Thoughts on emotional growth

In my previous blog post I wrote about being with yourself. I don’t know about you, but I remember many moments when I just wanted to run away from myself. Too restless, too painful, too uncomfortable to be with just me. In 2008, my year of ‘awareness’, I started living on my own for the first time. A good friend advised me to buy an apartment and arrange a loan with the bank instead of renting. And there I was, 1st of February 2008, owner of my own place at the age of 24. Luckily I already knew how to manage my bills, but now a new chapter began: learning to take care of myself emotionally.

Going through an emotional rollercoaster

I had become conscious of the trauma of losing my mother just a couple of weeks before, while talking to a therapist for the first time in my life. Being fired from my job back then and living on unemployment benefits, I suddenly got all the time to deal with my emotions. That’s a first thing I encountered as inevitable: if we’re going through an emotionally rough period, we need time. Lots of time. Often, combining an emotional process with a job or running a family is just not possible for a certain period of time. I remember dealing with the grief took all my energy. It was a full time job.

A second thing I learned about going through an emotional rollercoaster, is that it’s necessary to cope with most of our emotions ourselves. Although it’s of great importance to have some support, we have to be able to comfort ourselves and offer ourselves a safe, warm and non-judging space. I learned about this in my therapy. I learned to create a warm and soothing environment for myself. Like lighting candles in my living room, playing soft music and nesting myself in a woollen blanket. I learned to comfort myself when I bursted in tears. By caressing and appeasing me. By telling myself it’s alright. By staying with the pain until the wave has passed. Day after day, week after week and month after month, each time getting a bit more confident in the process.

Even if it’s a difficult and courageous thing to do, I’m convinced it’s worth learning all of this. Why? For two reasons. First, to gain confidence that we are capable to bear our own burden in life. And second, apart from the intense emotional work, the whole process brings us a lot of wisdom, strength and unseen beauty. Emotional rollercoasters shape us, peel layers from our walls of protection (our ego which is too scared to deal with pain) and deepen our connection with ourselves. In other words: facing shame, guilt, grief, anger, fear and pain is tough, but it makes you more ‘you’.

Gathering emotional skills

I remember feeling very insecure in this period. I didn’t recognize myself. Before, I was always cool and cheerful. The old framework of ‘Eve’ didn’t match anymore. Instead, I was exploring a new layer of myself: the emotional one. This made me reflect upon the subject of gathering emotional skills.

We all learn how to read and do math from a young age. But emotional skills are not included in the school’s curriculum. And often we don’t learn them at home either. Not that we should blame our parents. Most of them didn’t get emotional abilities from their parents either. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a teacher on your journey of emotional growth. This can be a personal friend, a school or sports instructor, a mental coach or a therapist. To me a teacher is someone who guides you on your way of emotional growth. Someone who explains you what’s happening and who reassures you that there’s a reason why you’re going through this. It’s someone who will teach you the emotional skills you need to get through the rollercoaster.

It’s not always easy to find the right person to walk (part of) the path with you. But often these persons appear in your life the moment you need them 🙂 Additionally, a positive part about the age we live in, is that our society has advanced so that people have more options to develop emotional awareness and skills. Think about all the mindfulness and yoga courses and increasing attention for self care and mental health. I will get deeper into the pro’s and con’s of this social evolution in another blog post. But for now, let’s stick to the thought that, for those who are (at times) negative about the world’s future (including me :)), we are moving in the right direction!

Differences in emotional growth

There’s no point in forcing people into emotional growth. Everyone follows their own, unique rhythm in life, and everyone has their own challenges to face. It’s very important to be aware of these differences in emotional growth. Because often we are disappointed when we don’t feel understood by others. Maybe you remember a moment when you shared your emotions with someone, but it felt like you were talking another language.

Going through several mourning periods, I felt that many times. Spending days and hours in silence, tired from the grief and without energy, I often felt too empty to answer a message or explain what I needed. My life was standing still, but that of others just went on. It was unfortunate to notice that not many people knew how to react, but when I look back on it, I don’t blame anyone. I now see it in the framework of differences in emotional growth. It’s not easy to be confronted with someone’s (intense) emotions, especially if you haven’t experienced a similar situation yourself.  

It’s inevitable that differences in emotional growth change our relationships. We often expect our friends and family to always understand how we feel. And often they did for many years. But then life brought a challenge on someone’s path, and this person changed. Their development of emotional awareness progressed them to a different spectrum. Sometimes this brings us closer to each other and deepens our connection. But often our roads separate. And that’s painful, because we want a friendship or relation to last forever. Locked in a box, secure and unapproachable for change. But that’s where we got it wrong. None of us stays the same. We are subject to change every day, and so are our loved ones. Letting go is one of the toughest things to do. But at the same time we learn to stay true to ourselves and open the road for new encounters.

Grateful for everything that happened in my life

I have come to a point where I feel grateful for everything that happened in my life. Including having lost my loved ones, being fired and having lived by myself for many years. Because now I know that every situation was unavoidable for my emotional growth.

Every time, there was a lesson to learn. I’ve cursed the universe several times for all the suffering, but I wouldn’t be who I am today without these experiences. And I’ve changed. I’ve become a highly sensitive person, I need more silence than before, I can’t be social all the time, I spend more time in nature and I prefer simple things like reading a book or having a good conversation over big parties. I’m not cheerful all the time and I only do what I feel like doing (well, I try to :)).

I’ve taken off the cool and ever-smiling mask, which for some was the person they wanted me to be. I’ve split with people I loved. But I gained a lot of inner peace and freedom, a lot more of ‘Eve’, and a few soulmates with whom I can be myself with completely. This said, my path is never finished. For me there are no certainties either 🙂 So I continue changing and exploring every day. Sometimes frightened, sometimes full of surrender to life. I hope we can share this journey more and more with each other.

Next blog I’ll be writing about my solo travelling experiences, another thing I started doing in that year of awareness :). Like a butterfly breaking out of her cocoon, I discovered that, if I could be with myself anytime in my new place, I could be with myself anywhere in the world too! I wish you all a gorgeous day full of big dreams.