While The Web Of Literautre Spun, So Did Our Emotional Prowess

The dots could be connected in a million different ways but to see it from the periscope of empathetic beauty that humans share with each other is special.

Long has been the journey of men trying to gain a deeper insight into their being -- who they are, what is their purpose, so on and so forth. And on this journey many revelations and many mysteries, that lead to the foundations of our being, have been uncovered. The physical and psychological fibres of our existence slowly unfold before us while we evolve as a specie. One of the more recent revelations to be discovered, still in the process of making its rounds among us all, is emotional intelligence.

While on one hand men have been on a quest to discover the truth about their being, simultaneously on the other hand, methods and means of communication, and sharing of knowledge have also been discovered. One of the most frequently used methods since centuries has been through books - through reading and sharing stories - through literature.

Now, of course, one could say literature is all about stories and fantasy and doesn't speak of the real world; thereby has no real lesson to teach. However, our brain - most of which still remains a mystery to us - reacts subconsciously to everything it interacts with. It stores this information, develops behavioural patterns, and ultimately defines who we are as human beings.
On the junction of knowledge and method is precisely where literature and emotional intelligence meet.

A savant in the study of emotional intelligence, and author, Daniel Goleman defines emotional intelligence as a definite skill set to have in the holistic development of an individual. He also defines emotional intelligence as empathy, which is the key component with which humans relate to, and understand, one another.

It is through this key of empathy that literature unlocks the path to emotional intelligence. One could go on to wonder how empathy is inspired by the stories we read in the famous, and not so famous, literature books. The fact is that humans react to stories not just cognitively but also on a neurological level. At the neurological level, our brain produces oxytocin upon hearing/reading stories. Oxytocin is the chemical released by the brain which gives feeling of trust, empathy, and understanding. It is the chief tool used for bonding amongst humans. Which explains why one is able to relate with characters of a story emotionally. According to psychology scientist Dan Johnson, reading fiction can increase our empathy towards others we may have not been keen on opening up to initially or considered as "outsiders".

As is well known, children have a hard time recalling memories in their second year despite having started to understand basic concepts. This happens because there is no contextual support in the mind of the child to anchor these memories to. This changes as soon as the child develops narrative skills, i.e. develops the ability to play out events in the form of a story. It is suggested by research that developing narrative skills helps the child make better sense of the world around it. By the age of 4-5, a child develops "theory of mind", which means that they are able to put themselves in another's shoes and be aware of others. A study conducted by psychologists at the University of Waterloo in Ontario showed that the characters and adventures children experience through stories are almost certain to have a lifelong impact. The concept of stories is therefore used, not just in terms of vocabulary or reading skills, but also to develop their ability to think, empathise and imagine.  

It has also been suggested by scholars in the field that quality literature can make one gain insight into human behaviour and demonstrate the overcoming of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, to solidify the existence of hope. In act one of the exercises popularly used to develop and nurture emotional intelligence is 'scripting'. It is an activity where students are invited to write their own script or add to an already existing scrip from their perspective. It is where they give their own interpretation to a character and/or give meaning and reasons to the feelings displayed before them.  

One doesn't merely read/hear a story but, lives the life of the characters - hears their thoughts, perceives their actions, and, above all, feels their emotions. We get to experience and interact with the characters as if they were real life. The gift of imagination peculiar to humankind has given us the ability to enter worlds and dimensions while we stare at a page, and as simple as the action of reading is, as complex is our reaction to it in our conscious and subconscious mind.

The dots could be connected in a million different ways but to see it from the periscope of empathetic beauty that humans share with each other is special. Through literature we understand the wide spectrum of an array of emotions that we all feel collectively as a specie, it is how we realise we are not alone. Through emotional intelligence is how we navigate those emotions in a healthy manner and push the boundaries of evolution just a tad bit further than they have ever been explored before.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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