Thinking differently about adversity has always been the tough part of improving one’s emotional intelligence (EI), especially in the midst of a crisis. Our goal as EI learners, however, is to think twice – maybe not in the midst of a crisis, but at some point soon after.
The suggestion that we will have to learn to think twice implies that we will expend at least that much more effort than we do now to solve our emotional problems. EI learners know that when A happens, we often think B and feel C; just like we always have. Very little will ever change in that regard. But what EI learners know, as well, is that our options at C are not limited to our first thoughts and consequent emotional response. We learn to think differently at B and feel a new C – an evolved emotional response.
Along with each old and new theory of EI, there seems to be a rather meandering use of new and old words and phrases – leading to more and more clarification – each clarification leading to endlessly more detail. So, EI teaching often includes a brave attempt at trying to stay clear and concrete in what may seem at times extraordinarily confusing. Without precision in your guide’s choice of words and phrases, you, the learner, will likely be lost, or even (forbid) uninterested – defeating both of your purposes.
I am reminded of a learner who came to me wholly intent on becoming an expert in emotional intelligence.
She gave herself a six-week deadline.
While I sat explaining the model, one fraught with complex sociological terms and biopsychosocial jargon, I noticed she was fighting off sleep. The whites of her eyes replaced her irises, right in the middle of my enthusiastic explanation of all things – the limbic system!
Can you imagine?
And this was a willing and well-intentioned learner!
The empirical evidence to support my theory of EI may be (for me) irrefutable. I learned from my learner that day, however, that the value of my message may lie in how it is articulated – and how often I break for laughter.
I now know that maneuvering through the world of feelings, and trying to convey to others the often-confusing (and conflicting) philosophies related to emotion, is best achieved using as little lingo as possible. What lingo I do use, I like to make less complicated – more pedestrian; more consumable by the consumer. I am also now very careful not to take myself so seriously and to add a bit of humor to what I am teaching. (Nothing is funnier, and more beneficial, than when we can laugh at ourselves.) After all, EI education is not about how crafty and illusive your guide can be while trying to help you improve your EI.
Neither is it intended to be a comedy show.
It’s a balance.
An EI guide must pledge to pay more attention to the preciseness of h/er words and avoid the breadth and width of h/er boundless enthusiasm to explain everything. Improving one’s EI is hard enough without making it deliberately humorless and more difficult.
The concept of emotional intelligence we use with eitheory might be described as an acquired skill or ability for actively resolving emotional problems using a bio-psycho-social frame of reference. Solving an emotional problem does not mean that the solution can only be one that brings you happiness. EI learners and guides are not trying to help you achieve happiness in the face of all types of adversity. To do so would be an irresponsible and unachievable goal. The philosophy is more in line with the idea that if you make yourself angry you can make yourself incrementally less angry.
Positive incremental change indicates success when improving EI.
In fact, the solutions you find while improving your EI might be, at times, nothing more than incremental. You might, for instance, express anger x 10 when you encounter misfortune. But, using the eitheory, you may decrease your anger response to anger x 2.
Celebrate it when it happens.
Improved emotional intelligence is not often an all-or-nothing emotional fix. In fact, there may be times when you maintain your anger without a single bit of change. Don’t worry; if you wait long enough, time will take care of nearly all of your emotional issues. But if you can learn to forgive yourself for making yourself angry, while you wait for your anger to subside, you have been successful at improving your EI. Learning to forgive oneself for behaving foolishly is actually a significant sign of improved EI.
EI does not suggest that you will ever be happy when you are facing adversity, emotional challenge, bereavement, hardship or harsh conditions. It is very unlikely that you will ever use the skills found herein to move your emotions from anger to happiness. You can, however, achieve contentment where you would normally settle on discontent.
Prepare for the inevitability of incremental change and be aware that it is most assuredly a sign of improvement.
- The Bio-Psycho-Social Model (eitheory.com)
- You can really push my buttons! (eitheory.com)
- EITheory: A Biopsychosocial Intervention Model (eitheory.com)
- Incremental Change (eitheory.com)
- REBT vs. eitheory for the win! (eitheory.com)
- Social Problem Solving (eitheory.com)
- The Force of Criticism (eitheory.com)
- Articulated Thought and EI Theory (eitheory.com)
- Social Problem Solving (eitheory.com)
- What Is Emotional Intelligence (part ii) (eitheory.com)