The Seven Emotions of Human Personality
Becoming emotionally responsive to children requires that we understand the nature of our emotional capacity as human beings. Once we understand the landscape of the heart we can control and leverage emotion for optimal growth. What follows is an outline of seven basic human emotions from the perspective of Jewish teachings, along with some practical examples.
Chesed (love), in its purest form, is our desire to give to others without limit. By taking us beyond ourselves love draws us close to others. Adults express love by accepting children for who they are, speaking in a kind tone, and by saying “Yes” whenever possible. Children express love by using their hands in a gentle manner, taking turns or sharing, and by acting kindly with peers.
Gevurah (restraint) is our emotional ability to channel love. It is our desire to limit what we give according to what another person really needs. Restraint creates a healthy distance between self and other to make sure what we give (and receive) is appropriate. Adults express restraint by setting limits (saying “No”), listening before instructing, and by empowering children to think and act for themselves. Children express restraint by respecting private space, deferring gratification, and by following rules.
Tiferes (compassion) is the emotion which brings love and restraint together. While I may feel like holding back love because someone does not deserve it, compassion says to love despite perceived shortcomings. Adults and children alike express compassion by showing empathy and forgiveness.
Netzach (persistence) is our emotional capacity for patience and commitment thereby enabling us to accomplish our goals. Adults express persistence by conveying confidence, recognizing challenges as opportunities, and by reliability and consistency. Children express persistence by persevering at challenging tasks, adjusting to new situations and relationships, and by showing pride in their accomplishments.
Hod (gratitude) is our emotional capacity to acknowledge that others contribute to our growth and success. Adults express gratitude by mediating disputes, appreciating what makes each child unique, and by reflective practice (introspection). Children express gratitude by saying “Thank you”, asking for help, and by following instructions.
Yesod (attachment) is our emotional capacity to connect with others. Adults express attachment by engaging with children, fostering collaboration, and by asking questions. Children express attachment by seeking out caregivers in unfamiliar or stressful situations, building new attachments, and by working in groups.
Malchut (dignity) is our emotional capacity for leadership, to recognize what each of us can contribute as unique creators in creation. Adults express dignity by believing in children, creating a sense of belonging, and by avoiding shame. Children express dignity by taking responsibility, seeking affirmation, and by affirming the rights and needs of others.
It’s Okay to Cry: Empathy and the Importance of Acknowledging Feelings
Structure, Self-Expression, and Positivity: Creating an Emotionally Responsive Classroom