Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Path to Emotional Intelligence

"In the last decade or so, science has discovered a tremendous amount about the role emotions play in our lives. Researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness (EQ) and abilities to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships." --John Gottman, Ph.D.

After some twenty years of doing pastoral counseling, I'm more convinced than ever that the biggest hurdle people face in their lives is "emotional incompetence".  Why the biggest?

Well, unless you know how to relate to and manage the incredibly powerful emotional currents within you, those currents will destroy your relationships, wreck your health and make spiritual life impossible, reducing you to a state of abject misery. 

Bottom line?  To achieve physical, mental and spiritual RESILIENCE, we all need to master our emotional lives. 

Of course, it's easy for "spiritual" people to delude themselves completely here, because when they suffer from their own emotional incompetence, they have a tendency to construe it as some sort of redemptive suffering (which is only true if you're working towards healing) or to see themselves as suffering unjustly at the hands of "evildoers" (the Jihadist response).  Both alternatives just perpetuate their own emotional incompetence. 

Last time, when we talked about a "spiritual path that really works", we mentioned that you have to be willing to make friends with your emotional content.  You stop repressing it and you stop acting it out - which are just two different ways of not dealing with it - and you start to relate to it directly.

This takes a lot of guts, by the way.  It can scare the crap out of you at first.  However, you learn pretty quickly that your powerful and scary emotions aren't nearly so frightening once you invite them in for tea.  They're very often just a cover-up, a fear-based response.  So the real question behind all of your ego-centric neurosis and mine is... "what exactly are we afraid of and why?"

When you get to the bottom of your fear, you realize it's not so scary as you thought, that FDR was right about "the only thing to fear is fear itself". 

Do you have the courage to take all your anger, your attachment and your indifference - those three poisons of the soul - and "make friends" with them?  Are you willing to have a chat with them and see what makes them tick, to uncover your own fears?  One barrier to doing this, by the way, is your social and religious programming telling you certain emotions are "bad" and you "shouldn't" have them.  The more you listen to those voices, the more you repress, until finally the pressure becomes too strong and you act out instead.  And that pretty much describes the useless cycle many people are trapped in.   

However, if you're willing to be present to your emotions, if you're willing to feel the fear and do it anyway, to use the cliche, you'll be well on your way to emotional healing and true resilience.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


  1. I like this very much.....I am a Christ follower. I agree totally with your concept.... The higher the emotion the lower the intelligence, ego is a destructive force in the lives of mankind. I am reading The 5 Pillars of Life and it is so in line with what I have believed in. Thank you for bringing these things to light and for sharing them with whom ever is interested in learning and growing.....which results in being useful and productive.

  2. OK, I'm guessing FDR is either a psychological state, or some North American nuance that escapes us in the southern hemisphere, so I give up, what is FDR? Cheers, and I am liking your stuff :)

  3. I think a lot of fear is based on emotional incompetence, to use your phrase. Fear is so basic and primal an emotion it's easier to fear something than to face the myriad of factors that add up to what's going on emotionally on the inside. I don't think "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway" is cliche though. The book by Susan Jeffers really helped me to see fear as something holding me back, not something that keeps me safe.

  4. My apologies to all non-North Americans out there! "FDR" is Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of the USA from 1933-1945.