Most young children have no difficulty expressing what they feel at any given moment.
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When they are happy, they skip, dance, run and scream in joy!
When they are sad, they cry and cry and cry till there are no more tears left to shed.
When they are upset, frustrated or want your attention, they throw tantrums.
They are very frank in their expression of different emotions. However, not all children retain this ability to express their emotions. As they move closer to adulthood, many of them lose this ability.
Why is that so?
Remember an instance from your childhood when you were really troubled by something.
Maybe you fell sick and could not go to a friend's birthday party. How did you feel? Probably disappointed?
Maybe your younger sister got away with some mischief on grounds of being young while you were reprimanded for the same? How did you feel? Angry?
Maybe you were told by your teacher that you are dumb and you felt sad and cried about the same. How did it feel?
Under such circumstances, maybe you were frank enough to express all that you felt- in your own way. But you were not understood. You were also ridiculed for feeling in certain ways.
Maybe you were told, "Only bad children feel this way? Are you good or bad?" And then you suppressed your emotions for fear of being labelled bad.
Or maybe you were told, " Only babies feel this way. Are you a baby or a big boy/girl?" And then you suppressed your emotions for fear of being labelled a 'baby'.
So, now you see how most of us lose our ability to express our emotions.
We were always afraid of expressing our emotions for that would make us seem inadequate. In order to be accepted by people and look 'GOOD' in their eyes, we learnt to put on a mask. And as an adult, it is so difficult to remove this mask and throw it away for good- unless one makes a conscious effort over a period of time.
As children many of us were not guided on how to express our emotions in a healthy manner and that made us throw tantrums and behave in unacceptable ways at times.
Think about it. Is there anything wrong with expressing what we feel? We are human beings after all and that means it is perfectly normal for us to have emotions. Expressing our emotions does not mean throwing tantrums or behaving in unacceptable ways. Children do the same because most of them are not taught how to express emotions in a healthy manner. They were born with the ability to express emotions naturally but lost it somewhere along the way.
And this is the case with most of us today.
Can we regain this ability?
Can we express our emotions without feeling bad about it?
Can we be like children-natural and spontaneous in our expression of emotions?
Yes, we can. It takes a bit of conscious effort and practice. But it is certainly possible.
Observe children! See how they express. Learn from them.
We don't have to throw child-like tantrums but we can certainly learn to express emotions as spontaneously as children do!
Observe a young child involved in different activities- such as playing with friends, dancing, talking, playing in the sand, or just walking up and down. Observe to what level the child is involved in the activity.
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Let us take one example of a child busy playing with friends, As the child plays, do you think he is worried about his upcoming lunch or about whether he is going to be successful in life once he grows up? Is he sulking about the friend who hurt him one year ago or worrying about what the teacher thought of him when he did not know a spelling?
The answer to all of these is a big fat NO!
Most children have no problem living completely in the present moment. They have no difficulty immersing themselves in the present, with no regrets about the past or worries about the future. When they feel an emotion, they are equally at ease expressing what they feel at that very instant. Very rarely do they carry the burdens of each day on to the next.
It is almost like they come alive with fresh energy each day and live their life all over again. It is like they are given a blank slate to write the story of their life anew every single day.
Now compare this to the state most of us adults live in. As we wake up, we are worried about whether we will make it to work on time. At work, we think about how the child is doing at school or what we need to cook for dinner that night, After work, we are tense about the next day's meeting or about whether the boss would criticise our project report. Once home. we worry about the fact that the child did not eat his lunch and how he is ever going to be healthy if he does not eat.To top it all, we also tend to think of all the people who hurt us in the past and the possibilities of being hurt again in the future. We tend to live in the past or the future most if the time. And usually, it is some kind of a worry or an anxiety that consumes us. .
What would happen if we could make a conscious effort to catch ourselves when we are drifting into the past or the future and gently bring ourselves back to the present moment? What if we could just live in the moment and live it fully?
Life would feel fresh and vibrant to us too. Just as it does to young children.
Living in the moment does not mean not learning from a past experience nor does it mean not planning for the future. Those are practical aspects of life that must be dealt with on an ongoing basis. It only means keeping our mind in the present, thinking of what needs to be done today and doing that, enjoying what is on our plate at the moment and feeling gratitude for the same. This shift in attitude would make our lives more joyful and meaningful. All we ever have to think about is only what this moment presents. And then we begin to enjoy life so much more just as children do!
Think about it. No matter how much you reflect on the past and all its glories or problems, it is never going to come back. And the future? Well, we are not there yet. And there is no way to know for sure about how life will turn out to be in the future. No amount of worrying is going to change a thing. So, it makes more sense to be optimistic about the future and think about it only when really necessary for practical purposes.
What about this moment? Do you have this moment? Are you alive? If you are reading this, you most certainly are! So, seize the moment and make the most of it! The past is gone forever. The future will take care of itself. Drop all worries and anxieties and live this minute.
Children are full of energy and enthusiasm. They seem to have this energy naturally. They retain it almost effortlessly up to a certain age, depending on each individual child. Once the same child grows up and becomes an adult, what happens to his energy? His enthusiasm for life? Where is the skip in his walk? The glitter in his eye? The zest for life? The appreciation for the small blessings of life? The patience to stare at a butterfly for extended lengths of time? Or play in the sand without ever feeling tired?
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As adults, many of us lose that energy and enthusiasm for life that came to us so naturally when we were children. We almost drag ourselves around, taking life a tad too seriously. We feel we have important work to do and there is no time to play around as children do.
As adults, we also develop a serious view that sees a child's life as just that- a child's life. We make a huge distinction between the world of adults and the world of children. We sincerely believe that the life of a child is not meant for an adult who has grown up and has more important things to accomplish than stop to stare at a fluttering butterfly with colourful wings.
However, if you analyse carefully, you will begin to see that the natural qualities of children would be very helpful to us as adults. That is, if only we could posses them. If only we are willing to acquire all over again what came naturally to us as children. They can help us deal with life more effectively. They can ease many of the burdens we carry. They can help us live one day at a time and make the most of our experiences. They can bless us with a renewed sense of appreciation for the world we live in and everything beyond. They can help us establish a connection with our own selves and rediscover ourselves. When we are able to see the world through the eyes of a child, our lives become more meaningful.We feel a sense of joy and wonder. We develop more enthusiasm. We learn to love unconditionally.And the list can go and on...
Here, I present a new series, "LIFE LESSONS to Learn from Children". This series will explore the various positive qualities that are naturally present in young children and how we as adults can learn to build a meaningful life by observing these qualities in children and train ourselves to reacquire them.
The first post in the series will be out shortly. Until then, keep observing children and see if you can find what is nice about their approach to life!