On Emotional Development

Last week, Isabella Donnell and I spoke about the false claims that men and women’s genetics and biology account for a gender variance in communication and emotional intelligence. She pointedly explained how the science behind these claims came from poorly run, bias-infused research. Furthermore, human biology and genetics are tricky subjects to discuss. Because of this, Isabella is writing an in-depth piece on genetics.  The summary, however, is that communication and emotional processing are behaviors that anyone can learn. There is no real evidence for genetic differences in emotional process between men and women. Communication and emotional processing, like reading, math, and driving, are skills we can all learn.

Emotional Development

In my undergraduate degree, I focused heavily on emotional development, both personally and academically. I took courses in meditation and psychology and read texts on emotional intelligence, communication, and mental health. In academia, I studied concepts like ‘mindsight’, a technique developed by Daniel Siegel (M.D., UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center). I sought to develop my mind to better understand the human mind.  What resulted was increased presence, emotional communication, and peace. Through applying these scientific and spiritual concepts of mind, I became a more in-tune, emotional human.

Nurture

Isabella’s remarks on how boys lack a supportive environment that trains emotional communication brought me back to this undergraduate experience. My personal growth in college was fostered because of my environment; I had access to a vast network of strong female friendships. These women demonstrated a connection to their feelings that resulted in a radiance of warmth, love, and support. Through observing my friends, I noted how differently I behaved, concluding that I acted more ‘male’. Yet through meditation courses, integrative neuroscience techniques, and a nurturing environment, my behavior evolved. My mind’s awareness increased and each day became more ‘colorful’. I became softer, more considerate, and aware without forcing a behavior change. Without the environment and friendships to guide me, I would have never reached such emotional awareness. I would not have had the space and support to change my mindset.

Different Realities

Now I wonder, if I had been a male student surrounded by male friends, would I have applied these emotional training techniques in my day-to-day life? I spent hours and hours with my female friends, talking about my emotions and listening to their thoughts and feelings. We shared to an extent I rarely see in men. My community of women acted like sisters and mothers to each other; we nurtured, listened, and processed life together. In the end, we all grew emotionally and mentally. While some of my girlfriends were more emotionally communicative and mature than I was, I was able to follow their example and learn from them. A male, however, has less access to such ‘emotionally-woke’ friendships.

There is simply less emotionally communicative men, especially in young American men. They live in a different reality that perpetuates an emotionally-stunted culture rather than nurtures emotional growth. It is not socially encouraged for boys to sit and talk about their feelings, especially to the extent that women do.

State of Potential

While women are painted as ‘emotional creatures’, I have found women are simply more articulate and open with their state-of-mind. The toxic narrative that men do not have emotions hurts everyone involved. I encounter many men who are emotionally aware and communicative. Most of these men come from other cultures. Or their mothers were very involved in nurturing this quality. The fact is, the human mind, in its state of potential, is no different between gender, race, and culture. It is how we treat the developing mind that produces the behavior we see later in life. At the end of the day, we should rejoice that our biology do not determine us.

It means that change is possible, growth is endless, and the future is unwritten.

Books on Emotional Development, Awareness, + Training

Dan Siegel: ‘Mindsight

“Mindsight is a literary MRI: a mind-blowing book that will change the way you think about the way you think.”

Arianna Huffington

Daniel Goleman: ‘Emotional Intelligence

“Daniel Goleman’s brilliant report from the frontiers of psychology and neuroscience offers startling new insight into our “two minds”—the rational and the emotional—and how they together shape our destiny…. The best news is that “emotional literacy” is not fixed early in life. “

‘Emotional Intelligence’ excerpt
Talks on Mind + Emotions

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