Emotional Intelligence | Stevehein.com


Ivan and His Sister

Yesterday I wrote about a teenage friend of mine, "Ivan". Ivan was feeling judgmental about his sister. I know that judging her, calling her lazy, etc. is not going to help her. Nor its it going to get the results that Ivan wants. In other words, it is counter-productive. Later in the day I talked to another teenage friend, who I will call Nikola. Nikola said that Ivan has "every right" to judge his sister. And he said that Ivan is judging his sister and trying to control her because her and wants to help her.

First, I wonder if it matters whether the sister feels loved or helped. I also wonder if Nikola also believes Ivan has "every right" to hit his sister, (who is in her twenties, by the way), if she doesn't do what he believes she should do. (I have learned that there is a lot of domestic violence here and I have been told it is still legal to hit your children and teenagers.) And I wonder if anyone can feel loved when they are being hit or even hurt. I think of the story that I sent to Jordan Riak at nospank.net. It is the story of a four year old girl who said she didn't feel loved when her mother hit her. (www.nospank.net/hein.htm)

Second, I would like to ask Ivan a question. I am sure it is a question he was never asked in his 12 or so years of public education. The question is" What are your sister's emotional needs?" More specifically, what unmet emitional needs is she trying to fill by spending time with her boyfriend who you are judging and disapprove of?" I might also ask him what his emotional needs are and if he believes he has the same emotional needs as his sister, (which might imply that she should, therefore, behave as he does.) If he doesn't feel too defensive yet, I might ask him why a person might have basic unmet emotional needs when they are in their early twenties. (By the way, I know more about the family situation and why the sister might have some basic unmet emotional needs at this point in her life, but I will leave out further details, although I really wish that I could include them so my readers could have a more complete picture.)

As I thought about the conversation I had with Evan, and I wondered how he was feeling besides judgmental, controlling and disapproving I remembered he mentioned his mother. From what he told me I am going to guess that Ivan feels protective of his mother because he believes his sister is taking advantage of her. He might also feel a sense of injustice because he believes his sister doesn't deserve the things his mother does and buys for her. And he might be feeling a bit competitive with his sister or superior to her and more deserving of his mother's love and material help. He might also be feeling a bit envious, thinking that if his mother weren't spending so much money on his sister, she could spend more on him. He could even be thinking that if his sister were working, she could help him with his studies or his material needs as his friend's sister does for her younger brother. I really don't know what all Ivan's thoughts and feelings are or may be. I am just speculating, of course. I feel optimistic that Ivan and I will be able to have a good talk about all of this after he reads this!

On the topic of feeling superior, when my friend Nikola started giving me a little lecture about how the sister should make a contribution to her family, he boaasted that he, as compared to Ivan's sister, does make a contribution to his family. Then he proceeded to tell me all the ways he does this. My guess is that he was feeling self-righteous and sueprior, but I also guess that he would deny this, and if I suggested he felt defensive he would very likely also deny that he felt defensive. But I would not want to bet on that because Nikola is a person who often surprises me. So I will just say that in my experience many people around the world have in fact gotten defensive when I suggest they are feeling superior, judgmental, self-righteous, and, of course, defensive!

So perhaps I will post an update tomorrow.

S. Hein
Jan 10, 2008
Podgorica, Montenegro


Further thoughts...

On one level, I agree with my friend Nikola when it comes to people making a contribution to the group. It is a fact of group survival that if too many people take from the group without contributing something, the group won't last long. But I disagree about the way to motivate someone to make their contribution. In fact, I believe children are natually motivated to want to make a contribution. I have never seen a "lazy" child in my life, anywhere in the world. And I don't believe calling someone "lazy" is the best way to motivate them. Instead I believe it is more efficient to help them discover what they are intrinsically motivated to do, then support that.

On the topic of making a contribution, I believe one of the many problems with traditional, state-run schools, is that the child and teenager's innate need to make a contribution to the group is not being met. Recently a 16 year old told me, in fact, that she did not feel she was making a contribution to the world by going to school. The idea is, of course, that young people will make their contribution later, but it appears to me that this theory isn't working very well. I believe young people have a need to feel helpful and valued while they are still young. I further believe that if this need isn't met according to nature's schedule, there will be problems both in the present and in the future.

Today I also wrote this note on why I don't like fiction