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Socio-Emotional Learning in Philosophical and Spiritual domain

By: Shailaja Raghavendra, Special Educator, DPS International school, Gurugram.


Before I start writing about the topic, I feel it is important to explain my understanding of
philosophy and spirituality.

For me, Philosophy is about how I think my way through life; it deals with the mind and the
intellect. Whereas, Spirituality is about how I feel my way through life; it deals with the

The socio-emotional learning happens through the domain of wisdom, knowledge and
understanding of reality. A philosophy is an explanation of the way things are; the ‘what’ of
learning. Whereas spirituality tells us how we should be in relationship to the way things are;
the ‘how’ of learning.

Aristotle’s words suggest that humans have long been interested in how best to manage their
emotional and social lives. We all know that our emotional reactions to events have a significant
impact on our social interactions. Thus most of us have considered the question of ‘how’
human beings can acquire more effective ways of regulating their emotional responses or social
relations. Our philosophical understanding (thinking - ‘what’ of learning; mind and intellect are
involved) and spiritual practices (feel-‘how’ of learning; consciousness is involved) is one of the
primary cultural institutions responsible for transmitting information and values from one
generation to the next.

The socio-emotional wellbeing is of great significance during the entire lifespan of the
individuals. Studies have proved that philosophical and spiritual domain that the effectiveness of
as an ideal approach to strengthen the socio-emotional well-being and we can see this evidence
in a life skill curriculum of a school or employee training program in an MNC.

Keywords: Philosophy, spirituality, emotions, social life, relationship.

The terms spirituality, philosophy and religion are often used interchangeably, they also have
their distinction. One may be spiritual or interested in philosophical learning without attending
the rituals and religious practices within a particular religious context. Similarly, one may be
religious, yet neither have any connection to spirituality nor towards philosophy. Philosophy
and spirituality can very well be associated with a specific religion but does not have to be.
However, each person’s spirituality is greatly impacted by the society they belong to and the
relationships foster. The learning from philosophy and the spiritual domain are merely one’s
own journey to discover things of importance in life as well as one’s place among them.
Therefore, we can conclude that religious instruction is very different from spiritual instruction.
Firstly, let us try and understand the ‘learning’ in spiritual domain. The spiritual domain is more
profound, it involves the integration of one’s beliefs, values and the sense of self-worth. The
philosophical and spiritual learning helps us to understand who we are and what we should be.

So how do spiritual learning, emotional stability and social concepts relate?

Research and observations have shown that an individual’s belief systems are fundamental to
the development of emotional stability and social concepts. Spiritual development is a synthesis
of both, combined with belief systems. The interplay between these is very intricate. Belief
systems incorporate thoughts and feelings towards other people, animals and nature - even
politics, entertainment and other aspects of life. Individuals who demonstrate spiritual
development tend to be more discerning regarding their personal thoughts, feelings and
opinions and other aspects of life. Their life choices are a reflection of their spiritual learning.
This learning lays a strong foundation for social-emotional wellbeing of the individuals. It is
considered to be a primary coping mechanism during their emotional struggle. This can be
practised in numerous ways, the main purpose is to find purpose and meaning in life. Few
examples of such practices can include group exploration and experiential practices on the
topics of meditation, prayer, forgiveness, personal values, purpose in life, the role of self-
esteem, coping skills, healthy relationships, developing an authentic relationship etc.
Let us look at it from the beginning. Right from the earliest stages of development, we can
identify the connections between elements of spirituality and social-emotional learning. This is
also an indicator of positive mental health; which is a state of social-emotional well-being.

The early formative environment is extremely important to the physical, social, emotional
and mental health of a child and his/her development into a healthy adult. This includes:

• even before birth - healthy gestation without exposure to alcohol, drugs and smoking.
In most countries across the globe, pregnant women are engaged in relaxing activities
like yoga, meditation, and prayers. They are advised to listen to calming music and
refrain from graphic depictions of violence.
• the developmental environment provided by family – social and cultural gatherings for
nurturing love, acceptance, security so that trust could grow.
• stimulation, role models, identity – support from the elders of the family, parental care
and support.

Protective factors Healthy pregnancies and parenting skills are key to promoting the mental
health of both current and future generations. A healthy childhood helps in building resilience
and enables us to maintain balance throughout life in light of possible stress and negative events.
Some examples of this learning include:

• having a good concept of self, hopes and dreams.

• being involved in activities and relationships that support this.
• being strengthened to meet needs in daily life.
• having support to deal with difficult times.
• having strong connections and spirituality.

Social and emotional development encompasses a number of skills that children need to
develop in order to succeed at school, and in life in general. These include:
• the ability to identify and understand one’s feelings,
• accurately read and comprehend emotional states in others,
• manage strong emotions and their expression,
• regulate one’s behavior,
• develop empathy for others,
• establish and sustain relationships.
These skills form the base for self-regulation, enabling children to withstand impulses, maintain
focus and undertake tasks regardless of competing interests. It is about gaining the strength and
capacity to lead a full and productive life and having the resilience to deal with change and
unpredictability. These are the indicators of social-emotional learning which is possible only
when the child receives love and affection, encouragement (to try new things), opportunities
(to play with other children their age), acknowledgement of his/her feelings and support to
establish daily routines (to be disciplined).

How can we measure the social-emotional development in children? A lot of research has been
done in this field and many indicators, assessment measures have been developed to access the
social-emotional learning. The five key Social Emotional Learning Competencies include –

• Self-Awareness
• Self-Management
• Social Awareness
• Relationship Skills
• Responsible Decision Making

This can also be understood from the best-selling work Emotional Intelligence by Daniel
Goleman. According to him, being self aware, managing emotions, motivating ourselves, feeling
empathy and handling relationships are the key competencies of emotional maturity.

But neither positive psychology, nor ecological theories of child development, provide a
conclusive picture of the ‘whole child’, nor of the type of society in which she/he might
optimally live. Approaches and methodologies in the philosophy and spiritual domain have a
pluralist perspective. The actual measurements of social-emotional development with respect
to ‘good life’ or ‘good society’ are empirical and arguably lack a grander vision.

People’s ideas of their own wellbeing change throughout the lifecycle. Expectations of the
future and reflections on the past also have a bearing on how people feel about their present.
Such personal evaluations are in turn affected by how people conceive of time. People’s beliefs,
values, love, the way of reacting to the social stimuli, the way of managing and expressing
emotions also change. The one thing which remains constant is the people's effort to effectively
manage their emotional and social lives. It is evident that the outward emotional reactions
impact social interaction. However, this is subject to influences of cultural and social contexts
we find ourselves in.
The spiritual and philosophical learning will help the society to develop higher level of
awareness, empathy and responsiveness to the social and emotional state of others.
A child needs to learn how to experience, express and manage emotions before learning how
to speak or how to eat on their own. Take, for example, a newborn. The baby reciprocates a
smile; cries to attract attention. The newborn can feel our love. They don’t receive any lessons
on social-emotional learning, yet these small manifestations count as early evidence of social-
emotional learning. As researchers, we should ask ourselves whether it is inherent or
influenced and scaffolded and by other external factors. When I observe this, it takes me back
to the root, the philosophical and spiritual domain. The newborn can feel the ‘love’; one of the
prominent need and learning from spirituality.

‘Love’ is the most prominent indicator of social-emotional learning from the spiritual and
philosophical domain. Howard John Clinebell, a minister in the United Methodist Church
and a professor in pastoral counselling, pioneered a counselling approach that combined
psychotherapy and religion. In his book ‘Well Being: A Personal Plan for Exploring and Enriching the
Seven Dimensions of Life’ he delineates seven basic spiritual needs: Mind, Body, Spirit, Love,
Work, Play, and the World.

1. All people need to experience regularly the healing and empowerment of love - from
others, self, and an ultimate source.
2. Everyone needs to experience renewing times of transcendence - moments that expand
us beyond the immediate sensory spheres.
3. Everybody needs vital beliefs that give some sense of meaning and hope the midst of
losses, tragedies, and failures.
4. Every person needs to have values, priorities, and life commitments - usually centred in
issues of justice, integrity, and love - that guide us in personally and socially responsible
5. Each human being needs to discover and develop their inner wisdom, creativity and love
of their unique transpersonal/spiritual self.
6. All people need a deepening awareness of oneness with other people and with the
natural world, the wonderful web of all living things.
7. Every human being needs spiritual resources to help heal the painful wounds of grief,
guilt, resentment, unforgiveness, self-rejection, and shame. We also need spiritual
resources to deepen our experiences of trust, self-esteem, hope, joy and love of life.

Clinebell feels that everybody must pay attention to these needs to feel whole and fulfilled, to
make spirituality central to human well-being, as it involves much more than physical fitness and
absence of disease. For my part, it includes the mental and emotional aspects of knowing and
feeling. This stems from the very essence of ‘being’, the learning from philosophical and spiritual
dimensions. We need to accept the definition of spirituality as the integration of beliefs, values,
meaning, and self-worth. We must understand that we are not talking about religious doctrines;
we are developing a synthesis of belief systems and social and emotional intelligence.

Having established that an individual’s belief systems are fundamental to the development of
emotional stability and social concepts, we can conclude that socio-emotional learning in
philosophical and spiritual domain is the synthesis of belief systems, social concept and
emotional stability, resulting in the demonstration of a deeper reverence for life.


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Pursuit of Happiness’, Journal of Happiness Studies Children_and_youth_abstract_28.pdf/