In an article written for the New York Times Hillary Jacobs Hendel makes a number of points I find both interesting and telling. In her discussion of the treatment of one of her clients, Brian, for depression she explains that parents who pre-occupied with making ends meet can lead them to neglect the emotional needs of their children. Here we get to the notion of emotional expressiveness and the importance of it in healthy development.
Because Brian’s parents were so involved with making ends meet they had no resources left to address Brian’s emotional needs. Brian’s response to this neglect was not to blame his parents but to blame himself. This shame, Hendel explains, served to block Brian from experiencing core emotions such as anger, joy and sadness. This blocking action impaired Brian’s ability to express himself emotionally. What I find important here is that by not having an outlet to emotionally express oneself people like Brian learn not to feel and lose their emotional compass for living.
In an article by Sharon Begley and Claudia Kalb they state that the key to developing a sense of right and wrong is the existence of the emotion empathy. Without empathy it is more difficult for a child to acquire this sense of right and wrong. So, by not allowing others to express themselves emotionally we actually inhibit this ability. That being said, the converse should also be true, that by allowing others to express their emotions we encourage the ability to discern right from wrong.
Therefore, when it comes to those who commit violence, if we encourage them to express their emotions will we help them to develop a healthy sense of right from wrong and put an end to violence? The first step in allowing others to express their emotions is listening.