EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE Jane Murphy-Thresh
Are you intelligent? If you are thinking about this question, you probably are! But are you emotionally intelligent? Emotional intelligence is all about understanding why you feel how you do and being able to organise your feelings better. By understanding this, you have begun to take control of your feelings. You can take steps to change your life for the better. It also reassures you that you are not ‘going mad’ after all!
Most people are aware that the mind is capable of conscious and subconscious thought. The conscious mind is rational and reasoned. It has knowledge and understanding which have been learned from many sources. The subconscious mind, however, has a different logic and isn’t necessarily rational. It is emotional and stores information, which it has gained from experience. This information is stored as feelings. It can also be remembered from imagined experience, which has been described, say, by a parent trying to warn of danger. The subconscious mind, or emotional mind, has the sole purpose of protecting you. It warns you and triggers physical responses that will help you to deal with that danger or threat of danger. This is often referred to as ‘fight or flight’. Your ears, eyes and nose send the danger signal to your brain. The brain then triggers production of adrenaline through your body, increases heart rate and breathing rate and heightens your senses. This prepares your body to either fight the danger or to run away from it. This was vital for your very early ancestors who lived in caves and faced real danger on a daily basis, but nowadays you hopefully do not face the same challenges. However, there is a catch: the emotional mind still activates these extreme responses for much less dangerous situations.
Remember how you felt when you last lost your mobile phone or missed your train to work? So you know that the emotional mind is necessary for our survival, but you also know that it can cause severe reactions to relatively innocuous situations. Moreover, the more bad experiences you have, the more information the emotional mind will store. The well known phrase ‘once bitten, twice shy’ comes to mind! The subconscious looks for the negatives in life. This enables it to anticipate potential danger and sensory triggers can cause it to follow a pattern of behaviour even though nothing has actually happened. A smell, an object, a sound or phrase, can be enough to trigger all the physical reactions that are meant to be associated with a real danger, there and then! This all happens because it is a biological fact that the emotional mind reacts quicker than the rational mind. In other words, you can have an emotional response to something before the brain has fully made sense of what is happening!
Even the most clever and sensible of us can be taken over by our emotions, often without really understanding why. Life’s past experiences can take over the present and in extreme cases can cause high levels of stress, pressure and anxiety. Worse still is the feeling of helplessness or lack of control in the confused state of mind this often creates. If you could be more aware of your emotions, it would enable you to understand your varying moods. The emotional reactions you have can even be channelled to bring about a positive outcome rather than a negative one: in other words, to use that ‘nervous energy’ to achieve your goals. The good news is that there is something you can do about this. While it is true that you can’t erase existing feelings in the emotional mind, it is possible to overlay those feelings with more positive thoughts. Just imagine if you could deal with that difficult person at work, or that big issue in the family – or simply be confident enough to become the person you feel you could be. With the right help, you can develop new thinking habits, change your perception, take back control of your behaviour and therefore take control of your life – in other words, use your emotions intelligently!