My high school daughter, Lauren, started off 2018 with a knee injury. She’s been hobbling around for weeks, first on crutches and now with a knee brace. She recently attended her first physical therapy appointment. I was super excited since the doctor told us our PT would be Murray the Australian Physical Therapist. You know what that means, mates. I thought, “wow, a whole hour of listening to the Australian accent,” that alone would make the hour worth it. After meeting Lauren at the office, filling out our paperwork and having a discussion with the man next to me about flu shots and reading glasses, it was our turn to meet Murray.
Murray did a few diagnostic tests on Lauren’s knee, promptly singling out the muscle weak from injury. He had Lauren pulse the muscle, first on her good leg, then on the bum one. It was difficult for her at first. There was trepidation, there was fear, there was quite a bit of discomfort. He then directed, “in order for your knee to heal correctly, you need to strengthen this little muscle, not this big one.” He then added, “You’ll need to retrain your brain to use it.”
“Retrain your Brain?,” I questioned inside, instantly intrigued. I began to process my own hurt muscle. So often those of us with mental health challenges respond with numbness and fatigue, just like Lauren’s knee we’ve been traumatized and hurt. I longed for the emotion I used to have, the feelings of joy, confidence and pleasure instead of overwhelming sadness and feelings of less than. “What if our emotions have just been temporarily rerouted in order to minimize the pain? Could I “retrain my brain” to feel again?,” I considered.
I listened carefully to Murray as he showed Lauren the exercises she would do to retrain her weak muscle to work again, just like second nature. “Use the muscle until it aches, and when it feels okay, do it again,” said Murray the Australian Physical Therapist.
Now, I have to admit. My Psychiatrist never told me about emotional muscles. But I’m pretty sure I have one – I’ve felt it before and it has hurt. Do you feel me? So you may be wondering, if I have an emotional muscle, how do I find it?
Just because we can’t feel it or see it, does it mean we don’t have one? Emotional muscles are clearly something we can feel. Maybe they’ve just been rerouted because of the emotional pain response, maybe it’s stuck in sadness replay. If so, what can we do to find our weak emotional muscles and use them over and over until they hurt so they can become second nature again. I think “MURRAY” can help…
M – Memories are our guide – read “joy”, remember “joy”, write about “joy”, study “joy”
U – Use them until they hurt – immerse yourself in joyful circumstances until second nature
R- Refuse to use the “big” muscle – resist exercising sadness, worthlessness, etc., balance is key
R- Respond accordingly – laugh and experience joy with gratitude, write it down when it happens
A – Anticipate healing – plan your joy experiences and wait for it to become second nature
Y -You can’t do this alone – community is key, even if it is one friend who can hold you accountable to exercising
If joy isn’t necessarily where you’re struggling, that is okay. Maybe you’ve been hospitalized, and psychosis has stripped your confidence muscle. For me, that was the struggle I had for many years. I’d exercise my “less than muscle,” feeling as though my voice didn’t matter.
Since I started this blog in 2015, the Lord has challenged me to step out and be known, to overcome feeling “less than,” first through understanding who I am in Christ, and second by actually using my confidence muscle. Over and over I write, I speak and I share, and often times it hurts. And when I don’t use it for awhile, it hurts again. Yet the aching is not forever, and our trembling is not in jest. We must push forward in the race God has for us, to persevere despite our pain and grow into who God intends us to be, for His glory.
So if you are trying to find your emotional weakness, here is a quick exercise. Fill in the blanks below, the first is how you actually feel, the second blank is the opposite feeling. For example.
I feel ________, because I’m weak in my __________.
An example is: I feel (sadness), because I’m weak in (joy). or I feel (worthless), because I’m weak in (self-worth).
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3
If this little exercise helped you become aware of your emotional weakness today, will you respond and share? You can anticipate healing, friend. May you be blessed as you do the hard work of emotional healing.
Defined by Him,