‘Unglued’: Practical steps to controlling your raw emotions

In “Unglued: Making Wish Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions,” Lysa TerKeurst uses personal examples and biblical teaching to help you manage your conflicts with grace and control. Here's an excerpt.

An Invitation to Imperfect Progress

Emotions aren’t bad. But try telling that to my brain at 2:08 a.m. when I should be sleeping instead of mentally beating myself up.

Why had I become completely unglued about bathroom towels? Towels, for heaven’s sake. Towels!

The master bathroom is the favorite bathroom in our house. Although my three girls share a small bathroom upstairs, they much prefer our more spacious bathroom downstairs. As a result, our bath towels are frequently hijacked. I’ll hop out of the tub and reach for the freshly laundered towel I hung on the rack the day before only to discover it isn’t there. Ugh. So, I wind up using a hand towel. (A hand towel. Can you feel my pain?) And while using said hand towel, I am muttering under my breath, “I’m banning the girls from our bathroom.” Then, of course, I never do anything to make the situation better. And the same scene repeats itself time and time again.

I’d been dealing with the bath towel, or lack thereof, situation for quite a while before my husband, Art, got involved. Up to this point, he had somehow managed to escape the woes of using a hand towel. But not this day. And his happiness did not abound upon discovering nothing but air where the towel should have been.

Since I happened to be nearby, he asked if I might please go get him a towel. I marched upstairs, convinced I’d find every towel we own strewn randomly about in my girls’ rooms. But when I went from room to room, there were no towels. None. How could this be? Completely baffled, I then went into the laundry room. Nope, no towels there either. What in the world? Meanwhile, I felt a tightening knot of tension in my neck as Art again called out for a towel.

“I’m coming, for heaven’s sake,” I snapped back as I walked to the linen closet where the beach towels are kept.

“You’ll just have to use one of these,” I said, tossing a large Barbie beach towel over the shower door.

“What?” he asked, “Isn’t this the towel the dogs sleep on?”

“Oh good gracious, it was clean and folded in the linen closet. I wouldn’t give you a towel the dogs had been on!” Now my voice came out high-pitched, and it was clear I was really annoyed.

“Uggghhhh. Is it too much to ask for a clean towel?” Art was asking a question, but to me it was more like a statement. A judgment. Of me.

“Why do you always do that?!” I screamed. “You take simple mistakes and turn them into slams against me! Did I take the towels and hide them who-knows-where? No! Did I let the dogs sleep on the Barbie towel? No! And furthermore, that isn’t the Barbie towel the dogs were sleeping on. We have three Barbie towels — so there! Now you have the dadgum 4-1-1 on the towel issue. And none of this is my fault!”

I headed upstairs in a huff to give the girls a piece of my mind. “Never! Ever! Ever! You are not allowed to use the towels in our bathroom ever, ever, ever again! Do you understand me?!” The girls just looked at me, dumbfounded that I was getting this upset over towels, and then started profusely declaring that they didn’t have said towels.

Back downstairs, I grabbed my purse, slammed the door, and screeched the tires as I angrily peeled out of the driveway.

And now it’s 2:08 a.m. and I can’t sleep. I’m sad because of the way I acted today. I’m disappointed in my lack of self-control.

I have to figure this out. What is my problem? Why can’t I seem to control my reactions? I stuff. I explode. And I don’t know how to get a handle on this. But God help me if I don’t get a handle on this. I will destroy the relationships I value most and weave into my life permanent threads of short-temperedness, shame, fear, and frustration. Is that what I really want?

No. That’s not what I want.

So, at 2:08 a.m., I vow to do better tomorrow. But better proves illusive, and my vow wears thin in the face of daily annoyances and other unpleasant realities. Tears slip and I’m worn out from trying.

Maybe you can relate.

If you relate to my hurt, I pray you will also relate to my hope. This hope is a beautiful reality called imperfect progress. Imperfect changes are slow steps of progress wrapped in grace . . . imperfect progress.

The Promise of Progress
God gave me emotions so I could experience life, not destroy it. So, in the midst of my struggle and from the deep places of my heart, I wrote Unglued about peace found, peace misplaced, flaws admitted, and forgiveness remembered. I celebrated progress made.

And that’s the promise of this book. Progress. Nothing more. Nothing less. Progress that will last long after the last page is turned. We won’t bend from the weight of our past, but we will bow to the One who holds out hope for a better future.

To begin, we need to define ourselves not for the purpose of labeling, but for identifying, for naming what is true and cause us to react badly. Here are the four Unglued reactor types:

Exploder Who Shames Themselves: Those who use their words and tone to make sure the other person feels their point during conflict; but later feel shame for not having a good reaction.

Exploder Who Blames Others: Those who blame others for the chaos that’s gotten them to this unglued place.

Stuffer Who Builds Barriers: Those who say “Everything’s fine,” when everything isn’t fine and holds others at a distance.

Stuffer Who Collects Retaliation Rocks: Those who keep the peace by smiling, all the while swallowing little gulps of bitterness to use as weapons in future disagreements.

Oh dear friend, a new script is waiting to be written. New ways. New perspectives. New me. New you. And it will be good to make this imperfect progress together.

Excerpted from UNGLUED by Lysa TerKeurst . Copyright (c) 2012 by Lysa TerKeurst. Reprinted by arrangement with Zondervan.