Saturday, December 5, 2020

So how can Doctors get better at emotional literacy?

I think it’s really hard to learn emotional literacy currently because there’s simply no “one curriculum” for it at this point in our society.  We don’t seem to value it in the same way as numeracy and literacy. However, it will happen I think. I just can’t pin point exactly when. 

I often remind patients that without emotional literacy to solve emotional problems, it’s like trying to solve maths without the knowledge of numbers.

I think the best way to learn emotional literacy is to first have curiosity for people and their emotional world. We also need to have great curiosity for our own feelings and our emotional world. I see “feelings” as simply “data” like the other senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. One has to “play” with it in order to learn it. Of course, it will be in our nature to avoid or suppress it when it gets uncomfortable, and at the same time, if we avoid it, we won’t be able to get better at it.

So it’s very difficult if we don’t have guidance and support to play in this space, the same way as numeracy and literacy. It’s probably much more risky than playing with numbers and letters though. Think of it like playing in water to learn how to swim. If we don’t play in water, we can’t swim. But if we play in water without supervision, it might be a bit unsafe. The problem is, our parents and teachers may not be great at this “feelings” stuff either.

General practice is definitely not just a playground for “feelings”, but a theme park for “feelings” I think. For those who have a natural curiosity for “feelings”, and good support and guidance for playing with “feelings”, this is the place to be.

So growing up, I play a lot and think a lot in the “feeling space“. I still do. “Emotional feelings” are a bit vague, and abstract I must admit. Not like the other senses which are much more objective and specific.

For those who want to start “playing in this space”, and help our patients to play in this space, maybe start with ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy).

Consider transforming your consultation room into a theme park for “feelings”.

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