Emotional Intelligence

Some people who did very well at school fail in life while others who did poorly on academic tests turn out to be very successful later in life. We move in the direction of our thoughts. Expressions such as “I can, I am” are much more important than IQ.

What is the definition of emotional intelligence? It can be described as being able to achieve your goals by interacting with your environment. Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence” uses terms such as confidence, motivation, enthusiasm, and perseverance. Other definitions include empathy.

Very often people lack perseverance when they need it or are unable to control their feelings in challenging situations. Aristotle once said, that “everybody can get angry – that is easy. But getting angry at the right person, with the right intensity, at the right time, for the right reason and in the right way – that is hard.” The problem is not the emotion but the appropriateness of the emotion and its expression. The question is, how can we add intelligence to our emotions? Our emotions influence our life. If we do not control our state, it will control us.

What about road rage? A friend told me that she had experienced that people treated her very badly on the road. She thought it was because of the funny old car she was driving. Often she would experience nasty behaviour from other drivers and she would get extremely angry. She wanted to control it, but did not know how to. We talked about it, and she revealed that she would always control herself if she had passengers in her car. She solved her problem by always having passengers sitting in the other seats. If she was driving alone, she just pretended her friends were present.

Logic makes people think, emotions make people act. The brain picks up information via the senses.

We could compare that with an in tray on your desk and call it step one. You then look at it and decide what to do about it. This is step two. You perform the action. This is step three.

Step one is the spot in the brain we call the thalamus. In step two the brain considers whether this is something to act upon or ignore. In step three the amygdala tells the body to react. – The neuroscientist Le Doux discovered that there is a shortcut in the brain which causes the amygdala to respond BEFORE we have thought about our action. This can be of great importance. Two years ago I experienced it personally. My five years old grandson was visiting. It was winter and rather cold. We went for a little walk around our pool. I told him about his grandfather who one day was cleaning the pool and all of a sudden slipped and fell into the pool fully clothed. One moment later my grandson fell in the pool. I managed to grab him before his head went under! I didn’t even think! My brain used the shortcut causing me to act before thinking.

In this case I appreciated the quick response. In other cases we may not like the way we respond like my friend in her special car. We cannot do anything about the emotion that takes place in certain situations, but we can decide whether to keep it or to change it.

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