Emotional nutrient – an important yet neglected nutrient in our childhood
What exactly is emotional nutrient? I talked about this concept in my previous article, so let's dive deeper on this topic today.
In this day and age, everyone understands the importance of food nutrients. We understand that a kid needs nutritional food to grow up healthy and strong, but we are not so familiar with the concept of emotional nutrients. Our society requires a grown-up to behave like a grown-up. We are expected to be rational, mature and definitely not emotional. But how many of us realise that our wounded inner child couldn’t grow up with us over the years, as they weren’t given the emotional nutrients they need to grow up healthy in this area (ie. handling emotions)? Let’s not forget that our childhood experiences, especially those before 7 years of age lay the foundation in our subconscious (and our brain's neural pathways) and therefore, have a huge impact on how we think, feel and behave today in our adulthood.
A lot of us are under the impression that time can heal, or we may forget about our past, but science has already proven that childhood trauma can adversely impact a child’s brain development, resulting in negative effects such as impaired emotional regulation, cognitive delays, difficulty with attention and focus, etc. In other words, when we neglect our childhood trauma without taking corrective actions, they will continue to have a negative impact on our emotions, thinking pattern and our ability to respond to stressors and challenges in life. You can think of it as a wounded child who is still very much active and alive within you. Since he or she hasn’t been taught another way of being, they will continue to act the way they know how, based on the coping mechanism they developed while they're young. Hints: these coping mechanisms are probably outdated now and are hindering your growth and progress in your adulthood.
So what exactly are emotional nutrients? How can we nurture and support our inner child, so they grow into someone positive, resilient and emotionally stable? To do that, we need to first understand what are emotions. Emotion, or E-motion, is simply energy in motion. It is constantly flowing (if you don’t resist or suppress it), and will leave when it serves its purpose. Harvard neuroscientist Dr Jill Bolte Taylor explained that every emotion won’t last more than 90 seconds:
“When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there's a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body,” she says, “After that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.”
“After that, if you continue to feel fear, anger, and so on, you need to look at the thoughts that you’re thinking that are re-stimulating the circuitry that is resulting in you having this physiological reaction, over and over again.”
Isn’t that great news? Every emotion don’t last more than 90 seconds! I am not sure about you but I was thrilled when I first learned about this – suddenly emotions become so manageable! So how do we stop ourselves from engaging in thinking that re-stimulates the circuitry (and therefore prolong our emotions)? Mindfulness is the antidote. Don’t judge nor resist your emotion, simply choose to observe them in the present moment – how does this emotion make you feel? Approach them with curiosity. I’ve tried it myself and loved the experience, so please share your experience in the comments below so I know how it went for you :)
In a world that values logic and left-brain thinking, we tend to dismiss emotions as negative, but are they really that bad? Can you imagine a world with no emotions? No sadness, no joy…all that’s left is emotionless, robotic operations…So today, I would like to propose a different perspective: Emotion is our friend, not enemy. When we understand the purpose of emotions, and learn how to manage them, they can add so much to our lives. It is only because we’ve experienced sadness, that we can truly understand how happiness feels like.
So if you are now raising your kids, what can you do to make sure they receive sufficient emotional nutrients growing up? First of all, let them know that emotions are not scary, nor “bad”, so don’t judge, resist or suppress them. Comments such as “Boys don’t cry”, “Don’t get angry over small stuff like these”, “Why are you scared? There’s nothing to be afraid of” can make children feel like their emotions are not right or not acceptable. Over time, they can learn to suppress or avoid their emotions. So my suggestion is to work through the emotions with your kids – it will only take you 90 seconds. Kids, innocent and pure as they are, don’t usually engage in negative thinking loop like adults, so 90 seconds is all it takes. You can explore the origin of emotions with them, ask them to feel their emotions in their body, and allow them to leave when they are ready. The key is not to judge or resist. Given a few practice, your kids will realise that emotions are nothing to be afraid of, thereby developing the skills of emotional management. Remember, parents' attitude on emotions will have a huge impact on the way their kids perceive and experience emotions.
If you didn’t get enough emotional nutrients while you’re young, don’t worry. Since you are a grown-up now, you now have the ability to nurture and re-educate your inner child. You may even be able to teach your parents how to handle their emotions once you master yours. Our parents always treat us the best way they know how. If there is any shortcoming, it’s usually because they don’t know a better way of being. Information about emotional management and personal growth isn’t that popular in the past, so it’s likely that a lot of our parents and grown-ups are still being trapped by their own emotions and unbeknownst to them, their wounded inner child.
So when you feel emotional next time, I invite you to pause and remind yourself…
- That this is your inner child crying out for your attention. He or she is just trying to protect you, using the best way they know how. If you won’t yell at a 5-year-old, please don’t do that to yourself and your inner child.
- Don’t judge or resist the emotions, simply observe them. How do they make you feel in your body? Feel them flowing through you and allow them to leave once they serve their purpose (won’t last more than 90 seconds).
- Seek to understand the origin of these emotions. What is your inner child trying to tell you? What does he or she need? Then remind yourself, since you are a grown-up now with full freedom and power, you have the ability to satisfy your inner child.
Treat yourself like how you treat your loved ones, your kids, your best friends. You already possess the ability to heal yourself, so turn inward and listen.
Of course, there are plenty of help and support out there available for you. Treatments like hypnotherapy and childhood regression can help you in speeding up your healing process, so if you are interested in knowing whether I can assist you, contact me here.
May you find peace and fulfillment on your journey of healing, and continue to shine bright like the star you are born to be.