Emotional Intelligence : the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
- The Oxford dictionary
To be emotionally intelligent then is to know, understand and express your emotions whilst not being at the affect of them (their victim), and apply that skill in your relationships.
It is widely believed that emotional intelligence is the key to both personal and professional success, so a skill well worth mastering.
Below I outline a few principles that can help you with this.
1. EMOTIONS WANT TO BE FELT.
It's important to understand this. Repressing emotions doesn't work. If you've ever heard of "whatever you resist, persists" - I find it's true. If you push them away without consideration, they will come back more distorted and damaging than if you dealt with them when they first appeared.
At the same time, being felt doesn't mean being allowed to take over completely at any time.
2. EMOTIONS ARE A VALUABLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION.
Our emotions are a result of our mental processes, conscious or unconscious, and they massively impact our behaviour and the outcomes in our lives. (If you're feeling joyful, you'll be more ready to take positive action, connect with people in a positive way, than if you're feeling angry or in despair. )
Emotions are therefore a valuable source of information about what's going on in our minds - an opportunity for raising self-awareness not to be missed, since awareness is a necessary step for making a positive change in any situation. (You have to understand what's wrong before you can fix it.)
3. YOU HAVE ULTIMATE CONTROL OVER YOUR EMOTIONAL RESPONSE, AND THUS YOUR BEHAVIOUR.
Whilst you need to acknowledge your emotions and let them be felt, you don't need to be their victim.
As said, emotions are a result of our thoughts (which are based on our personal perspective of the world - our past experiences, beliefs, values, etc). Even if you think you're experiencing an emotion as a direct response to external circumstance, in fact your emotion is a result of your *mental response* to that circumstance.
That's why putting on a different frame of mind often helps with changing our response to situations.
For example if you feel someone criticises you - putting on a frame of compassion and not taking it personally can help tremendously. "Perhaps the person received so much criticism in their life that criticising comes so automatically to them, it's what they know, this isn't really about me" - can make us feel completely different about the actual words that were said!
Needles to say this impacts our behaviour - we will stand in our confidence and shrug the comment away, rather than respond with a defensive counter-attack or run away feeling violated and defeated. In turn, the critic will likely lose their interest in further criticising us when they see & feel our confidence.
4. BE PRESENT. DEVELOP SELF-AWARENESS BY STRENGTHENING YOUR OBSERVER POSITION.
An observer or a witness position is taking a position in your mind where you are just noticing the thoughts and feelings that are coming up. You aren't identified with them, you are observing/witnessing them.
As long as you're 100% IN your emotion, no other perspective (or choice) is possible. However when you practice and strengthen the observer position, more clarity and decision-making power becomes available.
Meditation is one of the amazing practices that strengthens our observer position. So is any mindfulness practice. As well as many NLP tools I use (on myself and with clients).
5. PRACTICE FINDING BALANCE IN THE MIDST OF YOUR INTENSE EMOTIONS.
Instead of being completely taken over by emotions to the exclusion of reason or any choice on your part (this often leads to behaviour we later regret!), you can practice finding BALANCE instead.
Having awareness of the emotions present, with you in the observer position, automatically creates a distance between you and the emotion(s), so they automatically have less power over you. You are not pushing them away though, you are letting them be (and gradually as you're aware of more than one emotion in any situation, you can give preference to one over the other - exercising choice).
In any situation, you can feel yourself in the centre of all that's going on within you emotionally. Feel (and hear any arguments of) the different positions within, and feel how they're not the whole you. You have them available to you, but you're in the centre, independent of them all. This will help you to start feel that BALANCE. The more you practice this, the more you'll be able to put it into practice when it really matters (in challenging situations).
Returning to the earlier example of feeling like you're being criticised - there may be a myriad of emotions present such as anger (wanting to attack the other person by criticising them back), shame (fearing they might be right and feeling mortified), withdrawal (trying to protect yourself by 'running away'), etc.
The love and understanding you normally have for fellow humans may be completely out of the picture ... Or it may come up as a split second thought, but you won't notice it if you're fully in your anger.
If you're in your observer position though, you can notice a lot more, you have the space to apply a different frame of seeing the situation - and choose how the person's comments affect you, rather than being at their effect unconsciously.
I used to feel at the effect of my emotions a lot of the time in the past, and would actively push them away when they didn't feel good. But of course they would come back even stronger. Some emotions are simplistically labelled as bad, and my mind understood that as "to be avoided", but that doesn't stop them being generated.
That was until 10 years ago when I trained in Voice Dialogue which is a modality that helps you become aware of and speak to different parts of yourself directly. It was the first time that I experienced I AM NOT my emotions, and that I actually had a real choice in how I respond emotionally.
My dad used to say when I was a teenager : "I'm not angry, the anger is within me" ... And to be honest I didn't get it then. But now it makes so much sense.
By not identifying yourself with your emotions, you create some distance that is so needed in order not to "overreact".
As I became more aware of what was behind (or underneath) my emotional reactions, I also became aware of the central place of awareness within me - in Voice Dialogue terms this is an Aware Ego process (all other individual parts/selves are called the operating ego).
This is a place from where I can witness AND experience the energy of each emotion (each part of me), and at the same time I stay in the centre. It gives me control over which part I let in and to which extent.
There's a practice that completes a voice dialogue session where we're 'dialling in/out' the specific energies that you've accessed in the session. This is so empowering. Actually feeling the energy come in and out, you directing it and not the other way around.
It literally changed my life. Now I'm also an NLP practitioner and the transformational journey continues.
I hope this was useful and will help you on your path of being more emotionally intelligent, enjoying more success and better relationships as a result!
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