Pioneers in emotional education

Christian Maury

© Christian Maury

Barcelona has unintentionally become one of the world’s leading cities when it comes to emotional education. I say unintentionally because it has never explicitly set itself this goal, although it has given its support to many groups that have. For seven years, the University of Barcelona has been running a Master’s course in emotional education. In 2007, the Fundació per a l’Educació Emocional was set up with responsibility for what are known as “emotional gyms” in the city. Other foundations, such as Àmbit, have been highlighting the importance of managing one’s emotions correctly for even longer. Public media organisations have also taken a strong interest in the subject, with programmes such as Bricolatge Emocional (Emotional DIY) on TV3 and L’Ofici de Viure (The Job of Living) on Catalunya Ràdio, which I had the privilege to present.

The most recent initiative comes from the Children’s and Adolescents’ Health Observatory at Sant Joan de Déu Hospital. It has just published its latest Faros report entitled Com educar les emocions? (How does one teach emotions?) The report highlights the fact that in the West, when it comes to raising awareness of the importance of managing one’s emotions properly, there is still much work to be done. Studies have been conducted, but only very few, mostly in the United States and Great Britain. And Catalonia has become one of the pioneers, despite the fact that only five per cent of schools include emotional intelligence on the syllabus. The Catalan Government is drawing up a National Plan on Values which will cover this and other topics.

As one of its promoters, Eduard Punset, says, it is all about “ending the systematic contempt for our most fundamental and universal emotions”. The report by Sant Joan de Déu Hospital states that emotional education has a direct impact on the academic progress of children and young people and on their future. According to lecturer Juan Carlos Pérez-González, countries that promote emotional education create a domino effect on their citizens’ levels of motivation, self-control and well-being.

The problem is that few people set a good example. “Much of the content in newspapers provides examples of emotional illiteracy,” says Rafel Bisquerra, a lecturer and coordinator of the study. Bad anger management “is ­floating in the atmosphere”, as the writer, Josep Pla, would say. Verbal violence is practised without a second thought; verbal violence that can and does provoke physical violence, in many cases. And if there’s one emotion that’s floating in the atmosphere, it’s fear: general fear of the future and of the present economic situation, of course. Nobody taught us, at school or anywhere else, that fear serves almost no purpose, except on the very few occasions when it works alongside caution.

If that were not enough, one of today’s few well-known figures who does manage their emotions well, has resigned. Barça manager Pep Guardiola has left. Unintentionally, Guardiola was a great emotional educator. He respected his opponents, unlike the Madrid manager, Mourinho. He did not practise verbal violence; he is a likeable man in a society that will become ever more neurotic if it does not learn to manage its emotions.

We will get out of this financial crisis, as a country we may achieve independence, but the levels of happiness and unhappiness in the population will be the same as before the crisis if we do not move towards what philosopher Francesc Torralba calls “a new culture of the being”; a culture, as Erich Fromm said, based on “being” and not on “having”; a culture of self-knowledge. Two of its pillars would be emotional and values education, and meditation.

Gaspar Hernández

Journalist and writer

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