I first read Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence when I was in my 20’s. I had always been fascinated by how a person’s personality and emotional awareness so strongly color how they interface with the world. As I’ve gone deeper into the Transformative process with myself and others, I see time and time again how a lack of this can really hold a person back from achieving their desires.
“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” – Daniel Goleman
According to the leading researchers on the subject of Emotional Intelligence, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, there are 4 major components: perception of emotions, the ability to reason with emotions, the ability to understand emotions and the ability to manage emotions. Each of these components is necessary for one to understand themselves and others. The spectrum begins with the basics of perception and expression and moves with increased consciousness towards one’s ability to reflect and manage their emotions.
The first step in emotional intelligence is to accurately be able to perceive emotions of others using nonverbal cuing and facial expressions. A lot of research has been done around this subject and interestingly, studies show the poor have a stronger ability to do this than the wealthy. The reason, researchers concluded, is that the poor are very reliant upon community and assisting each other with resources. Being able to discern when someone is upset, sad or angry is a necessary skill for those who often live in survival mode where safety and security are their primary motivators for navigating the world. The wealthy have less of a reason to depend upon others or need assistance. They don’t learn this valuable skill because they have more of a ‘me’ focus and individualistic approach to getting their needs filled. Women also appear better at perceiving then men, in part because of our wiring towards nurture, collaboration and empathy. Strong emotions can be difficult for men to witness and process as they have an innate desire to ‘fix’ things and when it comes to emotions, there is no quick fix. Men can become uncomfortable, not sure how to handle ‘the emotional person’ and opt to focus on something else that is inside their comfort zone. Regardless of the differences between the sexes and different economic groups, the ability to pick up on another person’s emotional reality is extremely important in life and business. Without this essential skill, we miss out on the benefits of connectedness in interpersonal relationships.
Reasoning with Emotions
Emotions can promote our thinking and cognitive ability. They help us decipher what needs our urgent attention and what can be put off for a little while. Additionally, the strength of our response helps guide us with making those decisions. If we see that our house is on fire, our emotional reaction would most definitely trigger an urgent response within us as we have very strong attachments to our possessions. If we see that our lawn needs to be mowed, we may or may not respond quickly, depending on whether we care about keeping things nice and enjoy doing outside work. However, when someone doesn’t allow their emotions to work in parallel with their thoughts but instead allow emotions to override logic and reason, they can approach decision making with fear, hyper reactivity and sensitivity. This is where a lot of people get into trouble because they have core wounds that go deep and affect them on a physical, psychological and spiritual level. These wounds show up in daily interactions as well as when they argue with others or need something to be their way. They can become easily triggered over the need for their version of reality. Wounding can originate in childhood from interactions that induce tremendous feelings of shame. Shame then becomes the filter for how everything is processed. However, so that we don’t live as victims forever, our wounds must have an expiration date and it is absolutely our responsibility as adults to seek out others to assist us in our healing. When not properly dealt with, these issues can include a deep seated need to be ‘right’ and a hyper sensitivity to what is being said. A person who carries around wounds can seem to take everything personally. These issues can manifest in a lot of different ways with the extreme cases showing up in Cluster B Personality Disorders such as NPD, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. At the center of these disorders is an internal brokenness of self that results in processing interactions with others from a distorted view that everything is about them with little ability to perceive the emotions of others OR reason with emotions.
While we perceive and reason with emotions, it is also imperative that we understand the emotional states that we have, as well as the emotions of others. If we witness that our partner is irritable and we automatically conclude that it’s because he or she is angry at us or an unkind person in general, we can incorrectly arrive at a conclusion when in fact they had an unpleasant day at the office, got pulled over on the way home or have something they are trying to work through. Humans are great at “smuggling emotions” and I’ve never heard it described better than this story told by the blog site Genius Awakening. Click here to read the insightful discussion on how we carry around emotions under the surface when our conscious mind doesn’t allow in what we are dealing with on a subconscious level. Understanding emotions requires skill. It is impossible to be effective at this if you are still suffering from the wounds that prevent you from reasoning with emotions. Imagine understanding how someone else is feeling when you have blindspots around needing to be right and taking what they say personal. It’s impossible!! You can only achieve this once you have figured out how to get out of your own way and release the paradigm that you exist in the center of the universe. Understanding emotions is most effective when you have mastered the ability to accept all that you see without judgment AND by taking the observer role with your mind. Our strong identification with ego makes this difficult but with practice, it can be done. Simply observe what is happening around you and within you, without conclusion. Marvel at the ‘is-ness’ of life. Releasing judgment, bias, anger, sensitivity, resentment and the need to take things personally opens pathways for truth to come in. Then, the polarity of things can dissipate (black and white, good and bad, beautiful and ugly) and what is left is the simple state of being. Is-ness! The ability to truly understand our own emotional reality as well as those of others is exponentially increased when we don’t have the dense, heavy overlay of lower vibrational energies blocking us from our ability to connect. Our soul is the processor of emotions. The essence of which, is beautiful. It’s the egoic thoughts we have and our wounds that produce the toxic emotions. In truth, anytime we have a negative emotion it lets us know we are thinking something that is not true for us! It’s virtually impossible to connect with our higher self when we are dragging around heavy feelings that others are out to get us, or experiencing resentment after taking someone’s words the wrong way. Understanding emotions opens the door to freedom.
Ascending to the top of the ladder of emotional intelligence, we finally arrive at the management of emotions. Management involves the regulation of emotions and response to others. Clearly only after we’ve adequately mastered perceiving, reasoning and understanding emotions can we try to effectively manage our emotions. It’s funny to watch myself and others in this regard. Despite the fact that we’ve all had emotions since we were born, whenever we are overcome with an emotional response, we seem to navigate it as though it’s a sea of mystery and something we’re experiencing for the first time. If we were to effectively allow the energy of the emotion to surface and express itself (instead of the repression tactic so many of us have been practicing for so long), the emotion would be felt, deliver its message and then dissipate. Emotions are easier to manage when they are not seen as the enemy! The chronic disease and addiction rates in our society are the side effects of a collective ‘lack of emotional intelligence’ and especially mismanaged emotions. E-motion stands for Energy in Motion. When an emotion wells up inside us, the energy must be expressed in some way. It can either be expressed in a healthy manner or repressed through dysfunction numbing (drugs, alcohol, eating and sex)…but the energy of the emotion will go somewhere. Properly managing our emotions obviously gives us a huge leg up on living a well balanced life without an excess of drama and chaos. It also assists us in having a successful career and sustainable relationships as we appropriately navigate our response to others in a mature and respectful way.
The importance of emotional intelligence cannot be overstated. Emotions are inherent to our human nature. They will always be a part of our experience. Learning to master the different aspects of emotional intelligence is a gift that keeps on giving. With increased awareness, you can take ownership of your emotional reality and learn to interact more effectively with those around you. There is not one aspect of your life that doesn’t benefit from you raising your EQ!