Two of the the main reasons we remain in recovery are via a trust in God and via a dramatic improvement in our ability to process and manage our emotions.
We often share our negative emotions with our sponsors which often leads to resolving emotional issues and processing these distressing emotions so that they no longer trouble us as they did before.
It appears that a belief in God or Higher Power can greatly help with regulating our emotions, that being in God leads naturally to a wide variety of positive emotions and that the feeling of being loved by God not only relieves distress but leads to emotional stability and increased emotional well being.
This rather insightful article (1) describes some studies that have demonstrated how effective a faith in God can be for improving our emotional lives
“Empirical research indicates that being religious is associated with distinct emotional processing, including reporting more vivid and intense emotional experiences (Burris & Petrican, 2011).
This may have a neurophysiological basis, with religious individuals being more likely to exhibit right-hemispheric dominance than atheists. This right-hemispheric dominance is associated with higher levels of perceiving and experiencing emotions.
Within the psychology literature, numerous emotions have been labeled religious, spiritual, or sacred. These include emotions such as gratitude, compassion, empathy, humility, contentment, love, adoration, reverence, awe, elevation, hope, forgiveness, tolerance, loving-kindness, responsibility, contrition, joy, peace, trust, duty, obligation, and protectiveness (Emmons, 2005; Pargament & Mahoney, 2005; Plante, 2012; Roberts, 2007; Vaillant, 2008)”
So we are in 12 step recovering removing and/or replacing negative and distressing emotions for positive emotions by turning our will over the care of God?
Being ” in God”, these emotions may be naturally occurring in a way they are not in self, and especially in the negative dysregulated self?
“Gratitude Toward God
…feeling grateful to God was associated with higher levels of positive affect, happiness, and life satisfaction
(Rosmarin et al., 2011).
Feeling Loved by God
Numerous studies across multiple countries have examined the implications of feeling loved by God. For example, large-scale studies with representative U.S. samples have indicated that experiencing God as loving is associated with less negative emotions and fewer mental health problems (Bradshaw, Ellison, & Flannelly, 2008; Flannelly, Galek, Ellison, & Koenig, 2010).
…A Canadian study of adults who had been sexually abused as children demonstrated that greater feelings of being loved by God were associated with greater personal growth, greater resolution of the abuse, and less depression (Gall, Basque, Damasceno-Scott, & Vardy, 2007).
Furthermore, in this study, experiencing feelings of love from God was associated with having more feelings of hope and self-acceptance, which were two of the factors associated with experiencing a greater sense of resolution about the abuse history and less depressed mood.
…feeling a sense of God’s presence and God’s control in life was associated with greater levels of optimism. Among the men, feeling loved by God was associated with better mental health and emotional functioning (Gall, 2004). Finally, a small study among older adults in Switzerland indicated a strong relationship between directly experiencing the nearness of a guiding, shelter-giving God and feeling emotionally stable (Chukwu & Rauchfleisch, 2002).
Thus, it seems that positive feelings about God, including feeling loved and cared for by God, can be associated with personal growth and emotional well-being”
“…Many literature reviews have been conducted on the relationship between faith and emotional well-being. For example, Koenig, McCullough, and Larson (2001) conducted a systematic review of 850 studies relating religion to mental health. Of the 102 studies relating faith to life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, or higher morale, 79 % found a positive association. Similarly, among the studies addressing links between faith and hope, optimism, purpose, or meaning, the vast majority demonstrated positive associations…
…Similar trends have been found among adolescents. In a review of 20 studies
addressing religion and spirituality in relation to mental health among adolescents,
90 % of the studies found positive links, indicating that faith was associated with
positive affect and emotional well-being (Wong, Rew, & Slaikeu, 2006)…
Religious Coping as an Aspect of Faith Linked to Emotional Well-Being
…One particular way that individuals may benefit from greater well-being through
their faith is that faith offers mechanisms for coping with distress. Overall, the
research literature indicates that faith is related to well-being for many individuals,
but that the relationship may be strongest among those facing stressors in life
(Moreira-Almeida, Neto, & Koenig, 2006). Research indicates that among both adults and children, faith has been associated with better adjustment and more
post-traumatic growth following trauma, including the experience of greater
appreciation for life, a greater sense of personal strength, greater recognition of
new possibilities, and warmer, more intimate relationships with others
(Bryant-Davis et al., 2012; Schaefer, Blazer, & Koenig, 2008; Shaw, Joseph, &
God is good, especially for your emotion regulation and sense of emotional stability.
- file:///C:/Users/Seamas/Downloads/9789401794350-c2%20(1).pdf – C. Miller-Perrin, E. Krumrei Mancuso, Faith from a Positive Psychology Perspective,
Great studies, great post. I’m Facebooking this. Thanks.
thank you Louisa – more blogs to follow on God and emotions.
Hi, do you have the full reference list? It would be really useful….I can’t see all refs anywhere on the page. I’ve just found this blog and am finding it very useful….I’m doing research at a UK university on 12-step recovery and also in it myself. Thanks!
the refs are all from the main reference listed at bottom of the blog I believe