When emotional transformation is rushed

Suppose you want to change a character trait of yours, one that mainly consists in emotional mismanagement.

Take irascibility as an example. Your aim is to become more considerate, more serene, and less irritable.

You might try to fight the wayward emotion by setting your will against it. The stronger the emotion is, the stronger the required willpower. Chances are that you will make things worse: for such an attempt is like pouring too much water at once into a small funnel. There will be a congestion, and the funnel will overflow. In fact, suppressed anger will blaze its trail elsewhere in one’s psyche.

One might object that transforming anger is a case of avoidance, of ‘negative transformation’. What about positive cases, where one seeks to enact rather than get rid of an emotion?

I am not sure that anger transformation is best described as an avoidance, or annihilation of an emotion. But even if it were, the funnel metaphor applies equally to ‘enacting’ transformations. For example, if your goal is to become more affectionate, you won’t attain it by sheer willpower. An emotional congestion is more likely to be the result if you try.

What, then, is the solution? It may sound like a truism, but a step-by-step process is certainly the way to go. Use your will; but respect the boundaries present at a given time. They will eventually be extended by the many small decisions you take. Most importantly, though, as so many Christian thinkers have held, invoke the help of God our Maker. Under the rule of Grace, the Holy Spirit can and does transform persons who give themselves to this pursuit.

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