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How Understanding My Emotions Changed My Life

Growing up in an era being told 'I will give you something to cry about' led me to believe that I was abnormal, that having emotions was a bad thing!

I will never forget the day nor the exact moment that understanding my emotions changed my life forever. The day that would not only change my life, but my children’s, my brothers, my dad’s, future members of my family and family members who’d not even been born yet.

It was June 2003, and I was sitting in a small conference room in Johannesburg with 4 other people. I was attending South Africa’s first ever EQ Train the Trainer course, a course being run by two doctors / authors who had written a workbook on Emotional Intelligence (EQ). I had contacted them months before begging them to teach me everything they knew, but they were not interested. They kept saying no and I kept asking. I persisted and persevered and they finally agreed.

We were a few hours into the first day of the course and the pivotal moment was about to happen. One of the course leaders said, ‘all of those feelings and emotions you have are completely normal and acceptable, every single one of them’. My mouth fell open, I was aghast. I struggled to process what had just been said. ‘My feelings are normal, I asked, all of them? The anger, sadness, frustration, loneliness, anxiety? Normal? ‘Yes she said, all of them’ but, but.. I uttered. She could see that I was finding it hard to digest what had just been said. She continued, ‘just because you, or someone else, did not understand your emotions does not make them wrong, all emotions are ok, they are the most normal thing you have.’ I had hardly processed what I had just heard for the first time in my life, when I heard her say. ‘Somebody else’s bad behaviour is not your fault.’

There was obviously a lot of other things said in-between and afterwards, but those few lines have been forever etched in my mind. Driving to my friend's place where I was staying for the duration of the course, I just couldn’t stop crying. Having given myself permission to feel the rage, the relief and everything else in between was like opening the floodgates to all my emotions of the past and they kept pouring out. The tears would not stop flowing. Eventually later that night with a very stuffy nose and puffy red eyes, I fell asleep exhausted.

Up until that day I had always felt abnormal, like there was something fundamentally wrong with me. If someone else wasn’t blaming me for their bad behaviour, then I was blaming myself. When my dad got angry and I was given a hiding for speaking back, it was my fault. When a teacher picked on me at school, I was to blame, when the children at school called me names or were mean to me, I thought it was because I was too different, that I was unacceptable the way I was. When a family friend, and a family member molested me, in my mind I believed that somehow, I had caused it, after all ‘adults knew best’. When my ex-husband bashed my head against a wall repeatedly and when my older brother tried to kill me three times, I thought it was because I was not loveable. I never felt like I was enough for anyone or anything. Being unable to express my feelings over the years because I never knew how and because I feared being punished for it made me feel even more abnormal. Not only did it make me feel abnormal, but it made my body chronically ill, and it gave me chronic depression.

That day in 2003, at the age of 35 I felt like I had literally been reborn. Up until then I never had a clue who I was nor what life was about or how to live it. My life had been one of survival, always reacting instead of responding.

I left that course a new person on my way to starting a new journey. I felt like a child, excited about what I was going to discover about life. I felt hope knowing that my future was going to be very different to the way my past had been. For the first time, I felt in control of my life and of my destiny. I no longer felt like a victim of circumstance or of life. I felt empowered and in charge of myself and my life. I couldn’t wait to get home to share my new-found knowledge with my children, my family, and my friends.

I started to get to know who I was, what made me tick, what I was made of; what I liked and what I didn’t like. Why I had emotions and why people behaved the way they did.

A flame inside me had been ignited and I became hungry for knowledge. I went on to devour every book and attend every course I could find that was relevant to what makes us human, psychology, behaviour, the mind, personalities, temperaments, brain profiles, the functions of the brain, psychometrics, NLP, neuroplasticity, love languages, spirituality, and human energy.

Today my life is vastly different to what it was back then. I am happy. Not only did I fall in love with life, but I fell in love with me. I now have passion and purpose. I have health, peace of mind, and a wonderful, kind, loving, generous, supportive husband who is also my best friend. I have fun, a close network of friends who I play with, laugh with, cry with. A business that I am super proud of. Most of all, I have the most incredibly connected wonderful relationships with my family, all of them. My dad, my brothers, my children, my grandchildren, my stepchildren, my stepmom, my nieces and nephews, cousins, all my in-laws and everyone else that makes up our big beautiful, blended family. We love, adore, and respect each other. The best bit about our family is that we like each other, we are friends, we love seeing each other and spending time together.

Little did I know at the time that when I started my journey that I would find the keys to unlocking everything I was searching for and that my emotions would be the guide to help me to find it. Developing my Emotional Intelligence has not only changed my life, but everyone else’s who was, and is, in my life.

Has this been an easy journey, definitely not! A lot of forgiveness, acceptance, letting go of, developing understanding and a ton of conversations had to take place before I could have the incredible relationships I enjoy today. Has all the work been worth it, yes 1 million times yes! There is NOTHING better in the world than having great relationships. Relationships are what make life worth living otherwise you may as well just be a lonely goldfish in a goldfish bowl. And having intimate deep connected relationships is what puts the cream and the cherries on top.

Does this mean I no longer feel the yukky feelings? Of course not. Life is full of ups and downs and having and feeling emotion is part of what makes us human. But, I no longer feel all the bad stuff all the time, my state is no longer one of sadness, fear and anxiety. I feel sad when someone dies or when I’m missing a loved one, I feel anxious when something bad could potentially happen to someone I care about, or I feel fear every time I step on an aeroplane. The difference is that I experience these emotions from time to time, but I am not my emotions. No longer do my emotions hold me back from living my life my way and on my terms. And since I have let go of so many of the perpetual uncomfortable emotions, I have made so much more room to enjoy the lovely fuzzy wonderful warm feelings.

Deb x

Lover of life, emotions and all things travel :-)