A Significant Emotional Event is an experience (or experiences) that creates an emotional meaning – a belief if you like – which affects us in later life. That emotional meaning could be positive (enjoying a School play as a kid; enjoying public speaking as an adult) or it could be negative (hating a school play as a kid; hating public speaking as an adult).
An event often becomes a Significant Emotional Event if it is an intense experience, for example something traumatic which creates great emotional power. The younger you are, the more difficult it is to deal with that emotional power. Your reaction to your parents divorce is vastly different depending on whether you are 5 or 35. If your parents divorce when you are 5, you could be shattered, inconsolable and probably forming beliefs about yourself that do not reflect the reality of the situation. A 35 year would have various responses.
(The fact is, children do not have available to them the full array of thought processes that an Adult has; this leads to invalid conclusions being made – “It was my fault …” ).
An event can also become a Significant Emotional Event based on an individual’s threshold. Some people have less capacity when handling information being sent by their nerves, which might be why different people have different capacities when dealing with Stress.
A series of events could become a Sensitizing Event based upon repetition – for example constantly failing at an exam could form the belief that “I’m no good at exams”. In this example, failing the exam wasn’t as traumatic as the divorce example noted above, but the cumulative effect of failing repeatedly was enough for the mind to attribute a significant emotional meaning to the experience.
So a Significant Emotional Event is anything in our past that forms beliefs or behaviors in the present, because of the emotional meaning given to the event at the time (a time where, often, you probably weren’t old enough to fully understand what was happening).