Emotional Intelligence

‘Being emotionally intelligent means that you know what emotions you and others have, how strong they are, and what causes them. ‘Coming out’ emotionally is about being honest about your feelings, asking for what you want and above all learning to express yourself from the heart.’

Dr Claude Steiner

Two or three decades ago, it was widely believed that success in life was largely down to intellect. Psychologists devoted a great deal of effort to measure this, producing psychometric tests galore for measuring IQ (Intelligence Quotient). Then in the early 1990s, Daniel Goleman wrote a bestselling book that argued that the most successful people are not those with high intellect, but those who have EI – Emotional Intelligence.

He identified the five ‘domains’ of EQ as:

  1. Knowing your emotions.
  2. Managing your own emotions.
  3. Motivating yourself.
  4. Recognising and understanding other people’s emotions.
  5. Managing relationships, i.e., managing the emotions of others.

Emotions are problematic for many people. Humans are naturally more inclined to act emotionally than ‘logically’, but badly handled, they can cause no end of difficulties. People who are lacking in ’emotional intelligence’ – i.e. the ability to relate to and handle emotions (theirs and other people’s) – find most areas of life a struggle and have difficulty enjoying life to the full. And there is incontrovertible evidence that emotional disorders are responsible for most illness and that happy, positive people who acknowledge and express their emotions freely enjoy better than average health.

Emotions have a purpose

Emotions attempt to steer us towards what seems comfortable and away from anything which seems uncomfortable. That’s their job. But they are not always grounded in ‘reality’. They are born out of our perceptions of what is pleasurable and what could cause discomfort or pain. But what happens if our perceptions are misguided? For example, say you are facing a difficult situation, such as a job interview or examination. Your stomach is churning. You want to ‘bottle out’. If you do, you’ll avoid the uncomfortable feelings, but you may also be missing out on a golden opportunity. What should you do?

If the opportunity is attractive enough, you go ahead anyway, ignoring the feelings. You know the benefits will outweigh the dis-benefits in the longer term. If you went with your feelings, you would be the loser. There are times when it’s best to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway!’

Just because something feels wrong, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it is wrong. Similarly, just because something feels right, it doesn’t automatically follow that it is right.

Ignoring or suppressing emotions is dangerous. Discounting feelings in the short term in order to deal with a current situation is one thing, but ignoring or suppressing in the long term them is extremely dangerou and can result in serious physical and psychological illness. Good health demands facing up to uncomfortable or painful emotions, recognising them, working them through and resolving them.

Empathy versus sympathy

The ability to empathise with others is a vital skill for success and happiness. But empathy is not the same as sympathy. Empathy is the ability to see the other’s world as he or she sees it while remaining emotionally detached. Sympathy is feeling sorry for the person, and runs the danger of being sucked in and emotionally involved.  Nobody helps another by taking on their emotional ‘stuff’, any more than you can help a person escape from a deep well by jumping in with them!

Know yourself

You cannot always prevent yourself from feeling an emotion, since you are human! But you can and must learn how to manage your emotions, and become ‘emotionally intelligent’. Self awareness is the first step.

Emotional Intelligence is a huge subject. But remember – EI (Emotional Intelligence) is much less fixed than IQ. It can develop over time and responds to research, training, coaching and feedback.

©Feeling Good All the Time, 11.5.2017

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Emotional Healing

Healing at an emotional level should always be a gentle process of letting go, rather than a battle to ‘beat’ whatever originally ’caused’ the upset or illness.

There’s lots of evidence that working through ‘negative’ emotions helps you recover from illness more quickly, and (perhaps even more importantly) reduces the chances of your getting ill in the first place.

To anyone schooled in the bio-mechanical ethic of the last two centuries this is heresy, but virtually every authoritative study shows:

  • Happy, enthusiastic, optimistic people get ill less often.
  • Helping people to manage upset feelings is an effective form of disease prevention.
  • Patients who are more able to handle and express their emotions, especially anger, survive degenerative diseases such as cancer for significantly longer periods.
  • People who are well adjusted emotionally and socially are healthier and live longer:
  • People with close family ties and a wide circle of friends have a much lower mortality rate than those without – irrespective of smoking, drinking, eating and exercise patterns.

Is it possible to change your emotional state and therefore improve your health? Certainly! But it takes patience. Illness is a function of many interactions in your mechanical, energetic and neurological systems, and is not related solely to any one thing. Some diseases involve complex interactions, while others are simpler. But any medium to long-term medical care that neglects emotions is at best inadequate and more likely totally ineffective.


©David Lawrence Preston, 12.7.2016

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The Molecules of Emotion

Anyone who has ever felt sick with worry or cried at the cinema knows that there is a close connection between our thoughts, emotions and bodily state, but only in the last couple of decades has the medical establishment acknowledged this connection and begun to take it seriously. The reason was that scientists could find no discernible means by which the brain, nervous system and immune system communicated with each other, and hence could not explain how the mind could possibly bring about physical changes.

Dr Candace Pert changed all that. She discovered the biochemical mechanisms through which mind-body communication to take place. As a result of her work, and that work of other great PNI (Psycho-Neuro-Immunology) pioneers such as Cannon, Ader, Felten and the rest, no serious medic today would deny that our thoughts and emotions affect our health. No longer can we regard the body and mind as distinct from each other – they function together as a single unit, an interconnected whole.

The Molecules of Emotion is an account of Dr Pert’s life and work from her graduation in 1970 until its publication in 1997. The first chapter sets the scene, a scientific explanation of ligands, peptides and receptor sites cleverly woven into her account of how she approaches lecturing to an expert audience.  The next few chapters describe the defining period on her life when, as a young scientist trying to make her mark, she fought off those who said it couldn’t be done and discovered the opiate receptor in the brain. She then found herself at odds with those in power who resented her challenge to established scientific thinking and who weren’t ready to be confronted by – shock horror!!! – a woman shaking things up. Indeed, this episode sets the tone for much of the book. She concludes that her difficulties in getting the credit to which she was entitled were due to her gender rather than the dirty tricks and ruthlessness of professional colleagues.

Personally, as one who gave up chemistry and biology at an early age, I found the book tough going in places, but the ‘difficult’ passages soon give way to more reader friendly narrative. Parts are stomach churning; her description of making a frothy milkshake-like mixture from the brains of the recently deceased is not for the faint-hearted, but an essential part of her research. She describes research that would later signpost an effective treatment for HIV, an easily synthesised polypeptide that would block one of the receptor sites by which the virus gains access to the body. Complicated, yes, but even so, the author makes it as clear as possible for the uninitiated like me. I learned a great deal, and, thanks to a clear and comprehensive index at the back, will use the book as a source of reference in the future.

Besides, for me, the science is not the only point of the book, for behind the technical details lies a fascinating human interest story of a determined young woman doing unconventional research in a staid and conservative environment. Indeed, her first major breakthrough would not have happened if she’d obeyed her superior’s instruction to discontinue that line of research. Then as the story unfolds, we learn how she was denied her share in a prestigious award, even though she did most of the research; her difficulties combining he professional life with her family life; her 10 year struggle to get funding for research; and how she founding of a research institute with a state-of-the-art laboratory only to have the funding withdrawn after falling foul of the intriguingly unnamed ‘Second Biggest Drug Company on the Planet’. She tells how she sabotaged her chances of gaining a Nobel Prize nomination by refusing to support the nomination of a group of (male) rivals who she felt had stolen her ideas.

Later breakthroughs in HIV/AIDS and cancer treatments followed, each as hard-fought as the last. By then, she had become more resilient, and her anger and frustration had given way to mindfulness and acceptance. For out of her research had come the realisation that forgiveness and a positive attitude in the face of adversity are important for maintaining wellbeing, and that toxic emotions must be expressed and worked through.

The final chapters offer an eight part programme for a healthy lifestyle. By then, she had discovered meditation, consciousness and chakra-based energy medicine. She had become an apostle for integrating mainstream, science-based medicine with holistic healthcare, and acknowledged the interaction between ‘healer’ and ‘client’ as an important part of the healing process. She had even stumbled across the notion of information exchange as the basis of understanding biological life, even referring to neuropeptides and receptors as ‘information molecules’.

The Molecules of Emotion has been criticised by the more scientifically minded as focussing too much on the human interest story and veering too far towards the ‘woo-woo’ in its final chapters, and by science-phobics as too heavy on technical detail. For me, she got the balance about right.

But science is an unfolding process. Scientifically, the world has moved on since The Molecules of Emotion was first published. We know a great deal more about the mechanisms by which our mental and emotional processes affect the biochemical make up of the body and manifest as health and wellbeing or their opposite – dysfunction and disease. As a result, health practitioners (including doctors) are no longer reluctant to discuss with clients how their beliefs and lifestyle choices impact on their health, and more and more clients readily embrace holistic healing approaches alongside conventional medicine.

Dr Pert made some important discoveries, then, not content to keep them to herself, fought hard to bring them to our attention. Her work validates what common sense has always told us – that the mind and body are intimately connected. For me, this book is an essential read for anyone engaged in medicine/healthcare and/or healing, either as a practitioner, educator, policymaker or patient.

Dr Candace Pert, The Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel The Way You Feel, Pocket Books, 1999, ISBN- 13: 978-0-6710-3397-2


©David Lawrence Preston, 31.5.2015

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