April 25, 2020

What is Emotional Intelligence & How do we Get It?

Among other things like playing the piano again and baking muffins, I have been spending these past weeks delving deeply into emotional well-being.

I am also analyzing how the ancient science of acupressure affects us. Particularly when combined with the practice of yoga, it is powerful support for processing the challenging emotions swirling through us all.

I tend to feel and process my experience deeply, so I have always been fascinated by emotions—what they are and how to relate to them.

Although I have often felt overwhelmed by strong emotions, I have also recognized that my capacity to feel deeply is a gift. (One I need to become skillful with.)

Our capacity to feel is a defining aspect of our humanity. Emotions give our lives depth and meaning. They are where all great art and noble acts of service arise. They are the fuel and inspiration for taking action in our lives.

Emotions are also a way to access our intuition and more profound knowing. Terms like “gut feeling” and “heartfelt desire” reflect the wisdom that comes through our body and emotions.

We are taught so little about how to appreciate, understand, and express our emotions. Because of the busyness of modern life, we are often not given many opportunities to listen, experience, or express our emotional experience—until now.

Emotional intelligence is defined as:

  1. The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
  2. The ability to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.

Here is my definition:

  1. The capacity to consciously allow and express our emotions without being completely identified with them.

For me, emotional intelligence is our ability to make space for our emotions, but not let them overwhelm us. In other words, it is the difference between “I am angry, afraid, or sad,” and “I feel angry, afraid, or sad.” The “I” is our conscious awareness, the part of us that can compassionately hold whatever feeling may be moving through us.

So what helps us understand and manage our emotions?

Our bodies are designed to allow the free flow of emotional energy. Poorly expressed or repressed emotions are, some would say, the primary cause of physical and mental illnesses.

One of the reasons I believe we have become so disconnected from ourselves, our nature, is that we live most of our lives identifying with our negative thinking. Out of the tens of thousands of thoughts that we think a day, few are genuinely creative. Most are repetitive, fear-based, and focused on the past or future. 

Habitual overthinking is the primary stimulus for much of our painful emotions, which is why embodiment practices (like yoga) are so necessary for our well-being. Or merely being in nature can calm our mental and emotional energy and remind us we are a minuscule part of a larger whole.

When we bring our awareness out of our thoughts and stories and into a felt experience of our body, we receive access to the wisdom our emotions offer us. This is our emotional intelligence.

I have felt deeply saddened by the extreme disconnection being experienced between humans right now. My passion for partner yoga is based on the healing power of touch. Touch is a direct pathway for connecting to our body and vital for nourishing our well-being. I know that this is what I crave in order to balance myself physically and emotionally.

I will say that I feel particularly grateful and inspired to be immersing in and sharing this synthesis of self-healing and self-connection practices right now. I hope you can join me or find an outlet for yourself.


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