Untangle Your Emotions

Naming What You Feel and Knowing What to Do About It



February 13, 2024 | ISBN 9780593193419


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February 13, 2024 | ISBN 9780593861172

About the Book

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The author of Get Out of Your Head provides a revolutionary path to embracing a healthy relationship with your emotions, one that leads to life-giving connection with God and others as well as to a richer understanding of yourself.

“This book is worth thousands of dollars of counseling.”—Jonathan Pokluda, bestselling author and host of the Becoming Something podcast

How often have you heard, “Don’t let your emotions get the best of you”? But what if instead of ignoring our feelings, we noticed them, named them, and let God use them to draw us closer to Himself and others?

Many of us need to unlearn damaging messages about our emotions. We’ve been taught, for example, that emotions are untrustworthy, when, in fact, God can use them to help us see where we need His healing. 

In Untangle Your Emotions, Jennie Allen uses scientific research, biblical insight, and her own story to help you 

● exchange stuffing, dismissing, or minimizing your emotions for a five-step process to know what you feel and what to do about it
● debunk the myth that feelings are sinful by learning how emotional maturity leads to deeper connection with God and others
● live emotionally healthy by applying biblical wisdom and therapeutic research that works whether you self-identify as “emotional” or not
● sit with feelings that are confusing and painful by discovering the depth of God’s love and compassion for you

Feelings aren’t something to fix; they are something to feel. As we discover how to name and navigate our emotions, we’ll learn how they can draw us closer to the God who built us—soul, mind, and heart.
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Praise for Untangle Your Emotions

“For anyone who has been taught anything unhelpful or even harmful when it comes to feeling your feelings, this book is your space to heal. My friend Jennie will help you stop simply existing and start really living as you learn how your emotions can help you reconnect with your creator and yourself.”—Lysa TerKeurst, #1 New York Times bestselling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries

“Notice. Name. Feel. Share. Choose. You’ll carry this simple framework with you for the rest of your life. Jennie Allen’s ability to integrate the best learnings of psychology with the beautiful vision of Christian spirituality enables us to go far beyond ‘feeling our feelings.’ You’ll learn how our feelings were designed for connection—with God, others, and our own soul—the very connections we all crave. It’s time to stop running away; the emotions we fear are the pathway to the healthy soul we all desire.”—John Mark Comer, New York Times bestselling author of Practicing the Way

Untangle Your Emotions is an accessible biblical guide for anyone struggling to understand emotions, whether their own or those of others. You won’t learn how to just manage emotion but how to fully feel—and how the emotions first found in God bless us, bless others, and build up His church.”—Phylicia Masonheimer, founder and CEO of Every Woman a Theologian

“We humans are emotion-regulation creatures. For indeed, emotion is the fuel in the tank that enables us to do anything we do. Our trouble, of course, is that we are unfamiliar with our emotions and their God-inspired purposes and functions, and thereby suffer in innumerable ways. Into this trouble Jennie Allen wades with vulnerability, warmth, and practical wisdom. With Untangle Your Emotions, she offers us a trustworthy road map that will enable us to more truly partner with God as He forms us into the people of beauty and goodness that He longs for us to become.”—Curt Thompson, MD, psychiatrist and author of The Deepest Place and The Soul of Shame

“Jennie Allen is answering one of the biggest questions that people have today: What do I do with these feelings?! She is an incredible guide to help you understand where your emotions come from, what to do with them, and how to honor God in processing all that you feel. So many people are going to experience deep healing and gain much needed clarity from the pages ahead! This book is worth thousands of hours of counseling.”—Jonathan Pokluda, lead pastor of Harris Creek Baptist Church, bestselling author, and host of Becoming Something podcast
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Untangle Your Emotions


Where Did That Come From?

This past year, our oldest daughter, Kate, got married, and truly, everything about that day was dreamy: The weather was gorgeous, the venue was idyllic, and everywhere I turned I saw faces belonging to our most beloved people. It was spectacular, every bit of it. My husband, Zac, and I love our son-­in-­law, Charlie, and we approve wholeheartedly of this match. So much expectation. So much gratitude. So much joy.

And then, post-­wedding, my heart was pretty quickly wrecked.

For all the good that a child’s wedding brings, there is bad that nobody warns you about. Because the moment Kate left our nuclear family—­the one made up of Zac and me and her brothers and sister—­she and Charlie became their own little family of two.

The audacity.

It gets worse.

Kate and Charlie started telling Zac and me about ridiculous dreams they were dreaming, like most people in their twenties, using words like adventure and travel and fun—­all words I said to my mom and dad what feels like not so long ago. Over dinner one night, my daughter had the dang nerve to look at her father and me and, with all the casualness in the world, say some stupid sentence that included a whole bunch of words I didn’t really hear and three phrases I totally did: “out of the state” . . . “maybe out of the country” . . . “not forever, of course, but for a few years.”

Wait. What?

A season? Of adventure?

A season of adventure apart from me?

The walls of the room in which we were eating began closing in. My chest, which moments before had felt rightsized for my body, was now two sizes too small for my heart to take a beat. My airways constricted. What fresh hell had I tumbled headlong into? My reaction was not rational, I knew. I realized it in my head, but something bigger than knowing the right answers was happening to me.

I played it cool. I pasted a grin onto my face. I held eye contact with my child—­Nice and steady, Jennie. That’s it, that’s it—­and I focused on inhaling calmly. This wasn’t about me, and I knew it. Equally true: This was absolutely all about me.

Thankfully, I didn’t erupt that night. I didn’t come apart in waves of tears. I didn’t faint or fume or fall apart. I made it through in one piece. But the following week, and the week after that and the week after that, in casual conversations with Kate, the subject kept coming up. And again, my chest and airways told me that this wasn’t nothing. No, no: This, I knew, was a thing.

Cognitively, I understood that I wanted Kate and Charlie to go and create and live their own beautiful story, whatever that meant. So why couldn’t my body and heart catch up?

Can’t Stop the Feeling

Let me ask you a question: Have you ever had a disproportionate emotional response to a situation that should not have affected you in such a dramatic way?

Let me ask you one more: Have you ever stopped to think about what the reason for that response could be?

There are always things beneath the things. We are not simple creatures. Even those of us determined to live steady, unemotionally charged lives are shaped by a million small moments that stay with us. Those moments shape who we are and how we think and how we react—­and, yes, how we feel—­in a given moment to a given circumstance.

Among the many things I’ve been learning and want to share with you in the pages to come is that those revved-­up reactions tell a story—­a story about something we’ve lived. They point to a deep-­seated something that has gone unaddressed in our heart.

We experience something impactful. We react to that thing by stuffing our feelings or minimizing our feelings or ignoring how we feel altogether. Then something else comes our way, something that’s not even that big of a deal, and we lose it. We unload on a loved one. We catastrophize. We ugly cry, heaving until we can barely breathe.

And then we regret what we’ve done.

Why did we freak out?

Why did we demean our spouse?

Why did we shame our kid or yell at our roommate?

Why did we make that insane assumption and blame and threaten and walk right out the door, slamming it behind us as we left?

What was that all about? What was underneath it all?

Short answer: a lot, as the science and the Bible will show us.

Somewhere along the way, maybe from things I heard at church or just from growing up, I learned I wasn’t supposed to be sad or angry or scared. I was supposed to be okay, so I needed you to be okay too. Or maybe it’s just because I hate the feeling of being out of control, and I believed these feelings were too scary, and sitting in the hard felt . . . too hard.

Every time I experience sadness, fear, anger—­emotions I’ve been conditioned to not want to feel—­my brain immediately moves to fight off the feeling much like my immune system takes down a virus. My brain attacks the feeling, judges it, condemns it, and tells me why I shouldn’t feel it at all. It tells me that it is all going to be okay. It barks out all these orders about what I need to do so that I can finally stop feeling the feeling.

Worse still, sometimes when you share with me your sadness, fear, or anger, I do the same stupid thing to you.

I’m sorry.

It’s wrong, and I’m sorry. Your feelings, my feelings, are not evil things that need to be beat back.

Feelings can’t be beat back, by the way. Even if you’re the most effective stuffer ever to live, the very best at stuffing feelings way down deep, so far down you believe they can never be found, I’m here to tell you those feelings don’t go quietly. The people who know you know that they’re there. If you are honest, you know they’re there too.

That hint of rage you felt toward your dad, the fear of rejection you felt with your family, the striving that has exhausted you at school or work, the jealousy that creeps in whenever you are at that one friend’s house, the bitterness that flickers when you talk about why you don’t yet have kids, the despair you feel in your gut every time you think of the person you love buried underground—­I know you think you packed all those things safely away in a box so that you won’t have to see them again.

But inevitably they pop out at unexpected times, like over a lovely dinner when your daughter is just dreaming beautiful dreams.

Whatever the triggering situation, at some point the next day or the next week or sometime even later than that, you look back on the catalyst—­and on your response—­thinking, Why on earth did I say (or do) that?

You wonder, How on earth did those feelings sneak up on me? You wonder why they didn’t play fair.

The truth of the matter? They were playing fair.

Or playing predictably, anyway.

Because those feelings are tangled up with something very real in your past or present, something that absolutely is a big deal to you, whether or not you’re ready to admit it.

Feelings can’t be beat back.

They can’t be ignored or dismissed.

They are trying to tell us something.

About the Author

Jennie Allen
Jennie Allen is the founder and visionary of IF:Gathering as well as the New York Times bestselling author of Get Out of Your Head, Find Your People, Made for This, Anything, and Nothing to Prove. A frequent speaker at national events and conferences, she is a passionate leader, following God’s call on her life to catalyze a generation to live what they believe. Jennie earned a master’s in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her husband, Zac, have four children. More by Jennie Allen
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