Emotions and Problem Solving

People who say they do not have any problems are either missing or ignoring reality. I don’t buy into the canned remarks that everything is good, great or wonderful. I know people are either being considerate, prideful, or stuffing. They don’t want to vent to just anyone all the time (not good either to vent to everyone). For sure there will be problems in life. I realize that even if I am not the “right person” for someone to release/vent with, ALL PEOPLE face problems and challenges.

Knowing how to solve problems by learning how to look at and deal with problems can be done over time and through experience. For me, I have lived for 51 years and have encountered hundreds of problems. I realize we all have significant ones that we don’t share. Most people have no idea what those problems are. The longer I live the more this rings true. In the following days I would like to journal what I have learned through experience, from professionals, from peers and from my family about problem solving. All of these resources have been extremely helpful and have shown me how to address, embrace (yes, embrace) and solve problems.

I’ve gleaned from these resources that I should not tell someone I know how they feel UNLESS my circumstances are almost identical. What I have realized is that most of the time my context and my circumstances can be vastly different and I don’t know exactly how they feel. I have also learned some problems take a very long time to solve and some are not solvable. I have also come to realize that if I do my best with the right motives…..even though there are still painful emotions……and if I go through the process of addressing the steps involved in problem solving……things get a whole lot better, even if the solution doesn’t come for a long time or never comes. Most of the time, problems get solved when appropriately addressed.

The skills I have learned and embraced, and want to share with you, make a very important assumption about the person applying them. The assumption is that you value your relationships. You feel that your relationships, your emotions, and your character play a significant role in how you go about solving problems. It is more than just logic and good sense; there is context and mind, body and soul to take into account. I believe these skills can help anyone who experiences a major, minor or ongoing problem.

God is no stranger to problems and certainly is the Wisdom and the start for helping anyone solve a problem. But God did give us tools to use in effectively dealing with and addressing problems.

Let’s flesh out these steps/tools together. The first step in problem solving is to look at the emotions that surface when we have a problem. Most problems are negative so the emotions surrounding problems are negative–fear, frustration, sadness, anger, just to name a few. Emotions are God-given. They are alert signals that we are neither to deny or let rule. We are to recognize them, label them based on what we are feeling, and use them to drive us to solutions. They shouldn’t rule our every whim, but again, they are God-given. Albert Einstein said, “Feeling and longing are the motive forces behind all human endeavor and human creations.” And Psalm 139:23 indicates we are prone to anxious thoughts, “Search me oh God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

Your feelings can be used as your servants to reveal and help identify problems. They can cause you to pay attention to problems but emotions are never intended to be your master. Over time, if you tell yourself not to feel a certain way, or to stop for fear of falling into self-pitying…….then you are not letting nature and your natural emotions trigger you into looking at a problem that needs to be solved……You are not letting yourself feel….. You are denying the feelings instead of verbalizing to yourself, “You are darn right I am angry. I am hurt and feel terrible”……..The next question is, “Ok God, What do you want me to do with the emotions?”

For example, my mother is very sick. Sometimes she cries. I have learned through some very, very WISE COUNSEL to let her cry. Even though I join my family in disliking my mother’s tears, I have come to recognize that she is sad………! If her emotions are shoved to the side….we are in denial of something very painful and personal in her life……a ton of loss……Recently I heard my dad say, “Don’t cry. We have too much to be thankful for!” My dad is right. We have much to be thankful for, but it is very selfish on our part to not allow my mother to cry and be sad just because it makes us uncomfortable!! I now cry with her and just. let. her. cry!!

Pain can be a good thing. God doesn’t mind tears and neither should we. I was even instructed recently to not offer a tissue to someone who was crying with me unless they asked. By offering them a tissue, it sometimes stops their much needed release of emotion.

Another example is the emotion of anger (a dangerous one for sure). We get angry and tell ourselves, “OK, I’m very angry.” People tell you to stop and count to ten before you speak. Well, I have realized anger is justified sometimes. Our actions may not be justified if we just retaliate. Anger, when acknowledged, labeled and examined within ourselves, can be used to identify the source of our anger. Then and only then can we logically take the next step.

Have you ever heard the saying, “Hurting people hurt people”? Well, it is true and yet another example of emotions. The reality is that hurting people don’t stop to recognize their own emotions and trace their source. They are oftentimes UNAWARE of how their suppressed hurt manifests itself by hurting someone else. Denial of their own emotions has blinded them to the pain they have and, in turn, they have no idea they are inflicting pain on someone else.


God gave us emotions for many reasons. When paid attention to, emotions give us valuable information. Denying your emotions and stuffing them depletes the energy you need to embrace them, label them and address them. Most painful emotions not faced and dealt with, get pushed down or ignored. They can then manifest as other problems. The energy it takes to suppress painful emotions when they surface can be draining mentally and physically.

Learning to recognize and label your emotions and face the problem in the now is a very healthy approach to life. It puts you one step closer to the clear head needed to address a problem without mounting new problems on top of old ones. Then and only then are you able to start looking at how to solve the problem that caused the emotions to surface.

Old school thinking makes fun of getting in touch with your emotions. I one hundred percent disagree with this thinking. Use emotions as your servants. Label them. Acknowledge them. Let them be the fuel that takes you to the next step which is to get with the RIGHT PEOPLE. YES, THE RIGHT PEOPLE ARE THE SUBJECT OF TOMORROW’S POST.

“The purpose of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a MAN of UNDERSTANDING draws them out.” Proverbs 20:5

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