Growing up I struggled with expressing myself. I was an introverted and angry child and due to my own anxiety, I shut down emotionally for fear of becoming overwhelmed. People told me that I was hard to read and they would frequently ask me if I was feeling “happy or what?” I would have to think about my answer and since I did not seem to feel unhappy, I would say, “Of course I feel happy.” The reality was, I felt numb, dispassionate, blah. This wasn’t so bad on its own, a person can get through life and be just fine not really feeling anything, but my anxiety was a problem and when I did feel something, it was typically overwhelming anger and that was a problem for me. It made me feel out of control and like I was a bad person whenever it came out and I thought others judged me harshly because of it. 


It wasn’t until my mother’s death that I thought I should do something about my emotions. I found it difficult to cry and grieve for my loss and that inability to express myself and release some of that grief caused more pervasive problems for me in my life from an inability to function at a job and difficulty making decisions. By realizing this I discovered that experiencing any feeling was a challenge for me. I either could not tolerate them or I could not even identify them within myself.
It took me years of work to learn how to cultivate my emotional growth. And it took even longer to talk about those feelings and express them in healthy ways.  I learned that within each emotional state there is a spectrum of intensity to be experienced and opening myself to those experiences enriched my life and gave me strength through some of the most challenging times in my life.
Now, through my own emotional development, I have gained the ability to tap into my intuition, or “trust my gut” when confronted with the challenges of life and make informed decisions while feeling like I am fully living. Due to my own struggles in this area, I have begun to want to work more with people around emotional development so they can feel the full spectrum of their emotions without fear of being overwhelmed by them.

So what is Emotional Development?


Emotional Development is identifying, understanding, connecting to, and working with your full spectrum of emotions. Our emotions are trying to tell us something about ourselves and how we experience our world.

What does Emotional Development affect?

  • Relationships
  • Self-esteem
  • Identity and Sense of Self
  • Self-regulation
  • Self-care
  • Mental focus
  • Self-awareness

What does Emotional Development look like?

In Children

  • Fewer acting out behaviors
  • More open communication with trusted adults
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Learn to trust self
  • Improved mood
  • Improved social skills
  • Improved self-regulation

In Adults

  • Improved sense of self
  • Learn to trust self
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved social skills
  • More open communication in relationships
  • Increased positive intimacy in relationships
  • Self-acceptance
  • Improved self-regulation

Emotional Development helps those:

  • Going through a difficult and/or powerful life event
  • Struggling to cope with and expressing their emotions
  • Suffering from poor self-esteem
  • Dealing with anxiety
  • Experiencing a history of feeling: numb, difficulty with meaningful communication, avoiding emotional content, and/or getting overwhelmed by their emotions

Check out more from one of our Collective Art Therapists, Nissa Jackman MA, LMFT, ATR-BC