Dismantling Dark Emotions


I am one of those people that journal religiously.

I have since I can remember.

And I keep them (which is miraculous considering how much crap I throw away).

I used to think that buying a new journal was like New Year’s Eve: A new chance at life. But now I’m learning that it doesn’t really work that way.

I went and did what you should never do—I pulled out all my old journals from a dark room to read them. Before actually getting the gumption to sit down and review them, I had a pretty honest conversation with myself, “Jen, this is either a very brilliant idea or just plain stupid.”

There are no in-between feelings when you are reading about your 15 or 25 year-old self. Plus, it’s really awkward. Why did I do that? Oh, I remember that and the list goes on and on.

I knew that I would either love myself for this moment or hate myself for being so stupid.

What the hell was I thinking?

March 01, 2003: “Sin haunts me, it comes around and laughs wickedly in my face. I feel it always has the upper hand in my life. Please help me. I’m so desperate for You.”

April 04, 2004: “Jesus—you honestly need to help me. You need to fix me. My heart is hardened. I’m just not sure of it all right now. I’m tired of writing the same things, maybe not making it to the next level, maybe tired of making the same mistakes over and over again.”

September 24, 2014: “I am frustrated. I am feeling lost. I want to do the right thing all the time, but doing so requires hard work, persistence, dedication and resolve—none of the qualities I possess. Will you please help me? I feel as if I’m waiting on something. For You? For what?”

February 2, 2015: “I don’t know what my problem is the last couple weeks. Well, besides the wine, insecurity, and feeling of hopelessness. I suck at discipline. I’m bad at self-control. I’m lazy and fat. I just need to take the time and tell you all of that.”

It’s official. I’m stupid and I hate myself now.

So in the span of 13 years, it seems that I have the same dread and distress rummaging through my life like a hamster in a wheel. And I’m not sure if there is anything more depressing than that.

How can I be writing the same old adages over and over again? How is it that despair, insecurity and the feeling of hopelessness still plague my life, just as much now (if not more) than in 2003?  

Am I alone in this?

I think anxiety is disquietude, and as an insecure woman, I run amuck with it.

What is it about (distress) and (grief) and (despair) that I have not figured out yet?

And why is it so unacceptable or shameful to be dealing with these strong emotions?

In Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, she writes, “When we cannot tolerate the dark, we try all kinds of artificial lights, including but not limited to drugs, alcohol, shopping, shallow sex, and hours in front of the television set or computer . . . The emotions themselves are conduits of pure energy that want something from us: to wake us up, to tell us something we need to know, to break the ice around our hearts, to move us to act.”

So, I’ve decided to lean into my dark emotions this time around.

At 32, I’m listening to what I have to say (instead of just writing and numbing) and sharing my experiences with God and others. I’m being intentional, quiet, and prayerful.

I’m choosing to believe God’s Word, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

I know it sounds weird, but I’m actually excited to learn what all these “dark” emotions are about (just not so ecstatic about the vulnerability part). Instead of asking God to take my emotions away, I’m learning to ask God why I feel the way I do. Where is the distress and anxiety coming from? Is your grace really sufficient for me? How will your power be made perfect in my insistent anxiety and insecurity?

Hi, my name is Jennifer. I struggle with shame, anxiety, anger, control, despair, dread and a whole host of other issues. It feels unrelenting most days, but I believe we become free from our dysfunctional behaviors and dark emotions when we are willing to accept God’s grace and share our life experiences with others. I believe that some of our most shameful moments (or scariest emotions) can be the greatest gifts God allows to take place, if we learn how to embrace them and work through them.

“ . . . transformation, exists not to comfort the self but to dismantle it” –Barbara Brown Taylor

Maybe I’m not so stupid after all? Either way, I have a feeling my journal entries will look much different in the next ten years to come.

And thank the good Lord for that.

Jennifer Kelly
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