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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How to Books, 2010


Relationships are like a mirror

Relationships are like a mirror reflecting back the way we are. Through our interactions with others, we learn about ourselves. The feedback can be immediate and sometimes harsh, but if we are open, illuminating. When we learn to see relationships as a mirror, we clear the way to profound personal growth. No more blaming anyone else for our unhappiness or handing over responsibility for our behaviour. The buck stops where it belongs!

A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror.’

Ken Keyes Junior

picasso-mirror(Picasso, ‘Girl in a Mirror’)

Your relationship with yourself is the basis of your relationships with others

We do not see things as they are – we see them as we are. We project our attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and misperceptions onto others. For example, people who are critical of others are usually privately critical of themselves; loud and boastful people are often trying to hide their anxieties; and people afraid that others will get one over on them are often looking to get one over on others.

Similarly, if you’re think most people are selfish, it’s probably because you have selfish tendencies; if you believe others are unreliable, they’ll constantly let you down; and if you’re the jealous sort, your jealousies are likely to be driven by your own insecurities.

Your attitudes and beliefs say more about you than anyone else. As you grow in wisdom, you discover that it is not others behaviour but your responses that create your experience of life, so if your relationships need attention, go within. Examine the causes, seek heightened awareness, and make love, peace and compassion the basis of your daily existence.


©David Lawrence Preston, 7.12.2016

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A Note on Mindfulness and Self-Awareness

There’s a fundamental truth behind our experience of life: It’s not what happens out there in the world that shapes our lives, but what happens in here, between our ears! The great spiritual teachers have been saying this for millennia, and today quantum physicists are saying the same. In essence, when you take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings, you are on the way to taking charge of your life.

Mindfulness is about being aware (1) that how and what we think matters, and (2) of what we think, feel, say and do in every moment, and how it impacts on us.

It is especially important to be aware of our thoughts and feelings in response to events, especially the automatic thoughts that occur when facing difficulties and setbacks. Thoughts of despair, helplessness, hopelessness, self pity and so on are inherently self-defeating. Most of these arise from our childhood programming and are destined to be repeated for the rest of our lives unless steps are taken to change them.

Understanding the Mind

What is this thing called ‘mind’? Unlike the brain, it’s not a physical thing. It’s an activity. It can’t be seen or weighed, but we know it’s there: we are aware of it and can observe it in action. Part of us knows we’re thinking, and can watch the thoughts passing through the mind. Moreover, another part of us is aware that we can observe ourselves observing our thoughts!

There are many levels of awareness within the mind. At any moment, there are things of which we are aware, things we could bring to mind if we wanted (such as what we did yesterday or last week), and other material which lies much deeper – e.g. childhood memories. We can classify these into certain categories:

  • The conscious mind: the part of the mind that we are aware of right now. It is, in effect, a stream of thoughts, a never ending inner dialogue. We are only ever aware of a tiny percentage (probably less than 1%) of our mental activity.
  • The material just below the surface is often referred to as the subconscious (or preconscious). These are the memories which are easily recalled when we need them, such as a telephone number or the items on a shopping list.
  • The remainder (more than 99%) lies beneath the immediate threshold of awareness. This is the unconscious, a storehouse of memories, dreams, instincts, habits and drives, knowledge, dreams, habits, experiences and emotions. Although we call it the unconscious, all unconscious material can potentially be being brought into consciousness.

Accepting responsibility for our thinking

Most people are unaware of how powerful their thinking is and don’t realise they have it within their power to change. We cannot afford to fall into this trap, because we would be reducing our effectiveness if a set of unacknowledged ideas, beliefs or prejudices rules our lives.

Turning our thinking around begins with awareness. If we are unaware of our thinking patterns, then how can we change them?

Get into the habit of noticing what you are thinking and feeling moment by moment. Notice how you respond mentally and emotionally to people, situations and events. If some pattern needs to be changed, then change it (sometimes professional help is needed with this).

Remember – no-one else chooses your thoughts for you. Thinking is something you do by, for and to yourself, and your thoughts impact on the way you feel. Moreover, your behaviour is largely governed by the way you think, so the more mindful you are, the more empowered you will be.


Every so often, pause. Break off from whatever you’re doing and be still. Sit comfortably and become aware of your thoughts. What are you thinking? Why are you thinking that thought? Where does it come from? Where is it taking you?


©David Lawrence Preston, 17.11.2016

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