Learning about our emotional landscape is a lifelong process. Defined as “a conscious mental reaction subjectively experienced as a strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body” (Emotion, n.d.), Emotions can wreak havoc on our mental, physical, and even spiritual development. While emotions exist on an a-priori basis (presupposed by human experience), have a basis within our genetic make-up, influence how we feel, behave, act, and react, (Pezawas, Santos, Myer-Lindeberg, 2013), and are intimately tied to our psychological, physical, and spiritual development, the raw effects these torrential undercurrents produce within children oftentimes become the source of many well intentioned parents own emotional distress. How then can we as parents navigate our own emotions, while working with our children to discover, use, and benefit from the very emotions that have become the source of our own emotional turmoil?
Because we have lived with emotions from the very first moments of life, we tend to take them for granted. At a physiological level, emotions are energy frequencies that course through our DNA. They open us to feeling, and act as storehouses of energy that prompts perception and subsequent action. At the psychological level, emotions are categorical experiences that set the stage for paradoxical awareness, translating external cues into internal reactions, thus creating our perceptual reality. The link that exists between our inner and outer realities, physiological and psychological experiences, creates the reality in which we live, and fosters the reality that we seek to create. While we may be made of past experiences that affect our current state of mind, it is from the future that we can begin to move back to the present, and set the tone for the experiences we must have in the here and now in order to create that future we wish to attain. It is from this point of reference that we as parents can begin to have a profound effect on our children’s development by teaching effective coping skills to handle both good and bad emotions.
Emotions can be experienced from two separate, but equally influential perspectives. At their foundation, emotions are based on Love and Fear. All other emotions branch from these foundational emotions. Emotions such as anger, hate, jealousy, greed, vanity, self-loathing, addictions, sadness, manipulation, control, judgment, and prejudices vibrate at the frequency of fear. These emotions vibrate at long and drawn out wavelengths, and tend to take time and effort to overcome (Searle, 2012). Emotions that vibrate on the frequency of love are compassion, happiness, self-love, kindness, supportive, unconditional love, balance, integrity, calmness, politeness, and a mindset that is open to inquisitiveness and learning. These emotions operate a high frequency levels, have rapid and short wavelengths, and excite the nervous system to repeat the action that caused them until satiation has been attained. While they may be short lived, we nevertheless strive to replicate these good emotions as a way to develop healthy and positive feelings about our emerging self. It is from this basis, that we can begin to work with our children, to learn effective ways to decrease the time interval it takes to navigate the fear spectrum while developing new ways to increase the time intervals they spend in the wavelength of loving emotions in order to optimize their psychological, physiological, and spiritual development.
Our emotional landscape exists at the genetic level. After birth, the love and fear paradox is initially experienced as comfort and discomfort. As any parent who has survived the grueling marathon of raising an infant knows, babies are very adapt at using these rudimentary emotions to have their immediate needs satisfied. For infants, the emotional landscape is simple: are they satiated and comfortable or is something bringing them discomfort. What is comforting to the infant brings the rapid, love based wavelengths, and after satiated to a point of being content, they either fall back asleep or carry on with their primary task to explore and to develop the strength needed to expand upon their physical environment. When complete, their world will grow, which in turn will allow their emotional environment to grow in comparison.
As a toddler, we are faced with the primary task of learning self-mastery of the body we inherited from our parents. At the frequency of love, we begin to learn independence and autonomy from those we once relied upon to comfort us during those times of discomfort. The frequency of love opens the toddler to new experiences that his feet can now take him to. For a toddler, the world is a place to explore, is perfect as it is, and the experiences gained from this open inquisitiveness drive the developmental curve to help them master their inner and outer environment. Through gentle inquiry and exploration, the toddler’s environment expands, bring forward new emotional experiences, exposing them to new stimuli to learn, grow, and develop. While the positive frequency of love fosters good developmental outcomes, toddlers emotions also are highly attuned to the fear based frequency as well.
When fear manifests in the toddler, shame can secondarily arise as a child strives to learn ways to become more functionally independent from their parents. As a child learns to navigate the basic environments they are exposed to, the initial trusting bond formed between the child and their parents act as a guiding post to the ways in which the child and ultimately the adult will handle the complex tasks associated with becoming a functionally autonomous being. For toddlers, their immediate caretakers act within the role of a gatekeeper, watching their every move, keeping them safe and within bounds that must be upheld to assure their continued survival. It is not uncommon to see a toddler venture out from their parents, more times than not extending the boundaries of even the parent’s comfort zone. It is from this perspective that individual autonomy through trial and error about what is safe and what is not arises. If fear manifests, a toddler learns to distrust not only their external environment, but also their individual capacity to effectively problem solve ways to handle new and emerging life stressors. At this level, parents can help optimize their children’s development by allowing their child to be exposed to new environments, which will foster individual autonomy by teaching ways to handle dangers and stresses associated with life, yet remain vigilant and in control of the environment that the toddler is ultimately exposed.
As toddler years give way to childhood proper, you and your children will be forced to change gears as your child’s ever increasing appetite to learn and master their world leads them to seek new and exciting emotional stimuli. In Childhood and Society, psychoanalyst Erik Erikson (1963), shows that our lifelong developmental journey is wrought with psychosocial stressors, the present psychological paradoxes that drive the inner dynamics of development. During childhood proper, Erikson brought attention to the ideal that children will learn their social industry or face ever growing failures that can lead to inferiority complexes. While early childhood development centers on developing initial trusting bonds with one’s parents and using those relationships of trust to master tasks of individual autonomy and body mastery, middle childhood development centers on learning increasingly complex tasks associated with the social industry, family values, and societal expectations of the environment the child grows within. This stage, commonly beginning around the age of 5, and lasting until the developmental crisis of adolescence begins, exposes children to social and familial rules, categorical differences, similarities, and expectations within the family and society at large, and sets the stage for the child’s eventual work ethics. It is here that parental and social expectations can diverge, and children must begin to learn effective ways to utilize self-mastery skills to amplify, not sink within the skill sets they are expected to have in order to assure successful transition to adult life.
Children are avid learners. Whether through a formalized educational experience, or simply through exploring and interacting with their environment, children learn life lessons through their interactions with the environment and others. A child’s mind is pliable, and exposure to new experience is the most effective teaching method impart the social industry and societal expectations they will be expected to uphold. However, books and formalized education are not the only method by which children learn, even though formal schooling will make up the majority of their educational experience. Instead, some children are more apt to learn from hands on experience. Still others may exhibit more technical skills that require hands on experiences a book cannot provide. Still others may suffer from an array of cognitive, genetic, or emotional conflicts that can stand in the way of their effective learning patterns. When these scenarios arise, it is imperative for us as parents to intervene and find the tasks that our children are good at, for there it is in learning the social industry of the environment they inhabit that promotes a healthy sense of self-esteem.
From a fear based wavelength, inferiority complexes can arise within the child who must learn increasingly complex tasks that will be expected of them during adult life. Take education for example. Not every child is built for academic success. However, every child is required to be educated. However, as shown above, what method of education will best suite a child to assure their individualized success. When discrepancies exist between a child’s strengths and weaknesses, social expectations and parental aspirations, we, as a society must assume a perspective that not only assumes social normative rates, but also works to amplify the child’s inner strengths with areas that promote an individual sense of self-esteem. It is from this perspective that formal educational expectations sorely miss the mark. However, therapy and exposure to new experiences can increase the child’s self esteem, and foster new learning experiences that can promote social industry from a method that works with and amplifies the child’s inner strengths. Self-esteem arises from learning about things one is good at doing, which, in turn forms the foundation of self-love, stands as the catalyst for healthy ego development, and ultimately will be the story line of success that allows a child into successful navigate adolescent and adult development. While fear can lead to problems with inferiority, it can be minimized by exposing the child to and experimenting with things that may or may not catch the child’s interest, exposing them to things that they may or may not be good at, and replicating those positive experiences as a means to prompt health ego-development.
Emotions are a cornerstone of our lifelong developmental process to realize Self, or the image of the person we strive to become. While fear and love stand as two primary emotions that drive the journey of emotional education forward, a host of other emotions exist that operate on similar wavelengths that once known and experienced, can lead to healthy emotional integration. While presented as a polarized concept, it is imperative to know that these emotions are neutral and cannot exist without the other. Self-love cannot exist without fear. We fear that which we will one day face the loss of. Secondarily, once we take the chance to love another, the fear of loss naturally arises. Fear and love are neither positive or negative, for both are needed to teach the basis from which self-esteem, self-love, and healthy ego development takes place. Without fear, we would not be alive long enough to know the true joy that loving feelings bring forward, ad without love, would life be worth the efforts we have to undertake just to assure personal survival. They co-exist, and form the basis from which we strive to realize our full potential.
As parents, it is our responsibility to assure a safe environment that fosters our children’s learning, independence, and love. From a loving environment, children can learn effective ways to traverse their physical environment, while developing effective ways to learn from, handle, and utilize their emotions to assure future success.
Pezawas, L., Santos, A., & Meyer-Lindenberg, A. (2013-12-16). Genetics and emotion. Oxford Handbooks Online. Retrieved 19 Mar. 2017, from http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199988709.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199988709-e-013.