I Think; I Feel

I Think; I Feel

Easter 39

Philosophy is the quest for knowledge, the searching to determine, analyze, and arrive at conclusions that are either proven or taken as proof. Philosophy asks “What are we?” Emotional intelligence is using knowledge in a social setting, recognizing emotions, both of one’s self and of others. Emotional intelligence is learning what different feelings are, how to discern them, and how to apply them in making choices and in one’s behavior.

There are three basic models of Emotional Intelligence. The “ability model” was developed by Peter Salovey and John Mayer. Aptly named, this model is concerned with a person’s ability to process emotional information and then the application of that knowledge in social settings. Konstantin Vasily Petrides proposed the “trait” model. Defined as the ability to encompass “behavioral dispositions and self-perceived abilities”, this form of emotional intelligence is determined through self-reporting. The third model is a combination of the other two and was suggested by Daniel Goleman who determined that emotional intelligence was a combination of abilities and traits. Goleman maintained that this array of skills and characteristics was vital in leadership ability.

While it may seem like emotional intelligence is counter-intuitive to the early teachings of ancient philosophers, it cannot be discounted. Scientific studies indicate that people with high emotional intelligence also have greater mental health, perform better in their careers, and make more effective leaders. Does this type of intelligence exist, though? How does it interact with established belief systems?

One of the earliest forms of emotional intelligence is often overlooked, in my humble opinion. In my brief research of this subject, I found no mention of the earliest admonitions by both eastern spiritualties and early Abrahamic religions which speak on this subject. As discussed a variety of ways and times on this blog, the so-called Golden Rule addresses emotional intelligence quite simply by encouraging us to think of others as we would want them to think of us.

A growing concern worldwide is the attraction young adults have towards joining internet families which encourage them to maim, kill, and even commit suicide. These are not young people without families. They are, however, young people who feel disenfranchised from their environment. Some might say they have poor emotional intelligence. Is the problem really with them or with us?

Man is a social animal. Much like the wolves that roam forested regions across the planet, man is a pack animal and seeks companionship. Young people will find their own “pack”. How we employ our own emotional intelligence often determines whether or not these young people will connect with their physical neighbors or their internet friends, sadly many of whom are false friends.

Young people are knowledge seekers. They thrive in exploring the wonders of the world and, like any young thing, need guidance in their explorations. Emotional intelligence should be more than a way of connecting and convincing others of our own beliefs, though. True leadership means guiding people towards what is ultimately healthy for everyone, not just one particular set or cliché.

Too often, these young people are being swayed by promised of family, of communion, or belonging. They are welcomed with what appears to be open acceptance and are encouraged that they are valued for being themselves. Their energy is what is valued, not their being or personality.

What makes us unique individuals is not what we have in common but what we have that sets us apart. In a world that values popularity, though, the uniqueness is seen as a threat. Conformity based upon popular trends is the barometer, not individuality. If a young person who rebels against wearing a school uniform suddenly runs away to join a faction that requires everyone to look alike or women to completely cover and hide themselves, what is our correct emotional response?

I do not try to deny emotional intelligence. I think it could be the saving grace for the world and the one sure road to peace. We must be certain, however, that we do not insist others be just like us because that then will lead us nowhere. Mankind is a group of unique individuals that share commonalities but we are all individuals. As such we have the right to develop our own beliefs and traits. If we gauge another’s emotional responses based upon our own set of standards and our own personality, then the other person will never measure up because they are not us.

People with what is termed “high emotional intelligence”, often called “EI”, recognize their emotions and are able to describe them accurately. “Sad” is a term that covers a variety of feelings. Someone with high EI seldom says they are sad; they are frustrated, depressed, scared, irritable, anxious, worried, etc. They are curious and embrace change, knowing when to learn from the past and when to let go. People with high EI accept themselves and their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Acceptance does not mean one stops trying to improve; it means one knows where the starting point for improvement is.

Life takes courage to live and learning takes greater courage. As we start to conclude our brief study of philosophy, we cannot forget the basic reason for such learning – life. Aristotle once said “Happiness depends on ourselves.” We must take care of ourselves and be healthy physically in order to develop good emotional health and intelligence. Perhaps the greatest thing to learn is that life must be lived and lived wisely in order to gain wisdom.

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