Science of Self – 8 – Emotional Intelligence

The Four Branches of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is an unfamiliar subject for most people. Studied in psychology and used by all of us in daily life, emotional intelligence is a systematized way of explaining different facets of our emotional behaviors. Getting to know a little bit about emotional intelligence and the four defining branches of it will help you navigate your emotionality with awareness and control.

Perceiving Emotions

The first step in understanding emotions is simply to be able to perceive them. This can be practiced and can evolve over time. Noticing physical indicators is one way of building emotional awareness. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a scowl on my face without realizing it, only for someone to tell me, and for me to be surprised! My face was saying one thing, while I didn’t feel particularly bad or angry, so why was I scowling? The ability to recognize an emotion as it surfaces is integral in developing a sensitivity for emotional intelligence. A central focus for our magical purposes is thatĀ if you can evaluate your emotions, you can manage them. Evolutionary biologists and psychologists have pointed out that emotional expression evolved in animal species as a form of crucial social communication. Facial expressions such as happiness, sadness, anger, and fear, were universally recognizable in human beings. Emotions researchers, evolutionary biologists, specialists in nonverbal behavior, and others, have made tremendous inroads into understanding how human beings recognize and express emotions. The capacity to accurately perceive emotions in the face or voice of others provides a crucial starting point for more advanced understanding of emotions.

Reasoning with Emotions

Once you are working on broadening your emotional perceptions, you can begin to use emotions to promote thinking and cognitive activity. Emotions are a biological part of us; they help us prioritize what to pay attention and react to; we respond instinctually to things that warrant attention. Control over these emotions is difficult. We rarely are able to quench anger, still our sadness, or reel in joy and excitement. There are a number of techniques that allow us better control over our emotions, especially negative ones like anger, depression or anxiety. Meditation, prayer, or shifting your view of a situation in a more positive light can help alleviate negative emotions. Learning and using bio-feedback is another useful tool in emotion regulation. Emotions have the ability to enter into and guide the cognitive system. When you are angry, jealous, or feeling a strong negative emotion, your reptile brain, or amygdala kicks in impairing greatly your cognitive abilities. Quenching these negative emotions will leave you more clearheaded and creative if you need to solve a problem or talk quickly in a bad situation. Not letting your emotions get control of you is very important. In another form of cognitive influence, a number of researchers have suggested that emotions are important for certain kinds of creativity to emerge. For example, both mood swings, and positive moods, have been implicated in the capacity to carry out creative thought.

Understanding Emotions

Emotions can carry a wide variety of meanings. If a friend is sulking, you must interpret the cause of their funk and what it means for your friend, and how it relates to you. In interpreting emotions, many of us fall into the natural rhythm of attribution, that is, attaching either internal or external reasoning to why someone (or yourself) is feeling a certain way. If your friend is sulking, you may assume that he had a bad day (a situational assumption), or, you could feel that it was somethingĀ  you did wrong and now he’s upset (a dispositional reasoning). For an explanation of attribution theory, I suggest you click the link highlighting “attribution” above to learn more.

In the biological sense: emotions convey information. They are indicators that help us assess situations and are built-in for our survival. Happiness usually indicates a desire to join with other people, while anger demonstrates a desire to harm others; fear indicates a desire to escape, and so forth. Each emotion carries with it a possibility of messages and actions that are associated with the messages. Reading emotional messages and their actions correctly is an important aspect of this skill. Once you are able to identify such messages and potential actions, you gain the ability to reason with and about those emotional messages. Fully understanding emotions means comprehending the meaning of emotions, and being able to reason with them.

After learning how to identify and understand emotions, you can use your knowledge to help motivate yourself and others, and also widen your capacity for empathy which will help you better connect with others and react appropriately in complex situations.

(For a more advanced discussion of emotional information, see the section, “Similarities and Differences Between Emotional and Cognitive Information” in this article).

Managing Emotions

The final step in building emotional intelligence is being able to manage emotions effectively. Regulation and response are key in this area of emotional management. Certain emotions may be desired, while others you might wish to block out, especially if they are overwhelming. You can feel your comfort zone and play around with letting yourself experience certain emotional signals that aren’t too painful, while regulating those that cause you distress. This is also beneficial for your health if you use these techniques to reduce stress, anger, and anxiety.

Our next article will go through tutorials on emotional management techniques. You can “follow” us to keep abreast of the next posting.

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8 responses to “Science of Self – 8 – Emotional Intelligence

  1. Pingback: God: the fundamental capacity to perceive and identify « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci·

    • It’s a fascinating subject – I’m glad to hear you have an emotional intelligence facebook page! It’s hard to gain insights about our own emotions, but learning how to do it is extremely rewarding. Thanks so much for kind words!

      • A mission after my own heart! I too would love to bring these magical subjects I feature into the classroom. With enough positive change we could have a new generation of super humans. :)

      • Exactly! it thrills me to think what a concerted effort on the part of educators and governmental bodies and to a large degree parents could mean…if we can teach children to read and write we can teach children to understand the way the brain works and how to utilise it for best results…..really we are just reminding them of their immense capability and properly endowing them with self-awareness necessary to navigate their lives with ease, grace , success and joy!

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