Let’s Talk About Emotions | Jennie Allen and Lysa TerKeurst

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Let’s Talk About Emotions | Jennie Allen and Lysa TerKeurst

“Feelings are meant to be fixed; they are meant to be felt.” — Jennie Allen

We’ve got a special treat for you on this episode! Our friend and author Jennie Allen and Lysa TerKeurst sit down for a conversation about Jennie’s new book, Untangle Your Emotions, and they get REAL about their own emotions! As they get honest about what they are currently learning, they also give us biblical and practical tools for naming our feelings and knowing what to do with them. Don’t miss this episode; it’s one you’ll want to share with a friend and come back to often!

Related Resources:

– Join our brand-new Circle 31 Book Club for free today, and start reading Untangle Your Emotions with us! This is not your average book club. The books we select will challenge you to think, ask hard questions and grow so you can move forward in the areas you feel stuck in. When you sign up, you’ll get access to discussion groups led by Proverbs 31 staff, exclusive content from the authors, and so much more!

Wow. Wet to a joy to be here with you, Jenny, because you’re not gonna have wonderful ministry partner, but you’re a dear friend.
We’ve known each other for a long, long time. Yeah. A long time.
Oh, we’ve been doing this a while. It. We have.
Um, I am very excited about your new book, Untangle Your Emotions.
And I love the subtitle because you follow that um, all the way through the book, and I love it.
So it’s naming what you feel and knowing what to do about it.
And, of course, in each chapter, you’re focusing on notice name, feel, share, choose. And I love that.
I love the way they, um, highlighted which one we’re covering in which chapter. It’s just really fantastic.
That means a lot to me from
you. Okay. So we’re gonna start out, and I’m gonna ask you your least favorite question.
You ready for that? Yeah. Ginny, how does this make you feel?
It is one of the favorite question, but I will say I’ve gotten way more comfortable with it.
So this question, most often, um, was asked to me by my counselor who was looking for a lot of feeling, and I didn’t feel it.
And that was really hard for me, but I do feel better now.
And so I would say today, I feel really happy to be talking to my friend who I love, and I feel really grateful for this season that we’re in right now.
Our grown kids are nearby. You get that. It’s fun. Um, I feel I feel like it’s a good day.
That’s awesome. So I’ll do a check-in with you. Um, how do I feel today?
Today, I feel excited about living in answered prayer.
And also a bit tired from probably packing my schedule a little too tight.
Which for me, when I pack my schedule a little too tight, I really do have to watch my motions.
Because that’s one of the number one indicators that, um, my emotions can get all tangled up when I’m tired.
And so how does he come out, Lisa? Oh, okay. Are you turning the interview on me? Yeah. Okay.
Here’s how it comes out. Um, I will get upset about something that I otherwise could normally keep in perspective.
Right. But I will I’ll get upset about something, and I will attach it to something bigger So in other words, it’s not just about the thing that I’m upset about.
I’ll attach it just that it has some deep meaning.
And until I know why this is happening, when it’s gonna get better, how, if it’s with someone else, how we’re gonna work together to make it better, until we can have that depth of a conversation, my thoughts start to spiral.
And my thoughts get caught on a loop, and I can’t escape it.
And suddenly it went from this little thing to suddenly I’ve made it a big thing that has deeper meaning and that needs a big conversation to process.
When in reality, one little thing just needs to be changed, and you don’t really need all that.
Attached depth and processing and big emotions. Oh, yeah. That’s really good. And a
sign that you’re really self aware.
So yay. Uh, for me to say I need to get into my counselor’s office. Right?
So for me, it is, I get irritable, but not a
little similar, but I don’t over I don’t blow it up. I it just I will blow up.
And I it’s not always been the case for me, but that really has been the one lately in the way it shows itself.
That I’m working.
I get it. I get it. Okay.
So, Ginny, what did you realize was going on in your own life.
I know you said lately, you’ve been recognizing that when you’re tired, you blow up or whatever.
And so many so many of us can relate to that. But what was going
on in your own life that made you consider even writing a book on emotions?
Well, I think it’s helpful to first say that A lot of my dearest friends laughed when they heard I was writing a book about emotions because I’m not the best at this.
So I was writing a book to my weakness and to really research and understand what what it meant to embrace sadness and fear and worry because I only saw those as negative things that needed to be fixed and pushed away.
And what’s sad really a a grief in my own life today is I because I wasn’t comfortable with those emotions in myself, I often would try to push them away in other people, and I would try to fix everybody instead of what they’re feeling, which is amazing because in the work that I did, the Bible and science both will say the greatest road to healing our brain and our health and our emotional health, especially, is to be with other people in their pain.
So for you not to feel isolated, in your pain. That actually does heal you.
But I needed evidence of that because I didn’t believe it.
I just felt like, what’s the point? Why go back and revisit things from the past?
Why sit around and circle at something? Let’s just get over it.
You know, I mean, I wrote get out of your head.
You’ve read that, like, I was like, let’s fix this problem. I’m like, quit thinking it. Quit being cynical.
Be grateful. And all of that is possible and true.
I still state But that book was way more comfortable for me to live than this book.
This book was harder because I I had been train that that emotions were dangerous and that they are harmful, and they really can lead to a lot of negative um, impacting your life.
And and certainly that can be true, but that is not at the base of emotions.
That is not the truth.
That that emotions are gifts from god, and they’re given to us to help us navigate a really mixed up world.
And to help us connect more deeply with the lord and with each other.
And so that’s the goal of emotions. And once I understood that, I had to reframe my life around that.
And I had to go, why am I so afraid of these if they’re good gifts that that are given to me to work through and to walk through my life, then maybe I need to pay attention to them.
So it was it was a really transformative 2 years.
I was in a small group with, um, several other leaders, and so we were living this out together.
And that made me a believer more than anything because for the first time, they were kind of forcing me to feel negative emotions about things, and I was washing myself heal.
And I was moving from places of anxiety that I couldn’t quite understand or mentally, um, get out of my head about to places of freedom.
And all of a sudden, those triggers didn’t cause anxiety in me anymore.
So there really was a profound difference in my life that I believe this was worthy to give away to the world.
That’s great. So was there something specific that you were struggling with that was kind of
the catalyst to thinking about all of this?
Yeah. So I I was. I was struggling with my work, actually, and I don’t even write a lot about that in the book, but, um, just I’ll I’ll be super vulnerable here.
Um, it the the real catalyst was just I was very, um, discouraged and I was I would say numb and checked out from my life.
And so I was tired of work, and I was tired of the pressure of work. Me too.
And I wanted to quit. And that was that was a pretty strong feeling and a regular feeling for me.
And and yet, I did still feel called to it, so I kept going.
But but there was just always in the back of my mind, this desire to quit.
And when I did the work, so I was asked to join this little cohort of leaders.
And I really went in. We each kinda picked something that we knew needed attention in our lives.
And for me, it was, I wanna enjoy work. I I should enjoy work.
I am doing what I made to do, and I really love it. I feel god’s favor. On it.
Um, I wanna work through this.
And so when I when I began that group, I remember sharing very vulnerable, all of that.
And really, I mean, hitting the table and crying and being so angry and feeling like What I felt like at the time was I had gone out if you know the song, oceans, um, nigger.
I found out where feet may fail. And it felt like my feet often failed.
And it felt like god was nowhere to be found.
A lot of the so I’m sharing that with tears with anger with, like, I feel like he, he called me out here, and where is he?
And after I shared, All my friends in the group.
This was like our first gathering we ever met. They began to correct me. They began to fix me.
They began to fix my theology and say, god is with you always like, you know, you shouldn’t feel that way because god is with you.
And, basically, Lisa, they did to me what I do to other people. And it felt terrible.
And I misunderstood and I wanted to push away and I wanted I felt I felt angry.
I felt like I regretted sharing all of that. I knew the truth.
It’s not like I don’t know the theology. I know the theology. I went to seminary.
I know the truth. And I believe the truth on a very deep level.
I believe that god always with and always for me.
But what I was experiencing was valid too, and it was it was a bid for connection with them.
And praise god, we did have a counselor there with us.
And he interrupted and just said, okay, I want y’all to change from saying, I think to I feel.
Rather than telling Ginny what you think about what she just shared, I want you to tell her what you feel about what she shared.
And, Lisa, I’ve chills thinking about it. It was the most profound ten minutes of my life.
They began to say things like, um, I feel sad that you felt so alone.
I feel, um, angry that you have you’ve you’ve been in this position and not been able to share with anybody.
I feel, um, sad that we made you feel push away and that we we used words that would help.
And all of a sudden, I felt unbelievably safe. I mean, in a minute, it all changed.
And so that was when I was like, okay. There is something to this.
There is something to that verse.
There’s something to actually being in feelings with other people that actually begins to heal your soul.
I don’t know if you’ve ever felt this, Ginny, but sometimes as a Christian leader, especially in a situation like you just described, where I’m with other leaders.
I get a little I’m a very vulnerable person And so I’m willing to share, but I hold back being honest about my exact feelings because sometimes emotions can feel to me, spiritually immature.
And, like, I just have it matured to the point where I don’t feel angry or I haven’t matured to the point where I feel gratitude all the time or I haven’t matured to the point where I can better manage my disappointments and all of that.
And, you know, so my journey has been recognizing that it’s not a sign of immaturity, skeletal immaturity.
It’s actually a sign of emotional wisdom. And it’s a sign of self awareness.
And I think self awareness is a big a big precursor to self control, which obviously is a fruit of the spirit.
And so when I started processing my emotions that way, I recognized that I had some faulty belief systems about emotions And it was hindering me from those deeper connections.
Like what you just talked about, it was necessary for everyone to get vulnerable in the expression of what they felt, not necessarily vulnerable with all the details of their life, but the expression of what they were actually feeling it.
And I know a big thing for you in this book is helping people name the emotion they felt.
Now I have a confession. Um, I When I was raising my kids, I looked back and there is one thing.
There’s probably several things that I would change, um, looking back now But there’s one big thing I would change.
And that is I remember when my kids would express sadness, disappointment, or something that smelled a little bit like ungratefulness, you know, to me.
I wanted to do a pep rally. And I wanted to say like, no. No. No. No. No.
You’re not sad. We have the joy of the lord. No. No. No. No. No.
You’re not disappointed because look at all we have to be grateful for. You know?
And I remember when one of my kids went to some intensive therapy because you know, with my family’s story, um, when my marriage fell apart, there were ramifications for everyone in the family.
And so, um, one of my kids went to therapy and came home and just said, hey, mom, I realized for the first time, it is okay for me to say that I’m sad because I actually feel sad.
And I was able to have a moment with, um, my daughter and just say, you know, I recognize that I did that.
And to some extent, I still do it. And I’m gonna really work on that. So
I have the magic. I mean, that that magic right there, that’s the hope because as people are reading this book so often what they realize is, wow.
First, I never felt permission in my home growing up either to feel that way.
And so this is universal nearly.
And and then the next thing you think is and I didn’t let my kids feel sad or worried or angry and And so there that that is so normal.
And I think what I’ve learned at this stage in life with older kids is the beauty and the depth of a relationship that can come from owning mistakes and saying exactly what you just said.
I wanna work on that. And still, my daughter will correct me.
She’s the most emotionally intelligent one in our home.
And my oldest he will just correct me, and she’ll be like, mom, you’re trying to fix me.
You know, she’ll just and so I just think that this is a messy road because we were not trained.
We were conditioned from young ages to judge any negative emotion in ourselves.
And therefore, we judge it in the world. So There’s a lot of grace here.
I hope that one thing people feel when they read the book is just tremendous compassion.
For yourself, as you go, man, I haven’t ever felt my feelings in a healthy way, or I felt them, and they’ve led me off cliff over and over again, and I want to learn how to handle them better.
It really can speak to both ends of the spectrum because both ends of the spectrum, whether you’ve suppressed and concealed and controlled your emotion, or you’ve, you know, been very loud and wild with your emotion.
Both can come from a place of unhealth where you just don’t know what to do with it.
And so, you know, I think oftentimes It’s way later in life when we learn that.
And so, yeah, we we get to go back and apologize. That really is a beautiful story, though.
It’s it’s a sad story, and I know why you feel like it’s sad because I feel that same sadness.
I wish I could go back, but I also believe, like, our relationship is is even closer because we’re We talk about all these things now.
I agree. So what are some signs that someone needs to read this book?
Like, I don’t wanna call them emotionally unhealthy because honestly Yeah.
I know that I need to study this, and I’m so thankful that you’ve written a book so that I don’t feel like it’s all pointed at me, but we’re in this together.
You know? But what’s a sign that someone can recognize in themselves that Hey.
There’s some emotional, unhelp here, and I need to tend to my emotions in reading this book would be a great thing for me to do right now.
Well, let me speak to to maybe some fears people might have first.
So maybe you’re someone that thinks I never show emotion. And that’s okay. I’m not very emotional.
And I would just argue that you are emotional that god built you in his image, and he is emotional.
So let me just clear the deck of, like, the this this actually is for any human because all humans have emotions.
And all humans, largely, we have not been trained well about what to do with that.
Many of us have gone to therapy, and it’s fun.
One of my friends wrote about the book in the put at the back of the book, if this is worth 1000 of dollars of therapy.
And it’s true. And I’m a believer that every single person needs a counselor.
At some point in your life, you need to be under the care of somebody helping you understand yourself in a deeper way because we are not good at understanding ourselves.
We are And so what a counselor or a third party can do is to help you see yourself more clearly, which scripture is clear about that we are supposed to look in a mirror and not just walk away, but to actually confessed sin and to change.
And so that is that is a spiritual practice to be aware of your weaknesses, to be aware of how you come across.
I always tell people if you think you don’t need this book, why don’t you ask the people around you that are closest to you that you live with, your roommates, or the people you’re married to, or your kids, and say, do you feel like I’m an emotionally healthy person?
And see what this if they feel safe enough to tell you the truth.
And and there’s, I mean, that’s one way to find out.
Like, do Do I need to grow in this area?
And I think we all need to keep growing in this area.
For the rest of my life, I just wrote a book on emotions and for the rest of my life.
I will be getting better at this.
It is not something that you ever arrive somewhere because you have new emotions.
And you have new things that bring out other emotions.
And so rather than fear it or feel like we’ve gotta accomplish something or arrive somewhere, I think a better way is what I wanted to do was provide a guide for your journey.
You are on an emotional journey. Every single person. And what I wanted to do was give you handles.
I wanted I’d read so many books of my research And I appreciate them all.
It’s a lot of counselors, and there’s a lot of feelings, and there’s a lot of but I was turned off by it as a fixer because I was like, I just want somebody to tell me what to do.
And I know they probably all would judge that, but I that’s what I needed.
And so that’s what I wrote.
And so for me, it was like, let me just give you some simple handles to notice.
Let me teach you how to notice what you’re feeling because you may not know or you may say, oh, I feel all the time.
I feel all this, but you’re actually never slowing down to put a word to it and to actually share it.
And to feel it and to choose what to do with it.
So it’s a healthy process of, like, here’s what you do when you feel a little anxious.
And you don’t know why. You pause before you come inside your house and snap at your kids.
You take a minute and you Notice what you’re feeling and you consider why you’re feeling it and you give it a name and you feel it and you share it with the lord And then you walk in and you’re gonna have a whole different experience on the other side of that door just because of that 2 minute exercise you did in the car.
For that’s my hope is that we would be able to all universally grow in this area and to quit demonizing negative emotions.
I think if that was a takeaway. I mean, I hope pastors read this.
I hope leaders of churches read this because I don’t think we have a good theology of emotions.
And my hope that this gives people language and a new category.
Because what I did was I took the Bible and I looked at god, the father, the son, the Holy Spirit, and you can’t deny.
They felt all of these emotions, and they felt them pretty intensely and weren’t afraid to show them.
So, uh, you know, I do think a big shift has to happen.
I think that’s great. Um, I think for me, there’s a couple of telltale signs that I need to do exactly what you’re talking about.
I need to take a pause.
And sometimes I like to call them holy pauses because I I need some space between what I’m feeling and how I react.
And if I if I can give myself just a little bit of space, then I’m able to better understand what my motion is doing because sometimes my emotions, I feel like, are driving force for me to have reactions that I may regret later or that really were just out of out of some intensity that if I can just have a little bit of a pause, the intensity quiets down so I can I can have a little bit better reaction?
And, um, so I think for me, when I recognize this when I start personalizing what other people are saying.
That that’s where I know. I’m like, oh, I need to I need to pause. And not immediately get defensive.
I’m like, well, I didn’t say that or, like, what? What are you talking about?
Like, I’m not defensive. You know, I don’t personalize.
And my kids, if they’re listening to this right now, they’re gonna be laughing.
Because they want to inform me of something.
And then I want to personalize it and immediately get defensive. And that’s where I know, like, wow.
This is a This is a little space that I need a holy pause, and maybe I need to, um, ask myself some questions just like you were saying.
My counselor Jim Crest often encourages me get curious, not furious. That’s good.
Instead of immediately getting fearless, about something that triggers a strong emotion in me.
If I start asking questions and here’s some good questions to ask help me understand.
Or can you clarify, you know, and the those kinds of things, um, really help me What are some of the favorite tools that you teach in the book that, um, that you feel like will be those practical, um, pathways or, like you said, you want this book to guide us into healthier processing of our emotions.
So what are some of the, like, your favorite practical things to you? So I think there’s several in
the book And I I hope it feels insanely practical, especially the second half of the book.
So the first thing is just to understand the five steps.
The first step is to notice And that begins really simply. Are you okay? Are you not okay?
And then the second one is to name it.
And in the book, Um, I talk about different feelings and layout sadness for main feelings.
And every single book had a different number, but I liked 4 because I could remember sad, afraid, um, uh, happy and angry.
And so under each of those in the name chapter is a list by varying intensity of more specific words to choose from for your feelings because sometimes I just need a guide.
I just need a word. Like, I go, okay. That’s the one I feel. Right?
Um, and then instead of to really narrow it down because you could be feeling You could be feeling disappointment over not being included in a friendship gathering, or you could be grieving a loved one that you’ve lost.
You know, 2 years ago, and it’s coming back up again. So not just saying sad.
Like, sad, it could be either of those disappointment
or grief.
So really narrowing down, and I have a lot of those words and tools in the book.
And then the next step is to feel it.
And this was a hard one for me because What do you do? Like, how do you even do that?
And so just to take a minute to take a beat and to go, okay.
I I’m not gonna feel every feeling when it comes at me.
But there is gonna be times where I choose. It’s time I need to work through this.
I need to feel this. And it can be as simple as getting turning up a worship song in your car or laying outside in your backyard or just doing something where you can be alone and to actually feel it.
And it can scare people. I know that.
Um, but I promise you that step is gonna bring you that connection with the lord And, ultimately, in the next step with other people, which is to share it, to share it with somebody, and not to share every feeling you feel could be a mood.
I mean, it’ll pass fast, but But if it’s one that has lingered more than a day or 2, it’s time to share it.
You need to tell one of your friends what’s going on.
And if it’s an extreme emotion that you’re feeling of just today, one of my best friends called me.
And I picked up, and I was like, hey. And she’s weeping. I mean, she’s balling.
And I am so in awe of that that she just called me in the middle of a cry.
Right? That’s so brave. But that sharing is Yeah. She knows that that brings healing for her.
And so she’s not afraid to do it. And so we share it.
And then, lastly, we make a decision and we choose what to do with it. Bro.
And then that that isn’t always simple. For many people, this journey for my husband. I talk about historian.
It might be that you’re in a point of clinical depression or anxiety, and you really need help.
You need medicine or a doctor, you need a counselor, you need real help.
And and so it’s important that you take that step of choosing. You know what?
This has become a stronghold in my life.
This is an emotion that has moved from something I feel to something that’s controlling me. And it’s okay.
Like, this happens. This happens because of our chemistry. This happens because of suffering over a long period of time.
This happens because the world is broken. But we need to get help.
And so choosing what to do with it can be as simple as making a doctor’s appointment, or it could be choosing not to yell just like you were talking about, like, not to react or over react, but to go, you know, I’m gonna feel this, and I’m gonna share it in a vulnerable way.
And a good example of this is if you have, um, if you have a relationship where you’re really close and you get mad at someone, But it’s really coming from something in your childhood where you felt the same way.
You felt trapped. You felt like you had no control over the situation.
And you say to your friend or to your spouse, instead of reacting, you say, you know, this is reminding me of a feeling I felt when I was 12.
And I know you’re not trying to make me feel this way, but, man, it’s kinda strong right now.
Can I have a little time to to process?
All of a sudden, you just switched their reaction to you into one of sir.
You have to be self aware enough to notice that. And that process can help you do that.
And the more you practice that process and those simple steps, The easier they become to where you can do them more quickly in your mind and your body, you can notice and name and feel and share and shoes in shorter amounts of time, but it does it is like a muscle.
You have to kind of practice it
and groban it. That’s so good. That that helps me so much. And I love the fact that it’s memorable.
So now I’ll think about this.
And Throughout the book, you have so much good advice, but one of my favorite things about you, Jenny, is it is practical.
It is memorable. And it’s personal.
And so for all those reasons, I think that everyone who reads this book is going to really have some solid takeaways, and it’s not gonna be a book that you just read, but it really is gonna be a message that we sit with, that we apply to our life, and And one that we returned to, I do think this is gonna be one of those evergreen books.
It’s like, wow. I need to pick that book up, and I need to read it again.
So, Jenny, thank you so much for all the work, all the personal work that you did, um, in order to really be able to live this message in such a beautiful way.
Thank you for your honesty that you still have pitfalls and times that you don’t get it right.
Because that gives us hope for those of us who recognize we’re not gonna get this right all the time either.
Um, and for all those reasons. Thank you. This is a treasure. You are a treasure, and I’m so grateful
for you. Thank you for having me.


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