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5 Things About Emotions I Wish My Parents Had Taught Me

Left on my own, I thought emotions were something to be avoided.

Key points

  • Our parents and society fail to educate us on emotions and how to maintain emotional health.
  • We are not weak for having emotions, they give us vitality.
  • Buried emotions can lead to anxiety and depression.

I was anxious as a kid. To avoid my worries, I focused on schoolwork and after-school jobs. I had no idea my anxiety had meaning and there were things that I could learn about my mind and body that could help me diminish the anxiety in the long term.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel
Source: Hilary Jacobs Hendel

I was almost 40 years old before I received an education in emotions and saw the Change Triangle tool for emotional health as part of my training to become an AEDP psychotherapist, a healing-oriented, emotion-centered method. Now I know that emotions are a part of everyone's daily experience and that they are biological communications that need attention. I wish my parents had received an emotions education so they could have taught me important things to know about emotions when I was a teenager. It would have helped me navigate some of my suffering and insecurity.

5 Things About Emotions I Wish My Parents Had Explicitly Told Me

  1. You’re not weak for having emotions, your brain is working correctly. Emotions are a fact of being human. All people, men, women, and every gender are wired for anger, sadness, fear, disgust, joy, excitement, and sexual excitement. It’s when we are judged, shamed, or abandoned for our core emotions that we start to feel chronically anxious or depressed.
  2. Emotions make us feel alive. Our thoughts are flat. It’s emotions that give oomph and color to our thoughts and life experiences. Emotions are, above all, energetic experiences.
  3. Emotions have strong impulses that are designed by nature to make us move. Emotions make our bodies react quickly to danger and pleasure, for survival advantages. For example, fear propels us to run; anger moves us to fight back to survive an attack. Disgust, with its gag reflex, causes us to expel something poisonous, protecting us from toxic food and (toxic people). Sadness moves us to seek comfort in others. Without excitement, what would propel us to explore new and unknown endeavors? Without sexual excitement, we probably wouldn’t be here. You get the picture.
  4. Society teaches us overtly and with subtle messages to ignore, invalidate, bury, and suppress emotions. And this is not right. When we block emotions and live only up in our head, we are depleted of vital energy that could be used for better living. Anxiety, depression, and other diagnoses, like PTSD and personality disorders, are caused by blocked emotions. Our mind and body use a variety of strategies to suppress emotions that are too much to bear alone. Emotions are often buried so a child or adult can survive abuse and/or neglect. The mind and body figure out any way possible to avoid the internal pain caused by the sensations of blocked emotions in the mind and body. Defenses and symptoms are often the same.
  5. We can learn to validate emotions and think through how best to use them. When I realized fear, sadness, excitement, and joy were hiding underneath my anxiety, it lowered my anxiety considerably. I could deal with the underlying emotions more effectively. For example, if I felt “stepped on” by another person, I could process my anger and use it to assert my wants and needs. I could also process my anger and choose not to do anything else.

The bottom line: there are skills we should all be learning to help us process, not bury emotions. We should demand emotions education for parents, teachers, and all so we can raise healthier generations to come.


Fosha, D. (2000). The Transforming Power of Affect: A Model for Accelerated Change. New York: Basic Books

Hendel, H.J. (2018). It’s Not Always Depression: Working The Change Triangle to Listen to the Body, Discover Core Emotions, and Connect to Your Authentic Self. New York: Random House

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