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Emotional Intelligence 101

Emotional intelligence is the level of an individual’s ability or skill in the identification, assessment, and management of the emotions of oneself, and to the reactions of the emotions of others.

Feelings and emotions are part of the human experience. They are not gender bias. We all at some time or another will feel sad, angry, happy, or fearful. Sometimes we will feel them all at once even. Despite what many people have been taught, all feelings are good, yes even anger and sadness.

When you learn how to assess and process them in a health productive way your relationships with yourself, others, and your quality of life drastically improve.

Feelings are simply your body's way of speaking to you. It is a way for it to prompt you to make a change in action so that you can remain as safe and free from pain as possible.

It is important to learn to befriend your feelings and try to learn from them rather than supress or hide from them. When intense feelings are present and we try to block them, we can end up feeling more anxious, sad or angry. Suppressing strong feelings takes a lot of energy, and it can “backfire” when they become louder and louder to the point that they burst out of us in unhealthy ways.

We need to be able to experience feelings appropriately—in a way that is constructive, in the proper safe environment, with the ability to reflect upon them. It is important to connect compassionately with the feelings that are present in order for defenses to soften.

Feelings tend to “live” in our bodies, and we often experience a physical sensation when strong feelings are present. Sometimes, you will experience a “charge” with an emotion, which can be described as a strong physical association with a certain feeling.

We interpret this “charge” as the feeling attempting to get your attention that something important is happening and needs your attention.

People often remark about feeling nauseous or their stomach being upset, jittery or shaky, hot or cold, clammy, or heavy in their chest. You may have heard of the “fight-flight” response to stress, which is the way our bodies respond when we feel acutely stressed, frightened, or threatened.

There is a direct link between how we feel and how our bodies respond, and we can often use our bodies to help us identify our feelings and to channel them in ways that are healthy and constructive.

In many ways, it is much easier to be “in our heads,” but experiencing life from a cognitive place alone means we are denied the full and rich depth of being a complete person, which involves an integration of our thoughts, feelings, and physical bodies.

The intellectual IQ of individuals became the focus of who was considered "smart", successful, and looked up to with status in society in the early 1900's. Emotional aspects of the human experience such as sadness, anger or fear were seen as mostly irrelevant to the measure of an individual's value and even seen as weakness. It became culturaly expected to hide and avoid anger, sadness or fear, they became viewed as "bad" feelings.

All feelings are good when we use them as a tool towards understanding how to best navigate our life circumstances.

However, in reality, these expectations do not exactly work out in terms of personal success, social integration, and in the cultivation of compassion and empathy with others. If they are not managed well a person may succeed academically or financially but at the cost of their relationships and overall wellbeing.

All feelings are good when we use them as a tool towards understanding how to best navigate our life circumstances.

Most of our relationships with others are predicated upon our ability to care, to empathize, and to respond to others, and FEEL in a meaningful way. Most attachment behaviors are also demonstrated through emotionally mediated behaviors.

Emotional Intelligence

According to Goleman, to be successful requires the effective awareness and understanding of yourself, including your feelings, intentions, and responses, as well as the ability to understand the feelings and responses of others.

It is amazing to realize how little attention has been paid to the emotional content of our experiences and how readily we try to suppress or deny feelings rather than learning to work with them constructively.

The following steps ensure emotional intelligence and the healthy processing of your feelings:

  1. Identify the primary emotion(s) that is/are currently present,

  2. Be able to name and/ordescribe the intensity of the emotion(s). Mark them on a scale from 1-10 or if you have multiple feelings give them each a percentage rating.

  3. Find a way to work with emotions in a healthy manner like journalling, meditation, talking it out.

  4. Seek to understand the message or meaning that comes from the emotion(s) and come up with a plan that will help you feel at ease again.

Feeling States

There are four basic feeling states: sad, mad, glad, and scared.

There is a whole plethera of words that describe these feelings and a variety of sub feelings that can be felt or expressed.

Some-times, just naming the feeling and talking about it can be enough.

It can be helpful to explore your feelings further, talk about your feelings, and give an affirmation about your right to have feelings such as "It's ok to feel what I feel and will use it to help me identify my best course of action in this situation."

There are nonverbal clues that are indicators of feelings: such as clenched fists, tears, stomach pain/butterflies, exhaustion etc. that we can pay attention to. These are our body trying to signal to us we are experiencing an emotion that needs attention.

You can have more than one feeling at a time, and that it is normal to have. For example feeling sad that someone passed away, and also happy that they are no longer in pain.

Once you have explored the feeling, there is usually a “message” that is behind the feeling.

For example the anxiety that results from realizing that you are now alone at night after your spouse died is giving you the message that you need to do what is necessary to feel safe and connected to others when you are home at night.

The feelings you are experiencing are normal, however, I assure you that these feelings will not continue with this same intensity and magnitude forever. Knowing that the level of anger you feel now won't last forever can be assuring.

Feelings and Emotions Serve a Purpose

Fear—functions to help in self-protection, and it often arises when we do not feel safe or there is potential for pain. It is your brains and bodies "safety alarm" It is an indication you need to proceed cautiously.

Fear is usually associated with something specific, even if the trigger for the fear may seem elusive at first. Anxiety tends to be more generalized and does not usually have a specific focus.

Let fear be in the "passenger seat" of your decision" helping you navigate a situation cautiously rather than letting fear be in the driver's seat keeping you from facing a situation and from moving forward.

Breath is associated with fear, and you will often notice that when a person becomes more anxious or fearful, their breathing may become more rapid and shallow, or the person may actually hold his or her breath without even realizing it. It is important to conciously slow the breathing down and ground yourself by putting your feet on the floor and naming things in the room you see and feel. Then when you feel calm again, make a decision.

Anger—serves the purpose of a warning light and gives energy to get past blocks. Anger tells you that something is wrong, and it often comes up when a person feels that she or he has been violated or treated unfairly in some way. It can also be protective when a person feels threatened or vulnerable. It indicates the need for you to set boundaries with yourself or others.

Anger is okay and that it is a natural part of survival and being human. However, care must be taken to distinguish anger from violence. When it is acknowledged early it is a tool for taking proactive steps and we rule it, when it is left too long it can become a weapon where it rules us.

Constructive anger can be described it as a life force that can be empowering and highly informative of when a person needs to attend to what is happening in a very conscious way.

Anger is like the mushroom that pushes through the concrete in the sidewalk— we sometimes need this energy in order to get through the blocks that are present and preventing us from moving forward. Constructively channeling anger is what is at the core of emotional intellience.

Verbal expression of angry feelings may be enough. Sometimes, however, it is helpful to engage the body to physically release the anger in order to clear it to get to the underlying issues. People often feel better afterwards. Writing or scribbling in a journal with heavy strokes then crumpling it up and throwing it away, throwing paint at a canvas, breaking eggs with your hands in the sink, kneading and pounding bread dough, digging vigorously in the garden, hitting pillows, tearing paper, or yelling into a pillow may also help release it.

The release is only really helpful if the individual can then talk about the feeling and what is underneath it afterwards and come up with a plan of action; physical release without meaning being attached to the activity may not provide you with the clarity and understanding that is needed afterwards. Use of language is very important with anger as well.

Sadness—is an indication that something or someone is or was important to you. It is often more socially acceptable than anger, especially for women. In sadness, a person tends to retreat inside; sometimes, clients seem to “melt” into themselves when they express their sadness. It might be helpful for the individual to have something to hold, such as a pillow, a small blanket or throw, or a stuffed animal. Let them breathe deeply and let the sadness out.

After experiencing deep sadness, the person may want physical contact, and it is very important to be clear about what they want and need, not what you want or need.

Individuals need to know that they can enter deeply into their emotional experiences with competence and feel empowered by their emotions rather than crippled by them. Using the idea of pinning a thought or experience until later when one has the time and ability to deal with an emotion is a healthy practice. It is not dismissing the emotion, or stuffing it, but rather learning that it is ok to wait to process somethings until an appropriate time or place is a healthy practice. You can even process some feelings over several rounds, in bite size peices then pinning the rest aside to continue later as you can handle it. All feelings do not have to be processed right then and there or all at once.

Emotional Intelligence is learning how to go deeply into our emotions as needed and then to come back out of the intensity. It is a valuable skill that can be learned through reading, practice, and professional assistance with a coach or counsellor.

My wish for you is to balance your logical IQ and Your Emotional Intelligence to have a well rounded ability to deal with anything that life brings you in a healthy and productive way, while still being authentic to yourself.

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