A Far Cry: The Dangers of Institutionalizing “emotionAL literacy”

In 1992, I was writing a workshop description for an addictions conference in Seattle—a workshop that involved my theatrical monologue book series’ characters whose truth was buried between the lines—two words occurred to me: “emotion literacy.” I had never heard that juxtaposition before. It seemed like a sign. Emotion literacy. These two words together were an epiphany, a name—so satisfyingly in sync—for the creative process I planned to escort my workshop participants into—to speak—for these oh so familiar, lovable characters who had lost their true voice.

Remember, this is 1992, before Daniel Goleman’s article and subsequent book on emotional intelligence. Goleman and the two scientists, from which he drew his thesis, were unknown to me. 1992…well before the social networking deluge.

The term “emotion literacy” immediately wove its way into my life; next, as part of the sub-title for my first book of rhythmic prose—Speak of the Ghost: In the Name of Emotion Literacy— my self-retrieving poetic stream, re-calibrating my perception of my family of origin legacy; shortly thereafter, my DBA—Emotion Literacy Advocates; and—once I nudged myself off the fence—the imprint for the risky publishing of Speak of the Ghost, two years hence.

I used that term again and again: when Seattle University’s Psychology Department put my book on a required reading list because the (then) head of that department, Dr. Kevin Krycka, got my book’s gist; when Seattle Repertory Theatre Company’s (then) head of the Rep’s education and outreach, Ted Sod, hired me to conduct my “creative writing for emotion literacy” workshops for youth in detention, felons in prison, for the Rep’s band of teaching artists and theatre patrons who grokked my emotion literacy vision. During the rest of that decade, I used the term in subsequent collections of rhythmic prose: “Member of the Heard: Righteous Rants and Reasonable Raves from an Emotion Literacy Advocate,” “The Radical Nurturer: Public Journal for Emotion Literacy,” Saving the World Solo and my play Trigger of Light with emotion literacy my lens for the youth in detention plight. I used and referenced that term at all my artist residencies, when I spoke and performed for events, conferences and broadcasts, in Seattle, Canada and Mexico.

Emotion literacy was planted in me eons ago, it grew out of my roots and into my personal identification, a proud symbol of truth and the freedom to utter it. Emotion literacy—two words that belonged to me, as far as my eyes could see.

About mid-decade, friends began to call me with caution in their tone: “Pamela, you’d better check this out,” they blared at me over the phone, “people are using the term emotional literacy!” Another friend advised me to trademark “emotion literacy” as some kind of self-preserving solution. I was incredulous: “How can you trademark evolution?”

2001, I found myself in a room with a handful of dear artists, in ad hoc formation: it was time to turn “Emotion Literacy Advocates” (ELA) into a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. From then and into the present, ELA delivers art-infused invitations to love ourselves more completely in the name of truth, so that truth can grow more widely known and supported by adults, on behalf of themselves and our tender-hearted youth.

“Emotion literacy” then and now, spells out my raison d’etre! What those two words meant when I conjured them, with unadulterated intention, and what they mean now is so clear, after serving what I know to be the crux of their invention, for over twenty-five years: the inner truth, learning its language, often imperceptible and fleeting—emotions/behaviors can be so misleading—the truth for truth’s sake, the truth for which I yearn; it takes practice and devotion and strength to find it, and to keep finding it. That I have learned.

By 2015, emotionAL literacy and its propagators grew exponentially and could easily be found circulating the term around. Who is the arbiter of what it means and what it’s for? I find myself responding angrily, about the vast disparity between meanings and relative intentions, more and more.

Why this sense of threat in a culture of disposable memes and terms and expressions and words, words, words bandied about? Still, I want to shout, in vigilance and outrage, in defense of my beloved two words, for their release from disparity’s cage.

If I were to sign up for Yale’s emotional intelligence program “Ruler,” they would tell me I was in the red zone and that anger must be curbed. They would tell me I can and should pick my feelings (the bright and cheery ones of course) and they would instruct me to then strategize on how to behave to “get those feelings.” One of their students would say: “being mad is pointless,” “cool down,” “think happy thoughts,” “do something energetic!” The RULER teachings would ask: “what can you do to speak in an appropriate volume; what can you do to bring yourself into the yellow.” And I ask: “what are you instructing me to swallow?”

Students and teachers participating in RULER say: I want to “feel inspired, positive, happy, fulfilled, joyful.” Are those feelings or complex, value and belief-driven desires? Is “positive” a feeling or socially-sanctioned attire?

Where do middle school children take their feelings of grief and their longing…to the school psychologist? Where do students take their feelings of fear and their experiences of powerlessness, in the face of pressures to keep up, to fit in and to achieve? The suggestion to “get” a feeling—one that you are not actually already having—sure seems like added pressure to me and the loss of a compass, albeit a difficult one to read. Without emotion literacy for emotion literacy’s sake, we can be mighty surprised by the emotions that arise out of those feelings we never fully met because we were too busy focusing on which ones we are allowed and instructed to get.

What happens when some of the less cheery feelings crop up for the long-awaited light of day, inside or outside the classroom? Do the teachers and children—or any of us—take the time to really hear what those feelings have to say? When we “pick” a feeling, do we then uninvite the ones we already have? We can, eventually, pick or revise or fake, and certainly, name, evaluate and regulate a behavior but a feeling, one that you might be in the habit of concealing, even from yourself?

Yale says “emotions drive learning, decision-making, creativity, relationships and health.” To say emotion drives anything is like saying the body of your car takes you from point A to B. I thought it was the motor underneath: the feelings, needs, values, memories, associations, beliefs—motor components behind the scenes—doing the driving.

One of the young RULER students is quoted on their site: “When the teachers check in with the Mood Meter, it makes me realize that they care. I have my down days, but when they check in, it reminds me that I still need to pay attention. I feel more lifted afterwards, and the better I feel, the better I work.”

What does it mean to feel “down” or “better?” What is the goal? What does it mean to have a “yucky feeling,” a description I found recently on a Sesame Street show!

When feelings are rated, where do the ones with low ratings go? Where do the ones with nary an honorable mention go? Isn’t the capacity to feel our greatest asset and the most valuable, or, is our winning asset the ability to rate which feeling is the most palatable?

As an artist, I wouldn’t want anyone, including myself, to tell me how or what to feel. I want to know and understand how I actually feel; and, I no more want to pick a feeling as pick an expression. When I write, when I express, I want to be surprised and discover something beyond my conscious, linear, approval-seeking mind, something deeper, more connected. I want to be that free to learn something new and true. It seems these “evidence-based” programs provide more than a clue about what is expected of you, largely, in terms of behavior and, so tragically, in terms of what to feel.

My feelings can tell quite a different story than my emotions and emotion’s kin, behavior. Recognizing incongruity between emotional behavior and hidden feelings was fertile ground for me discovering emotion literacy and its pearl: finding, knowing and welcoming every aspect of my otherwise long-neglected inner world. If expectations stop at the first juncture of observation—emotions/behavior, and feelings are picked like a flavor—when does one learn to navigate and savor one’s own nuanced and layered interior landscape?

I have yet to see any of these programs advise on just having feelings, witnessing them, as long as need be. That, I fear, would be seen as an impediment to productivity—productivity in the short term, that is.

In one of the creative writing for emotion literacy classes I taught, back in the nineties, I found myself throwing out the class plan because three of the girls came in crushed to have heard that one of their mothers received a medical death sentence. I decided to pause as a way to make space for all the feelings in the room, to let that topic of illness and death rule! It would rule one way or another, whether, or not, I acknowledged it. I chose to open the door, lest it go underground, shunned. One of the boys told his mom and his mom complained to the teacher about the way that class was run. It appeared his mom considered that topic private and that the class should have carried forth with its original plan. I am pleased to report that many of the girls thanked me—and so did several of the boys and their teacher—after that experiential class that did include a fruitful writing session, amidst tears. Maybe that class for the students was not happy, joyful or fun, but, certainly, a most relevant, truth-telling one.

I commend everyone and anyone who attempts to learn and teach how to achieve and I recoil when academics proclaim “emotionAL literacy” its conquering strategy. With control and achievement the holy grail, “happy” and “positive” explicitly hailed, the whisper of an unmeasurable truth might slip everyone’s notice; except for the kid, lonely and subsumed, tucked away in his basement bedroom, steeped in un-charted realms of confusion, hurt and loss. That’s when these measured programs wrest an interminable cost. On paper, it may not initially show so it may seem not to matter, until one invisible child’s invisible world becomes glaringly shattered. How much evidence of “success” might we find were we to instruct this boy to ditch his “down” and get in the “yellow?” Kids know how to pretend when their survival depends on it, especially when group consensus takes hold, but, when something else, something unnamed is brewing, a reckless undoing. Shall we wait again for bullets to fly, bullies to flare, suicides’ sirens to sound? When do we learn, in this human culture, to slow this machine way down, well before the implosion? That’s what I want to know as my anger unfolds into sorrow for those who fall by the wayside.

It took me over two decades to define and re-define “emotion literacy.” Oh you can find several definitions of emotionAL literacy and most are a far cry from mine. That far cry propels me to swim harder with my definition which I’d be hard-pressed to distill any farther:

Emotion literacy translates emotion when emotion obscures the truth.

No promises here of high grades, suitable conduct, worldly acquisitions, impeccable couth…just the truth. That’s it folks and anything else is something else…something upright and decent and, perhaps, even worthy but something else, with another name.

Send questions, requests for interviews with Pamela and/or permission to re-print this article to info(at)emolit.org, thanks!


©2018 Pamela Sackett
tree trunks: Giacinta Mazzoccone Vosika
leaf-wall, city landscape: Jeff Rogers
tree bark: Rebecca Love

ELA movie invited to Academy & UCLA Film Archives

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ELA’s The Ducks & Us Songbook Movie has recently been “discovered” by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Film Archive, thanks to Deluxe Labs, a facility in Los Angeles that generously contributed the digital to 35 mm conversion and prints for our film’s cinema tour throughout Washington, in Vancouver, British Columbia and San Francisco, California.

In June 2016, The Academy’s Film Archive offered ELA the opportunity for The Ducks & Us Songbook Movie to have a place in the Academy’s Film Archive catalogue under “Emotion Literacy Advocates Collection.” Our film is now available to libraries, festivals, film studios, production companies, non-profits and individuals, as well to the Academy’s own on-site research center and exhibition programs. Shortly thereafter, our film was also added to UCLA’s film archive.

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The Academy’s Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study is home to one of the most diverse and extensive motion picture collections in the world, both related and non-related to the Academy Awards.

P.S. We are delighted to know The Ducks & Us Songbook Movie has more circulation and caring attendance in store.

[top photo: landscape by Bill Zama;
movie character illustrations by Nikki Nopens;
image design by Daniel Sackett]

 

ELA’s Creative Team Acknowledgement!

parrish troll bridge woods
photo: Parrish Priest

We are grateful to the collaborative artists who lend their gifts and expertise, time and energy, fine instincts and sense-abilities to our multi-media learning tool production process and results.* 

ELSOTA!: Emotion Literacy School ON THE AIR

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CD Design: www.walshdesign.com

ELSOTA! Credits
Executive Producer, Script
Pamela Sackett

Technical Director, Original Music
Guy Nelson

ELSOTA! Series Cast
(in order of appearance)
Guy Nelson as “The Announcer”
Fredrick Molitch as “Freddy”
Pamela Sackett as “Pamela”
Sue Ellen Katz as “Francie” and “Roz”
David Silverman as “Elliott Glazer”

The Full Spectrum Birthday Song
FSBdayCover-JPEG-Medium

Composer, performer
& producer:
Pamela Sackett

CD cover illustration: Mark Magill
Sound engineering, CD design
& photo
: Daniel Sackett

Sound effects, engineering:
Guy Nelson

 

Ovation
“…for the audience of you inside.”

ovation_front_cover_webComposer, performer
& producer:
 
Pamela Sackett
Instrumentals & sound effects :
Guy Nelson
Sound engineering & photos:
Daniel Sackett

CD cover illustration: Mark Magill
CD design: Tina Hottovy

Pink
“…for the knowing you inside.”

Pink CD insert cover art

Composer, performer
& producer:
 
Pamela Sackett
Instrumentals: Guy Nelson
Sound engineering & CD design:
Daniel Sackett

CD cover photo “The Visionary”:
 Mark Magill

.

 

The Ducks & Us Song
a musical interlude with wildlife, feelings and food
Ducks+Us_CDcover
Story Characters, Vocals
Pamela Sackett: “narrator”
Northwest Boychoir: vocals
Timothy Piggee: “Lou”
Michael Loggins: “Chas”
Teresa Clark: “Claire”
Elisabeth Williams: “Kate”
Maggie Holmes: Kate’s ‘ahem

 

Production
Pamela Sackett: composer, rhythm guitar, design concepts
Guy Nelson: Boychoir recording engineer, flute
Kenyon Curtiss: synthesizers, strings
Daniel Sackett: recording engineer, graphics, editorial
Ben Kromholtz: choral arrangement, Boychoir conductor
Mark Magill: graphics consultation

*For additional information about ELA’s multi-media learning tools

Meditation on Intent

parrish priest light on road in lake oswegoIn a world where survival instincts preside, a parallel universe resides. Are-you-food-or-am-I-food black and white thinking spins practically on its own. Reflective, nuance-capable, gray-friendly thought reaps wondrous ripples as long as you practice throwing those
watery stones.

I have an intimate relationship with defense as motis operandi. I am not slow to apprehensiveness and given a wealth of causes for alarm, atop my safety-hampered history, caution is quite reasonable. But, when my un-checked imagination runs amok, fear keeps me stuck.

gorgeous path in woods

As all things grow from a tiny seed, my stance, my starting point, can, in part, be birthed and bolstered by my own sense of what’s possible, what I envision or recall, elect or believe, create or concede.

Where a whisper of perception and choice meets or averts a preemptive scream, I ask myself, in
every instance:

Which part do I want to play, now and here: love or fear?
how ’bout love, every day, I say: love, in every way…

bxw kids on geodesic dome on ground

love as a frame
love as an aim
love as a teeter-totter
a salve for fear, disappointment and shame

love as punctuator
love as a base
love as actuator
love as taste

 

Adria dancing & Parrrish w-flowers in cemetery

 

love as host
love as a meal
love as key
to open what you feel

beach wide angle with people at distance

 

love as telescope
love as air
love as the rule
not the exception
everywhere

woods w-lurah sunglasses & SAm's back

love as question
love as doubt
love as a traveler
exploring all about

love as temperature
a constant beat
love unlimited
love as a feat

 

love as a maze, love as a mountain, love as a freely accessible
fountain

parrish & dog on beach

love as protection
love as witness
love as a work-out for emotional
fitness

love as a friend
not yet named
love as our wild essence
never to be tamed

 

 

sky on fire.o'er treetopsjpg

 

love as a sign, in a sea of trouble
a messenger that
reaches us
on the double

love as confection
love as need
love that grows
prolific as a weed

 

love as recognition in a strange land, love as ignition
love as a hand, love as your very own community band

love as a stride, love far and wide, love as a fierce and gentle tide

two white small flowers in focus

love as the earth, handled with constant care
love as currency, always shared

love as vision, clear as a bell
love as wisdom, deep as a well

love as hurt that knows how
to heal
love always out, never concealed

sky thru canopy of trees

 

love as sky through a canopy of trees
love as you like
love as you please

love as stubborn as a decree
love as a look, an endless book
that reads you

 

 

[Text: Pamela Sackett Photos: Parrish Priest]

“The Full Spectrum Birthday Song” endorsements

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“…for the all of you inside!”

The Full Spectrum Birthday Song captures the essence of feeling-friendliness in a narrative that springboards from the topic of birthdays, a dynamic time that stirs all manner of feeling. This musical learning tool is an invitation to celebrate all feelings every year, every day, every moment.

The Full Spectrum Birthday Song was first launched for partnerships between Emotion Literacy Advocates and twenty-three social service agencies in Oregon, Idaho and Washington. Through these agencies, ELA’s song found integral application in multiple settings, for those working with children, parents and teachers. 8,000 CDs were requested and provided by generous ELA program sponsors included in the list shown here.

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6th Annual Educational Resource Street Fair in Seattle where inquisitive children came to our table to reflect upon and talk about emotion and to receive ELA’s birthday song as a gift.

Read more about this traveling innovation in community education-as-gift here.

Just as a point of information, I reviewed the CD for the family partnership program in my car on the way to an event, my nine-year old grandson (who I am raising) loves it! He can listen to it over and over again for, literally, hours…thanks so much for your generosity.
—Linda Miner, Family Support Partnership Supervisor @
Tacoma/Pierce County WA State Health Department (requested and received 600 CDs)

The Full Spectrum Birthday Song CDs were sent out to (325) families and community partners (with their quarterly newsletter). I wanted you to see the e-mail from Kelly DeLany, Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center Program Manager. The responses have been so positive. Thank you!
—Audrey Riggs, Oregon Department of Human Services’ Child Welfare Supervisor

We just received the latest edition of Kidbits with the lovely enclosed CD. I’m playing it now over and over… I found The Full Spectrum Birthday Song laughter-inspiring and intriguing and it certainly covered the full range of birth feelings. I personally plan to play it at our next family birthday event and make it a ‘full-spectrum celebration’. I have asked Jennifer Ricks to consider including it in her Positive Parenting training.
—Kelly DeLany, Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center Program Manager

I gave out the CDs to most of my families last month. This month I am asking if the children enjoyed listening to the CD. So far, it has been a positive hit with the children. They want to listen to it several times over. This CD is introducing vocabulary and is building self esteem—making the children feel good about themselves…both child and parent listen to the CD together, this also gives the parent some tools of how they may talk to their child. Thank you for sharing your CD with so many families of young children.
—Sue Rogge, Family Support Partnership Program @ Tacoma/Pierce County WA State Health Department

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The original mixed-media painting that became the “FSB-day Song ” CD cover art, by ELA’s Mark Magill, photo by Daniel Sackett

The Full Spectrum Birthday Song (or Why Just Happy?) will be a great asset to any wish granted here. These (CD’s) will be given to children whose birthdays fall on the day of their wish as a ‘wish perk.’ We listened to the CD and found it very innovative and inspirational.
—Alyssa Chrobuck, Make a Wish Foundation

Pamela Sackett’s Full Spectrum Birthday Song is a wonderful song of celebration—not just of one’s birthday, but of one’s range of emotional expression, abilities & possibilities. We acknowledge and honor children’s feelings and encourage them to express their feelings—that it’s ‘OK’ to feel happy, sad, angry, etc. Pamela’s Full Spectrum Birthday Song communicates these same values in a creative, musical and thoughtful way!
—Randy McCoy, Director of Curriculum, The Little Gym International

You did good…The Full Spectrum Birthday Song CDs work really well in several of our classes and we’ve shared them with other agencies that serve parents!
—Nancy Klahn, RN, MHA/MBA, Parent Enhancement Program

We hand out The Full Spectrum Birthday Song CDs at classes as part of our curriculum. Children are learning the song, moving to it and playing instruments with it.
—Denise Mimura, Executive Director, Arts in Motion (music programs offered to all incomes in south end Seattle public schools)

The Full Spectrum Birthday Song is fresh and brings so much more to the meaning of celebrating birthdays. The song and music are a real work of art. Much soul and inspiration for celebrating all of life comes through even in just that two minute sample online.
—Georgene DeWald, Certified Professional Coach

Pamela’s song reminds us of so many possibilities…let The Full Spectrum Birthday Song become the new tradition.
—Arlene Plevin, Ph.D, author/professor

My three and a half year-old daughter loved the imagery in The Full Spectrum Birthday Song and requested we play ‘that other birthday song’ again…why settle for ‘happy’? The Full Spectrum Birthday Song encourages exploration of all manner of birthday sentiments.
—Collen Laing, public affairs consultant

Birthdays are a time when we celebrate the passing of a year and the beginning of a new one. Each year has it’s ups and downs and in the acceptance and appreciation of these fluctuations, we find the immensity and deep meaning and joy of life. Pamela’s song asks why just a ‘happy’ birthday? Why not celebrate and love the whole reality of living? It’s a simple song, humorous and one with a message as profound as the ages.
—Dan Richman, Seattle Public School teacher

“The Ducks & Us Songbook Movie” press & pics

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Emotion Literacy Advocates (ELA) has had many exciting developments since we produced The Ducks & Us Songbook Movie, including a sequence of bookings on sixteen cinema screens,  an award SeattleArts_logo_bwfrom the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, in support of a four-month Washington state tour and an in-kind contribution of services from Deluxe in Los Angeles which means we were able to provide 35mm prints to each partnering movie house!

last duck movie pg on actual screen
ELA’s private viewing on cinema screen to test Deluxe print from Los Angeles
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“The Ducks’ & Us Songbook Movie” an official selection at the festival.

According to Still Hope Productions founder John F. Williams, fellow film-maker and festival attendee, The Ducks & Us Songbook Movie was the festival darling inspiring laughter and a large amount of applause.

Let’s hear it for our participating ducks, humans and our contributing artists:

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Timothy Piggee sings the part of “Lou.”
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Teresa Clark sings the part of “Claire.”

 

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Elizabeth Williams portraying “Kate.”
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The Northwest Boychoir and conductor Ben Kromholtz en route to KUOW studios to record for “The Ducks & Us Song.” (“The Ducks & Us Songbook Movie” soundtrack)
ducks+us-ais-interns
Art Institute of Seattle interns: (left to right) Catherine McConnell, Reese Kindle, Haley Karnes, Nikki Nopens. Our multi-media makers: illustration, animation, video in synch with song!
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A welcomed review for ELA’s collaborative learning tool!
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“The Ducks & Us Songbook Movie” plays in perpetuity for related events at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, one of the largest museums of natural history in the world.

The latest ELA news flash:

The Ducks & Us Songbook Movie can now be found at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences & UCLA film archives!

More info can be found right here on this blog about The Academy & UCLA film archives, along with the newsy flow of events for this musical movie learning tool here.

“The Ducks & Us Song” testimonials

ducks+us-cover250
Did you know that the deceptively simple act of “feeding” the birds actually hurts the birds and their habitat?

“The Ducks & Us Songbook Movie” began as “The Ducks & Us Song,” a musical learning tool with a study guide, integrated into environmental learning programs in Seattle.

To read about the trajectory of this  learning tool project, some, if not all, related events can be found in our ELA News (page 3)!

Here are comments we received from those who engaged with the  pre-animated song:

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feeding and being true to his namesake

What a fascinating project and such a new take on an old issue. I’ve seen all kinds of tactics attempted: flyers, brochures, signs, but never a song! I really appreciate the effort you’ve made on such an awful issue. The song was dead on with so many aspects of the problem…really a great job!

—Michele Goodman
Webbed Foot Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic

(Goodman’s quoted in AP article on duck feeding damage called “angel wing.“)

This is an interesting project that helps get the message out in a different way about why it’s not okay to feed ducks and geese. Most people are not aware of the problems associated with this common activity occurring in many of our parks and other waterfowl use areas.
—Don Kraege, Waterfowl Section Manager, WA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

This song reminds me of many songs I listened to and sang as a young child and the fact that I still remember those songs and have fond memories of singing them speaks to the power of singing as a learning tool for young children. I think that the questions are very appropriate and I especially like the attention to the belief systems and personal motivations that are informing each character’s decision.
—Liz Silvestrini, Education Coordinator, Sustainable Seattle

I am really impressed! You call this a song but I think it’s more like a one-act operetta—it’s a whole story that covers a lot of ground. You brought up issues in a way that allows people to make their own decisions.
—Belinda Chin, Education Supervisor, Seattle Parks and Recreation

The Ducks and Us learning tool connects the arts, youth, and ecology in an innovative and exciting way to bring an important message about the devastating affects that ‘people’ food can have on our bird population. It would be great if this awesome song became a ‘standard’ song kids grow up singing…
—Heidi Narte, Senior Gardener, SE District Seattle Parks and Recreation

I listened to the song. How fun and such a smart way to approach the problem.
—Valerie Easton
 (See Easton’s article in Seattle Times Pacific Northwest Magazine, 6/22/08:“Serve meals to the wild things and risk trouble of all kinds.”)

As I rove and contact the public at Carkeek, Magnuson, Golden Gardens, and Meadowbrook Ponds, I encounter Chases and Claires all the time. The Ducks & Us is sensitive to people needs and emotional ties to nature and clearly addresses the sensitivities of behavior change for urban humans.
—Brian Gay, Naturalist, Seattle Parks and Recreation

“Saving the World Solo” commentary

STWSFrontCoverFull
Ms. Sackett’s second of three books of rhythmic prose, a humorous, poignant memoir, a pithy, earnest vision for the future

Author Puts Emotions in Motion
Have you ever had a feeling you couldn’t put into words — some roiling emotion begging for expression? Has fear ever kept you silent? You might be interested to hear from Pamela Sackett, the Seattle author, playwright and artist who will be reading from her new memoir, “Saving the World Solo” at The Elliott Bay Book Co.

Sackett is involved with a group called Emotion Literacy Advocates, using her words in compelling fashion — to entertain and teach about the essential role language plays in relationship to feelings and behavior in schools, on stages and beyond.
—Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2004

Excerpt from Saving the World Solo book introduction

…as a lover of language, I was awed by (Pamela’s) ability to manipulate and revel in words—to play with their multilayered meanings and their rhythm, to make them completely her own tools to express precise perceptions and nuanced tones of feeling. But beyond the word-dance, it was the content of the pieces that held me transfixed: Pamela Sackett was expressing the meta-mental and emotional process of the Strong Idealist who is burdened with a legacy of personal self-doubt and fear, living in a world that is structured at so many levels to foster and maintain that self-doubt and fear…

…Pamela demonstrated great vulnerability and sincere bravery as she wove pieces of her life story around her conviction to reach for personal and planetary emotional health, in the midst of navigating her own deep wounds, and ours. I wondered how many other people in the audience felt like she was telling their stories out loud, articulating their own idealism and self-limitation.

I know I did. Having dedicated my life to “accountability,” at all levels, working as a professional activist and as a personal activist, examining and rooting out my own patterns of limitation that interfere with my ability to be my strongest, most liberated self, Pamela’s words were like a mirror reflecting my own greatest hopes and darkest secrets.

It became immediately clear to me that Pamela’s richly textured work was just that—her work, her calling, her reason for being on this earth. To use language to bear witness to where we are locked up as a society and as individuals, and to do so by using herself as the primary specimen under the microscope. In doing so, she gives us several gifts.

First, the gift of naming and shaping our greatest potential: the freedom to be emotionally authentic.

Second, the gift of exposing the greatest obstacle to that freedom: our fear of vulnerability in being emotionally authentic, and the lengths we will go, because of that fear, to avoid our own authenticity and freedom.

Finally, she shows us a path to our greatest potential: to examine the fear and learn the forms it takes; to then listen to the still voice inside that is already authentic and free; and to amplify that voice by sharing it…


—Dana Gold continues to work with the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and served as director of the Center on Corporations, Law & Society at Seattle University School of Law

Pamela uses everyday language in a vital and innovative way…high quality stuff, redefining the human.
—Rich Reha, gallery owner

I had the privilege of hearing Pamela’s performance and enjoyed it enormously. She displays subtle humor effectively with an originality that made her message most meaningful. I confidently recommend this program.
—Bob Wilson, former Rotary District Governor

Pamela is a gifted stream of consciousness writer—a creative catalyst replete with screaming clarity!
—Joanne Wright, board advisor, Women Business Owners

I attended this event because I thought/hoped Pamela would have a paradigm-breaking use of words … she did. She is amazing, touching, honest, funny, but yet beyond and deeper than my own words are saying here … timing, voice, deep, funny both ‘ha-ha’ and deeply real … I could listen and be awakened by her for hours, days…
—Jordana P. Smith, Portland, Oregon

 For book excerpts, testimonials & info.

“Speak of the Ghost” testimonials

little girl w:ghost001

FOR THE LOVE OF FEELINGS…

Speak of the Ghost: In the Name of Emotion Literacy is a series of seventy-eight finely detailed narrative poems and a comprehensive introduction. The book’s primary intent is to support individuals moving through family of origin issues by providing witness, prompts for stages of the journey, insight and encouragement.

A work of creative non-fiction, the book also serves group facilitators working in therapeutic and educational settings.

Speak of the Ghost fan letter excerpt

Hello Ms. Sackett…your name was entirely new to me…when I sampled some paragraphs from your book, I was quickly struck by the directness of expression, the clarity of detail and tone, the sense that you are reporting on real defeats, struggles and victories; the complementarity of inside and outside, of personal and social; the sharp challenges, the shocks of recognizing accustomed and perverted priorities; the both visceral and conceptual responses; the voices of self, selves, and self-alienation; the radical changes of recovery, the sweetness of healing and self-integration; and other content and characteristics I am still struggling to name. Most important, the conviction that they all are fruits of a hard-won knowledge and integrity.

Such an integrity is part of my goal also.

I was stunned. The book quickly became necessary (one of my conditions of purchase), and it captivated me for several hours…

…I look forward to learning more about your methods of using language as a tool for recovery. And even without understanding your methods, your work is encouraging. Hurrah! Thanks…
—Anonymous

Reader Comments

Take a look at Pamela’s book and you will find everyone on trial, caught and transformed. I loved those poems.
—Arnold Mindell, Ph.D. author of The Leader as Martial Artist

Pamela’s words and feelings are mine. She went into that place in me where they had been hidden for so long and gave permission for them to finally come out. Her work is a gift to me because it gives so much permission and validation.
—Bayla Greenspoon, early childhood educator, teacher on 
anti-bias, multicultural issues

This book is a primer for the reality of emotion, makes it tangible. Reaches the part of me that sees without my eyes—-my whole being—-every cell of my body has eyes when Pamela speaks.
—Taylor Danard, M.A. Psychotherapist

It’s loaded!
—Marjorie Cogan, recovering stage manager

…tapped my losses from childhood forgotten, that men don’t talk about in our culture…tapped somewhere in me, untied a knot in me long buried.
—Barry Schiess, landscape artist

Her collection of poems and writings contain strong emotion, clear insight and models ways for each reader to emulate as we fight clear of the hurts of the past.
—Earl Rice, Pastor, Trinity United Methodist Church, Seattle

Your words went directly to my emotional body. As I listened to you, I heard the truth of my own story, uttered with such passion and wit. My body literally tingled. I felt shivers as the wave of realization rippled through me. Thank you for putting words to my experiences. I feel more deeply empowered to utter my own story now.
—Elliott Bay Book Company reading audience member

What an absolute pleasure. Your language drew me in, made me ponder. I thank you for that. Several of your pieces are meant for several of my clients, and me, and my husband!
—Seattle Counselors Association member

Having also been born into a family where emotional repression was the key to survival, I was quite moved by many of your pieces. I was also very heartened by the commonalty of experience and the hope, willingness and insistence on active change towards emotion literacy. As a researcher in domestic violence and as a survivor, I wholeheartedly recognize and acknowledge the need, and thank you for your courage.
—Mary Kernic, epidemiologist in training

Your book has been an unspeakable asset to both myself and my best friend who is in the midst of recovery…
—Seattle University psychology student

It helped me to re-establish the importance of my writing and among many other things, being a witness to children.
—Anonymous

LOOKING BACK…

Like every offspring, Speak of the Ghost came with its own set of gifts and demands. Mere minutes after an east coast truck delivered the finished book to my door, I received a call from Kevin Krycka, Seattle University’s (then) graduate psychology program director letting me know he elected to put the book on a required reading list and integrate my live, dramatic presentations into three psychology curricula.

Placing such a personal work into such a public format heightened my sense of risk and fear of scrutiny, punctuating the essence of why I needed to write the book in the first place–to retrieve my own sense of authority and to exercise my ability to stand by it, no matter how this work might be publicly perceived.

Engaging in that struggle through the writing and delivering of Ghost influenced my direction, personally, as an artist, forever, and seeded the founding of Emotion Literacy Advocates.


I am grateful to all those who let me know they appreciate the chance I continue to take, years hence, with comparatively microscopic hesitation.
—Pamela Sackett 

Learn more about “Speak of the Ghost” here.