Why Feel Bad? A Theory of Affect (emotions) and the Relationship to Pentecostal Spirituality

Bruce Stevens

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Christian counselling is a practice largely in search of a theory. There is no one theoretical approach universally accepted, and while this is perhaps inevitable in our 'market place of ideas', it also reflects a lack of willingness to do the hard work of theory building. In this paper I will propose a theory of affect drawing on the psychoanalytic tradition and developmental research. Psychoanalysis provides a very sophisticated theory of personality which has been increasingly both challenged and confirmed by empirical research. Hopefully this will illustrate the size of the task before us. I also want to raise some issues about the way emotions are understood in some Pentecostal churches. If preaching is anything to go by, there is a lack of acceptance of negative emotions. Perhaps it is considered bad PR to acknowledge that Christians might suffer. In a previous generation this was expressed more theologically, with an impatience to get to the 'Victory in Christ' (a misreading of 1Cor15:57). If we understand why we experience emotions, both positive and negative, then it will be more clearly seen that 'positive thinking' or 'simple faith' will not work in this realm. There is a structure of what it means to be human, this is the 'hard ware' designed by God which naturally limits any 'soft ware' applications!
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-98
Number of pages18
JournalAustralasian Pentecostal Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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