Emotional Childhood is when we make other people or circumstances responsible for how we feel. It’s when we fail to take responsibility for our emotions by blaming them on things outside of us, on things outside of our control. Why is this a problem? Because when you assign responsibility for your emotions to things outside of your control, you are living at the effect of the world/people around you, and you aren’t taking accountability for the life that you’re creating, whether you want to recognize it or not. This leaves you unnecessarily disempowered in a place where you’re constantly trying to control everything & everyone around you in a futile attempt to regulate your own experience in life. This will never work, and will lead to anger, resentment, helplessness, and a life not fully lived.
There are so many things in life that we want to control because of the way we feel about them(notice I did not say “because of the way they make us feel“). A grumpy boss. A husband who forgot your birthday—again. A son’s broken leg. Weather that’s too cold. Weather that’s too hot. Slow drivers. A bad hair day. A bank account balance that is lower than you might like it to be. The fires in Australia. People who litter.
Circumstances can’t and don’t control our emotions. Other people can’t control our emotions. The things other people say to us, the way other people treat us, the decisions other people make DO NOT control our emotions. What does control our emotions? Our thoughts. This is why two people can go through similar or identical experiences and be affected in completely different ways. Two children who experienced the same type of abuse. Two people who were in the same accident. Two people who had the same addiction. Two people who were raped. Two people who were victim of the same financial scam. Two people who both built businesses that went bankrupt. Two people who were cheated on. Two people who lost a child. Two people who got fired. Two people who received the same diagnosis. Two people who made the same irreversible mistake.
Some people go through these experiences and come out scared, angry, resentful, hateful, hopeless, in denial, and never move beyond these emotions. Some people go through these experiences and grow, connect more deeply with themselves and others, and even develop not only acceptance but gratitude for what happened to them.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to stop reading, or you’ll want to send me an angry message telling me what bullshit this is, or you’ll want to throw a plate at the wall in frustration. Just take a little walk with me through this blog post. Try on this concept, just for as long as it takes you to get through the post, and see where it takes you.
I used to think that anger was the only emotion available to me in so many scenarios. I really felt trapped because I didn’t know how to not be so angry all of the time and I didn’t even know that there was another option available to me—all I knew was that I felt terrible, and I thought it was because of circumstances that I couldn’t control. In reality, it was because of how I was THINKING about those circumstances. I was feeling unwanted emotions way longer than was healthy because I was unaware of the thoughts I was thinking that caused those emotions.
Once I was introduced to the concept that my thoughts—not outside circumstances—created my emotions, I began to examine the thoughts I was thinking that were creating those unwanted emotions. Instead of trying to escape my emotions or distract away from them, I really felt them and heard what they had to say. From there, I was able to question the thoughts that created them, and make conscious decisions about what thoughts I wanted to cultivate instead, if any. Simply opening that door brought a huge wave of relief to me after feeling trapped in my GLASS CASE OF EMOTION for so long. Shout out to Ron Burgundy. Just open the door, dude.
This doesn’t mean that when some things happen that we don’t want to feel emotions that are typically categorized as negative like anger, grief, sadness, jealousy, etc. We always want to feel whatever emotions come up for us, give them the space they need to be felt and heard (in our body and in our minds with our thoughts). Otherwise, we will continue to be affected by these emotions without awareness, likely blaming them on other people or things outside of us when we could simply own the emotion, feel it, process it, release it, and be ready to welcome it back when it needs to be felt again.
Taking full responsibility for our thoughts and the emotions they create is not easy. It’s quite painful, it’s frustrating, and it’s disorienting if we’ve gone our whole lives believing that other people and circumstances controlled our emotions. In this post I wanted to emphasize to you that despite the difficulty of this shift in perspective, it is more than worth it because in doing this work you take your life back. You take back power that was never truly situated outside of yourself, you just thought it was. You accept the responsibility of taking care of yourself in mind and body. You accept responsibility for your decisions and your actions and therefore the results in your life that you create. You accept responsibility for the way you act, think, and feel during situations where you are not in control of things around you. You accept responsibility for taking care of yourself emotionally, which means you ALLOW YOURSELF TO FEEL whatever emotions you need to feel without shaming or judging yourself. All of this leads to a deeper, more connected relationship with yourself that enables you to live a more fulfilling life. All of this is possible when you step into emotional adulthood.