Lesson of the Week

Emotionally Well: My intense feelings are manageable and I can remain optimistic and positive

The woman cried, “There’s a fire burning in my basement!”  Her students gasped.  She surprised them by explaining, “It’s just the pilot light in my furnace.  Emotions are like fire.  They can be useful or destructive.  The fire can warm the house or burn it down.  Emotions can motivate your best works or consume you to destruction.

Think of the house as you and the pilot light as your emotions.  Emotions can be the thing that inspires you to be your best or your worst.  In one instance, they can “put a fire under you” to get you activated, but in another case they can become all-consuming and destroy you and your mission.

For example, in anger, a man back kicked and killed someone he loved.  In fear, he hid the body.  In shame he confessed and in penitence, he will spend the rest of his life in jail.  In frustration a woman suffocated her crying baby.  Comedic writer Erma Bombeck spoke to this woman in prison.  The woman told Ms. Bombeck that if she had read Ms. Bombeck’s jokes about being a mother, she would not have killed her baby.  This woman did not know she could move beyond frustration to humor – even when the going got rough being the mother of a colicky child.

All-consuming emotions have prompted people to continue wars, cut off generations of families, fire good employees, crash planes, cheat, lie, steal, kill, and a myriad of other disappointing unethical, immoral, illegal, and just downright destructive acts. Berkeley Breathed author of “Bloom County” cartoon series stated.  “I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn’t exist.”

He was describing the relationship people have with his cartoon character.  However, his observation can apply to real life situations.  Whatever the event, an emotional reaction is linked to a perception of that event.  The key is to understand what comes next – the reaction or behavior motivated by that emotion.  In every case on your mission, the reaction to emotions can be a good one – a reaction that will help you, your mission, and all.

Here are examples of emotions gone good.
1.  A drunk driver killed Candice Lightner’s thirteen-year-old child.  This mother’s grief inspired her to start MADD – Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers an organization that has helped prevent drunk driving.
2.  In 1948, wounded British World War II veterans gathered to compete in sports.  Their efforts have grown into the Paralympic Games – events for people who show emotional fortitude demonstrating their abilities.
3.  Edgar Allen was not able to find adequate medical help after his son was hit by a streetcar.  Edgar started a campaign to raise money to build a hospital in his town.  The end result was the formation of Easter Seals a nonprofit organization that assists over one million children and adults.

Consider emotions to be like the temperature outside.  You feel the temperature; similarly you feel emotions.  Temperatures and emotions are neither right nor wrong.  Temperature can be measured.  So can emotions can be measured – for instance, how happy you feel on a scale of one to ten or how disappointed you feel on a scale of one to five. You determine how to make yourself comfortable in a certain temperature, just as you determine how to make yourself comfortable with certain emotions. If the weather is very cold you might build an insulated house with a furnace or put on down clothing.  Likewise if you find yourself emotionally uncomfortable, you do something to help yourself feel better.

You use the thermometer to measure the temperature and the thermostat to control the temperature.  Your emotional thermometer is your cognitive awareness of your emotions and the intensity you assign to them.  Your thermostat is the environment you create that builds a mission or life that makes you emotionally comfortable.   Most important, like temperature, emotions must be observed and attended to in order to build an environment that will preserve you and your mission.

Salovey and Mayer describe a kind of emotional intelligence:  “The ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth.” (Emotional intelligence as a standard intelligence.  Emotion, 2001.)   Other researchers argue that there is no such thing as emotional intelligence and therefore it cannot be measured.  However, this lesson is about promoting your mission and there is evidence to suggest that you are better off and your mission will be better if you are able to do just what Salovey and Mayer have suggested:  perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, and regulate emotions to promote growth.


Those who enjoy their own emotionally bad health and who habitually fill their own minds with the rank poisons of suspicion, jealousy, and hatred, as a rule take umbrage at those who refuse to do likewise, and they find a perverted relief in trying to denigrate them.

- Johannes Brahms, German Composer and Pianist


Activity:  Burnout vs. Fired Up

Materials:  Paper and pencil or pen

Time:  Ten minutes to write and ten minutes per person to discuss.


1.  Make a list of things that cause you burnout – to become no longer effective.

2.  Make a list of things that fire you up -- things that cause you to become engaged and enthusiastic.

3.  What makes one thing cause you to burnout and another to get you fired up?

4.  Are any of the burnout things hampering your ability to complete your mission?  If so, create a plan to change yourself or your environment to prevent this burnout.

5.  Are any of the things that fire you up related to your mission?  If so, choose one of them and create a plan to do something related to this enthusiasm.  For instance, create a plan to finish your next goal on your mission – a goal you are fired up about.

6.  Discuss your results with the group or find someone else to share your findings.


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