Emotions: Mirrors of the heart

By Gerry Straker, 01 Mar 2021

Emotions: Mirrors of the heart

Emotions: Mirrors of the heart: Hope for those in the grip of powerful emotions
Catherine Haddow

This book, written by a Chartered Psychologist, would serve as a good introduction to Biblical counselling. Haddow has a helpful section (pp28-35) on both the positives and negatives of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) – either you’ve done CBT yourself or you know someone who has –  so I would recommend reading this book for that section alone. Whilst she has some praise for CBT, her biggest concern is that CBT deals with our thoughts, whereas the Bible deals with the heart and our relationship with God.  Haddow goes on to share her own adaptation of CBT (pp37-39) which she calls tbH (thoughts, behaviour, Heart) and the rest of the book sets out her model. This would perhaps help a Christian to use a version of CBT alongside meeting a Christian to go deeper and come to Christ - the one who changes hearts.

Haddow applies her tbH model to three emotion ‘clusters’:

  • The ‘sneers’ are those emotions that are directed at and against people;
  • The ‘fears’ are those emotions that take us away from people;
  • The ‘tears’ are those emotions rooted in loss that take us into ourselves. (63)

Chapters 5-7 address each in turn. We are invited to assess ourselves on which is our most common emotion ‘cluster’ (122-123). Each time the author takes us to the heart of the problem: our heart, and shows how when our emotions are sinful, we are sinning there against God himself. For instance, our sinful anger shows (in David Powlinson’s phrase): ‘My kingdom come, My will be done.’ (77)

I am not one for complex diagrams and I found her big diagram (38) a bit confusing – but I imagine others would love it. One other criticism would be that at times the writing was not as ‘tight’ as I would like, occasionally leaving me unsure of her terminology.  

But there were lots of good insights to ponder, and here are some quotes: 

  • Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.’ (9)
  • Emotions are poor leaders, but good mirrors of the heart…We live in a post-modern culture that is dominated by the pursuit of emotions, and their unique meaning for the individual experiencing them…Our emotions and heart can deceive us – they tell us what we want. (13).
  • Emotions…are God-given, and to experience a full array of emotions is to be human and made in the image of God…the key issue is that there is either a godly or a sinful way to manage our emotions. (16)
  • Because of the Fall, we think the wrong things, we do the wrong things, we desire the wrong things, and we also feel the wrong things. (18)
  • Jesus always felt the right emotion for the event…[and]…Jesus always experienced the emotion to the right degree for that event...[Whereas] we regularly experience either the wrong emotion for the event…or the right emotion for the event but felt to the wrong degree. (23)
  • Whilst the situation is highly significant, it doesn’t determine the response. (26)
  • The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture tells us that everything we need to face life living in his strength in order to serve him is contained in his word – and that includes helping those suffering with emotional difficulties. (27)
  • Jesus isn’t in the business of facilitating self-help; he is in the business of revealing our hearts and illuminating our disoriented attitudes and desires. (38)
  • We are complex combinations of body and soul which are intimately interconnected. Our heart – the ‘real us’ – is our worship centre, and whatever we are devoted to drives everything we do, think and feel. (45)
  • Bible reading, prayer, church fellowship and communion are some of the means of grace that God has given us to help us remain close to him. When we engage in them, we are more in tune with the Spirit as he controls our hearts. Conversely, as soon as we let go of these means of grace, it is instead our sinful nature that has a grip on the steering wheel of our lives. (109)
  • Since life is hard, we – all of us – are needy and we are needed. (111)
  • Of course, people need our time, willingness to listen, practical support and prayers too. But love without speaking the truth as at heart level is not biblical love. (112)
  • What we see outpouring into our horizontal relationships with others reflects our vertical relationship with God. (113)
  • God can and does heal, sometimes in astonishing ways. But more often we see him slowly and gently showering us with his love and grace through our struggles. (118)
  • He sees the depths of our hearts and yet he loves us the same. (121)