Every year I take my truck to a mechanic to get inspected. Inevitably there are minor (and sometimes major) maintenance issues that need to be addressed by the mechanic. Sometimes I have to describe a problem to the mechanic and ask for his input because I don’t have the knowledge necessary to diagnose the problem.
The same is true with regular physical exams. People often show up at a doctors office with symptoms to report, but no idea what is causing the symptoms to manifest. Most people do not have the ability to diagnose internal medical issues. The same principle that applies to automotive and medical diagnostics also applies to our emotional state. Many people can report emotional symptoms, but have no idea what is causing them to feel the way they feel internally.
When it comes to automotive and medical diagnostics, there are machines and tools that can be used. When it comes to emotional health, the emotions themselves are our signals to whats going on internally. Below, I will offer three helpful diagnostic tools for determining what may be going on internally and causing emotional distress:
Anger signals a blocked goal – Often times we establish goals for ourselves and our families. We can do this both consciously and unconsciously. When a person or situation blocks us from accomplishing or realizing that goal, the emotion that we feel toward that obstacle is called “anger”. When you feel anger toward a person, you should ask yourself; “What goal is this person blocking in my life?” Sometimes you will have to deal with the person and sometimes you will have to deal with the goal.
Depression signals an impossible goal – I should clarify; depression signals a goal that we perceive as impossible. The goal may actually be very attainable, but when we perceive it as impossible to attain we feel depressed. When depressed we can begin to ask questions like; “Whats the point?” People struggling with depression often isolate themselves, which is actually the opposite of what they need. Those who struggle with depression need to be in relational contact with loved ones on a regular basis.
Anxiety signals an unsure goal – When we have a goal that we are unsure we can accomplish, we become anxious. Some have defined anxiety as “feeling the pain of things that may not ever happen.” Many of the things that we get anxious about and lose sleep over never actually happen. How many people have gotten anxious about losing a house, car, job or relationship, only for things to work out in the end? Nonetheless, an anxious person is able to feel the pain of something whether it happens or not.
The remedy for each of these issues is to re-evaluate our goals. There may be times when we set goals for ourselves that are unrealistic. In other circumstances, we may create goals that we don’t actually have the power to attain. For instance, if your goal is for your spouse to get a promotion at work, you are likely to experience emotional distress, because your spouse and their employer both have the ability to block your goal. You do not have the power to meet this goal. A more realistic goal is to be supportive of your spouse in their work. Your ability to support your spouse is something that you have control over.
If you find that your goal is valid and within your power, you will have to address the issues that block or challenge that goal.
*Credit should be given to Dr. Neil Anderson for his definitions of anger, depression and anxiety.
Rev. Jim Rudd is the Lead Pastor of True Vine Church Community in Wissinoming. You can visit the church website or friend-request Jim on Facebook. His column, Heart Conditions, appears on NEast Philly the third Thursday of every month.