Tuesday, March 18, 2014

all feelings are neutral

It is a joy for me to link up each week with Holley Gerth’s Coffee for Your Heart Encouragement Challenge. This week she asked us to share whatever is on our heart that could help someone else.

One of the most encouraging experiences for me was learning to allow my “blind spots,” those pockets of pain we stuff in our hearts, to come to the surface. A Christian counselor once helped me see that, "all feelings are neutral." She would have me draw a pie chart in my journal, writing a different feeling in each slice of pie, and then journaling about the circumstances surrounding the feeling listed in each pie piece that day. This helped me to visualize all my feelings on level ground, enabling them to come to the surface for healing from my Heavenly Father.

I learned that as adults, when we have been hurt, our imagination is wounded. As a result, alienation and belief in bad news replace belief in good news.
We may have a feeling response that can become frozen into resentment. 
We may have an anger response that can become frozen into negative reactions of rage or passivity. 
We might have an interpretation response that can become frozen in negative attitudes, perceptions, biases, and beliefs.

As a result, our imagination becomes paralyzed. Attending to our wounded imagination is a path through forgiveness.

Forgiveness expands our horizons, invites us to retrieve the positive, and work through the negative. Is the glass of water half-full or half-empty? The answer depends entirely on how you see it. “How you see it” is called “perception.” There is the story about the blind men and the elephant. Each man named and described the animal according to his experience of touching only one part of the elephant’s body. The man who held the trunk “perceived” the elephant to be a large snake; the man who held the leg “perceived” the elephant to be a sturdy tree. In the same way, we “perceive” life—depending on what our experience is. Our experiences generate our expectations and our perceptions. We interpret life experiences, and we form expectations and perceptions, attitudes and assumptions. All of this activity is the work of the imagination. It is likewise the work of the imagination to reinterpret and reform repeated assumptions and expectations.

Here are a couple of optical illusions that can help us to experience “blind spots”...  
vase or faces?
old woman or young girl?
Forgiveness demands that we take another look, so that our imagination can reframe our narrow interpretations. Forgiveness includes the decision to refocus or enlarge the context. Native Americans speak of walking a mile in another’s moccasins. When we enlarge the context, we refocus, or we see it through a wider lens. Imagination is the work of seeing through a wider lens. If we stick to a negative interpretation of an old offense, we will experience resentment whenever we think about it, or about the offender. We will never be able to grieve and let go; we will seesaw between rage and resignation; we will never allow anger to surface and put us back on the journey of forgiveness. If we insist on telling and retelling our bad news stories of the past, we simply recycle the bad news and pass it on to the next generation. We pollute the emotional environment; we remain stuck in lifeless memories instead of looking for a more positive side of things long past.

Our imagination is a powerful entity. It can cause the hair on the back of our neck to stand up, our spirit to soar, or our face to blush. Imagination is the power that holds our beliefs together; we believe with our imagination. The imagination is the wellspring of faith and hope. Our biggest and best dreams for ourselves and others rise from the imagination.

When you enlarge your perceptions, using your God-given imagination, you at least allow for the possibility of healing. You give yourself the opportunity to turn from the negative aspects of your past, to get rid of the excess baggage, and to face the journey into the future with hope.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.--Ephesians 3:20
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.—I Corinthians 13:12

Has this post been encouraging to you? Feel free to leave your comments in the box below, I’d love to hear from you!


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Sherrie! I have warm memories of us sitting at your dining room table covered with a big sheet of white paper brainstorming some of these same concepts for our All-Adoptee Boot Camp :)

  2. Beth- the imagination is certainly a powerful force, and sadly can convince us something is a reality when it is not. I am eternally grateful for a foster son who challenged me about my imaginings- confronted me with truth- and helped me to turn a corner towards healing from damaged emotions.
    God has always been faithful and whenever I am believing a lie - my imagination[ He has sent me the truth- through friends, the Word, through blog posts- He uses whatever is available to get His message across.
    At the high-school where i work we have a Downs Syndrome boy- 19 now- and his imagination is always getting him into trouble. We sit him down and have this conversation with him: Ez, did it actually happen, or did you think it might happen?
    Turning this back on to ourselves can be helpful. Is it true? or do you just wonder if it is true?
    Love your blog Beth- your writing is always astute and I appreciate getting to know you a little through this and Empty Nests.

    1. Thank you, Mary! I so appreciate your comments and encouragement!


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