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Meta-Emotions or Grace Thinking

“How we feel about how we feel.”

John Gottman, marriage psychologist at the University of Washington, opened up to us the concept of “meta-emotions” or essentially “how we feel about how we feel.” Not just how we feel or even what’s our emotional makeup, but how we emotionally deal with the inward phenomena?

John Gottman gives us 3 meta-emotional categories: “those in favor of emotional expression, those opposed to it, and those in favor of finding a balance between positive and negative emotions.” He admits these can be fuzzy. Nevertheless folks differing with others in their meta-emotional category may not be so well-matched.

He sees his wife’s anger as, “yelling at me.”

A wife with an abusive background had “lots of anger” but didn’t see the anger as a bad thing. She saw it as a source of strength. The husband had had a home life where his parents bickered constantly with shouting matches; he was terrified of anger. He sees his wife’s anger as, “yelling at me.” She sees it as merely, “telling you what’s wrong.”

These folks have a difference in the way they feel about their own emotions. Frankly they see the other’s in the filter of their own feelings – and this gauge they have formed from their upbringing and environment. Because of their default emotional bents, each mate cannot see a way to be compatible in the marriage.

Do I push people away with my blind brashness?

So, let’s put ourselves in the place of the wife. Perhaps I express my emotions in a vigorous way, perhaps much animation characterizes my disposition. However, I might be a “disher-outer” but not a “taker.” Or do I push people away with my blind brashness?

On the other hand, maybe I am like the husband, emotions flying are killing me. Problem here, my withdrawal or not talking about issues can stifle the real and much valued communication between the partners. Easily seen, she, the wife, is a bit insensitive and he, the husband, is oversensitive. These are, in my mind, character flaws that must be dealt with through right thinking.

We shall not see the heat when it comes.

Where find we a compromise? A psalmist wrote, “Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.” Psalm 91:7-8. Also Jeremiah said, “if we lean on the arm of the Lord, we shall not see the heat when it comes.” Jer 17:4-5.

Here is a key, we can have feelings, but like the psalmist, we build an isolating shield from their dominance through objectivity. They cannot come nigh us, only with our eyes can we see them now.

To even face character defects demands this protection – grace-thinking. To have the “unassuming” nature of grace-thinking insists on a renewing transformation by God’s mind in my conscience and mind. Stepping outside of my own little viewpoint begins with His Finished Work. Accomplished by Christ at Calvary, this vantage point sees every person in their completed state. It beckons me to adopt it. Taking on God’s own assessment (feelings) about my personal feelings, I myself am freed from the clinging emotional evaluations. They no longer define who I am, and this makes them flexible.

We are not self-judges, self-accusers, others-evaluators or condemners

My new identity carries its own emotions and these are full of mercy and grace. I can now laugh at my old mis-feelings and begin to build good emotions which are way less self-centered. I move out of my own head.Next, I find forbearance for others. I become patient, charitable. Beloved, our marriages and relationships can work if our meta-emotional makeup changes in regards to how we feel first about our own and then our spouses hang-ups. We are not self-judges, self-accusers, others-evaluators or condemners. We meta-emote with God’s thoughts.

Finally, how I feel about how I feel must give way to taking to heart how the other feels about their feelings. When my thing is willing to take a second place to her thing, peace can happen. On her bad day old feelings return. On that day I am sensitive to her. On my bad day she considers it. Sometimes we are both nutty.When two people get it, an explosion of grace makes for great fun. We love the flaws, they don’t divide us, we are above all that. love ya

Tom Sliva

Tom Sliva

Born in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, Pastor Sliva went to Bible college in Massachusetts at the Stevens School of the Bible in !982. He and his family moved to Baltimore in1987 to be a part of Greater Grace World Outreach. From there, he served in Prescott, Arizona, and Indianapolis, Ind. Ordained upon his return to Baltimore in 1995, Pastor Sliva was afflicted with brain cysts in the late 90's and stayed at home base until his recovery in 2002. He then assisted with ministries in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh before resettling in Baltimore due to his son's sudden illness and death. Pastor Sliva is a colon cancer survivor. He has been part of the Pastoral Care Team since 2008 and leads the Grief Share group at Greater Grace Church. Read more from Pastor Sliva on his blog Healing at the Cross.
Tom Sliva

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