freedom (Thermometer, Thermostat, Thermos, and Patience): You may have asked, “What the devil do these words have to do with anything?” Let me explain. We also obtain these English words from the root of the Greek word Thumos: Thermometer, Thermostat, Thermos and Patience. Remember, it is the practice of your spiritual disciplines that helps you to know yourself, of which emotional self-awareness is one of the ways to know yourself. So how do these items help and why are they so important?
4. A Thermometer informs me about my internal temperature: We need to be able to recognize how hot, how cold, how distant or how enmeshed we are. Or how mad, how sad, how glad, how lonely, how guilty or how fearful we are. If we aren’t aware of how close we are to “blowing our top” or, if we don’t recognize how cool and aloof, or out of touch we are, and our feelings are a sign or “thermometer” indicating how we are doing, then we could wind up either hurting ourselves or burning someone else with the behavior that proceeds from our emotional expression (remember, the spectrum). Knowledge, coupled with emotional self-awareness helps us to know how we are doing inside, in our heart (which the Greeks thought was the place or “seat” of all our emotions), and knowledge helps us to be able to “read our own thermometer.” Once we obtain the reading, we use a…
5. A Thermostat helps us to regulate the temperature inside: Once I obtain my internal temperature, that is, the intensity, or “disconnect” with my emotions, I have the opportunity to make adjustments. Equally, it is my responsibility to employ different options to take care of myself. When we are too worked up, it is the Adult Ego state that comes to the assistance of the hurt, angry, enraged, suspicious, disappointed, abandoned, threatened, or humiliated part of ourselves, and makes good, cognitive, informed, rational and reasonable adjustments to create safety inside of us and reminds us to exercise external boundaries to protect us or others. This is so key, because we certainly don’t want to burn someone else with the intensity that we feel, so we use a …
6. Thermos, which helps us to contain and deliver our heated emotions to another safely: When we are worked up and have something to say to another person, perhaps a loved one, being able to say what we need to say in order to be understood, is critical, because we all want to be understood. But it is your process or the way you communicate your emotions to the other that I most concerned about.
Placing our heated thoughts into a container, a Thermos, then gently handing or sharing our thoughts and feelings to our partner in this manner makes it easier for our partner to hear, receive, “taste” and to get what we want them to hear. “Tasting” our emotions, is like empathy; they are taking a bit of our heart into them, or, they are “projecting their self into what they observe” (Titchener’s definition of Empathy). Either way describes empathy, and hopefully will lead to us receiving an empathetic response from our partner, as they understand what we feel, and possibly what we may need from them. This is good emotional self-awareness, and this is a healthy process of communicating between the two of you that facilitates understanding. This is also how to accurately place your passion, as you demonstrate skilled behavior that helps you to resolve any conflict that caused you to be heated in the first place.
Unhealthy ways of dealing with your Thumos (your emotions) could be sharing, or pouring the thoughts into the cup that is not well insulated (i.e., creating a slow burn), or, dousing your partner with the contents of your heart, thereby causing them to respond defensively, because they are reacting to the burn (and no, they will never get what you want them to hear if they are constantly reacting to the burning intensity of your emotional expression). That’s why learning to skillfully contain, then share your emotions by using a thermos is so important. But there is more…
7. Patience comes from the Greek word, you guessed it, “Makrothymeo.” The word means long-suffering, and interestingly, the Latin word “Patiens” means “I am suffering.” There is a reason that we call the person in the hospital a “patient,” usually because they are suffering, and in need of some reasonable form of care, attention, help, service or ministering to, which are all behaviors that facilitate Healing (Therapeuo — Matthew 10:1, 8). Patience, which is the first fruit of the Spirit located in the second group of three that is typically given from one person to another (Patience, Kindness, and Goodness — Galatians 5:22–23), infers that you are just that, patient or longsuffering with the person. It also infers that you refuse to engage in retaliatory behavior with the person. Making sure that your Thermometer gives you an appropriate read of what you are feeling, and that your Thermostat helps you to respond within a range of healthy behavior, and finally, that there are no holes in your Thermos to burn your spouse, will help you to deliver a patient response, and more than likely facilitate understanding between the two of you. Probably just what the Doctor ordered.
8. By the way, Misplaced passions are typically a precipitating factor in our engagement in addictive behavior, as the lack of emotional self-awareness may lead to resulting behaviors to “mood alter,” self-medicate, manage or block the intensity of our feelings. Your Adolescent Ego state does not, nor will not follow Functional Adult procedures that help you to know, then to responsibly deal with your emotions, which could lead to healthy and functional outcomes. No, Adolescents employ adolescent strategies, and often these behaviors, well intentioned as they are, wind up sabotaging your ability to deal with your emotions effectively, and frustrate your ability to be successful with your resolve.
On the other hand, your spiritual disciplines will help you to know when your pesky little Adolescent is suggesting self-sabotaging behaviors (“hurl the coffee, I mean rage, right now!”) and will help the Functional Adult part of you to responsibly come to your own assistance. Coming to your own assistance means the Functional Adult part of you reads and analyzes the thermometer within you to determine what you are feeling, then moves to adjust your internal thermostat, leading you to respond within a reasonable and realistic range of time to produce healthy behavior, which leads to you skillfully pouring your emotions into an effective container. When this procedure is done, you have taken care of yourself by effectively managing your own emotions (hooray!), and you could invite your spouse to sit down for a talk, and ask her “I have something to share with you, are you open to receiving what I have to say?” The dialogue that you will have with your partner is likely to yield functional outcomes that we call conflict resolution, largely because you just practiced emotional self-awareness skills, and behavior that demonstrates accurately placed passion. Great job. Keep your Thermometer, Thermostat and Thermos on your tool belt and keep up the great work!
(Definition of the word Epithumia: Although our English word Love does not appear in scripture when Epithumia is used, it is included in this list because Epithumia is the word that is mostly translated as desire or craving. Epithumia is a “neutral” word, meaning it can be expressed in good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, functional or dysfunctional ways. When we think about our appetite, our lust, our desire, our craving and our passion, we are describing Epithumia. In its unredeemed and extreme form of expression, Epithumia depicts a strong and negative desire to possess and treat another person as an object, and contextually, primarily for one’s own selfish sexual gratification (Ephesians 2:1–3; Galatians 5:16–17). However, when redeemed, Epithumia portrays a picture of healthy and focused desire, as desire and passion is directed toward one’s spouse, in order to share in, learn about and enjoy the presence, work and fruit (sexually and otherwise) in the marital garden that is built for two and two alone. This word is also important to our emotional well being in that its root Thumos, is found in other New Testament words (Patience), as well as other English words (Thermos, Thermostat and Thermometer), which are critical skills to develop as you work toward emotional self-awareness and the containment of your emotions (Thumos also describes “anger” and “passion”).
For more information about Dr McGill’s books in the Cultivating Love series, click here.