Can I Set Boundaries for My Heart? With Dr. Alison Cook [Episode 170]

Set Boundaries Heart Alison Cook

GIVEAWAY ALERT: You can win the book Boundaries for Your Soul by this week’s podcast guest. Keep reading to find out how!

Do you control your feelings, or do your feelings control you? Lots of us let guilt, anger, or self-criticism be the boss of us, which makes a total mess of things.

You may say to yourself, “I just need to get over it.” or “I’ve got to stop thinking that way.” But the truth is this tactic rarely works, and in fact, it can make things worse.

Today on the 4:13 Podcast, you’re going to get some calm for that inner turmoil with our guest, author and Christian counselor, Dr. Alison Cook. She’ll give you a very practical and doable way to bring peace to your overwhelming emotions and teach you how to set boundaries for your soul.

You’re going to love this conversation because Alison brings such clarity into the chaos of our emotions and makes dealing with them far less intimidating.

The doctor is in the house, my friend, and it’s time to get healthy with our emotions.

So let me introduce Alison, and let’s get to it!

Alison Cook, Ph.D. is a counselor, speaker, and the co-author of Boundaries for Your Soul. For over 15 years, Alison has helped women, ministry leaders, couples, and families learn how to heal painful emotions, develop confidence from the inside out, forge healthy relationships, and fully live out their God-given potential. Alison maintains a counseling practice in the greater Boston area that specializes in the integration of faith and psychology. She and her husband, Joe, have two teenage children and enjoy spending time with extended family in New England and Wyoming where they ski, hike, and fly fish as often as they can.

Being subject to my emotions is such a thing for me, and that’s why I found this conversation so instructive and helpful. Alison gives us all kinds of eye-opening insights, including…

  • Does everyone experience overwhelming thoughts and feelings?
  • How do I recognize if I’m not handling an emotion well?
  • Is there such thing as a “negative emotion”?
  • What does it look like to set boundaries for my thoughts and feelings?
  • How is an emotional boundary different from ignoring how I feel?
  • Are emotions my friend, my enemy, or my ally—and what’s the difference?
  • What does the Bible say about anger, and how do I express it biblically?
  • Can I separate my anxiety from my identity?

Over time—and with way too much experience—I’ve realized that if I don’t control my emotions, my emotions control me, and that can be a bad thing.

But I’ve also learned that emotions themselves aren’t a bad thing—even when they make us feel bad! They’re simply cues or signals that we need to pay attention to. So the goal isn’t to numb ourselves and never show any emotion, but to relate to our emotions in a healthy way.

Isn’t that encouraging?

So as you listen to this episode, I pray you will learn that you can set boundaries for your heart! Remember, nothing is more powerful than our God, and He will give you all you need to find peace, freedom, and victory when it comes to your overwhelming emotion.

You can do this, sister! You can because it’s through Christ that you can do all things.

[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]

Related Resources


Books & Bible Studies by Jennifer Rothschild

More from Alison Cook

Related Blog Posts

Stay Connected

Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I Set Boundaries for My Heart? With Dr. Alison Cook [Episode 170]

Jennifer Rothschild: Do you control your feelings or do your feelings control you? Lots of us let guilt, anger, or self-criticism be the boss of us, and it just totally messes up everything. You might say to yourself, "I need to get over it," or, "I've got to stop thinking like that." But you'll learn today that that usually doesn't work. And, in fact, it can make things even worse. So on this episode of the 4:13, you're going to get some calm for that inner turmoil with our guest, author and Christian counselor Alison Cook. She'll give you a practical and doable way to bring peace to your overwhelming emotions and she's going to teach you how to set boundaries for your soul. The doctor is in the house, so come ready for a solution today, my friend.

K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and Biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Now, welcome your host, my buddy, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Welcome. We're so glad you are here. And I hope things are going well in your life today and this week, it's been a good week for you. I am Jennifer, here to help you be and do more than you feel capable of as you live this "I Can" life of Philippians 4:13. And I know what you're about to hear. And I am so happy that you're about to hear it, my friends, because it really was instructive and helpful to me, so -- this conversation we're about to have with Dr. Alison Cook. And I got to say, as I was listening to her, I was like, oh, yeah, this is such a thing for me. And it might be a thing for you guys too. And some of you know that I write Bible studies and books, and one of mine is called "Me, Myself & Lies." And I call it a thought closet makeover, or what to say when you talk to yourself, because it's a thing that our feelings can control us. And I'll never forget K.C. -- oh, my gosh, it just came to such a difficult moment for me. Our kids were -- let's see. I think I had the -- oh, yeah, I remember it well. I had the preschooler, I had the preteen, and I was premenopausal.

K.C. Wright: Oh.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right there, yeah, that is a formula for a difficult season. Okay. But I remember this one particular morning I woke up. Before I even got out of bed, it was like I was being bombarded and pelted with this, oh, you are not a good mom. You are not giving enough boundaries to your two-year-old, you're not giving enough attention to your twelve-year-old, you know, you're not giving enough attention to your husband. Why did you say that? You should have done such and such, and boom, ba boom, before I even got out of bed.

K.C. Wright: Oh, wow.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, so I dragged myself out of bed. I make a very nutritious breakfast for my children, called Pop tarts. I get the twelve-year-old to the bus, I get the two-year-old in the car -- everybody's lunch is made -- and Phil takes Connor, the little one, to preschool. And I sit down at the table with some steaming Earl Grey tea, and it was just this moment between me and God. And I was like, What is wrong with me? Like, I'm always fighting this undertow of negativity and lies, when on the top part of my life I'm happy I'm successful, things are going okay. But it is such a fight for it. And honestly, I don't know that -- it was not an audible voice, of course, but I knew it in my spirit. It was like the Lord answered the question for me right there: Until you learn to control your thoughts and your feelings, your thoughts and your feelings will control you.

K.C. Wright: There it is.

Jennifer Rothschild: And that was exactly what was happening.

K.C. Wright: Wow.

Jennifer Rothschild: And so the Lord brought me on a journey of learning how to speak truth to myself and to replace those untruthful, destructive thoughts and feelings with truthful constructive thoughts and feelings. Well, that's what you're going to hear today from Dr. Alison Cook, and I am so glad that you're about to experience what I did on this great conversation.

K.C. Wright: Dr. Alison Cook is a counselor, speaker, and the coauthor of "Boundaries For Your Soul." For over 15 years, Alison has helped women, ministry leaders, couples, and families learn how to heal painful emotions, develop confidence from the inside out, forge healthy relationships, and fully live out their God-given potential. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, yeah.

K.C. Wright: I need some time with the doctor myself. Alison maintains a counseling practice in the greater Boston area that specializes in the integration of faith and psychology. She and her husband, Joe, have two teenage children and enjoy spending time with extended family in New England and Wyoming, where they ski, hike, and fly fish as often as they can.

Jennifer Rothschild: Good for them.

K.C. Wright: So get comfy and get ready for healing to happen in your heart as we all listen to Jennifer and Dr. Alison Cook.

Jennifer Rothschild: Alison, I'm super happy that we get to talk today, because I just think there's so much potential that's about to happen in this conversation, I mean for me personally, I know, and for all of our listeners. So let's start with your subtitle -- okay? -- because it's quite a promise. I want to know, can I really turn my emotions into allies?

Alison Cook: Oh, my goodness. Yes. In fact, I think it's imperative that we learn how to do this, because God gave us our emotions. He didn't give them to us to curse us, right? They are part of how he made us, so we have to learn how to turn them into our allies.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, I think sometimes we feel like our emotions, especially the ones we might call negative ones, are our enemies.

Alison Cook: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: And so I'm looking forward to really unpacking this, because most emotions, especially when they hit on the darker side, they do feel so overwhelming. But you know what, Alison? I've been around some people who just seem like they are, like, on this emotional spa day all the time. They're, like, always so even keel. So I'm curious to you, do all of us have overwhelming thoughts and feelings? And, you know, give us a picture of what it means to not handle an emotion well, because I'm wondering if that shows up differently in different people based on how they handle overwhelming feelings.

Alison Cook: It does show up differently. And I appreciate your bringing that up, because sometimes that's what people think, I'm supposed to just sort of be in this state of, you know, Zen all of the time. And I always point to the example of Jesus where we see emotion. We see him weep, we see him get angry, we see him grieve. And so emotions, it will show up differently in different people. The goal isn't to kind of numb ourselves so that we're sort of never showing any emotion; the goal is really to be in a healthy relationship with our emotions. And that will look differently for different people, absolutely.

Jennifer Rothschild: I love that, a healthy relationship with our emotions.

Alison Cook: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, that's good. All right. So let's just pause here, and I want you to give us just a little Dr. Cook counseling. Okay? In your opinion, is there such thing as a negative emotion? And, if so, then how do we deal with those negative emotions with this idea of an ally in mind?

Alison Cook: Well, we experience emotions as negative. There are emotions we don't like. We don't like to feel bitterness, we don't like to feel envy. You know, we don't even like to feel sad necessarily. So we experience those emotions as negative, but, in fact, those emotions are neither good nor bad. That's what I try to say to people: Emotions are just cues. They're just signals that we need to pay attention to. They really don't have a good or bad associated with them, they just are. And so those quote/unquote negative emotions, that's because we don't like them. But the truth is, we just need to learn -- we need to learn how to separate out the emotion which shows up. Let's say, you know I feel bitter or I feel resentful, right? And that feels negative to me. I don't like that. Well, that's another part of us coming and going. I don't like feeling that way, so we have to kind of do the work of addressing both of those emotions, one being the resentment maybe that we feel, and the other being the self-criticism that we feel, right? And so we have to go, okay, there's two different things happening here. I get why I don't want to feel that way; that's valid. However, I do need to understand why this emotion is showing up, that I'd rather not show up, but it is.

Jennifer Rothschild: Wow.

Alison Cook: So that's -- you know.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's like -- you're just showing what multitaskers we are --

Alison Cook: Right. Absolutely.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- with emotion.

Alison Cook: It's amazing. Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, it really is. And so your title of your book, you talk about -- I mean, it's boundaries for the soul, and so obviously you're talking about that, setting boundaries.

Alison Cook: That's right.

Jennifer Rothschild: So from what you just described, you know, this -- basically almost sitting yourself in your own chair and analyzing some of the things of the what am I feeling, and then the why am I feeling it, and why am I feeling -- how I feel about what I'm feeling.

Alison Cook: Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: So here's my question. Let me see how I can phrase that. Well, I guess, so what does it mean to set boundaries with your thoughts and feelings? Because I could see that going on a big ol' rabbit trail right there.

Alison Cook: Exactly. So the reason we landed on this idea of boundaries for your soul, for your internal world, is exactly what I was just saying. It's this compartmentalizing that we have to learn to do, right? So just because I feel an emotion, a part of me is carrying an emotion inside. So let's say right now, whatever happened prior to you and me coming online here together today -- right? -- I am guessing there are things that happen, that you have emotions about, that you had to learn -- you had to say to yourself, whether consciously or not, I've got to set that aside because I need to show up for this conversation with Alison today.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right.

Alison Cook: That's setting a boundary within your soul. You're saying, I've got to set a boundary on that because I need to show up for this. And we can do this. We can do this. We can actually compartmentalize our emotions in a healthy way, which is very different from just ignoring, denying, rejecting what we're feeling. A healthy boundary says, Man, I'm feeling sad today and I need to create a space for that, because that's valid and that's real, something's happened that's caused me to feel sad. But I can also set a healthy boundary around that sadness so that it doesn't sort of bleed into everything else that I need to do today and pay attention to today.

Jennifer Rothschild: You know, I can see what you just described, how that really is an antidote for the overwhelm --

Alison Cook: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- because everything has its own bucket instead of just drowning.

Alison Cook: That's right.

Jennifer Rothschild: And I know in your book, you walk through some very practical steps -- I think five steps actually --

Alison Cook: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- to turn those overwhelming thoughts and feelings into real allies. So let's get to that nitty gritty. I love this concept. Can you give us the five steps.

Alison Cook: Yes. So the first step -- and it's counterintuitive to most people -- is when you're noticing an overwhelming emotion, a lot of times -- actually, it shows up as an overwhelming lot of emotions, right? Overwhelmed tends to be more than one emotion.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Alison Cook: The first step is to focus on it. So what that means is putting your attention on that feeling. Let's say, for example, the feeling is just overwhelmed. I'll tell people either write it down in a journal, name it. Some people need to verbalize it to a friend, if they've got someone. For me, I go through this process every morning, focus and going, What is it that I'm noticing going on inside of me today? And I'll just make a list: tired, scared, a little bit angry, overwhelmed, right? And all of a sudden, I'm kind of looking at it going, okay, I've named it. Naming is taming, as Dan Siegel says. Naming helps bring that conscious awareness. It helps bring what we're feeling into our conscious awareness so then it doesn't feel so chaotic.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay.

Alison Cook: And so that's the first step, is to kind of focus on it. And if you think about when you focus on something, you're seeing it, you're bringing it out in front of you, you're naming it. And that right there, that first step, disempowers some of the chaos. Oh, man, I'm sad. Okay, I've named it. And then the second step, which is harder for people, is to befriend it. And all that means is when I notice that, instead of beating myself up, criticizing myself, wishing I didn't feel that way, what's wrong with me, why can't I just get it together, all the things we do -- right? -- which is self-critical, we say, okay, this is how I'm feeling. Can I at the very least -- if I can't befriend how I'm feeling, can I at the very least -- the other word we use is "get curious." Just get curious. This is what's happening. This is what is. So we start to note -- we focus on it and then we try to shift toward just a posture of curiosity or compassion.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay.

Alison Cook: Which is this is just what is and I'm curious about it. I wonder why. Dallas Willard says understanding is the basis of care. So we try to shift to that posture of curiosity. What is going on here? So that's step two.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay.

Alison Cook: And that takes away again some of the noise. All of a sudden with those two steps, instead of feeling overwhelmed and then beating ourselves up for feeling overwhelmed -- which leads to tremendous inner chaos, right? Those are two really conflicting things. I'm overwhelmed and I'm mad at myself for being overwhelmed. That doesn't feel good inside.

Jennifer Rothschild: No, no, no.

Alison Cook: But all of a sudden we're like, okay, I'm just owning it. I'm overwhelmed today for these -- you know, I'm sad, I'm frustrated, I'm this, I'm that. I wonder what's going on. All of a sudden we're shifting to a little more clarity. There's a little more calm inside. We haven't solved anything, but we're relating to ourself and to our emotions in a much healthier way.

Jennifer Rothschild: I like it, because you suddenly feel a little more control rather than like you're drowning.

Alison Cook: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay.

Alison Cook: You're in charge. You're the parent. You're the wise adult in the room with the emotions versus the emotions just kind of hijacking you and taking you over.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Okay, brilliant. All right, what's step three?

Alison Cook: The third step is to invite God in. And so I always say to people -- oftentimes we're taught to pray these emotions away. And what we're saying in the third step, which is invite, is no, no, no. Invite God into your experience of the emotion. Okay, God, here's what's happening with me today. Here's where I'm at. Can you come join me here? Right? We're bringing God into -- that's what God wants, you know --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, yes.

Alison Cook: -- that intimacy with us. I get it. I get it. I see that you're overwhelmed. That honesty, that's the relationship that God wants to have with us. Not that we kind of get ourselves together before we go to God, or kind of these frantic Hail Mary, God, make it go away. It's God, this is what's happening. I'm curious about it. Will you join me in being curious about this too and help me understand. So that's the third step.

Jennifer Rothschild: I like that, Alison too, because it just sounds so open. Because I think sometimes when we feel an overwhelming emotion, if we do invite God in, we start with the, oh, I'm so sorry, I shouldn't feel this way, I know I --

Alison Cook: That's right.

Jennifer Rothschild: And you're just saying, no, it's an open-handed invitation entrance into whatever you're feeling.

Alison Cook: That's right. It's just an honest -- you know, it's what you would hope to have with a close friend or with a spouse. Why wouldn't we have that with God? Man, here's what's going on with me today. I just want you to know.

Jennifer Rothschild: I love that.

Alison Cook: I don't want you to fix it for me, but would you come alongside with me and help me understand why this is going on with me. Right?

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, that's so good. All right, what's step four?

Alison Cook: And then step four, we get into a little bit more of the deeper -- the therapeutic side, which is to unburden. And so a lot of times these -- sometimes when these emotions are showing up, it's really simple. Of course I'm mad because this thing just happened with my child or this thing just happened with a friend, and we know what it is. We don't know how to fix it, but we kind of know where the root is. But a lot of times these emotions are connected to memories and messages from way back when, right?

Jennifer Rothschild: Mm-hmm.

Alison Cook: Right? And so a lot of times I like to call them long tale emotions, these long tale emotions. I'm sad about something that happened yesterday, but really that sadness connects all the way back to a story that's happened decades ago. And I go into this sort of, Of course this always happens to me, or, I'm just blank. I'm just unlucky. I just can't catch a break. Right? We go into these core messages that are really underneath them all. And so unburden is really the deep dive into is there some core belief or core message at the root of these emotions that needs to be unburdened, that needs to be brought into the light. And this is where God helps us with that. God help me understand. And so we can descend into these core messages that are really -- this is where the negativity comes in. Instead of just feeling angry about this, we go into this I'm feeling angry about this, I can never catch a break. People are always out to get me --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, right.

Alison Cook: -- which is a core message that needs to be unburdened.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, leave it behind.

Alison Cook: What's that? Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, leave it behind.

Alison Cook: Exactly. And say, You know what, I've had some tough experiences, but I am not the sum total of those bad experiences. I am a beautiful -- you know, this is where we kind of do the reframing. I am a beautiful person made in God's image and this hard thing has happened to me. Okay. you know, it just -- we get to the deeper root of some of those core messaging.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and you can't really do that well if you have not already invited God into the process --

Alison Cook: That's right.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- and into the pain. Otherwise you're left with your own wisdom, which can just sometimes make things even worse. Because that is hard work, like you just described. So what is, then, the fifth step? Is it reframing?

Alison Cook: Yes. Essentially the fifth step is what we call integrate.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, okay.

Alison Cook: But it's taking that experience of that emotion. Once we've unburdened any of those false messages that go against what we know to be true about how God sees us and then integrating that emotion in a healthy way. So, for example, anger's a good one because we tend to see anger as a negative emotion. So once we've unburdened that anger, then we come back to the here and now and go, What's the healthy role of this anger? Because maybe something happened that I should be angry about.

Jennifer Rothschild: Exactly. Right, yeah.

Alison Cook: And so we're going to now say, okay, but I need to be -- a lot of times I'll say little angry versus a lifetime of angry -- right? -- which is a different thing. A little angry, which is, okay, that was annoying that that person crossed my boundary. So how do I now reframe that as opposed to "People are always out to get me" to, "Wow, in that situation, that person did something that didn't feel good." So now I have a choice. I can address it, I can -- you know, I can do one of three things. But we're back in this position of taking charge and we're -- in the step of integrate, we're speaking up on behalf of our emotions versus speaking out of the volcano of them, which is a very different experience.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, I've never heard it put quite that way, but that sounds so practical to me. That's such a good paradigm shift. Because a lot of times we feel that "I just need to vent," and the explosion happens, but it is totally unproductive. And sometimes it makes it even worse.

Alison Cook: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: You said -- your phrase was speaking out of the -- or speaking up for the emotion. What was your exact phrase you used?

Alison Cook: Yeah. We talk about speaking on behalf --

Jennifer Rothschild: On behalf, okay.

Alison Cook: -- of the emotion versus speaking from the emotion. And so the first four steps help you do the work of understanding the source of the emotion. So that when you get to step five and you're integrating it as a healthy cue, you're then more equipped to say, you know, when this thing happened the other day, I felt really angry. Could we talk about it? Now, that conversation -- that's speaking on behalf of it. That conversation's going to go so much better than if you don't, you just feel the angry. What's wrong with you? Why are you doing this? That conversation is not going to go so well.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right. Oh, this is so good. That is really -- I love how practical that is. And we will, by the way, have for our listeners those five steps on the show notes. We're going to have a transcript of this so others -- because I know people are going to want to review this.

Alison Cook: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: So one of the things that I am intrigued by is your idea of making emotions an ally, because -- I don't know if you know this about my story, but I've been blind since I was 15. And I learned early on that it would be most wise for me to make blindness my friend, rather than my enemy, so I can work together with it rather than always be fighting against it and using all my energy against something that really won't change, you know.

Alison Cook: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: So that's one of the ways that I have dealt with it. But there have been times when I've had to sit myself down and rethink it, Alison, because I think, you know what, I don't like blindness. I don't want to call you my friend today. And so I've chosen some days to say, you're just my ally. We have an uneasy truce here. And you're still going to serve me, but I don't have to like you. And so with that in mind, as you call emotions allies, yet your second step was to befriend, tell me what someone does with that. What's the difference between a friend and an ally when it comes to your emotions?

Alison Cook: I really love that example. I think that's just beautiful. And I love what you're saying there, that an ally doesn't always feel like a friend. And we know that in other -- lots of different types of relationships. Sometimes my spouse or a friend is coming alongside of me with something I don't really like, but I know I need. And that's a little different than what you're saying. Sometimes our emotions -- I love what you're saying. And I think you're making a really good distinction there between -- an ally we don't always like or love, but we're in a committed relationship of trust --

Jennifer Rothschild: Mmm, that's good.

Alison Cook: -- with that, right? We're in a committed relationship. It's a part of our lives. This is a part of me. And so I've got to have an ongoing relationship with this part of me, whatever it is. And I may not always like it, but I'm committed to the work of working this out.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. That's good.

Alison Cook: Right? And so that's where sometimes I -- I agree with you, that second step where we've called it "befriend," that can be a little deceptive. And I will sometimes say to somebody, At least let's go to this word "curiosity." I don't like this right now, but I'm open, I'm open to how we can work this out. That's a little bit more of that curiosity.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, that is a good distinction. Because you're right, and sometimes what you become curious about and learn, then you can befriend.

Alison Cook: Yeah, yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: So it works together, it really does.

Alison Cook: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: Wow, Alison, I am so glad you've written this book. And I'm so glad it's available, because I can already detect what an incredible resource this will be. Because obviously we don't have enough time to cover everything on here, but I want to end with -- well, this will be our final question. It's going to be kind of a two-part. It's two emotions. As I've kind of thought through people in my world and what I hear a lot about, I think these two emotions make the Hall of Fame: anger and anxiety. You know, and so -- just to caveat, I don't mean anger that always shows up as explosions. You know, it obviously shows up in different ways. But anger and anxiety. So I'd like to know, as we end, basically how can we make anger an ally, especially when we've got that tricky little Scripture that tells us to not sin with our anger. And then finish speaking to the woman who is just, like, desperately -- she's fighting anxiety all the time and she needs to know how to make that anxiety serve her rather than just daily enslave her. So anger first, then anxiety.

Alison Cook: Yeah. And these are two great emotions that are good examples of what you were saying, where we may not always like them, but we do need to form a truce with them because they're real. And especially if they're part of your life, for whatever reason, on a consistent basis, you do need to continue to work out that relationship with those two emotions. So anger -- what I really love about the Scripture that says, "In your anger do not sin," and then, "Do not let the sun go down on your anger," how I like to look at that is not necessarily literally that at the end of every day we need to get rid of all our anger, but that we do put a time limit on it. And so when we are angry, we give ourselves -- we acknowledge that anger, we let anger kind of have its say, and best of all, with God and in this partnership with God that we're creating, where I'm showing up, I'm angry, God, I'm angry, come into my anger. And anger is one of those ones we sometimes let it have its say and then it simmers back down and there's nothing else that needs to happen. Sometimes we let it have its say and we realize, oh, something happened and I need to go advocate for myself. But regardless, we're going to put a time limit on it. We're not going to let that anger just blaze through and create a forest fire. We're going to keep it -- and sometimes when there's a lot of trauma, when there's a lot of history of really hard things, anger will stay a pretty hot ember inside for a long time. And that's okay. So then -- kind of as with your example, we have to go, okay, this is part of my journey, is that I'm tending this ember a lot. And I'm not trying to keep it -- I'm not trying to make it go away, but I'm also not -- I'm trying to not let it become a blaze that just burns through everything. And that's the work that I have to do here. And there are times when that anger flares for good reason and I need to pay attention to that, and there are times when that anger flares and my job is to sit with that pain. Because pain is the other side of anger, with God's help, until it moves through. And the more we learn to do that with gentleness, the quicker it will move through. So it's the work of learning to let it -- you know, and I work with people that have a lot of anger, and they're like, "I don't want to have to sit here with it."

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

Alison Cook: But the more you build trust -- it's like a relationship with anybody, you build trust with it and that anger trusts you -- she's really going to actually hear me out? -- the more quickly it will self-resolve in the context of that compassion.

Jennifer Rothschild: Mmm, wow. This is a good word. I just really sense there are some listeners who are really needing to hear this. This is super helpful. And it's interesting when you talk about putting a time limit on it. Yet you're saying there's some anger that might just live in you for a long time, but you're still attending to it with a sense of boundary and time limit as you come to it on your term and deal with it gently and with compassion, which is beautiful. Alison, I think a lot of us, when we deal with anger, especially when we're believers in Christ, I should not feel that way. I should be over this. Let not the sun go down on my anger, you know, and I have to go to sleep at some point, so you feel like you're constantly in sin. It's a beautiful articulation of that. I appreciate that so much. What would you say to that woman who is feeling like, okay, I'm the one she's talking about who's been carrying the anger for years? How would you tell her, just even when the podcast is over, just to kind of begin that relationship with her anger?

Alison Cook: Could she just start to notice that anger not as an enemy, but as a part of her that's been hurt deeply. Carries some wounds, carries some memories. And is it possible that coming alongside that part of her that carries that anger with gentleness, with curiosity, with God's help might actually help that anger become a burning kind of ember that could be a beautiful quality. We see anger in Jesus. You know, anger becomes an ally when it becomes that part of us, that instead of just lashing out at the people around us willy-nilly, you know, becomes that part of us that sees injustice and says, no, no, no, no. Right? It becomes a real ally. It's a beautiful quality when we really tend it well.

Jennifer Rothschild: Good. So don't shame it. Throw it in the garbage. Just look at it and say, okay, God, you redeem everything --

Alison Cook: -- that's right.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- here comes the redemption for the anger. I love it. Okay. Anxiety that most women deal with, give us a picture of how that can become our ally.

Alison Cook: Yeah, anxiety is one that can just drive us crazy. You know, what's wrong with me? Why can't I just let it go? And so with anxiety, again, it is -- anxiety has more of that scattered energy, you know, it sort of keeps us constantly feeling a little bit chaotic. There's a lot of noise with anxiety. And so it's learning to name it for what it is and how it shows up, learning to say, okay, that's anxiety talking. Right? And so again, you're separating yourself out, I am not my anxiety. And that's the biggest thing. You know, we feel like we're just anxious, a big ball of anxiety. Actually, I'm not my anxiety. And you start to what we call differentiate from it and go, Oh, there's that anxiety. It's a lot, but it's not all of who I am. There are other parts of me. There are parts of me that are calmer. And you start to do the work of noticing. How does anxiety show up in my body? How does it show up in my mind? How does it show up in my prayers? Becoming conscious of it, becoming aware of it is huge with anxiety, because we do feel like it's just all of who we are.

Jennifer Rothschild: It's overwhelming, yeah.

Alison Cook: It's overwhelming. And so we start to differentiate, okay, there's that anxiety. Again, we don't shame ourselves for it. Oh, there it is. We name it. We get curious about it. And then again, we have to start learning. Am I anxious right now because this is what I've learned -- this is my learned response from when I was three years old, you know -- or is there something to be anxious about? It's very similar with anger. Am I anxious right now just because that's what I do, or am I anxious right now because my child just came home from school deeply distraught and I'm scared? So those are two different things. We begin to sort of sift through the noise. But either way, we have to take the time to do that soul work, with God's help, to say, God, I'm anxious, it's real, come help me understand. Is there something that I need to be anxious about or is this just sort of the way I've learned to cope in all situations? And if it's the latter, how can I begin to be gentle with myself? It's a part of me that learned. It's like a young child.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Alison Cook: How can I be gentle with that part of me? It's okay that you're anxious. And again, as we become gentle with ourselves, as we extend that compassion, that anxiety tends to soften.

Jennifer Rothschild: You can make your emotions your ally, my friend. And remember that nothing is more powerful than your God, and he's going to give you all you need to find peace, freedom, and victory when it comes to your overwhelming emotions.

K.C. Wright: I just loved how practical this was, because I need that.

Jennifer Rothschild: Me too.

K.C. Wright: Dr. Alison was amazing. She mentioned some links and the free five-step download in her conversation with Jennifer, and we will have them for you on the show notes right now at Dr. Alison will give you all you need to apply these things in your life right here at, including Alison's book "Boundaries For Your Soul." And, of course -- you know how this works -- we're giving one away. So you know the drill, right? Go to Jennifer's Insta profile and enter to win right there. She's @jennrothschild. that's on Instagram @jennrothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. I'm telling you, my people, I highly recommend Alison's book. In fact, I think you should get it for yourself for Christmas. I do. Make sure you go to the show notes, our people, at, because it's your one place to get connected to all you need. Well, K.C., I think this was another great episode of the 4:13, and it's not just because Dr. Alison was here, it is because you were here, our friends. Thanks for being part of our 4:13 family. We're so grateful for you. Make sure that you have followed or subscribed to the podcast, if you haven't yet. And please, we really appreciate it when you leave a review. So next week, the 4:13 question will be, Can I hope anyway? It's going to be so good, so don't miss it.

K.C. Wright: Well, remember that no matter what you face, no matter how you feel, you can do all things through Christ who gives you supernatural strength. I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: I can.

K.C. Wright: And you can.

Jennifer Rothschild: You sure can.

K.C. Wright: Hey, I was going to say that I've got a lot of ladies in my life, as you know. And I've hung out at many of your Fresh Ground Conferences --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, you have.

K.C. Wright: -- and I will tell you that your book "Me, Myself & Lies, that has made so much of an impact --

Jennifer Rothschild: Hallelujah.

K.C. Wright: -- on so many personal friends of mine. They've recommended that book over and over again. Because like you said, the battlefield is in the mind.

Jennifer Rothschild: It is.

K.C. Wright: And you can't keep the bird from flying over your head, but you can't keep it from building a nest in your hair.

Jennifer Rothschild: Amen.


Go deeper into this week's question in my Bible Study Bistro Facebook group. There's a community of 4:13ers waiting for you!