Face Your Feelings and Build Healthy Relationships!
Feeling Tired? Overwhelmed? Unhappy?
- reduce destructive anxiety, fear, guilt, and shame
- eliminate persistent, toxic emotions
- experience greater intimacy in relationships
- handle life’s ups and downs more easily
- introduce more hope and joy into your life
Through real-life stories, insightful questions, and wisdom from God’s Word, you’ll discover transforming truths that will help you be free to be who you are—loved, talented, valued, and forgiven.
Georgia, we can all relate to the job of “taking out our trash,” but what led you to write Taking Out Your Emotional Trash?
Like many listeners, I grew up in a home where I never learned the skills I needed to handle my disappointments, insecurities, or anger in a healthy way. As a result, those hurts and feelings piled up and created more pain in my life. It took me years to learn how to deal properly with my negative emotions.
As a life coach and licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania, I’ve seen how other people struggle with their negative feelings. Too often they wait until a crisis before saying, “I need help.” Unfortunately, it’s usually our closest relationships that bring our junk to the surface and it’s those relationships that suffer the most. I wrote Taking Out Your Emotional Trash to help people dump this junk before they trash their relationships. I want people to experience less stress and more of the energy, peace and joy that comes when we get rid of these potentially toxic feelings.
Could you share with us your definition of “emotional trash”?
I define “emotional trash” as the negative thoughts, feelings and attitudes that accumulate in our hearts and minds and when ignored or denied can lead to strong emotional reactions where we say or do something we later regret.
It’s not that our emotions are unhealthy or dangerous – it’s what we do or don’t do with them that creates problems.
For example, I have a friend whose garbage was not collected one week and so her husband stored it behind a shed in their back yard. A week later, the night before trash day, he carried it back out to the curb. But it wasn’t until he walked into their garage, back into the light, that he noticed maggots crawling all over his sleeves and hands.
If their garbage had been picked up sooner, it would not have become infested—and he would have been spared a creepy experience.
The same thing happens to us when our grudges and unresolved anger are not dealt with properly. They create the emotional equivalent of maggots crawling all over us.
At the beginning of the book you talk about spending a day on a beach filled with trash, and how most of the people walked or played around it as if they did not see it. Then you say we often have emotions that we ourselves don’t see or have grown used to. Can you give me an example?
Resentment is a great example of an unhealthy or destructive feeling that we don’t recognize. It’s like living near a fast food restaurant and getting use to the smell, after a while we aren’t even aware of its existence.
Several years ago I had to care for my mother after she fell. It was during this time I realized her smallest request like: “Will you buy me some hand cream?” felt like a huge assignment. I usually responded with a snappish response from me. Since this is not the way I wanted to treat my mother I began praying about this. While talking with an old friend from high school, I realized my poor attitude came from some deep resentment I still held from my childhood. I had lived with that resentment some forty years without realizing it. I came to see that my rotten attitude had more to do with what was in my heart than with what my mother expected or needed.
I hear stories like this all the time. For example, one woman told me she realized she still was bitter about her husband’s encouragement to get an abortion thirty years earlier. Like me, she had grown used to her bitterness and was no longer even aware of its existence.
You write about how easily our wants can get distorted into needs. You say wrong thinking and a lack of self-awareness can plunge us into a downward cycle. How do we reverse this tendency?
It’s important to understand how our legitimate desires can become warped by wrong thinking. Unless we are paying attention, our unfulfilled desires can plunge us into a downward cycle that looks like this: “I desire fill in the blank” becomes “I need you to ….” or “I demand that you…” And it goes on to become: “And if you fail to fulfill my desire, I will punish you in some way –either by withholding my time and attention or by attacking you verbally.”
To reverse this downward cycle, we must 1) recognize which desires have become something we believe we need, 2) grieve the loss of what can’t and might never be, and then 3) embrace what is. It is only at that point we can learn to live with the tension that comes with having desires and dreams without demanding that God or others fulfill them.
To have healthy relationships, you believe it’s extremely important to understand that different personalities handle loss differently. Tell us more.
When faced with an unwanted change, some personalities like to be around lots of people and talk about their experience. Others prefer to withdraw and privately sort things out. Still others will try to take control of the situation by working harder and seeking the most competent people to help. And then there are those who simply prefer to wait and let things work out on their own.
You need to understand that unless your friend, co-worker or spouse has the same personality as you do, they will handle loss differently. And when your emotions are raw, these differences between those you live and work with will be magnified.
For a free article on this topic (entitled Understanding Our Differences), go to http://www.GeorgiaShaffer.com and click “free resources.”
In Chapter 5 you talk about destructive and constructive ways of handling anger. Most of us agree that physical and verbal aggressions are harmful but what are some other destructive ways? And how can we express our anger constructively?
Anger is an energy that needs to be channeled in the right direction. Destructive ways of expressing our anger include
- Making sarcastic or critical remarks
- Giving the silent treatment – not communicating for days or weeks
- Withholding something like our affection, time or attention
Whereas some constructive expressions of anger are
- Talking to a safe friend or counselor
- Righting a wrong
- Fighting a righteous battle
- Addressing the relational issue
You write that it’s important to understand forgiveness as both a choice and a process. What you mean by that?
First, forgiveness is a choice—not a feeling. But even when you make the decision to forgive, that’s only the beginning. The next step is to work through the feelings of hurt, anger, sadness or betrayal.
You might forgive someone on an intellectual level, but if you fail to do the emotional work then you won’t heal on a deeper level. Working through the process means you verbalize what happened to you and how you feel about. When you get stuck or want to nurse your grudges, remember what God has done for you and how you’re forgiven. You also want to remember it can take months, even years, to be free of the hurt because we can only handle the pain a little bit at a time.
What would you say to someone who is ready to face their bottled-up feelings—their “emotional trash”–but who is overwhelmed by the task?
Many of us get stuck at one point or another in our lives– that’s normal. Last summer I decided to clean my 2-car garage, which at the time barely had room for one car.
It didn’t take me long to realize that making the choice to clean my garage and actually doing it were two different things. I was overwhelmed by the size of the task. Two months later I still hadn’t done anything.
One friend told me to start in a corner and another friend suggested I do one box or one shelf at a time. But I was still paralyzed by the huge task. Finally, I decided the only way I was going to make any headway was to tackle the job one item at a time. Was I going to throw it out, give it away, or keep it? And if I decided to keep it, where would I store it?
The project took five months to complete. But the transformation was amazing. Now I have more space—enough for two cars—but I also have more energy, more joy, and even more money since I now know what I already have and where it is.
If you’re feeling stuck and overwhelmed, focus on one issue at a time. Ask yourself, “What is the next step for me? What is one thing I can do?” And don’t be afraid to seek the help of a friend or a Christian counselor because some times we can’t do it alone.
Most of us have emotional meltdowns once in a while. What can we do to minimize these meltdowns so we can protect our relationships?
Be honest with yourself and ask, “Why do I resist dealing with my trash?” Are you telling yourself you’re too busy to deal with it or that you have a right to be bitter with, say, your ex? Do you think if you ignore your unresolved anger it will disappear? The problem with not facing your feelings is it usually means at some point in the future you’ll find yourself spending a day—or more—unable to do anything but deal your hurt and pain.
Therefore, you want to create and maintain routines that will help you pay attention to how you are doing emotionally and spiritually. Ask yourself: “How am I doing in my relationships with others? Am I reacting or responding to what’s going on around me? Am I protecting myself from total depletion? Am I getting enough sleep, rest, and exercise?
There’s a free self-assessment at www.GeorgiaShaffer.com under “Free Resources.” Use this tool to check and see how you’re doing on taking out your emotional trash.
Here’s the bottom line. Waste management today can take twenty plastic soda bottles and make a Polertec fleece out of them. But that’s nothing compared to what God can do with your emotional garbage. He’s the master of waste management. He can take your junk and make something beautiful out of it—but you have to be willing to give it to him. As I mentioned earlier we all have emotional trash . . . the question is what are you doing with yours? Are you holding onto it or are you getting rid of it so that you can be free to be who God created you to be?
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Buy from the author (autographed copy)
Amazon.com: ISBN: 978-0-7369-2726-0
Link to Georgia’s “Free Reader Resources”:
Excerpt of First Chapter:
http://www.harvesthousepublishers.com/books_nonfictionbook.cfm?productID=6927260 and click on free chapter download.
Taking Out Your Emotional Trash by Georgia Shaffer is one of the better books I’ve read on dealing with negative and erroneous thoughts that lead to poor emotional and spiritual health.
Georgia starts out helping you determine whether you are in fact in the danger zone emotionally and spiritually. If you find yourself there, and I think we all are in some aspect, her book helps set you up to make a commitment to change and identifying those areas that need to change.
Georgia acknowledges that we all have trash that we have grown used to from childhood or current relationships that are poisonous to our growth. Her book lists four specific ways to start the change, so you are not left wondering how to start. This may feel a little daunting at first, but I appreciated her candidness.
- Ask for God’s help
- Be still and listen quietly
- Wait expectantly
- Obey fully
After giving you the list of ways to start changing, she also helps you learn to sort through your emotional trash and dispose of it, all of which I found very helpful.
- Praying for direction and clarity
- Reading Scripture
- Journaling your thoughts and experiences
- Talking with someone you trust
- Exercising and taking time for rest/renewal
- Letting go of what you can’t control (a ‘biggie’)
Then I began to feel like Georgia was starting to “meddle,” discussing which desires need to be discarded. Not everything we want is a need or even necessary. She aptly teaches us how to grieve hurts and disappointments of unmet expectations in a way that grows us up.
Then, to top it off, she wants to know how you are handling your anger! She clearly shows you the distinctions of handling anger properly versus destructively. She guides you gently and truthfully.
I think one of the bigger issues among all the ones she has touched on is the need to forgive. Sometimes we get stuck. Other times we want revenge. But vengeance is the Lord’s. Georgia thoroughly delineates the reasons to forgive. She also discusses the different personalities and how they play out in this whole process.
Interspersed throughout her chapters, she has little “Trash Talk” inserts that are very practical and sometimes convicting. I love those. They are great reminders of what life is really about. Her book is interactive in that she has you regularly “Taking Out The Trash.” This part is pertinent in helping you apply what you have learned.
Georgia’s style is easy to read and understand. She progresses in a timely manner, so you don’t get overwhelmed in the process. This is definitely a book that I believe should be on anyone’s shelf that has difficulties in any of the areas listed above–and I believe that would include everyone!
“Reviewed for ReadersFavorite.com.” No monetary value was exchanged.