As I cracked open Jennie Allen’s Untangle Your Emotions, I was hopeful for some guidance in navigating through the chaotic, knotted-up ball that describes our feelings. Overall, her book offers some great, general advice. Feel your feelings before you attempt to simply fix your feelings. We were created to feel, and so our feelings can be gifts from God Himself. Her acknowledgment that we are all feelers was also deeply appreciated. (I always cringe when someone says they’re not emotional. No, we all have emotions even if we’re not all expressive in the same ways.) Her attempt to remind the Church that emotions in and of themselves need not be sin—it is what we do with our emotions that can lead to sin—is a poignant truth we need to acknowledge. It cannot suffice to simply tell someone, “Well, you shouldn’t feel that way,” and leave it at that. At best, it’s unhelpful, and at worst, it’s even more harmful. Particularly helpful was the second section of her book where she framed an approach to notice, name, feel, share, and choose our emotions as a method to untangle them. I found the chapter The Vocabulary of Emotion (naming your emotions) especially helpful, as she named the big four emotions and their secondary counterparts.
That said, I concluded Allen’s book wanting. For starters, while she does dip into the emotion of joy/happiness, like so many other books on our feelings, there was an overwhelming emphasis on the, for lack of a better term, negative emotions. I wholeheartedly agree: it’s okay to not be okay. Let’s be careful to not overcorrect and allow the pendulum to swing too far either: it’s okay to be okay. It’s okay to have joy and happiness and peace and comfort. As I said, she dips into this topic, but I would like more on it from a book that attempts to untangle all our emotions and not just the difficult ones. Furthermore, this was my first book by Jennie Allen, and while I know her conversational tone is her signature, it was almost a bit too much for me. A bit too informal of a writing style, and it wore on me by the end of the book. There was a lot of build up throughout the chapters with what I felt to be little delivery. Yes, Allen’s advice is good and true, but it also wasn’t anything new or all too profound. One chapter suggests exercising more, sleeping more, reducing screen time, and drinking more water. All of this is great advice, and yet also a bit elementary. Lastly, I would have loved some more Scriptural application. We got a lot of information from what her therapist has to say (which is great, by the way), but not as much about what God has to say. Since God is the one who created our emotions, I wish Allen shared more about how God would have us navigate through those emotions in a God-honoring way.
In the end, I’d give this book a 3/5 stars as it gives some good truths but ultimately falls a little flat.
I’m grateful to NetGalley and WaterBrook & Multnomah for the advanced readers copy in return for my honest review.