Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Spirituality of Primary and Secondary Emotions

“When you are disturbed [angry], do not sin;

ponder it on your beds, and be silent.”


~Psalm 4:4 (NRSV).

Ever lost complete control of the moment and not known why? If you answered yes you’re just admitting to being human. These events are describing the impact of secondary emotions. In this case, anger was experienced because the truer emotion was denied somehow.

Spirituality and Emotion

Spirituality is the matter of integrity with ourselves and God.

We can consider that without spirituality there is nothing pertinent to life, for it gives all of life its meaning. The spirituality of the emotions, then, is about facing the fact that at times we’re honest about how we feel and other times we’re dishonest—perhaps out of fear, embarrassment or discomfort.

Emotions, and how they’re dealt with, say a lot about how vibrant our spirituality is. Therefore, there’s a salient connection between emotional intelligence and spirituality. Both surround honesty—with ourselves, others and God.

Then Comes Life

Situations in life have their way of mussing our emotions. Even the most emotionally intelligent of people grapple.

Life presents stimuli which we see as threats. These are realities that bear unwanted consequences. No matter how much we rationalise these things in our higher minds, our heart feels a certain way about them—it’s innate. Nothing can be done to change how we feel.

But, we are not defenceless; this is the point.

Responding to the Challenging Situation

So, we have a time in mind when a challenge to our emotions was experienced; one we desperately wanted to respond well about. Mind quelled the heart, but the heart still felt anxious.

The primary emotion is to do what the psalmist said: ponder and be silent. Don’t try and fix something that, for your heart, cannot be fixed. It is what it is. The primary emotion, therefore, has us feeling the full force of the emotion and welcoming it. In courage is truth—there is nothing to be feared, because this is you facing yourself. It’s God placing a mirror before your face. This is Divine revelation—a miraculous gift.

The secondary emotion comes through when we don’t heed the items at their most basic truth—when we deny the mirror. Life is made tricky because our default is to bypass the clean and effective primary emotion for the secondary, fake emotion—the devil’s tool since the fall of humanity.

Anger is the classic secondary response; hardly ever is anger a primary (good/true) emotion.

The spirituality of this issue again rebounds in truth.

God always gives us a way of properly meeting every life situation. Nothing is beyond us if we deal in primary emotions. This is part of the essence of our spirituality, a key to our relationships with others, and central to how we relate with the Spirit of God.

We can face anything.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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