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Brené Brown and Marc Brackett On Emotional Intelligence During A Pandemic

Published by Christopher Rim

Emotions are running high among parents and students alike as we enter our second month of quarantine. As universities make provisions for continued remote learning and offices for remote work throughout the summer in an effort to combat the global coronavirus pandemic, managing emotions may grow especially difficult in such anxiety-provoking and uncertain times. There’s no guidebook for global trauma and its aftermath. Luckily, researchers around the country have been working on social and emotional learning (SEL) and how we can apply it in situations such as these.

In the April 13th episode of Unlocking Us with Brene Brown, Brown speaks with Dr. Marc Brackett, the director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and author of Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive. Throughout their honest, personal, and oftentimes hilarious conversation, they define emotional intelligence (EQ) and why it is now more important than ever to understand what it is and how it can help both adults and children better understand themselves, their surroundings, and each other.

Brown begins with the basics, asking Brackett; what are emotions and why do they matter? Brackett defines feelings as “a core experience, but the more granular, more specific.” Emotions often result from differing root causes. He explains, “anger is about injustice, but disappointment is about unmet expectations.” This revelation may be new to most, but research has proven that most individuals are not able to identify the causes of their emotions and how to regulate them. Since 2006, Brown and her team have done research asking people to write down names of emotions they can recognize in themselves and others. Shockingly, the mean number of emotions that people can identify emotions in themselves and others is three; commonly bad, sad, and glad. Brown’s research reflects Brackett’s, whose findings demonstrate that people are neither in touch with their emotions nor properly equipped with the tools to regulate them if they are.

Young students, especially, may benefit from learning about emotional intelligence. Licensed psychotherapist Susan Zinn has observed through her work with adolescents and young students that “our culture is becoming more dependent on efficiency and technology [and] we’re stepping away from placing a value on the art of language.” This has limited the language around emotion, Zinn says. The more educated students and adults are about the complexities and the different types of emotions, the better we can regulate our emotional states and have better wellness all around.

However, becoming more educated in emotional intelligence may not come intuitively to most of us. “People have no training in emotion recognition... it’s not part of the curriculum. How much time to do we spend in school learning about feelings and emotions and moods?” Brackett asks. “When you analyze the curriculum from math to language arts to science to whatever your learning, you know, social emotional learning is still an add-on. It’s not part of our curriculum. My career goal is to make social and emotional learning a permanent part of our country’s education.”

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