I’m reading The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge and it has me thinking.
I can’t remember how I learned about emotions. I have memories of the warmth of my mum’s hugs, the intensity of worry and fear I had over things, the absolute joy, happiness and excitement and terrible wrenching sadness.
I know I had seesawing emotions over dreams, nightmares, quarrels, loss, love and Christmas and birthdays.
My feelings were intense. I remember being able to tell straight way if someone was angry or happy or sad, but only if their feelings were relevant to me.
I remember my internal world felt as if it was bigger than me.
I don’t know how I learned that other people had feelings inside them just like mine, and why it matters to know how others are feeling.
I know my emotional development ran alongside my reading, writing and arithmetic progress. I know that it was hard work to work it all out.
And because I am also reading The Time Travellers Wife I really want to go back and meet myself as a child to find the answers to these questions. But that is not possible, so I did the next best thing and dug out my school reports to look for clues about my emotional development.
At age 6 my school reports show that I was domineering and inclined to mumble, but I was also a keen and eager student.
At age 7 my domineering behaviour was reduced to just being 'impatient with others', but I was becoming more self confident (which the teacher suggested I needed encouragement with).
All reports say I was still impatient at age 8 but I remained a very keen and eager student.
By the age of 9 at the beginning of my 4th year at school, I had almost overcome my impatience, and my school reports show this problem was resolved by the end of that year.
These comments never appeared again, but were replaced with comments about how well I cooperated, my willingness to share and how well adjusted I was.
I seem to have extinguished my impatience and built my self confidence while maintaining my eagerness to learn.
I imagine I learned that others had feelings and I made room for them, and I learned to control my feelings.
I underwent a neuro (for neuron) plastic (for changeable, malleable, modifiable) transformation. For that is what learning is; the brain changing its own structure through thoughts and brain activity.
Our early educational and social experiences matter. But it’s good news that adult brains can rewire because not all learning, thoughts and experiences are good.