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Part 1: The Intelligence of Emotions.

Although the term Emotional IQ was coined in 1990, emotions have been in and out of vogue throughout history. We are not only “rational” creatures, as Aristotle famously defined us, but we also have emotions. We live our lives through our emotions, and it is our emotions that give our lives meaning. What interests or fascinates us, who we love, what angers us, what moves us, what bores us—those are the things that define us, that give us our character, that constitute our “selves.

And yet, for most of us, we are so out of touch with our feelings. Often we are left scratching our heads...why? Most of us assume that knowing how we feel is no more complicated than knowing whether we are hot or cold. We just know. But in fact, we often don't know how we feel. This isn't because we are dumb, but because recognising feelings is challenging. Feelings are more complex and nuanced than we usually imagine. What's more, feelings are very good at disguising themselves. Feelings we are uncomfortable with disguise themselves as emotions we are better able to handle; bundles of contradictory feelings masquerade as a single emotion; and most important, feelings transform themselves into judgement, accusations, and attributions (e.g., 'Why are you pushing my buttons').

One way to find your feelings is to explore the bundle of feelings behind the simple labels. This can be a particularly helpful process for one common feeling...anger. The next time you feeling angry, take some time to consider what else you feel in addition to anger. For example, make a list of all the things that you are feeling about the situation, another person, and about yourself. You might find that you are also feeling helpless, confused and afraid. In many situations, we are blinded by the complexity of our feelings by one strong feeling that trumps all the others (e.g., anger). Where we originally see only one emotion, upon further reflection, we are able to find an entire spectrum of emotions. Simply becoming familiar with the spectrum of difficult-to-find feelings may trigger a flash of recognition for you.

One tip to improve your emotional IQ: feelings are usually, hurt, shame, fear, self-doubt, joy, sadness, jealousy, gratitude, loneliness etc. Looking up a list of feelings on google may also help label feelings. If these feelings are still difficult to identify, then tapping into the physical sensations in the body can also help...some people experience tension in the body as a result of 'stress', pain in the chest as a result of 'hurt', or heat or a rush as a result of 'anger' and so on...

And remember, emotions are not static, rather they are like waves. Next time you have a strong emotion, notice how it builds to a crest, peaks....breaks and then passes! You may also notice it return as the next wave...or perhaps more like a ripple...


'Difficult conversations: How to discuss what matters most' book by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen (of the Harvard Negotiation Project).

'Passions - Philosophy and the Intelligence of Emotions' audio lectures - Robert C. Solomon.

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