The Nine Family Groups of Emotions

For the purposes of our Hearing God series on the Psychology of Jesus, I have combined a list of our emotions – both pleasant and unpleasant – as a way of seeing the complexity of human personality.  Many of these family groups are inter-related; emotions can be found in other ‘cousin’ family groups.  Most of these emotions will also have progressive ‘intensity levels’: irate, annoyed, angry to enraged.

1. The Family of Anxiety – This group is marked by apprehension, dread, worry, panic, obsessions and phobias.  Most anxiety is rooted in past psychological damage.  The challenge is to bring the damage to God for healing.  Denial, unbelief and low self worth are the common barriers for this to happen. 

This family also includes:  frustrated, alarmed, insecure, nervous, anxious, apprehensive, horrified, panicky, taunt, uptight, stretched, frightened, fidgety, hesitant, impatient, sweaty, tired, paralysed, fearful, controlling, argumentative, unhappy, moody, gloomy, ill at ease, defeated, perplexed, low, melancholy, uncertain, pessimistic, preoccupied, immobilised and controlled

Steps to Deal with the Emotion of Anxiety:

1.  Face one day at a time.  Don’t unrealistically address tomorrow’s problems today.

2.  Learn to tap into God’s love, presence and strength for living in the here and now.   His principles work!

3.  Give your anxiety into God’s hands and build up your faith resources of His love for you.

4.  Learn to relax and understand your heart and its messages to you.  Work with them for long term health.

2. The Family of Fear – the emotional distress when we feel our well being is being threatened.  Fear is a close ‘cousin’ to the family of fear and many of the emotions can be found in both camps.  It is disease producing and will gradually destroy your potential and effectiveness in life.  It can be also demonically sourced.  Unhealthy fear isolates us from our Creator and others.  It taps into the same principles as faith.  However, we can choose which we yield to.

This family also includes:  doubtful, hesitant, hysterical, scared, terrified, timid, wishy-washy, cowardly, shaky, tense, baffled, paralysed, powerless, worried, suspicious, pressured, fearful, fidgety, uptight, nauseated and controlled

Steps to Deal with the Emotion of Fear:

1.  Face your fear and identify what you are afraid of.

2.  Separate the imaginary fears from any realistic fears. Deal with them differently.

3.  Ask God’s help in locating fear’s entry point.  Allow Him to heal you and give you His peace.

4.  Talk your fears over with a competent person.  Seek counselling and ‘deliverance’ if necessary.

5.  Build up the foundations of God’s love for you.

3. The Grief Family – one of the most common and painful emotions, grief comes with loss of any kind.  If this emotion is repressed, it will grow and fester.  Grief has different stages that must be worked through, such as shock and denial, anger, depression, sadness and finally, acceptance for health. 

This family also includes:  sadness, loss, aloneness, withdrawn, sullen, bitter, tired, denial, regret, shocked, awkward, defeated, confused, questioning, tortured, hurt, immobilised, sluggish, tense, wavering, powerless and controlled

Steps to Deal with the Emotion of Grief:

1.  Built your own faith resources and face grief.

2.  Counsellors need to use reflective listening.  Allow others the ‘gift’ of deeply feeling this emotion.

3.  Stay involved with friends and family.

4. Take care of yourself physically, proper sleep & food.

5.  Plan rituals, symbols and events to release grief.

4. The Guilt Family – A major emotion giving rise to many others, guilt is that nagging sense we have done something wrong.  We must see the difference between true guilt and conviction by God and the false, pathological guilt to make this complex emotion into a friend rather than a driving enemy.

This family also includes:  shame, embarrassment, withdrawal, blaming, bitter, flat, dreary, quiet, sombre, sorrowful, regret, sorrow, unhappy, offended, awkward, confused, worried, tragic, shocked, indignant, evasive, distrustful, mournful, sullen, insecure, panicky, timid, over-cautious, prideful, helpless, distant, over-stressed, evasive, hidden, and controlled

Steps to Deal with the Emotion of Guilt:

1.  Admit that your guilt is a fact and not just your imagination, combat denial.

2.  Separate true from false guilt.  Deal with your real guilt between you and God.  Use repentance.

3.  Ask and accept His forgiveness.

4.  Forgive everyone and yourself.

5.  Handle false guilt by ‘throwing it away’.

6.  Build a realistic view of Father God.

5. Rejection and the Inferiority Family – One of the biggest influences we battle with up to 99% of people affected at some time.  It can sap our strength, self-confidence and self worth.  Some will do anything to receive other’s approval, even destroying healthy boundaries.  The roots are found in a childhood without the nurturing love and acceptance that every child needs.  Notice that both pride and inferiority are 2 sides to the same coin.

This family also includes:  insecure, judging, judged, disapproval, doubting, pressured, bewildered, uncertain, hesitant, offended, crushed, despairing, berated, weak, lonely, wavering, tortured and controlled

Steps to Deal with the Emotion of Rejection and Inferiority:

1.  Face up to your imperfections.  See them as mistakes to learn from.  Combat denial.

2.  Put your life into His hands every day.  Learn to see the God-given possibilities in today as He has created you to be and do.

3.  Be cautious of swinging to superiority as overcompensation for your weaknesses.

4.  Look for sensible goals rather than building ‘castles in the sky’.  Open your life to all that He has for you.

6. The Anger Family – Usually comes with an instinct for self-preservation or a feeling of invasion of one’s rights for justice, anger must be faced honestly and dealt with for healthy relationships.  Knowing the three levels of anger – the sudden explosion, the slower impatience or exasperation or the settled, ongoing attitude of anger – must be treated in different ways. 

This family also includes: annoyance, irradiation, irate, grumpy, bitter, enraged, cross, boiling, furious, stubborn, sullen, withdrawn, feisty, fuming, indignant, unhappy, unsettled, resentful, disruptive, heavy-hearted and  controlled

Steps to Deal with the Emotion of Anger:

1.  Sort out what kind and what source your anger is from.  Is it a grudge, pride, anger for the pain of others, revenge?  Is it easily provoked or slow burning?

2.  Acknowledge your anger to God.

3.  Ask for His help and learn to deal with your anger in non-sinful ways.

4.  Deal with your pride and expectations.  Die to self.

7. The Loneliness Family – Without the ability to experience true intimate relationships, this family exists even in the middle of crowed places.  As the God-given need to belong is within us all, this common complaint must also be solved God’s way.  Lifestyle, attitudes and self care can improve this issue.

This family also includes:  withdrawn, alone, isolated, timid, envious, dismayed, confused, rejected, judged, self-judgement, self-loathing, regret, jealous, torn, nervous, insecure, melancholy, moody, separated, wavering, without a place, insecure and controlled

Steps to Deal with this Loneliness:

1.  Rather than use denial, admit your loneliness to God.

2.  Develop a rich, deep, ongoing relationship with the living Jesus.  Recognise His hand of love for you.

3.  Sort out the cause of your loneliness.

4.  Develop a Godly lifestyle with a balance of dependence and interdependence.

5.  Examine your attitudes toward others and yourself, keeping your self-acceptance and others’ approval balanced.

6.  Build bridges and learn to share yourself with others. Steps to Deal with this Emotion:

8. The Family of Jealousy and Envy – This family creeps in when we compare ourselves with others, when their accomplishments seem to out-strip our own.  Ungodly jealousy grows when we are not secure in our own relationship with a loving God.  Its roots are most often in insecurity and inferiority.  Godly jealousy may bring a sense of zeal, a building of a better life. 

This family also includes: pride, boasting, striving, suspicious, timid, offended, resentful, indignant, torn, powerless, evasive, uncertain, tortured, injured, angry, lonely, suffering, worried, painful, lost, desirous, restless, irritable, prideful and controlled.

Steps to Deal with the Emotion of Jealousy and Envy:

1.  Sort out what kind and what source your anger is from.  Is it a grudge, pride, anger for the pain of others, revenge?  Is it easily provoked or slow burning?

2.  Acknowledge your anger to God.

3.  Ask for His help and learn to deal with your anger in non-sinful ways.

4.  Deal with your pride and expectations.  Die to self.

9. The Family of Peace and Contentment – This family grows as we use the tools of not judging others, forgiveness, trust and faith in a God of Love.  The roots are in the Lordship of Jesus, abiding in His principles and growing in His Way.

This family also includes:  love, joy, peace, contentment, self-control, goodness, gentleness – The fruits of the spirit.  Plus alive, courageous, encouraged, reassured, secure, open-hearted, cheerful, confident, generous, glad, grateful, inspired, peaceful, satisfied,

(Adapted from “Life’s Troublesome Emotions”, Selwyn Hughes, Everyday With Jesus, May/June 1996 and Unit 12, “The Psychology of Jesus”, Christ Centred Living Course, by Daniel and Susan Fengler, 1999.)

I have presented this list of emotions – both painful and pleasant emotions, as a way of showing the diversity of ‘messengers our heart can send us’.  Each emotion is a message from your heart as to how it is feeling in any situation.  Combine this list with the Psychology of Jesus to help understand our emotion nature.

Susanne Fengler, Blog Author


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