What are the real basics?

What are the real basics?

Reading, writing, and arithmetic is what most people think of when they hear ‘back to basics’ in education.

Like many things, the common belief about something is often an unexamined belief that was formed and accepted by many others without giving it real thought.

Are these subjects really the basis of creating citizens who will contribute to society in the future?

I am not saying that these subjects are not important but are they the most important contributing factors to becoming successful adults?

What do I mean by successful adults?  Let me define that first. A successful adult, according to my definition, is an individual who is self-sufficient and contributes positively to others and society. Self-sufficient encompasses self-motivation. Contributes to others and society means their actions are beneficial beyond their self interests.

For example, having a job or running a business creates a contribution to others. As an employee, there are typically many contributions including to the employer, customers, co-workers as well as your family (by supporting yourself and possibly your family), and society (by being a contributing taxpayer). Contributions can extend well beyond these examples, but these basic ones are pretty universal.

Self-sufficient does not mean an individual who does not establish and maintain connections to others. Symbiotic relationships are healthy and increase the ability of an individual to be successful.

Are there factors that are more basic than reading, writing, and arithmetic?

I believe there are.

For many years, there has been a push to help children develop self-esteem. Many of these programs have not understood the nature of self-esteem and how it is really developed.

Not having an opportunity to fail or loose is a grave disservice to children. It is far more important to have those experiences and learn that failure is another name for a learning opportunity. Losing is an opportunity to learn that life does not end because you did not win today. In fact, learning to rise up again after losing and that losing can actually prepare you for greater success than you would have ever experienced if you had never lost develops resilience.

Another problem with using contrived self esteem builders is that children are not stupid. They can tell when someone really means a compliment and when they are saying it just to try to make them feel better. Think about it. They can read the truth. If someone feeds you a line to ‘build you up’ and you know they have made it up could you not think “there must not be anything true that is good enough to say so he/she has to make up something”. While not every child would have this thought process, some would. For those children such actions are especially detrimental. What happened to “Honesty is the best policy”?  Where did we loose sight of that?

If I had a magic wand I would stop all the false self esteem building that goes on everywhere, in schools, homes, on the sports field, and in work places. Most of communication is non-verbal and most people know on some level whether the person offering the compliment is being honest. They may not read it clearly but it will feel “off” on some level.

False compliments teach children that the person offering the compliment cannot be trusted.

True self esteem comes from understanding yourself, your own worth, from a platform of understanding that everyone has great value and worth and it is, in fact, their unique perspective that creates that value. No one else in the world perceives the world exactly as they do. It also comes from understanding that bad behavior does not make you bad. Bad behavior is a symptom of being in a negative emotional state. Individuals who are in a generally positive state of mind are not bothersome (from their behavior) to society.

In fact, building a child up by comparing to others, teaching them to rely upon a positive comparison to others does an even graver disservice. Our comparison should be “Are we growing?”, “Are we more than we were yesterday, last week, last year, last decade?”, “Am I moving in the direction of that which I want to become?”. When we teach children to gain their self-worth by comparing themselves favorably to others we are actually putting some of them in an early grave. Yes, I know this is a very bold statement. I base it upon research that shows that health, well-being, and longevity is lower when the income disparity is greater than when it is closer together combined with research about the health benefits of positivity.[i]  This is not an inherent problem with varying incomes. The problem rests with the emotional result of comparing oneself with others and deciding that you are less than another.

There are many skills and tools children can use to self manage their emotions and help themselves feel better when something makes them feel badly. They are empowering and can create a stable platform of well-being for the child.

Unfortunately, families, schools, religious institutions, and society all tend to direct the child away from their inborn guidance to less reliable outside sources. All of us are born with an emotional guidance system.[ii]  The unfounded belief that without external guidance individuals would behave poorly is partially at the root of this tendency to train our children away from their own guidance system. Again, science does not support this belief. It is clear that when individuals feel better they behave better. The socially unacceptable behaviors stem from negative emotions that individuals do not know how to improve. I am working on another paper that addresses this topic. The working title is “The Importance of Understanding Emotions”. When we train children away from following their emotional guidance system we take away their compass.

When a child does not believe they have the ability to change how he or she feels their ability to learn is diminished. Some children learn from their environment that their actions do not matter so they give up. This belief is never a truth and the belief can be changed. Changing that belief is far more important than efforts to teach the basics. In fact, this belief, in my opinion, is a factor that contributes greatly to those children who do not seem to make progress regardless of the resources sent their way. Learned helplessness must be unlearned before progress can be made. When learned helplessness is overcome the potential for post traumatic growth is tremendous.

Unfortunately, there are environments where children are told many untruths by adults in their lives. Some examples are that they are stupid, dumb, will never amount to anything, and other statements along those lines. There is some possibility of helping adults understand the impact they can have on their children (and children in their lives) with such statements but I believe the larger opportunity is to help the children understand that they do not have to define themselves by the opinions of others. They can make up their own mind about who they are and what their potential is. What the child believes will be a self fulfilling prophesy. The evidence is clear that we do not exceed our expectations.

The impact of the placebo and nocebo effect sheds some light upon the power of belief to determine outcome.

So, if we want a level playing field for children we need to empower them. We need to help them understand that they have an emotional guidance system. This system is actually highly personalized. The guidance is based upon the desires of the individual. For example, someone who wants to marry young and have children will receive different guidance than someone who wants to delay children and pursue a career or more education. Life teaches us what we prefer, often by showing us what we do not desire. Once that personal preference is determined our guidance system will guide us in the direction of our desires.

We all have what I call a “Higher Self” or an “Ideal Self”. We create this self as we live and make decisions about who we really want to be. If we are rude to someone we create a “Higher Self” that is nicer. If someone is rude to us we create a “Higher Self” that others are nicer to. This Higher or Ideal Self” calls us. The Higher Self has achieved all the dreams we have dreamed and our job is to move in the direction of the Higher Self we have created through the living of our life. The “Higher Self” is not a stagnant ‘ideal’. It is ever evolving as we experience life. The “Higher Self” is unique to each of us. No two of us want the same exact things although there are many commonalities.

Our guidance provides us positive feedback in the form of better feeling emotions when we are moving in the direction of our Higher Self and negative emotions when we are moving away from our Higher Self. The Higher Self represents your best current potential. That includes your best behavior. So you see, if children understand how to listen to and understand their emotional guidance they will always move in the direction of becoming more. Many of us do this anyway because even when we do not understand we have guidance the guidance has a strong influence. It is just a far straighter line towards where we want to go when we understand and consciously follow our emotional guidance.

We are born with the innate tendency to move in the direction that feels best. It is when you have conflicting information that things become confusing. For example, take a teenager who feels love for another but that person does not, for some reason, satisfy the parents’ standards. Now the teenager, who does not know he or she has guidance, is trying to please the parents, trying to please this person he or she loves, and being called by the guidance. This creates conflicting feelings. If the teen and the parents understood that the emotional guidance system always called you towards your best potential self, I mean really understood this and trusted it (the way they would if they understood they also had guidance and that it was reliable and trustworthy), they could trust the teenager to follow the guidance. In fact, if the parents would check in with their own guidance they would feel that the better feeling place is allowing the teenager to decide. The angst they feel at the person they have judged as inappropriate in some way is because they are moving in the opposite direction of their own Higher Self when they make that judgment. Their own guidance system is wise enough to know that their child has his or her own guidance and that the guidance the child receives from the internal system is more reliable than their guidance. This is a huge hurdle for many to overcome. Most believe the child requires our guidance. Social institutions have inserted themselves between individuals and their emotional guidance. A parent can learn to trust that his or her child has guidance and accordingly. When this is done the relationship between parent and child becomes so much more loving.

Science has already shown that cognitive ability, creativity, resilience, and success increase along a continuum with increased positivity. Likewise, self mastery and emotional intelligence would be increased with an understanding of the emotional guidance system. Science has also shown that many social problems are positively impacted by increased positivity including reductions in crime, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse.

Our emotional guidance system guides us to better feeling emotional states and provides unfailingly accurate answers to what would feel better for us.

Helping children understand their own emotional guidance system and that with an understanding of the system they will be guided to whatever they decide is best for themselves. The system does not care if someone else has said the child “can’t”, as long as the child believes in his or her own ability the system provides guidance.

There is another factor that comes into the mix and that is the filters in the brain each of us have. Each of us has a brain that is programmed and our brains are good at following our individual programming. Our beliefs form part of the programming system. Problems arise if the child comes to believe that he or she “can’t”, can’t read, can’t learn, can’t survive, can’t be successful, can’t amount to anything, the filter will take that belief into consideration. The emotional guidance system will be wiser than this programming. It will give clues by making such thoughts feel awful while thoughts of “I can” will feel better. A child who has had one or more experiences that have created an “I can’t” belief can overcome this belief by understanding the emotional guidance system and how to read it and then checking this belief against the response from the emotional guidance system.

“I can’t” beliefs belong to a class of beliefs called “Limiting Beliefs”. The child (or adult) will not generally check a limiting belief against the guidance system by asking the right question because of the brain filtering process. This is an area where a little help and guidance from social institutions would be very worthwhile. Upon noticing that a child (or anyone) makes comments such as “I can’t” or “I want to but” encouraging the child who understands their emotional guidance system, its accuracy and utter trustworthiness to check in with their own guidance as to the truth of the “I can’t” or the “but statement” the child will quickly have irrefutable evidence that their guidance says otherwise.

Teaching a child to follow his or her own guidance is pretty simple. It is as simple as the children’s game you may remember playing. It was a game that could be played almost anywhere. An object would be hidden and someone else look for it. The person who knew the location would say “You’re getting warmer” if you were getting closer to the object and “You’re getting colder” if you were moving away.

Emotional guidance works the same way. While it does feel different to move from despair to anger than from anger to frustration or from hope to joy each of these steps is a step in the right direction, each is “Getting warmer”. The common aspect is that the feeling of relief (a releasing of tension or stress) is felt in each of these steps. The emotion that is in the warmer direction always feels better than the one that is further away.

Emotions come to us in response to our thoughts. If I think about something pleasing (past, present, or future) I will have positive emotional guidance. If I think about something unpleasant (past, present, or future) I will have an emotional response that feels worse. I can think about someone or something and focus upon an aspect that feels good or a different aspect that feels bad. My guidance tells me which is more like my Higher Self by giving emotional feedback.

It is not difficult for a child, even a young child, given information about his or her emotional guidance system to check it out for his or herself. Asking questions about what feels better will elicit answers.

Unfortunately, I did not know about the emotional guidance system when my children were young so I taught them to rely upon my guidance (which was also not always based on listening to my emotional guidance system). But today when one of my young adult children ask me “Should I do __________” my response is to direct them back to their guidance. “How does the thought of doing that feel?”   “How does the thought of not doing that feel?”   I have found I also have to give them permission to put their guidance ahead of other considerations. For example, my youngest daughters friends wanted to go to a club. She asked me if she should go. I asked her what her guidance said and she said it felt better not to go. Then she said “But my friends want me to go”. She was wanting to take into consideration that external guidance (what her friends wanted).

I explained to her that her emotional guidance system knows all her goals and desires including her desire to be friends with these individuals. Her guidance would take all her priorities into consideration when providing the guidance. She was getting a clear “Don’t go”. Her guidance knew her friends were not going to stop being her friend just because she chose not to participate in this one activity with them. Her brain could have created all sorts of false fears and worries of how they would react but her guidance KNEW that it was not only fine but best for her long term goals and desires not to go.

I encourage you not to take my word about this emotional guidance system. You have your own. Begin asking yourself “What feels better?”. Begin listening and see what it is telling you. Begin following it on little things and build your trust. It takes much more for an adult who has been trained to listen only to the brain to begin to trust this emotional guidance system than it does for a child.

Children are born listening to their emotional guidance. How do you think they so quickly go from crying to laughing when tears are still wet on their face?  Their guidance calls them and they listen. But children are not here long when we begin telling them to listen to outside guidance. Listening to these others is not very harmful if they are following their own guidance and in good emotional places (other than it teaches them not to listen to their own guidance which is very life-limiting) but most of the time that is not the case. Sometimes it is far from the situation. It also teaches them to take their cues as to their worth and value from outside sources, sources that may have a much lower view of their potential than their emotional guidance system KNOWS. As they begin accepting a view of their worth that comes from outside themselves they become vulnerable. If those around them hold them in high regard things can go well. But if those around them tell them they are not smart and they do not know how to check this statement against their own guidance they may begin believing that this other person is right.

Think of the utter empowerment of the child who understands his or her own emotional guidance and understands that good behavior is found in good feeling emotional states and poor behavior is found in lower emotional states. This wise child is told by another student “You’re stupid”. The wise child can, if he has any concern at all about the validity of this statement use his guidance to check on it. Checking is as simple as asking “Does it feel better to believe I am stupid”? or “Does it feel better to believe I am smart”?  A child that has learned the trustworthiness of his emotional guidance system will immediately know that the statement is not accurate. There will be no reason to dwell on it, no reason to ruminate upon it, and certainly no reason to adopt it as his own belief and make it into a self-fulfilling fantasy.

But let’s look further. This child has also been taught about the relationship between emotional state and behavior. What will the child equipped with this knowledge know?  The child will know that the child who made this comment is not in a good emotional place. Now, the child who was called the name will not have gone to a negative mindset because of the name calling because he had a quick, easy, and accurate way not to take it personally. To, in fact, KNOW it was not personal because it was not a true statement about their person. But the child knows that the other child would not have said that from a good feeling state. Could that child then feel empathy for the child who lashed out from a negative state, enough empathy to do something to try to help that other child move to a better feeling state?  I believe a child equipped with this knowledge not only could but often would.

  • It is a fact that we have an emotional guidance system (EGS).
  • It is a fact that we behave better when we are in better emotional states.
  • It is a fact that our EGS always guides us to better feeling states.

Sometimes, in this paper, I use KNOW and KNEW in all caps. This is to highlight the fact that KNOWing is a sense. A sense an individual can read as accurately as what they see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. In fact, a developed ability to read ones EGS is the most accurate sense we have. The other senses are more colored by the filters in the brain which can alter perception.

There is one more false premise I want to address before I conclude this paper. The belief that our inherent nature is competitive is false. Our inherent nature is cooperative and when we follow our guidance we are very cooperative, especially when we reach and often maintain high emotional states of well-being.

Our bodies are made of 70 trillion or so cells, all of which cooperate beautifully together. There is mounting scientific evidence of our connection with all others. When attempts are made at the quantum physics level to study separate entities they find we are all connected at that level. Only at the level of our natural sight are we perceived as separate.

Your EGS is aware of this connection and of the deep rooted desire to cooperate and live harmoniously with others.

In conclusion, helping children understand their own emotional guidance system and the impact of emotional state on behavior would create a platform that would facilitate an excellent learning environment. It would mitigate the impact of negative home environments to a great degree. In my opinion, this is the most important basic of basics.

I could write entire books about the positive changes that would be brought about by this approach. For example, teenagers tend to put great stake in their friends’ opinions. (By the way, this is because we taught them to look outside themselves for guidance when they were young.)  We have the choice to teach them that it is their choice whether they buy into another s opinion of them or form their own. We can teach them that they can be anything they want to be if they believe in themselves but if they do not believe in themselves they will be only what they believe they can be.

By teaching them to put less emphasis on negative outside input and to be kind to themselves with their own internal conversations they can be in a better feeling place. If they know their emotions are their own personal guidance, how to read it and listen to it, outside influences that are in the opposite direction of their Higher Self will be minimized. If we do this at a young age by 9th grade they will be doing so well dropping out won’t even be on their radar.

Note:  The science that demonstrates that emotions are a sense (like taste, touch, smell, hearing, and seeing) has newly been put together by Katherine Peil based on solid research conducted by many others in many fields (10 pages of citations). She connected the dots and saw clearly what others had either failed to see or were not brave enough to report. There is a saying that science moves forward by funeral because old ideas and paradigms are clung to for the sake of having been right. I commend her for her bravery in publishing these very important results and appreciate to the core of my being her willingness to do so because, having known about and understood this emotional guidance system for quite some time, I have contemplated the benefits society could reap if many others understood it.

There are those who have KNOWN and understood this emotional guidance system for a long time and understand how perfect it is and how beneficial it is when followed.

Recently there was a movie called Limitless. The basic story line was that someone developed a pill that, when taken, allowed the brain to function more fully. Following the emotional guidance system has results similar to those in the movie without the need for a pill.

Let’s get the real basics in place.

© Jeanine Broderick, 2012


[i]  The research has been clear. It is not that the lower incomes have too few resources. This has been determined by looking at research subjects in areas with less income diversity, same cost of living, and looking at the lower end of the income. For example, in an area where incomes are between 50,000 – 60,000 (fairly close) the longevity is about the same. In another area where incomes range between 50,000 – 120,000 with the same cost of living those near the lower end of income have worse health, well-being and even higher mortality (worse than that of the ones with the same income in an area with less disparate incomes). It is the adverse comparison of self to others that creates the negative emotions that contributes to the lower level of health. Positive emotions, optimism, and happiness are linked to a 50% risk reduction in cardiovascular disease and benefits against many other diseases. Essentially, by negatively comparing themselves to others they bring on their own negative emotions, which then creates the lack of well-being.

[ii] Peil, K. T., Emotion: A Self-regulatory Sense, published in Biophysical Psychological Review, 2012, (Northeastern University; Harvard Divinity School; EFS International)