The development of emotional skills as part of formal education could bring many benefitsby Lauren Davis / July 26, 2013 / Leave a comment
Up until a year ago, before debilitating anxiety and obsessive thoughts forced me to take time off from university and start psychotherapy, I thought I’d had the best education a person can have. From top primary and secondary schools in the UK and US to the Ivy League, I had perfected the skills the education system required of me: taking notes, conjugating verbs, analysing texts and memorising formulas.
Fluent in the language of thesis statements and theories, I was oblivious to the language of minds and emotions—and seeing this repeated in so many of my peers has led me to wonder why such fundamental skills are left off the national curriculum.
When my therapist referred to feelings and thinking patterns, asking me to identify emotions and observe subconscious thoughts, I felt I’d entered a whole new system of education. I was amazingly terrible (as many of us are) at figuring out something as fundamental as how I felt at various moments throughout a day—tired, lonely, or anxious. Due to this lack of emotional insight I had, for years, allowed emotions to build up without being expressed, and deemed “normal” excessive levels of anxiety which slowly but steadily ate away at my capacity to relax or cope with daily life.
After many hours of hard work of the kind I never did in any classroom, therapy has given me the tools to restore my anxious mind to balance (most days), but also helped me to become a more emotionally literate person—more able to tend to my own mental health and relate to others with clarity and empathy. Now, I witness with sadness how most of my peers at university behave exactly like myself: running on empty, fuelled by anxiety, escaping their minds once a week by numbing them with alcohol. As I read the alarming statistics about mental health in Britain—one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year, including depression, eating disorders and phobias—I wonder: what if we’d all been encouraged to develop emotional skills earlier, as a part of our formal education?