Somehow our society has formed a one-sided view of the human personality, and for some reason everyone understood giftedness and talent only as it applied to the intellect. But it is possible not only to be talented in one’s thoughts but also to be talented in one’s feelings as well. The emotional part of the personality has no less value than the other sides, and it also should be the object and concern of education, as well as intellect and will. Love can reach the same level of talent and even genius, as the discovery of differential calculus.

It may surprise you to learn that the author of these words is Lev Vygotsky, the early Soviet psychologist. That’s because what’s been popularized from his life’s work are his discoveries about cognitive development and learning. Which is a shame, really. So much of what he had to say a hundred years ago about fundamental issues, such as what a human is, what cognition and emotion are, and what a human psychology should and could be, is—like this gem of a quote—critically timely in our day.

In “The Biggest Myths about Emotions and How to Weaken Their Grip”  (a PT column I wrote a few months ago) I pointed out that neuroscience wasn’t the only place to look for discoveries about human emotionality. I shared that many others, including social psychologists, relational therapists, and postmodern and CHAT (cultural-historical activity theory) theorists are seeing emotions in new ways—ways that have important implications for how we relate to people, whether we’re therapists or educators. I invited you to try to see emotions as things we do, not things we have or possess, to relate to the socialness and relationality of emotions, and to abandon “the one-sided view of the human personality.” 

In that vein, last week I launched an online poll to help people begin to think about how they think about emotions and what emotionality looks like in their lives. In Vygotsky’s honor I dubbed it “Rate Your Emotional Talent”.  My goal is to have 1000 people respond. I invite you to be one of them!

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