Emotions

Updated: Jan 16

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (May 17, 2018)


Just this past week, I was leading a training session for in-service school teachers on the topic of positive emotions and we all agreed that if students can have positive emotions, school would be much better academically and socially. Sometimes people mistaken that learning about and focusing on emotions ‘takes away’ from the learning that is needed at school but we all know that if we are stressed, feeling angry, mad or sad, it’s a lot harder to focus on work and on getting good results. Helping our students experience positive emotions will enable them to learn better and to enjoy the process more.


According to Prof. Martin Seligman’s PERMA Model, one of the five integral elements of a life of well-being is experiencing positive emotions. But sometimes people can mistaken this as never having negative emotions.


In one of our classes with kindergarteners, we asked students 4-6 year old students, is it okay to feel happy? “yes” was the unanimous answer. Then the question was “is it okay to feel mad?” “no” was furious shaking heads. Many of us have been taught since young that it’s ‘bad to feel bad’ and that we should shut our emotions off.


I was once speaking to parents of a 2 year old and I asked them whether they had anything they were concerned about and they shared that they were worried that their daughter would cry and throw a tantrum when she’s upset. I think they were surprised when I said that it was a good thing. It’s healthy for a child to express her emotions to people close to her and at 2 years old, she doesn’t have the vocabulary nor emotional capacity to express herself well. But instead of shutting her emotions down, it’s to help her understand her emotion and to work it through.


I’ve heard parents say to their children ‘don’t be upset’, ‘stop crying – boys shouldn’t cry’, ‘it’s not big deal – why are you so mad?’ and all those comments shut those emotions off and make children store them shut without learning how to release them properly.


I think there are 4 steps to learning to deal with emotions that are helpful for children and adults alike:


1. Acknowledge and accept the emotion


The first step is acknowledging that an emotion is being felt and to accept it, whether it is a positive or negative one. If someone else is expressing an emotion, accept that there are no good or bad emotions, just positive and negative ones.


2. Identify the emotion


This is often the hardest part, especially for children, their limited vocabulary may only have ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ but there are so many more to understand. ‘Sad’ could be disappointed, frustrated, angry, indignant, betrayed, hopeless, melancholy or so much more. What emotion is being felt and why am I feeling that way?


3. Articulate the emotion


I think it’s important to be able to share what emotion we are feeling. But this can be hard for young children so parents and adults can really help children learn how to do this step by ‘naming the emotion’. For example, “I see that a boy just took your toy without asking and you must be feeling angry and hurt” or “It must be frustrating that you didn’t get that part in the play you wanted”


4. Express the emotion


There are responsible and irresponsible ways to express emotions and that is what differentiates a good and a bad response. It’s okay to feel angry and there may be legitimate reasons for feeling such but it is never okay to hurt yourself or others. So learning to express emotions responsibly is something that needs to be practices and taught. Everyone has a different way of expressing an emotion in a way that helps. For some it’s listening to music, for others it’s doing breathing exercises, for others it’s going on a run. We each have to find what works for us.


With healthy and positive emotions and the emotional intelligence in dealing with different types of emotions, we are setting ourselves up better for the world we face.


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情緒


上星期,我主持一個有關積極情緒的老師訓練班,一眾老師和我均同意正面的情緒有助學生在課業和社交上有更好的表現。不少人誤認為情緒學習會影響孩子的正規學習,惟我們都明白當一個人壓力大、憤怒、心煩氣躁或傷心時,根本沒辦法集中在事情上,幫助孩子發展正面情緒反而有助他們學習及更享受當中的過程。


根據馬丁·賽里格曼所訂立的PERMA理論,積極情緒為美好人生的五項元素之一,惟不少人認為擁有積極情緒就等於沒有負面情緒。


在一班幼兒班上,我向一班四至六歲的學生問道:「我們可以感到開心嗎?」全部人均回答:「可以」,惟當我問到「那我們可以抓狂嗎?」大夥兒則猛力搖頭,我相信不少人從小就被灌輸「負面情緒是一件壞事」的概念,故此選擇把情緒藏在心裏。


我曾經與一對育有兩歲幼兒的父母傾談,當我問到他們對女兒有甚麼擔憂時,他們表示擔心女兒不開心的時候只懂大哭和發脾氣。當我回應這是正常不過的反應時,這對父母都感到很訝異。事實上,若果一個小朋友願意跟最親密的人釋放情緒,這是一件非常好的事,而這位小朋友只有兩歲,她並沒有足夠的詞匯或控制力去表達自己。在此情況下,家長應幫助她認識和明白自己的感受,而非阻止她發洩。


我經常聽到父母叫他們的孩子「不要不開心」、「不要再哭了——男兒有淚不輕彈」或「這只是很少的事——為甚麼你會感到憤怒呢?」這些話只會令孩子不敢妥善釋放自己的情緒,反而把情緒藏在心底裏。


我認為以下四個步驟有助大人和小朋友學習控制情緒:


1. 明白和接受情緒


不論是正面或負面情緒,我們第一步要做的是承認和接受人是有情緒的,當一個人釋放情緒時,我們應接受情緒沒有好懷之分,只有正面和負面的情緒。


2. 辨識情緒


這點對孩子來說尤其困難,因為他們的詞匯較為貧乏,大概只會用開心與傷心來表達情緒。然而,傷心還包括失望、沮喪、憤怒、憤慨、覺得被出賣、絕望及惆悵等情緒。


3. 表達情感


懂得分享或表達感受是非常重要的,惟這對幼兒並不容易,故此家長或身邊的人需要幫助他們為情緒「命名」,讓他們在將來遇到同樣情形時,有適當的詞彙表達自己。當孩子被其他小朋友搶去玩具時,你可以嘗試說:「我看到那個男孩沒有問過你就搶去你的玩具,你一定感到很憤怒和受傷。」或者孩子在話劇面試中落敗時,你可以說:「你得不到你想要的角色一定非常洩氣。」


4. 釋放情緒


釋放情緒的方式會帶來不同的後果,一個人會感到憤怒是很正常的事,但不能用傷害自己或他人的方式來發洩。學會用適當的方式釋放情緒需要練習,每個人都有自己的方式發洩自己的情感,有些人會聽音樂、有些人會深呼吸、有些人會跑步,我們總會找到適合自己的方法。


唯有健康、積極的情緒和情商才能幫助我們做好準備,面對世界。


2018年5月17日(香港經濟日報)



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