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Commentary On Claude Steiner #1
Emotional Literacy Education Course 101:
Lesson One: What Is Emotional Literacy?
by Mark Zimmerman
Emotional Literacy Education Course 101 Lesson One: Commentary On Claude Steiner #1

Commentary On Claude Steiner by Mark Zimmerman Claude Steiner is a Psychologist who works in the field of Transactional Analysis. What is important about this field of psychology is that it focuses on understanding the exchanges in relationships. Which psychologists call transactions. Transactional Analysis helps by focusing on relationships and their emotional interactions.

Claude Steiner wrote in his book Emotional Literacy, Intelligence with Heart, "To be Emotionally Literate is to be able to handle emotions in a way that improves your personal power, and improves the quality of life for you, and equally important, the quality of life for the people around you."

Claude Steiner realizes in this statement, the importance of handling emotions. If we don't get a grip on our emotions, we're essentially out-of-control. Which causes us to rely heavily on social convention, instead of listening to our own inner impulses; which can give us information more detailed and more specialized about our own lives.

Social convention deals primarily with group survival. It doesn't recognize the individual and their survival. Social convention has limitations in fulfilling the needs of the individual within the social group. Social convention is primarily focused on fulfilling the needs of the group, but not the individual. And even though this has been a successful survival strategy for mankind, it is also the technology which allows human beings to commit the worst tragedies to other human beings.

War itself is the outcome of social convention. If society was worried about the individual, the need of the individual, society would change its convention about the concept of war. The group never dies in war, only the individual. And the group, the social convention, feels sacrifice of the individual is a noble cause, but it's really a selfish act by the society to preserve itself at the expense of the individual.

Social convention and relying on social convention, limits our own potential, our own possibilities. Within the social convention, there's no room for the individual idea, or the individual need, or the fulfillment of the need.

Emotional Literacy is not the technology of the individual. It is a technology of learning how to interact with oneself, and in that context, how to interact with others.

When we are better able to handle our own emotions, we can improve our relationships, our own quality of life, and as Claude Steiner said, "the quality of life of the people around us." Because every emotion that stirs within our unconscious becomes manifest in our behavior, and affects the people around us. And if we are fearful or confused or angry, we can hurt those around us without knowing it.

Claude Steiner continues, "Emotional Literacy helps your emotions to work for you instead of against you."

Emotions are signals that carry information. And by ignoring our emotions, by ignoring those signals, we also miss out on the information they provide us. Our emotions also inform us about our environment, because how we feel directly relates to our relationships with others - and how they interact with us.

Emotional Literacy is the process of learning about emotions, and learning how to make them work in a positive way. When we are informed by our emotions, they can provide us with guidance. When we are unconscious of our emotions, they always work against us.

Claude Steiner continues, "It improves relationships, creates loving possibilities between people, makes cooperative work possible, and facilitates the feeling of community."

Emotional Literacy is Self-Knowledge in social context. Emotional Literacy is using Self-Knowledge to figure out the dynamics of relationships. Emotional Literacy is the technology of understanding the dynamics of emotions in relationships. Therefore, it does improve relationships, because it provides us with an array of emotional choices - and how we are going to respond to others.

It's not always about being positive in relationships. It's not about never being angry or never being afraid. When we are afraid, what is that telling us. And is it rational? Is our fear rational? Does it have an object that's real, or are we afraid of something inside our own imagination?

It's these skills that we have to learn to properly manage our emotions. It's not about eliminating negative emotions. It's about understanding what each individual emotion can do for us.

There are times when anger is justified. There are times when fear will save your life. And there are times when anger and hatred will destroy your relationship, impede your relationship. And there are times when fear has no validity.

I like to describe two types of emotions. Anger, fear, guilt, frustration can be either functional or dysfunctional. And what I mean by that is, it can be either an appropriate response or an inappropriate response. If it's inappropriate, you're disrupting your relationship, unnecessarily. If it's an appropriate response, if it's functional, then it can be exactly the right response for the given situation.

There is no one who can advise you which emotion is right for which circumstance, because circumstances are spontaneous happenings. And emotional responses happen in the moment. And you're not going to have time to consult anyone about the proper emotion or response. Therefore, the only way to determine whether the use of your emotions is functional or dysfunctional - is by becoming conscious of them; by gaining knowledge of them, by understanding them. So that you can learn how to employ them at the right time, and learn how to disemploy them at the wrong time.

There is the possibility that Emotional Literacy can improve our relationships. Possibility, because this is a capacity that we have to actualize. It's only a potential. But when this potential is actualized, loving relationships can be made possible between humans.

The workplace will become more cooperative and less competitive. And not only will Emotional Literacy facilitate the feeling of community, it will transform the community from what it is now into a community where feelings are as respected as thoughts, and where behaviors are contemplated, rather than automatic. And where the power of the individual is respected as much as the power of the group.

Claude Steiner continues, "But Emotional Literacy is not a mere unleashing of the emotions - it is also learning to understand, manage and control them."

That's what we do, unleash emotions onto others in our relationships, or one group against another group. We unleash them, unconsciously, without any understanding of the consequences. We unleash them automatically. And this is our fundamental problem, because emotions are directly linked to our instincts. And our instincts are often inappropriate responses to the given situation.

Who's to determine, how to determine, if your response is appropriate, if you are not conscious of it?

In searching the Internet for definitions of Emotional Literacy, there is one common theme among the definitions.

As Claude Steiner said, "It is also learning to understand, manage and control them."

Understanding emotions is the most common definition for what Emotional Literacy is. It's through understanding that we learn how to manage and control them, and make them work for us, rather than against us. The only way to understand our emotions is to learn about them through an educational process.

Claude Steiner continues, "Being Emotionally Literate means that you know what emotions you and others have, how strong they are, and what causes them."

We have a rainbow of emotions - both positive and negative. Some of them attract us to others. Some of them cause us to move away from others.

"Being Emotionally Literate means that you know what emotions you and others have...."

Emotional Literacy is the exploration of this rainbow of emotions, because each emotion has a specific function.

It's not an effort to get rid of emotions. It's actually an effort to bring emotions into our consciousness, into our awareness, into our understanding, into our thought processes, so that they better serve us. So that they guide us in our relationships, and so that we know what we're doing, and the consequences of a particular emotion.

Claude Steiner mentions the strength of emotions. Not only must we learn the specific use - for a specific function, but we also must learn how strongly to use a particular emotion. Or, when a particular emotion is very strong within us, how do we interpret that? And what does cause our emotions? Emotional Literacy will also explore what causes emotions.

Claude Steiner continues. "Being Emotionally Literate means that you know how to manage your emotions, because you understand them."

There is a process that one must go through to reach an understanding of our emotions. Through this process we use our thoughts to make pictures, word pictures, of our emotions. We use our thoughts in combination with our emotions.

When our thoughts are in agreement with our emotions, that is understanding. When we have no knowledge about our emotions, that is ignorance. When our emotions agree with our thoughts, they harmonize into understanding. They work together.

Claude Steiner continues, "With Emotional Literacy training, you will learn how to express your feelings, when and where to express them, and how they affect others."

That's a pretty good summation of everything I've just said. First, that Emotional Literacy is a training process. It's a learned process. It's an educational process in which you will learn how to express your feelings.

We are, every day, continuously, without knowledge, expressing our feelings. Without knowledge, how can we know the appropriateness of our expression? When and where and how to express our emotions - is what Emotional Literacy is concerned with. It's what it teaches.

And since our emotions are primarily used in relationships, we must learn how emotions affect others. When we express an emotion, how it affects others will help us to understand the consequences of our emotional expression. Did our expression, and the way that it affected another person, turn out the way that you anticipated it to, or did it come out in a way that was harmful; or affected the other person in a negative way?

And without Emotional Literacy, without being able to read your own feelings, your own emotions, and your own behaviors, using your thoughts, you will never be able to know if what you did, or said, was beneficial - or harmful to the relationship.

How your emotions, and their expressions, affect others is important, because how you respond to others is going to affect the way that they respond to you.

And if you want others to interact with you in a positive, loving, caring, respectful manner, the first place to start is through emotional expressions of warmth and caring and understanding.

Claude Steiner continues, "You will also develop empathy, and will learn to take responsibility for the way your emotions affect others."

He says Emotional Literacy is developing empathy.

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