How many times have you reacted a certain way and wondered, "Why did I do that?" Or, "Why do I always do THAT?!" Our unresolved issues, hurt, or pain still reflect in our reactions today even the ones we thought we took care of. They are sometimes hidden and we don't realize how they are affecting how we think or what we do today.
Did you know that, without us trying, our brains interpret everything that's going on? Sights, sounds, smells, and feelings? It just happens. First, there is an event, a thought is triggered, we give it meaning, and then an emotion follows. And whether we are right or wrong, we automatically react or respond to it with emotion influenced by our past experiences or how we were brought up.
One day in our house, my husband, Michael, was throwing a tennis ball down the hallway to our little dog, Nikki. I told my husband to stop for a second because I was coming through. I was not visible where he was sitting. The next thing I knew, the ball missiles straight to my legs as if it had a mission to hit me. I was the target! Shocked and upset, I thought, "How could he do that to me?" My emotions instantly revisited a dark time in my life when my ex-husband first hit me. I felt so worthless and that I didn’t matter. He disgusted me with his excuses and how he tried to justify everything. I finally got out within a few years. When that ball hit me, I felt violated again. I got angry and was crying and trying to deal with my emotions. I received a sincere apology and found out immediately that Michael didn’t hear me and had no idea that I was in the line of fire. He felt horrible about the whole thing and tried hard to calm me down with tender hugs.
Now I knew for a fact that Michael would never raise a hand to me and that he had always been everything God designed a good husband to be toward me and that I had no reason to ever fear his hands. So what happened? Because of physical abuse in the past, my mind instantly interpreted the situation as abuse. Remember we have an event, we have a thought and give it meaning, then an emotion is attached to it. In this case, Event: I was accidently hit by a ball. The Meaning I gave the event: I was being mistreated, abused. Emotion: hurt that he could do this, fear that I was in another abusive relationship, and anger. Did I interpret it correctly? No.
I was not happy about my reaction. We are so good at believing our thoughts, aren't we? It's automatic. There is an answer. By changing the thought, we change the emotion. I had to remind myself that my husband is not an abusive man and that he loves me, respects me, and would defend me always. If it should ever happen again or something similar, my thought would be that it was an "Oops!" Would my emotion be different if I did that? You betcha!
Just recently, a group of my friends and I got together at a restaurant. While we were in conversation, the waitress decided to clear some of the plates and asked those of us who were done if she could take them. She looked eye to eye with one of my friends, held her hand out, and gestured that she wanted to take the plate . She got no response then gestured again. Frustrated, she exhaled and rolled her eyes then reached over us to get the plate because she felt that she was being ignored. But what she didn’t know was, our friend was blind! This all happened in a matter of seconds so none of us had time to explain to the waitress why she was getting smiles from our blind friend but no response. I slipped out and talked to the waitress to inform her of what happened so she could learn from her mistake. You can only imagine how remorseful she felt. She felt embarrassed and ashamed so I received many apologies. She desired to approach our friend to make things right. Because our friend was unaware of what had happened, I felt it was best to spare her of any bad feelings. I asked the waitress to be patient the next time she gets frustrated with anything in life and be aware that things are not always as they seem.
In closing, our brains love to be on auto pilot interpreting the meaning of everything around us be it sight, sound, smells, and even our feelings. Be aware of any emotional reactions that were triggered by a thought that was incorrect, a misunderstanding. We first have an event, then have a thought and put a meaning to it, then attach an emotion to it. To change the emotion, change the thought. Ask God to reveal unresolved issues in your heart so you can walk in peace.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2