Emotional literacy is a term used to understand ones emotions. In light of the swathe of information in relation to mental health, mental illness and the taboo subjects of psychosis and schizophrenia entering our regular experience. I write to explore a small but significant distance. A gap is beginning to widen in relation to being able to discuss the effects of mental illness and what a person feels. Almost like the dark side of the moon – present but never seen.
Luke Roberts was possibly the first person to highlight the willingness commonly witnessed of our public to talk about a mental illness. A few years ago that was unheard of, no one talked about their stuff openly! The gap of not connecting illness with the effects it has on a sufferers/survivors life alongside their emotions appears irrational to me. A sea change has occurred of the willingness to talk about mental illness that has been supported by various well known individuals sharing their stories in a variety of ways: podcasts, radio, television, newspapers, books, blogs. Luke’s point relates to our joint vulnerability in expressing witnessing and accepting that the many they’s are the many us’s. Humility possibly also plays a part here also. We have become inured to the siren and unable to recognise the pain that those who have shared their stories have lived through, or are living with.
The overall benefit to being open about life’s challenges and the trials one has lived through is encouraging to another who may have similar troubles. By hearing another’s triumph over a personal tragedy, surviving the hurricane of war, another story can be developed like a picture. Showing a story of wonder and banal normalcy.
There is something sensational about another person expressing their hurts in a public domain that captures attention. Are we looking to empathise with that person’s experience, knowing their story may well support us in avoiding a similar fate happening for us, witnessing another’s horror offers chance to pay attention to the frailty of life?
I think one of the aspects that those who work with others intimately recognise is the strength of vulnerability as well as the beauty in the human experiences of loss, gain, winning, failing, laughing, journeying, pain and healing. It is the promise of alchemy that attracts.
The gleam of joint success and winning and losing and overcoming and moving beyond the hurt to something else…
Exposing one’s hurts invites the *witnesser to pay attention to what ails, that can offer chance to review and chance to change. With emotional literacy what is being invited is to recognise what hurts during the conversation. Focusing on the internal world to invite change. The Chimp Paradox is an excellent example of us figuring out what is causing us conflict before it is unfurled and hurts another/others or ourselves. The motive is an understanding that as a human we experienced a number of developments in our life that largely supported our growth.
We may recognise that we have an inner child, a surly and impatient teen, an internal parent and a calming adult voice. The tensions that arise by being pulled in a number of different directions by these parts inside of us, cause some emotional pain, in the least invite us to questions such as “Why did I just do that?” “Why can’t I just get over this?” My favourite is “What’s wrong with me?” Invariably nothing is ‘wrong’. What may have happened is you are experiencing the tension between different parts of the self that are in conflict and may have been hi-jacked by an emotion or fear.
As humans we have drives that enable us to navigate through life and learn: seeking safety and warmth, finding a partner, finding food and sustenance. These different drives can throw us against societal norms and personal wants/drives leading to conflict. A great example of this is the marshmallow test. The want to eat for those between the ages of 4 and 7 are so great that some children eat the one marshmallow rather than wait the 3-5 minutes and get to eat 2. Delaying gratification is a skill that is learned over time. As is the ability to be emotionally literate. One can’t run at it like other self-development programmes. Like training oneself for any new skill or ability it is best achieved over time.
‘There will be many failures along the way. Ah, but the successes will carry for longer…’
Two Guys on Your Head Failure