The best investment in the world: emotional work


“I go to school because I have to. And I come home to learn.” I told my mum about age 6, apparently. I don’t remember.

We are all individuals. We are all different. We all have different interests in different topics.

When you’re fascinated with something, you will spend all your time and energy doing it.

When you’re not interested in something – being forced to do it, it just breeds resentment against whoever is enforcing it on you.

I think being happy has a lot to do with autonomy. It’s about having a sense of purpose. You know, expressing yourself in way. Or working towards something. Learning something or having an organic interest in something.

In short: being motivated from within. Intrinsically motivated rather than extrinsically motivated.

I’ve written about this before. That didn’t stop me from failing at it.

I intellectually wanted to be self-motivated etc. But the truth is everything I’ve done since leaving school has been for validation and approval.

Most of what I’ve done hasn’t been because I enjoyed it… it was to impress parents, teachers and clients.

I felt so shamed and powerless at school and growing up that I wanted to do everything I could to show I was superior and better than them.

In fact that still goes on now. You probably get a sense of it in my writing. I need to make myself seem better than you so I can survive. It’s not malicious. It’s just a coping mechanism.

Anyway, that need will disappear over time.

There are parallels here between schooling and unschooling.

Unschooling is where kids are taken out of school, and follow their interests. It is different from homeschooling, in the sense of it’s not just loads of textbooks at home. But it’s very unstructured and free-flowing.

That thought probably fills many people with horror. But in reality the most interesting, best turned out, successful people I know have had that freedom to be curious.

Unschooling works because you are free to explore what interests you. And ignore what doesn’t.

Whereas in school, you realise that to be appreciated by a teacher – you have to be compliant. You end up chasing what you think people will approve of and be impressed by.

In turn, to survive you have to abandon all sense of self. Learning and therefore life becomes hard work, boring and dry. If you have any extra interest in something you “have to look it up outside of class”.

You’re taken away from what’s interesting. You’re ordered what to do… and even your basic functions are controlled by an adult. You must ask permission to wee. How inhumane is that?

If you treated adults the way many adults treat children – you’d have riots. But since children are reliant on adults, they can’t escape or really fight.

You’re made to feel inadequate or wrong, for finding something boring or thinking there’s a better use of your time.

And if you kick back for not wanting to be there. Then God hath no fury like an angry teacher. You end up carrying a lot of shame and guilt just for being you.


Ultimately, that comes out in anger, rage, crying, or having to control and bully people later in life. If someone doesn’t process those feelings, they take it out on someone weaker – most probably their own children. Which leads to a viscous cycle of harm.


What’s the solution? When a child is pulled out of school to do unschooling – there’s typically a period of what’s known as deschooling.

This differs from unschooling. This is a detoxification process.

They’re free to do whatever they like. They might play lots of games, or watch TV or do something new. It may look like nothing. But in reality, this is someone finding themselves again. There’s a return to the natural curiosity that everyone had as a toddler before it was crushed out of them.

This is someone rediscovering who they are, what they are and what really makes them tick. They find that intrinsic motivation. That spark in their eye.

They emotionally process what’s going on and what’s happened to them during school. As long as they feel safe and unpressurised. A lot of healing takes place.

Then from there you have a fully-functioning human being who is capable of loving, caring, supporting, turning a personal interest into work and respecting others.


The above is written about children. But it equally applies, perhaps even moreso, to us as adults. By giving ourselves time, a safe space, care and freedom from judgement – we can decompress. And ultimately find ourselves.

That’s why the elderly tend to be the happiest they’ve ever been. They have time to do what they want.

Personally, I’ve done next to no “professional” work the past year. I’m skint, I get criticism from various people. You know, the jealous: “what do you mean you’re choosing to not work at the moment?”

But you know what – I don’t care. Because what I’ve been doing is this emotional (deschooling?) work over the past year.  It has been the hardest, most rewarding investment of time and resources I’ve ever made. I feel 1000x better about myself than I ever have – so it can only lead to good things.

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