Sept. 12, 2012
Toddlers apparently have finely tuned emotional judgment on whether someone is overreacting to a situation and whining or whether the person truly deserves sympathy. A study published in the current issue of “Developmental Psychology” journal suggests that we are born with the ability or learn very early on how to read the emotional validity of others’ reactions.
The study watched the reactions of 3-year-olds when they witnessed adults who were distressed in various situations, such as getting slightly bumped by box or getting their artwork cut up. The results show that when a toddler witnessed a justifiably distressing incident, the child’s face showed concern. But when the child judged that the event didn’t warrant distress and the adult was over-reacting, the child’s reaction was much less empathetic.
I just love these studies showing that we humans are probably born with tremendous emotional and intuitive abilities. Love that! We really are social creatures and come fully equipped with the skills to live with others. I am fascinated that children have very good emotional intelligence at an early age.
But I become distressed when I realize that some of us have these fabulous and powerful skills trained out of us by our parents and society. We are taught not to value or exercise these tools of intuition and emotional and social intelligence. Many of us are taught to react solicitously to others’ pain, whether real or put on, but not to feel or value our own emotional responses. Religions also teach us not to “judge” others, so we learn to blindly accept what others do, even if that behavior steamrolls over us. These “Submissives,” as I call them in “Pack Leader Psychology,” don’t trust or value their emotional responses, sublimate their own emotions, overvalue the needs of others, and become inept at reading the emotional cues of others. Sadly, this makes them naive and gullible in relationships, possibly with abusive consequences when a manipulative “Dominator” is on the scene.
I guess we all need to act like little children! Of course, dogs also have very good emotional barometers.