As part of continuation work past my 20 year plan, my coach and I are working on feelings. This may sound like some post-1990s feelings man follow up work, but I think it has a higher purpose than being some fad of a past decade.
This has to do with increasing one’s emotional sensitivity, intelligence, and skills.
In becoming a more total human being, we need to develop all four areas of our being. Those areas are the physical, emotional, intellectual, and the spiritual. In our past, I would say that the world is really dominated by creating physical and intellectual giants. The world places so much emphasis on sports and physical education in our schools. We join track, play football and baseball among other sports. We idolize Olympic and pro-sports athletes. We give them millions of dollars to play on TV for us for entertainment. Humans are also programmed to bigger and stronger than the next guy. If we dominate this way, we get the women, who, some argue, are prehistorically programmed to want the bigger, stronger mate who can provide for them and protect them.
We also place huge emphasis on education. Our parents drive us to go to school, and then college, and then get our graduate degree. Our society places more value on those with more education. The smarter you are, the more money you (could) make. We think as human beings, the reason for our dominance over other species is our intelligence. We put people through years of training on how to think, and on learning more and more facts as information is power.
After the physical and intellectual, spiritual is next. Although some would argue against me and say it should be on the first tier, I would say that society today doesn’t place as much emphasis on spirituality as it does on the other two. People are expected to go to school but not necessarily to go to church. You don’t need to go to church to get the majority of jobs. And with the controversy through the clergy on their sexual pursuits, it makes people distrust the church. So religion does help one’s spiritual growth, but also one can grow spiritually without religion. This type of spiritual growth is more rare and certainly not taught as normal curricula in schools. These are things such as philosophy and determining where one’s beliefs truly are, independent of the presence of a God.
The least developed out all four is emotional.
Our parent’s generation simply did not put any emphasis on the role that emotional skills could have an importance in life. They simply focused on getting married, raising children, working at a job, and providing for a family. They often came to America looking for the dream, and that dream was going to a good school, getting a great job, climbing the corporate ladder, making more money, buying a bigger house, make more money, and repeat.
But somewhere along the way, we have faltered. Look at today’s divorce rate. What is it about two people that can’t get along with each other for the rest of their lives? After going through one myself and examining the why it happened, I have come to the conclusion that I was severely lacking in emotional skills. The 1990s get in touch with your feelings thing was certainly one step in that direction. Certainly it is hugely important to examine your own emotional states, recognize them, apply the how/why/when/where/who questions to them to understand them better, and then ultimately be able to express them.
But it’s not the only one. You need to be able to receive and read emotion from others and be able to connect to them. You need to know what to do with other peoples’ emotional states, and it depends largely on knowing exactly what your higher goal is with those people, like is this person a loved one, or an enemy, or a business associate. Knowing what kind of relationship are you trying to build with these people is critical to shaping your emotional response. You need to also build an emotional language and vocabulary to discuss, reflect, validate, and express. Many times we never grew up with using such vocabulary, and now, like me, I need to completely learn another language to improve this area.
All of these I am finding to be hugely valuable now and as I work on this key area and bring it out of atrophy and non-use, it is making me a more complete human being instead of being deficient in one or more areas.
I wrote in another blog entry about turning 40 and not wishing I was 20 because I am better now at 40 than at 20. This one area of emotional skills was an area I was terrible in at 20, and it’s yet another reason why I think that I am much better at 40 now. As I work on emotional skills and improve upon them, I reflect yet again on how much I am stronger as human being than I was back at 20.