Emotional intelligence, in contrast with cognitive intelligence, is the quality that enables us to negotiate with patience, insight and temperance, the central problems in our relationships with others and with ourselves. It can manifest in partnerships as a sensitivity to the moods of others, a readiness to grasp what may be going on for them beyond the surface, and to enter imaginatively into their point of view. It shows up in relation to ourselves when it comes to dealing with anger, envy, anxiety and professional confusion.
These are things not generally taught in the "academy", especially for those over 40 years of age. When it comes to managing our emotional lives, we were left to our own, igniting the praise of parents, as when we quietly receded as we were overtly diminished, or engendering their scorn, as we were shamed for expressing, or even having, challenging emotions. This would, of course, lead to even more highly charged, "unacceptable" emotions.
These childhood patterns of becoming small, or stuffing our most powerful feelings, show up every day in our relationships with others, ourselves and the world at large. Just think about the last time you wanted to speak up but held back because you were certain that your input would be rejected or that your experience would be ridiculed. These behaviors are rooted in childhood and are reinforced in a culture that seeks to control. They show up in our culture as systems that determine our place. Questioning these patterns (another cause of parental/societal consternation), is definitely taboo, as we're seeing playing out in our current culture. New ways of being in the world are beginning to emerge; new lenses through which we are seeing the world and through which we identify ourselves as individuals and collectively. These new ways create chaos. They always have. Evolution and revolution are only distinguished by one letter. We're witnessing the messiness of history in the making. Are we up to the challenge of the uncertainty of our times? Not unless we can navigate our own inner turmoil.
Perhaps you're interested in breaking some old patterns that you've outgrown. Perhaps you'd like to ask some hard questions that you've been too reticent to bring forward because of some feared silencing or shaming that might result. This work always begins and ends with ourselves. Inner work too, is messy, difficult and frightening.
Keep in mind that we can only be responsible for our own personal growth, relinquishing the growth of others to themselves, no matter how much we love them or oppose them, and no matter how certain we are about THEIR way forward.
Becoming aware of our own interior landscape is the starting line. Showing up to what's actually happening may sound ridiculous. Of course you've been showing up! But are you showing up with awareness, or just going through the motions? Are you on autopilot?
Check out some of these ways of showing up and see if this is what you're experiencing. Some of the practices that are most helpful are:
Need help with these steps? It's easy to schedule a free consult HERE.
Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” Often, the last person we pay close attention to is ourselves. Western culture has us very well trained to look at everyone and everything besides ourselves. We have been taught to rigorously evaluate others, events and things with a critical eye, often relying on the cultural narrative to justify our final conclusions. We have fallen into black-and-white thinking because, well, that's what everyone else does. We're part of an Us v. Them narrative that has fashioned us from birth. It has grown out of a scarcity mentality that is the unfortunate offspring of a capitalist system which drives us to consumerism without thought of finite supply. We can now see where that has landed us.
It's easy to fall prey to systems that unconsciously deplete and separate us from the earth and one another. Why is it easy? Because we're actually separate from ourselves, unconscious of our own motives, fears and foibles. But we're also unconscious of our own expansiveness, divinity and worth. We don't actually know ourselves.
Terrence McKenna once insightfully said, "History is not your fault". I like that. I'm not suggesting here that we are personally responsible for where we've landed as a species. Sometimes the narrative we hear is so condemning that we can do nothing but throw our hands in the air despairingly. McKenna suggests that we can have compassion toward ourselves for the predicaments we find ourselves in, both personally and collectively. Once that has been achieved, however, it is our responsibility to help steer the ship away from the reef as best we can. This begins with self knowledge. If we cannot understand ourselves, we truly cannot understand our fellow humans. We all live with elements of shadow and light within. It's our job to bring our full selves into the light with compassion. To see my own propensity for evil is to begin the process of forgiving myself, and in turn, others. To see my inherent goodness, is to recognize it in everyone.
I've wrestled with these ideas since I was very young. Growing up in a household where the possibility of being physically or sexually assaulted was an ever present reality, I saw what "good people" are capable of. Yes, good middle class, well respected, educated people. People who did NOT know themselves, but acted without restraint wherever the alcohol or drug induced stupor would lead them. I always wondered why such things could occur. I've come to realize that separation from self, condemnation of self, leads to a destructive projection of unworthiness and condemnation onto those in your path, even those you "love". The shame that comes in recognizing this, inflames the rage and leads to more harm projected outwards. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
There is another side to this coin. The side that is introspective and aligns with the dignity that is inherent to yourself and others. Inherent to the all creation and to the earth herself. The dignity of the individual garners compassion, respect. Each of us has that divine spark of sacredness as an expression of some Mind far greater than our own, very limited understanding. Until we can find that within ourselves, it will be impossible to afford that dignity to others, to creatures, to Mother Earth.
Know thyself. It's a tall order. It's why I do the work I do, personally and professionally. I won't say there aren't other tasks that are also imperative. But I do think knowing oneself comes before all else. From the deep work if introspection comes a wisdom that is then ready to be carried into the world at large. It seems to be the task of this era. It is emotional intelligence. It is compassion embodied. I wish you well on your journey.