EMOTIONAL LITERACY FOR A PEACEFUL WORLD

Nutankumar S. Thingujam

Terrorist attacks on the twin towers of World Trade Center, and the Pentagon have killed more than 6000 and simultaneously injured thousands of people from across the world. Many near and dear ones of the diseased and injured are still mourning. Many people are unable to find their loved ones, leading to only one option---acceptance of them being dead somewhere under the rubble. It has resulted in xenophobia--fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners. Consequently, many innocents have suffered from either physical or verbal harassment. Racism has gone up, making it difficult to interact peacefully with people from different races. Xenophobia clearly threatens our opportunity to learn from each other in a diversely populated area, especially in cosmopolitan places. Death anxiety (fear of own and other's death) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have increased in many people in different parts of the world. Bombay bomb blast in March, 1993 destroyed lots of properties as well as lives. Communal harmony was disturbed to its peak, leading to hatred and hostility among different communities, harming interpersonal trust. March, 2001 massacre in J& K (India) took the lives of several innocent people, converting pilgrimage into hell. These are some of the few faces of terrorism.

The world leaders have been talking about crushing such inhuman activities. The question remains quite clear. Are we going to be successful in dealing only with the reaction rather than the causes? I am completely doubtful. This does not mean that we should keep quiet. Go ahead and try to solve it. Everybody is waiting for a solution. But, I believe that what is more important is a long lasting solution. A short-cut solution might be overpowering the other party with all the evil weapons the world has developed in the name of protecting peace. Many world leaders have been increasing production of war weapons in the name of national security. Some people are dictating strict rules and regulations to the weaker sections of the society in the name of bringing about a better society, thereby the weaker people follow the dreaded principles because of unbearable threat to their lives. The feelings of the larger section of the society are not considered at all. I wonder whether we are going ahead or back to the Stone Age!

As a psychologist I feel quite uncomfortable to keep quiet in such an uncertain situation that is fast growing in the present world. This is why I decided to pen down some of my heart-felt feelings. To start with solving the present crisis on global terrorism is quite complex as influential leaders are arguably instigating each other. It is very difficult to change such people's personality if they are not willing to change it. In fact, psychotherapy or counseling works only when the clients or the patients are willing to change. Those who are instigating each other are supposed to accept the fact that their feeling, thinking, and behavior are not accepted by majority of the people in the society. It is necessary for them to understand the importance of a change in their total or partial personality. For such world leaders I prefer leaving the decision to the so called political gurus.

However, we can at least protect our children from future acts of such unbearable kind from the world if the civilized people come together and promote global emotional literacy at the school level. We can teach our children the importance of respecting individual differences in terms of mental ability, appearances, personality pattern as a whole, and differences in race, caste, creed, religion, and sex. It is also to be noted here that social psychologists have repeatedly claimed that many White children who have never seen even a single Negro describe Negroes as of low intelligence and untidiness. This is because those White parents keep talking ill of the Negroes in front of their children. As a result they feel like treating the Negroes differently. Similar cases are, I suspect, happening in India between the people of different religions, upper and lower classes, village and urban, economically backward and forward states. Once such attitudes involving thinking, feelings, and behavioral tendencies are well conditioned during childhood it is quite difficult to change during adulthood, thereby increasing conflict. Elders have a moral responsibility toward the society by protecting children from the evils of prejudice and discrimination.

Besides, we can teach our children the importance of the following factors. First, it is identifying emotions in others and in oneself in terms of positive emotions like love, happiness, and negative emotions like anger, anxiety, depression, hatred, disgusting and jealousy. The causes of such emotions and why we change from one state of emotion to another are to be understood. Second, it is managing emotions in terms of nurturing positive emotions and reducing negative emotions to the lowest possible. It is quite desirable for our children to learn that the feelings of being labeled negatively, mocked, ignored, or rejected contribute to only conflict. Let us encourage our children to learn the importance of using less force, pressure, violence, blaming, superiority and more of understanding, acceptance, and cooperation. Let us encourage to first understand the causes before deciding a punishment. Punishment alone can never be a long-term solution. I wish this article encourages the whole society to promote emotional literacy at home, school and workplace for a better society where there is a complete freedom to interact with, move around with, and respect each other irrespective of caste, creed, religion and sex. It would be beneficial if the concerned authorities take up immediate steps to make emotional literacy compulsory in school curriculum.

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