From Dr. Jane's Notebook

Improve the world one person at a time

            This past year has been memorable. The combination of natural disasters and unpredictable human behavior suggests that we have much work to do to restore a sense of ethics and civility in our lives. We live in a time when children grow up too fast and too few adults provide healthy guidance to our younger citizens. All around us, kids are learning from our examples, good and bad. It is easy to become angry, pessimistic, and bewildered about the future. It is more difficult to think about rebuilding the world in a positive way. The best place to start may be with us.

·        Start by giving yourself an emotional makeover. Many people are not satisfied with themselves but feel hopelessly trapped. Some of us feel enslaved to our moods, our emotions, our jobs, or other circumstances. But hold on... If you’re not happy, maybe its time to change the way you think. At some point, we all shed the skins of our childhood and review the way we think about life and about ourselves. If the view in your emotional mirror is not the view of your choice, maybe its time to make some adjustments. For example, instead of being your own worst critic, you may want to become your new best friend by adopting an improved self-image.

·        How to change your self-image.  Many of today’s grown-ups feel permanently injured by their experiences in childhood. Language has much to do with these feelings. As young children, we are frequently assigned labels which continue to affect our goals and the way we think about ourselves. If the labels assigned to us are too flattering, we may be trapped by someone else’s expectations for perfection. If the labels assigned to us are too harsh, we may feel trapped by “glass ceilings” that limit our self-esteem and self-worth. Or we can decide to outgrow our ancient habits of self-criticism and self-doubt in favor of encouragement and self-confidence.

·        Develop your social intelligence. Social intelligence is the ability to recognize emotional states in others and respond appropriately. Our actions may or may not be the cause of another person’s problem. Just because someone close to you is angry, does not mean that you are the cause of their anger or have to bear the brunt of their anger. Since our children will learn how to treat their fellow human beings by how they are treated, we must teach them that it is not okay to step on the toes of others, to cause suffering or loss-of-face. Note: If your personal style is abusive, prepare to live in a world that will also abuse you. If you desire to live in a kinder world, you must be willing to treat others with kindness. Or as we say in North Carolina, ‘what goes around comes around’.

·        Upgrade your communication skills. To communicate accurately, avoid the temptation to abbreviate. We cannot assume that others will accurately read our minds. The fine art of communication involves paying attention, asking and answering questions, painting vivid visual images, and sharing meaning. Communication can be a constructive tool by which to achieve greater understanding, or communication can be employed destructively, essentially serving as an assault weapon. Effective two-way communication involves good listening, respect and tolerance for different opinions and world views.

As we look for a pathway back to civility, Daniel Goleman’s concept of Emotional Intelligence offers a rich philosophy for raising emotionally healthy children and improving our own coping skills. “Emotional IQ” refers to healthy decision-making based upon awareness of ourselves, awareness of others, and awareness of our environment. According to Goleman, our EQ may be more essential to our survival than IQ points alone. As our world continues to change, our family members will face greater challenges. We all need to become more emotionally intelligent. Looking toward the New Year, consider ways that you may wish to change, grow and improve. Who knows? The future of the world may actually depend on you!

©Copyright, 2005, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.

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