Last week we wrote about the danger in sharp verbal assaults
and about the enormous role of harsh words in the creation
of emotional problems in children and youth.
However, there is an additional aspect of verbal assault:
the educational angle and its role in the formation of the
As the body is adversely influenced by external physical
contact, so is the soul influenced by emotional contact, by
words, and even by facial expressions.
When a child sees his parents reacting in a calculated
manner to a problem, he learns to react similarly to
affronts. When the soul grows accustomed to outbursts of
sinister anger as a reaction to behavior to which a parent
or teacher disapproves, it learns to react that way in its
own attempts to cope.
People react in different ways to events. A person who comes
home and finds his house a mess can chose from a number of
possible reactions: a) to ignore the mess; b) to comment on
the mess with a smile; c) to begin to clean the house
himself and in that way to hint that he is dissatisfied; d)
to express restrained anger over the mess.
All these are more or less normal reactions.
However, a certain type of person cannot make choices. When
someone like that encounters something he does not like he
(or she) loses his free choice: this type of person loses
hold of the brakes and feelings and behaves without self-
control, all in front of their children and students.
I have intentionally chosen an extreme, rare example. In the
realm of the loss of self-control there are many levels, all
of which are referred to in psychological jargon as
"flooding." Certain people are flooded by negative feelings
such as pain, anger, jealousy and disappointment that cause
them to behave irrationally.
The ability to make correct use of the link between
intelligence and feeling has recently been defined as
These ideas were expressed thousands of years ago, in the
dictum, "derech eretz kodmoh laTorah" and have been
carefully delineated in our mussar books. In recent
years, without realizing it, science has taken an additional
step towards those guidelines by which the Jewish Nation has
lived for thousands of years.
If in recent times people were classified according to their
IQs, it is clear to everyone today that this isn't the only
yardstick with which to measure people, and actually isn't a
yardstick at all. Highly talented people are sometimes
unable to actualize their talents due to emotional
disabilities. Companies, institutions, and even countries
led by a talented person with emotional problems can
collapse as a result of the person's inordinate and often
irrelevant power struggles.
On the other hand, people with emotional intelligence --
those who know how to control their emotions and to take
advantage of them for positive aims -- can head large
enterprises even if they haven't finished high school.
Of course, the same is true with respect to managing one's
household, which is no less difficult than managing a state.
There are simple people with good personalities and self-
restraint who live tranquil lives and raise good, easygoing
children, while some talented people with personality
disturbances cannot establish stable homes, because they
crash on the shores along with their emotional storms.
Every teacher or educational advisor who comes in contact
with children and youngsters can pinpoint behavioral
patterns which have been transferred from parents to their
children: not genetic, but educational patterns. A child
whose father reacts to difficulties by becoming depressed or
introverted will react the same way. A child who sees steady
outbursts of anger in his home as reactions to problems will
also react that way.
A child who sees his father making excuses for the neighbor
although the neighbor spoke disrespectfully to him, will
learn how to put aside personal feelings and react in an
appropriate manner. A child whose parents behave with
tolerance and self-restraint will be tolerant and
restrained. The child whose parents have a mature attitude
to their surroundings, communicate normally, are honest in
their business dealings, truthful and genial, will also be
mature, honest and affable.
If we want our children to be emotionally normal, we must
try to create a situation in which they will see normal
functioning: the correct balance between intellect and
emotion, a separation between the "person" and the subject
at hand, objectivity in relation to events or fights and
abstention from them.
Take for example, the issue of mitzvah observance and
yiras Shomayim. Regarding such things, it is wrong to
be objective, because then the soul learns to look at
mitzvos in a cold, analytic manner, as if man were given a
choice whether to observe one mitzvah or another. On this
issue, we are obligated to train our children in a
subjective manner and to cause them to channel all their
feelings toward Hashem, Torah study and mitzvah observance.
In these matters, inner warmth fashions one's Yiddishkeit,
and is a necessary condition of the maintenance of our faith
In order to fashion children with normal behavioral patterns
-- children who aren't difficult, nervous, fresh, or lacking
in self-control -- we must make certain that their souls are
fashioned in a normal manner and that our own personal
conduct, between man and his fellow and man and his
surroundings, is normal. If there is softness, calm,
courtesy and self-control in a home, children won't know how
to behave otherwise. But even if the house is a bit stormy
and the people inside it know how to get angry a bit, how to
cry a bit and laugh a lot, that is still considered to be a
normal house, full of life.
Emotional intelligence doesn't mean emotional perfection.
Rather, it is the correct balance between intelligence and
emotion, between events and how to react to them. It means
balancing the intensity of the reaction, its frequency, and
cultivating an inner feeling of how to act under all
circumstances: when to be warm and when to display a certain
degree of rigidity; when to give others the feeling that
they have vanquished you and when to stand up for one's own
side; when to be angry and when to pretend to be angry.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to accept criticism
and to know when, if at all, to dole it out. It is the inner
voice that tells one when to forgo and when to draw the
line; when to make a friend and when the friendship becomes
stifling; what one should demand from oneself and what one
may demand from his fellow and how to do it.
Emotional intelligence doesn't guarantee that one won't err,
but it is a guarantee that one will admit his errors and
learn from them. It doesn't do away with one's faults, but
gives one the power to transform them into advantages.
We must strive to be perfect, but we have to be at peace in
our souls, balanced and self-controlled.