Are you aware that what you are feeling as burnout and emotional exhaustion are really only the tip of a much deeper iceberg? Would you like to get to the source of your problem? Would you like to be able to throw your whole self into your life — like you did when you were a kid — free of anger, fear, and guilt? Are you ready to prepare yourself to smile, laugh, praise others, relax, and let your heavenly Father speak to you in fresh, new ways?
If you really want to work at this, then first I’d like you to answer some simple questions:
1. Do you find yourself waking up some mornings afraid to face the day?
2. Would you describe yourself as a person who has peace of mind?
3. Do you find it difficult to forgive others?
4. Do you ever deny your anger — perhaps because you do not know how to handle it?
5. Have you ever paid the price for getting even with someone?
6. Do you feel fearful of things, people, or events that are now history?
7. Are your fears, for the most part, realistic?
8. Do you live with guilt for things that were not your fault?
9. Is there something that’s making you feel especially guilty at this moment?
10. Do you feel you have the ability to choose anger, fear, or guilt in a given situation rather than just accept that emotion as it comes?
What do your answers to these questions say about you and where you find yourself at this moment? If you are feeling stressed to the point of burnout or on the threshold of emotional exhaustion, your answers may provide clues to what’s going on inside. As you reconsider each question, you may find that anger fear, or guilt are burdening your life and adding to your stress.
Every day we find ourselves confronted with overbearing, domineering colleagues, neighbors, and even family members who make unreasonable demands on our time, try our patience, and drive us crazy. They seem intent on lowering our self-esteem. They appear as wolves in sheep’s clothing, bullying us, forcing us to take more than our share of aspirins, driving our blood pressure sky high, making us bitter, withdrawn, and sometimes even crippling us emotionally.
So we get angry — a natural response to hurt and intimidation. But then we often become fearful, wondering if we’ve done the right thing by expressing our rage. After all, now we may have really opened Pandora’s box. So we back off, hide, or even deny our anger, become a captive of our fears, and begin to live with guilt for having taken a stand in the first place.
It seems that we’re always living with the big three: anger, fear, guilt.
Does any of this sound familiar? These are normal emotions, but there are times when our anger, fear, and guilt are not appropriate — when we hang onto them long after they should have done their useful work. In this chapter we’ll see how this contributes to our stress, which can lead to burnout and then to emotional exhaustion. This is when fear, anger, and guilt become emotionally and physically toxic. It’s important to know the difference between healthy and unhealthy anger, fear, and guilt, because how you handle these three often poisonous emotions will be a major key to your regaining control of your life.
Next Tuesday: How to know the difference between healthy and unhealthy anger, fear and guilt.
SOURCE: Chapter 3: “The Poisons of Anger, Fear, and Guilt” in How to De-Stress Your Life by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.