Peter Sharp, Psychologist, wrote in his book, Nurturing Emotional Literacy, "Nurturing Emotional Literacy helps people to recognize, understand, handle and appropriately express their emotions. How we manage our emotions, and the positive impact that Emotional Literacy can have on improving standards in schools has been overshadowed recently by the attention given to the three R's. This handbook seeks to redress this, and looks at the importance of the fourth 'R' relationships."
I like this particular statement by Peter Sharp, because it defines Emotional Literacy in the context of relationships. Which he describes in education as the fourth 'R'. In our schools children are put together in a classroom, and they are taught how to read, write and do arithmetic. But they're not taught how to interact with one another. Even though we put them in the same room together, and we force them to interact with one another, yet we give them no guidance.
Peter Sharp also reiterates and agrees with the other definitions of Emotional Literacy, that we've already heard. That he says, "Emotional Literacy helps people to recognize, understand, handle and appropriately express their emotions."
But before we can teach children about how to appropriately express emotions, we as adults must learn how to appropriately express our emotions. We must educate ourselves, before we can educate our children. And this is extremely difficult for adults to learn how to, and to relearn how to respond in relationships.
Emotional Literacy for adults is fundamentally different than the education of children in Emotional Literacy. And the reason for that is - that during our own emotional development as children, we have constructed automatic behaviors in response to our needs; and in relationship to acquiring those needs through others.
We have learned, and we have made a habit out of our negative emotions. And it's extremely difficult to change these habits. It's much easier to teach children before their habits have formed, but once our emotional habits have taken up residence in the neurological networks of our brain, it's very hard to change those neurological networks, though it is possible.
It is possible through the process of education. It is possible for us as adults to modify our own behaviors, and to modify the way we feel, and to change our perception.
Emotional Literacy will never become a part of the lives of children, until it becomes a part of the lives of adults. We must find a way to nurture Emotional Literacy in one another as adults. We must be supportive of one another in this effort.
I agree with Peter Sharp. That the most important aspect of Emotional Literacy is that it nurtures the development of our relationships. Our relationships are all that we really have. They are all that's really important in life.
Western culture has wrongly made of the highest importance the pursuit of money. And we do this at the expense of our relationships. We do this at the expense of our emotional happiness, because the pursuit of money is not the same as learning the capacity, and the potential, of our relationships. So I agree with Peter Sharp. The fourth 'R' in education, whether it's for adults or children, is relationships.
And it is of the greatest importance that we understand the value of our fellow human beings, and that we put money, and its pursuit, in its proper perspective.
Whenever I think about money and relationships, it always reminds me of Howard Hughes, who spent his entire life accumulating wealth, until he became the richest man in the world. What he was unable to cultivate were human relationships. For he saw other people as only objects of his benefit, of his use; whether it was using starlets that worked under contract for him sexually, or using the people around him to help make himself rich. The end of his life is a sad and pathetic tale of a lonely, narcotic addicted man - who saw no value in other people.
Relationships are incomparable with money. They are not in the same category. We can't even say our relationships are priceless, because to do so implies to put a value on them, a monetary value. And there is no monetary value that can be placed on relationships. So Western culture has been barking up the wrong tree, has been walking down the wrong alley, and has found itself pursuing the object that ultimately becomes the cause of its own misery. Because when we place the value of money over relationships, people become property, commodities, something we buy, something we sell, something we trade.
Copyright © 1999 - 2003 Mark Zimmerman. All
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