Came across this very interesting article in the NY Times by Jennifer Kahn of Berkeley “Can emotional intelligence be taught?” and it got me thinking. Could it be true that teaching our children how to have a better SEI or social and emotional intelligence may lead to more fulfilled lives? It seems that academic achievements (IQ) are not the only measures that show how successful a child will be when he\she grows up. Their ability to handle stressful situations and the ability to empathize with others may be strong points leading to a better rounded and more fulfilling life. I look at the four quadrants of blue (malaise, indifferent), yellow (excited), red (angry), green (peaceful) to simplify the theory and wonder how we react to social situation, and why it affects our lives in certain ways. If we can teach our children to understand their own emotions and then to further be aware of their reactions to external stimuli; it would help remove a lot of angst, emotional pain and suffering.
We live in a land of the walking wounded; where many of us are socially and emotionally spent, from what life has served up to us. Even Charles Darwin recognized that emotional intelligence is important for groups to survive and evolve. From the deprived inner city single family kid to the special privileged child living in the world of plenty, we are slowly being drained of social and emotional skills. TV and computers may be great to pass our lives but human interaction is strangely lacking, for a lot of these children. No longer are the long dinners followed by storytelling on an almost daily or weekly basis; or the large family gatherings where the elders weave magical tales, which define the clan’s identities and social backgrounds, practiced as rituals or rites of passage. Both the working parents (if the kid is lucky to have them) are often too busy coping with their own lives; and their teachers too busy coping with the standardized tests, that the job of teaching social and emotional skills ends up on the TV in sesame street like programs, or at worse daytime soaps. War games on game consoles are more popular with boys and young men than the social interaction with peers and adults and girls. We are always connected with phone messaging, Facebook, Twitter and the internet but do we connect physically or emotionally with each other?
It is no wonder that our loved ones are walking around with grievances, perceived insults and hurts from a long period ago; that just will not go away. We do not question why we feel this way; or wonder why the other person did or said, what we thought they did. It is better in our narcissist behavior (I am special) and neurotic feelings (nobody understands me) to remain cocooned in our righteousness (his duty to take care of me) and hang on to our obsessions, for the rest of our lives. How can I walk without my crutch that I have built my life around, and if I give it up why would anyone look up to me, once they realize that all this was only an act to get their attention. As nobody can understand me; then why do I need to empathize and understand them, why does the burden always lie on me, while all these hateful persons just walk away Scot free, after all the hurts they have given me? So on it goes and often life is spent; and you are about to pass on to your maker and then you want to reach out and say something, and realize it is too late and it does not matter as that person has already moved on.
I look at the red square and understand its attraction as if we are showing anger then we are showing that our life is important, if you do not do things my way then I will shout and hit and do whatever it takes to make you do what I want (right or wrong). The blue square is also very tempting as I can pass the poor and the needy; in ignorance of my responsibility, and leave them to their fate. This is a misguided philosophy as if do become emotionally and socially involved, all of us will benefit. The yellow square is exciting and all of us should try to feel its power within us. It is the first rumblings of life and even the creator must have seen this; as we equate yellow with light and life, and all it bestows. The green is the final stage when life has come its full circle, when we look up at the green of the mighty trees or the endless expanse of the grasses swaying in the spring breeze and peace is within and without us. We raise our self-esteem and are comfortable with who we are, and are better able to emotionally connect with those around us. This is when we are at first peace with ourselves and then share empathy, love, compassion and peace with all around us.
It seems that the SEI people may be on to something after all and emotional intelligence may indeed be a factor in how we live life. We all have our crutches and our pet grievances or low self-esteem, which we carry around like the rock of Sisyphus up and down the hill of life. All our life we push it up hill and then the next day we start again; as somehow it always ends up back downhill, and we love the labor, as if we were born to do just this. We will not give up our neurotic behavior and it defines our personality and our spouses, children and dear and near ones step around them on tip toe avoiding the eruptions that will ensue; if the volcano simmering inside is stirred. When will we learn to throw away the crutch and remove our shoulder from this emotional boulder that we have attached ourselves to. To stand upright and realize that the other person was fair in his treatment of us, and we were the ones who did not understand what they did. When will we let bygones be bygones and get on with our lives; to make a better today, and love those we need to love and cherish? Spring again into the yellow square and feel that excitement; that you have let your emotions remove, and get ready to work to move into the green of universal peace. It reminds me of our clan’s havans and the Hindu prayers always ending with the mantra that goes Om shanti, shanti, shanti Om. Oh God bring us to the stage where even peace itself may be at peace.