Four Essential Things to Remember for Emotional Growth

How can we healthfully navigate the more difficult, but less obvious, times of our lives and still keep our families and communities close? I’m learning a few simple things which have helped me in my own time of change. Hopefully they will help you too. These are four essential things to remember for emotional growth that are helping me right now...

My husband and daughters took a short trip to Universal Studios in early spring. The forecast called for summer clothes which we haven’t worn here since November. My girls are older teens and young adults, so really, we’ve ended the outgrowing clothes frenzy at my house, and I didn’t expect there to be an issue with wearing ‘last year’s clothes,’ so I was surprised when we were faced with a wardrobe crisis.

Several years ago my youngest daughter grew literally almost a foot over the summer months. She shot up taller than her mother and both sisters, growing so fast we discarded her wardrobe almost monthly, and I cursed the god of nutrition and hormones.

We all survived the summer and since then, we’ve mostly had to focus only on worn out items rather than too small items. But this winter while none of us were paying close attention, her long, gangly body grew a few curves. She started running which increased muscle. She didn’t add inches or pounds, but she did change. When she put on clothes which fit well last summer, they didn’t feel right. They pinched and rubbed, forcing her to borrow clothes from her siblings, and forcing another shopping trip for a new season when they came home.

This process made me think of all the ways we grow and change, even as adults. Some changes are immediately obvious, moving homes, illness, graduation, birth, death. Just like my daughter growing eight inches in three months, these sorts of changes are easy for everyone around us to recognize, and to reach out in ways which help us adjust to our new circumstances. Often, we don’t even have to ask because our communities can see and meet our needs.

But there are other ways we change which aren’t as obvious. Emotional damage or healing, certain addictions, faith shifts and relationship issues are types of growth or change as surely as the more obvious transitions, but are often much harder for people around us to recognize. Unfortunately, even though they aren’t as obvious, we still need people to treat us gently, to help us on our journey and to show patience during the process.

So what do we do? How can we healthfully navigate the more difficult, but less obvious, times of our lives and still keep our families and communities close? I’m learning a few simple things which have helped me in my own time of change. Hopefully they will help you too.

In the difficult times when the tendency is to retreat, how do stay engaged in the communities we need?Click To Tweet
  1. Be open about what’s happening.

Openness doesn’t always mean sharing every intimate and excruciating detail. It’s perfectly fine to say, “I’m having a hard time right now.” And leave it at that. Friends and family are wonderful, but they aren’t mind readers. Sometimes, you have to tell them what’s happening inside in order to receive their loving support.

  1. Feel what you feel.

We’ve got this strange notion that there are “good” feelings and “bad” feelings. We reward ourselves for feeling right, and heap on the guilt for feeling wrong. But feelings often happen completely outside of our control. What’s more important than judging our feelings is acknowledging them, and taking time to discover the why and how of their origin instead of shutting them down.

  1. Learn how to healthfully express your feelings after you acknowledge them.

While feelings themselves are neither good nor bad, what we do with them can be terribly destructive. When you’re buried under all the feels, it’s best to take some deep breaths and remove yourself from the situation before you react.

You may need to see a therapist, look for a mentor, seek the listening ear of a very safe friend or even read a book specifically geared for your situation to help gain the tools and insight to express feelings appropriately. Be kind to yourself and everyone around you by taking the time to do these things before you act.

  1. Don’t be afraid to detach.

If there is a person, institution or situation which really doesn’t seem to fit anymore, take some time to lovingly detach your mental and emotional energy, and possibly your physical self from the situation. This is not only a healthy response, it is sometimes the only way we can determine if we’ve truly outgrown something, or if we simply need to make adjustments to ourselves or the situation to make it a better fit once again.

Internal growth may be less obvious than external change, but it’s still a complex process and the longer we ignore or avoid it, the more difficult we make things for ourselves. Don’t be afraid to take the steps you need to make your life the best and healthiest fit possible. The results are absolutely worth it!

Dana Portwood
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Dana Portwood

Dana is a writer, book-a-holic, lover of dogs, tattoo addict, wanna be beach bum, hair color-er, a survivor of cancer, over the moon about being 40, and a sold out minimalist. She's madly in love with her husband of twenty years and crazy about (or maybe just crazy) raising three teenage daughters.She believes in the power of Love, the miracle of grace, and the strength of community.
Dana Portwood
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