Emotional Literacy Can Save Lives

Posted on December 13, 2020


Good Sunday Morning, Freethinking Friends! Welcome to the Sunday Service.

I hope you are in good health and in good spirits on this fine day.

I am embracing “good grief,” remembering and celebrating my sister, Karen, and other beloved dead by staying connected with supportive friends, remembering, writing, walking, playing music, listening to music, dancing, cooking, cleaning, and feeling all the feels. Cold, gray days are much more difficult; a sunny day triples my energy level. This is always the case, but, as you know, everything can feel magnified for the grieving.

I remember when I learned that I did not know how to feel all the feels, and how, as a result, unexpressed grief, anger, and psychic pain from past trauma had brought me to a months-long state of deep depression that culminated in despair and a suicide attempt. A cognitive therapist helped me understand whether I had actually wanted to die–or if I wanted to escape the pain.

I decided that what I wanted was to escape the pain, so my therapist, Pat, began guiding me through exercises that allowed me to identify what I was feeling, sit with the feeling, listen to the feeling, and, if appropriate, take an action or adopt a conscious behavior to cultivate healthy responses to the feeling.

Pat helped me understand how, growing up in fear, where I was not safe to express my feelings, I had programmed myself to swallow my feelings, handle it, and move on–which absolutely was a successful survival strategy, but that, as an adult, I could create a safe space, learn how to experience the full range of human emotions, and, while I wouldn’t escape the pain, I could heal, I could learn how to manage difficult emotions and pain in healthy ways–and that could ease my depression.

The most powerful lesson I learned is to question my thoughts and feelings–to see if they have a basis in reality–and, more importantly, to see if they are helpful or harmful. As I look around and see the illogical and harmful behaviors of the science-deniers who are driven by their feelings to literally risk their lives and the lives of their most beloved family and friends by continuing to gather, mask-less, in groups–I wish that the mindfulness of feelings and thoughts was part of every child’s education.

Emotionally literate people know the difference between healthy and abusive emotional expressions, for the individual, and in relationships with others. Emotionally literate people are able to see and understand the emotions driving the behaviors of others, yet be able to evaluate the accuracy of claims and ethical stances of any demands made by people in highly-emotional states. Cultivating emotional literacy allows us to look behind the curtain of the terrifying “great and powerful Oz,” to find an insecure human being, just like us.

Groups we call religions, churches, and cults all share a basis in emotional manipulation. Trump’s Cult 45 has used negative emotions to foment fear and hate among us. This is why logical argument with a mountain of evidence cannot change the views of the religious or the GOP. Both religion and Cult 45 capitalize on fear, and instead of offering humane policies and practices that could insure a good quality of life for all, they focus on fearing and blaming the “other,” mostly those of us who are not white, male, and Christian for keeping Amerikkka from being “great,” (like a colonial-era plantation).

Religious leaders employ the ultimate emotional manipulation, selling an imaginary cure for an imaginary disease (sin) by claiming, “God says, and I know, because He speaks directly to me…” I fell prey to such nonsense as a result of childhood trauma. At 17, I was searching for comfort, for human kindness, for life to make sense. Evangelical Christians love-bombed me into the fold and provided me with a bunch of doctrine to “explain” the human condition, but when I said things they didn’t want to hear, like, “Christians should be involved in the fight for human and civil rights for all,” they tried to silence me, which brought me to understand the hypocritical and harmful nature of the Christian religion–and I high-tailed it out of there after only four years among them.

At this point in American history, Christian clergy have distinguished themselves as leading science-deniers, and they are willing to literally die and/or cause suffering and/or death of community members by continuing to lead in-person, indoor, mask-less, shoulder-to-shoulder, group gatherings with vigorous speaking and singing. Some churches are now known as “super spreaders” of COVID19. Christians across the country are dying because their leaders convince them to fear an imaginary threat, hell, instead of the real threat of coronavirus. Then, after their refusal to follow protocols causes someone’s death, they offer their loved ones the “comfort” that their beloved dead is in a fantasy world. No! They are dead and never coming back because they believed lies! They did not have to die!

While the LDS church did not start by modeling and encouraging following the protocols, they have begun doing so now, which has brought conflict among group members.

How many lives would be saved if, rather than indoctrination into a fantasy, children were taught how to be emotionally literate: how to navigate the pain and suffering of the human condition with learned strategies, how to experience the full range of human emotion, and how to have healthy human relationships? All of these things are possible, no gods required, but they require conscious effort; they can’t be attained through “thoughts and prayers.”

By helping children cultivate emotional literacy, we can help future generations avoid the manipulations of religious and political cult leaders, enjoy healthy human relationships, and, when faced with a choice that may cost them their lives, base their decision on evidence-based science, not emotion-driven dogma. Religious leaders are human beings; they are not in contact with supernatural beings; they are not more wise than contagious disease experts and should not have the power to endanger lives by spreading misinformation about a deadly disease. By raising emotionally literate children, we can help them find human answers for human problems, recognize emotional manipulation when they see it, and know where to find life-saving information during a pandemic so that they can survive it.

Image may contain: 3 people, text that says 'Winter Apparell Drive Donation needed: Coats (S,M,L,XL) Hoodies (S,M,L,XL) Gloves Hats Scarfs Socks The SEMMRC will be conducing a Winter apparel Drive to donate to the local MSFW Migrant Seasonal Farm Workers Blankets... For more information you can contact Rudy Flores @ 517-438-0607 or mailforesr2@michigam.gov'

Please enjoy ”Stand Up” by LaTasha Lee as the “offertory,” if you like…If you have a little extra to give, I’d ask you to consider donating warm garments for local migrant workers who work the greenhouses:

“Over 100 ESSENTIAL MIGRANT WORKERS arrive 12/16 in Michigan: 25 women size x-small – large, and 80 men’s size small – extra large (mainly small/medium). Please DONATE items to help them handle cold temps – hoodie, coat, hat, gloves, scarf, blanket . Let’s support Migrant Workers!”

You might also consider supporting a struggling, local, Black winery survive the pandemic by purchasing a few bottles of wine or gift certificate for yourself or loved ones. Aside from being a great winery, Black Fire Winery hires local musicians to perform there. Helping them stay afloat helps the local economy AND local musicians.

Thanks for coming to today’s edition of the Sunday Service at Citizen Teacher, friend.

Peace & Love. See you next week! Be well.

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lisa eddy is a writer-for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

On email: lisagay.eddy1@gmail.com