Emotional literacy is the ability to use words to express one’s feelings, desires and intentions. It is the difference between saying, “I’m sad” and “I feel like you just stuck a corkscrew in my belly button and wrenched my guts out.”
The frustration of feeling unable to vocalize an opinion is debilitating. Often, we resort to silence instead of opening our mouths to convey emotions that may come out weaker than what we feel.
With words, one can feel secure in the realm of his or her projected psyche, rather than sit prettily in muted dissatisfaction.
Emotional literacy is a means of controlling one’s environment. If we do not possess the vocabulary to adequately articulate our thoughts, there should be no wonder when we don’t receive what we want.
People respond to genuine communication. “I’m angry” becomes meaningless because it is overused and lifeless. Such basic phrases don’t make the listener want to act because it is impossible to empathize with a person who does not let us understand the full scope of his or her fury. Is the anger a mild exasperation or blood-boiling rage? Only if we understand can we then offer the correct remedying response.
In school, a child might not be equipped with the right words to express that an assignment isn’t clear or that a concept doesn’t make sense. He or she might resort to, “I don’t get it,” and give up, or worse yet, “I don’t care,” and carry that attitude throughout life. Those who do not acquire command of language will not only struggle in the workplace and everyday situations, but also suffer the consequences in the most vital of human relationships.
As an English major, my recommendation is to read literature. Books expand the mind and supply us with new words, as well as lessons in metaphor and analogy – our greatest tools in pinpointing exactly what we feel.
For those of you who simply will not read because of either time constraint or apathy, I can only ask that you avoid the mundane and the monstrously unimaginative. Dive into the language lexicon that will allow you to explore the depths of yourself.
When we lack emotional literacy, we are deceiving others and in turn, we deceive ourselves. Describe your demons and illustrate your enthusiasms. You just may find that communication can be cathartic.
Hunter Wright is a sophomore majoring in creative writing.