I have written this post in my head about a hundred times. Those of you who suffer from a MI will probably understand exactly what I mean. I often “practice” a conversation (verbal or otherwise) a hundred times before a doctor’s appointment, blog post, or the such. Anyhoo…
During recent sessions, my therapist and I have often discussed how current societal ideologies regarding emotions create, and/or detrimentally intensify, many of the emotional/mental issues people currently suffer. The idea of teaching children how to healthfully process emotions is ignored by parents and school administrations alike, while they wonder in astonishment why academic achievement dwindles and poor behavior abounds:
“Joey is just too shy and gets his feelings hurt too easily. As his father, I keep telling him that men don’t cry at the drop of a hat and that he needs to toughen up. And now his grades are so low, and he says he doesn’t care. I try to support him by asking, ‘What is wrong with you? You have everything going for you, but you just don’t seem to care. Why are you wasting the best time of your life and all of your wonderful abilities on crying and feeling hurt all of the time?’ I just don’t know what to do with him.”
Ring a bell, anyone? No…seriously…who hasn’t heard something like that from a parent or teacher? I bet my teacher friends are saying, “Yep. I have heard that from parents and other teachers, and I just want to smack some sense into them!” (I know my teacher friends are above this sort of thinking! LOL) Does the father in my example care about his son? I am sure he does, but where in that example did the father acknowledge his child’s feelings, therefore validating them, or offer his son a better way to evaluate his emotional responses (crying, losing interest in academic pursuits) and express those emotional responses in a healthier, more positive way? His father simply further conditioned his son to be emotionally sensitive, to continue to over react to emotional stimuli, feel that there is something inherently “wrong” with him, and, worst of all, reinforce the idea that “Dad” cannot be counted on for support, only criticism. (My example didn’t include a child expressing the idea that they cannot go to their parent for support, but you know that children, teenagers especially, express that VERY thought…”Mom and Dad just don’t listen to me. All they do it criticize me.” Once again…any bells ring-a-ding-dinging???
So, you may be asking, “What exactly is the answer to this great dilemma?”
I give you…drum roll, please…Emotional Intelligence! And the blog’s readers’ excitement quickly dissipates. ;0)
The readers ask, “What sort of weird, lighting incense, singing Kumbayah, chanting on a pillow in uncomfortable positions crap are you talking about?” while muttering things like, “New age crap,” and “Psycho-babble.”
But no! The concept of emotional intelligence (EI from this point on) is common sense, something that is easy to understand and easy to teach. While incense and chanting can certainly help some people focus on EI, all you need is the willingness to want to feel better, deal with life’s difficulties in an emotionally healthy manner, and put a little more focus on what is important in life…you! (Learning to put yourself first in life is another blog for another day. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t state that putting yourself first is about being as physically and emotionally healthy as you can be because you deserve it! The awesome biproduct is that you will also be able to be positive and healthy in the lives of others. It is not about being selfish and uncaring towards others! Common sense people! Use it!
According to University of New Hampshire professors and psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, “Emotional intelligence represents an ability to validly reason with emotions and to use emotions to enhance thought.”1 I ask, what sounds “new age” or foo-foo (my word, thank you!) about that? Who doesn’t want to better reason with their emotions to enhance thought? A more formal definition by Salovey and Mayer which gives more insight states:
“We define EI as the capacity to reason about emotions, and of emotions to enhance thinking. It includes the abilities to accurately perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.”1
Seriously, who doesn’t want those things for themselves and their loved ones?
We need to teach our children that emotions, negative or positive, strong or weak, are not our enemies. Emotionally intelligent anxiety can tell us, “Be aware! Something may be wrong.” Emotionally intelligent joy can tell us, “This is good! Keep it going!” Emotionally intelligent sadness can tell us, “It is time to move on. Let this go.” Emotionally intelligent love can tell us, “I am safe and content.”
There is a time and place for all emotions, but we have to teach our children (and often learn for ourselves) that all emotions benefit us and how to mold them into healthy experiences if we find that through difficulty and trauma, our emotions have become warped and predatory. (Yes…our own emotions can become predators who seek to manipulate and injure our healthy sense of self.)
While I will continue on this subject in my next blog, you can find further reading at the links below.
I would LOVE LOVE LOVE some feedback, especially from my parent and teacher friends!
1 Mayer, John D. (2004). Emotional Intelligence Information: A Site Dedicated to Communicating Scientific Information about Emotional Intelligence, Including Relevant Aspects of Emotions, Cognition, and Personality. Retrieved from http://www.journalhomepage.com/full/url/
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