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Significant Emotional Events are Painful

In 2018 I experienced a Significant Emotional Event. It shook me to the core. It disrupted my emotional, mental and physical wellbeing; making me think and behave differently.

I know this is a normal response as I’ve previously researched values development and Significant Emotional Events extensively. It’s been used to share with my clients on self-leadership and building resilience. The vast majority of my research focused on the work of Dr Morris Massey.

What is a significant emotional event?

Dr Massey defines a Significant Emotional Event as:

“an experience that is so mentally arresting that it becomes a catalyst for you to consider, examine, and possibly change your initial values or value system.”

I can say, without a doubt, that’s what I experienced.

Dr Morris Massey and significant emotional events

Our values guide our approach to life and relationships. They inform our way forward through the many choices we are offered every day. You could say they make up a large part of who we are, and how others view us.

Massey believes our values are developed during three major periods:

  1. The Imprint Period – 0-7 year old. Where we’re like sponges. Absorbing everything around us and accepting much of it as true. Especially when it comes from our parents.
  2. The Modelling Period – 8-12 years old. Where we copy people. Often our parents, but also other people, e.g. teachers.
  3. The Socialisation Period – 13-21 years old. Where we are very largely influenced by our friends, media, technology, music etc, and naturally turn to people who seem more like us.

Unless a Significant Emotional Event occurs or we make a conscious effort to adjust our values; Massey believes we live our life modelling the behaviours formed from our values. He says they are reflected in our perspectives, work ethic, and communication style.

Significant emotional events are painful

When I researched significant emotional events and values, it all fell into place. I understood how values are formed, and how they can be changed. I also understood the impact a Significant Emotional Event can have. It made sense.

But this was my Significant Emotional Event, and it didn’t make sense.

Significant Emotional Event Quote by Louisa May Alcott

It felt like someone had thrown my deck of values cards up in the air, and I was waiting for them to fall down.

Of course, all of this is in line with what I know – and what I teach to others.

My experience wasn’t out of the ordinary. Despite knowing the work of Massey, I hadn’t realised how much a Significant Emotional Event could cause me to re-evaluate my values and my behaviours.

It felt like my values would change, as well as the priority I placed on my values.

Examples of significant emotional events

What also struck me, was that even though my own event was very personal for me, I could see more clearly how Significant Emotional Events could affect others.

A birth, death, marriage, divorce, separation, illness, or a child leaving home are all things that can shake somebody’s world. They are things that can make them think, behave and feel differently. When this happens, everything changes for that person. But the rest of the world continues, oblivious to the internal turmoil they might be experiencing.

How my significant emotional event affected me

Two months earlier, I was so focused on my work. There was also the preparations for getting ready to celebrate Ad Florem’s 3rd birthday.

I wouldn’t have considered stepping back from my business. In the time I’d been running Ad Florem, it had never crossed my mind to:

  • Not log on my computer or follow up on emails
  • Stop posting and engaging on social media
  • Or clear my diary of client appointments for a month

That wouldn’t have felt right.

But for that particular month, that’s exactly what I did. I know for sure, it was right for me.

I couldn’t relate to my work. I’d walk into my office, and the energy I usually felt was missing. If I don’t feel energised by it, I’m not going to believe in it and I won’t perform at my best. Staying true to myself, I chose not to work.

My energy started to build back up, and I started to find value in my work again. I asked people around me to bear with me as I reflected, refocused, adjusted and accepted. The re-evaluation process would take time.

My mum’s last words to me were “go and enjoy yourself, and keep improving yourself” and that’s exactly what I am going to do.

Want to learn more?

Since my mum passed away, I’ve reflected further about Significant Emotional Events. Here’s my personal experience of how different types of events shake your world.

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