Emotions and the Spirit
In American culture emotions are considered a bad thing, unless of course you have a good emotion. But if you have a negative emotion you better stuff it and ply it with food, or drugs, or sex, or distraction so you don’t feel bad and so you don’t make others feel bad either. The problem with stuffing emotion is it fosters addictions as coping mechanisms. But even worse is the fact that the Spirit of the Lord speaks through emotion, so if you block your emotions you also block the Spirit.
Doctrine & Covenants 9:8-9
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.
According to this scripture, the answer is found in the feeling. If we are out of touch with our emotions how can we expect to receive clear personal revelation? If a person is struggling to feel the Spirit, or receive personal revelation, they may be blocking emotions.
“Perhaps the single greatest thing I learned from reading the Book of Mormon is that the voice of the Spirit comes as a feeling rather than a sound. You will learn, as I have learned, to “listen” for that voice that is felt rather than heard.
Nephi scolded his older brothers, saying, “Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words.”10
Some critics have said that these verses are in error because you hear words; you do not feel them. But if you know anything at all about spiritual communication, you know that the best word to describe what takes place is the word feeling.
The gift of the Holy Ghost, if you consent, will guide and protect you and even correct your actions. It is a spiritual voice that comes into the mind as a thought or a feeling put into your heart. The prophet Enos said, “The voice of the Lord came into my mind.”11 And the Lord told Oliver Cowdery, “Behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you.”12 Packer, October 2011 “Counsel to Youth”
Emotions are a form of communication, strong communication whereby we receive important information. Negative emotions especially help bring awareness of pain, imbalances and other matters that need healing. Painful emotions humble us and bring us to our knees—an important aspect of the sanctification process. Emotions bring us to Christ. How can one receive His image in their countenance if they have avoided emotion, and especially painful emotion? Didn’t Christ face every painful emotion? Yes. Pain is a necessary emotion for our spiritual education. Just like baptism, he didn’t need to suffer, but he chose to suffer in order to provide a way out of suffering and pain.
In the end, we all need to feel. Much relief can be found in simply acknowledging and embracing our emotions, positive and negative. For instance, at one point I was struggling with an aspect of my marriage that I found less than satisfactory. Every time I thought of it I would get annoyed, feel resistance, anger and hopelessness that things would never be different. But then I was reminded of something. I was reminded of the power of simply feeling. So I stated to myself the reality of the situation. I acknowledged that I hated that specific aspect and let it just be the yucky thing that it was, not fighting the emotion or the truth. I grieved a little bit and sat with the ugliness without judging it (which can cause feelings of hopelessness) and from then on it didn’t seem so huge anymore. In fact, combined with some other personal shifts in my life, that aspect has faded into its proper place, small and rarely noticed.
One way to untangle your emotions is by listening to them, sitting with them and hearing what your heart has to say, without judgement. This lessens the emotional charge and places you in a state more conducive to problem solving and hearing the promptings of the Spirit. Emotions are important on this mortal journey and should be acknowledged for the gift and tool that they are. If you really struggle with this area talk to a professional counselor. A good counselor will be able to give you effective tools for navigating difficult emotions.