Earlier this year I experienced a chaotic and stressful week. My uncle-in-law was hospitalised after cancer spread to his spine, paralysing him from the waist down. Denial is a tricky mind state. He lives alone and late afternoon the day before he was being discharged from hospital, he finally agreed to the help everyone had been insisting he needed. It didn’t give those of us on the ground much time to manifest the required 24-hour care. We managed, but it took organisational skills I didn’t even know I had!
A few days later my mother-in-law was thanking me for my help and described it beautifully. It had been a very emotional process for his friends and family and she held her hands apart, out in front of her. “There was emotion here,” she said shaking her one hand, “and emotion here,“ she said shaking the other hand, “and in the middle there was chaos.” “You,” she said, “had emotion here and emotion here, but clear thinking in the middle. What a difference!”
It’s a brilliant description of Emotional Intelligence. Emotions, especially intense ones, have a way of overriding our ability to think clearly. When we most need to make good decisions, we simply can’t. What usually happens is this; when things go wrong, our emotions hunker down and throw the biggest panic / pity party ever. If our intelligence joins the mayhem, we add fearful, negative thoughts to the mix and our initial struggle swells to meltdown proportions.
There is another option. If we can use our rational, logical, intelligence to calm and bolster our reeling emotions, we may be able to find that elusive balance that brings out the best in us.
So where does Emotional Intelligence come from? It grows from the ground of self-acceptance and is nourished by the wish to do no harm to ourselves or others. It begins with building trust in yourself; honouring your word; supporting, instead of berating, yourself for errors and misjudgements; and being brave enough to face and express your feelings.
From that space of authenticity, over time, we learn to integrate our emotional reaction with more intelligent thinking. Through this integration we are able to slow down our initial reaction and increase our ability for more mature, reasoned responses. This is how we improve our capacity to be at our best in those critical moments when we need all our resources to deal with what we are facing.
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I'm a Personal Development Life Coach who specialises in L.I.F.E (Living Into your Fullest Expression). Based in Richards Bay, on the East Coast of South Africa, I live with my long-suffering husband, (his description!), two much-loved dogs and care for my elderly father who has Alzheimer's.
Read more about me here.