Building Emotional Intelligence
Feeling our Feelings
To a certain extent, building emotional intelligence is determined by
your genes. The ongoing nature/nurture debate enters here!
However, emotional intelligence is also most certainly a learned response.
Indeed, it can be and should be learned. We all want, and need,
to grow up emotionally. Firstly, though, we need awareness, self
honesty and a willingness to change.
Many people have no idea that they often
represent themselves to the
world as emotions on two legs!
Often we can be simply overwhelmed at the extent of our feelings and have little sense of
control over them. For some, the notion of control has seldom been
witnessed, let alone taught.
Sometimes we tend to see outside forces as being in control
of us and therefore we don't endeavor to understand or try to take
control for ourselves.
In childhood we learn to blame others, blame the situation, blame the
circumstances and/or blame ourselves. Blaming tends to come to
the forefront and mostly prohibits us from recognising our own input
into what is usually a difficult emotional situation.
Building Emotional Intelligence Means Focussing on Awareness
We need to understand why we feel in particular ways and
what these feelings mean for us. Then we are able to change
negative emotions into positive ones.
This means being able to step back, and take some quiet time to allow ourselves to feel our feelings and to look for the messages they convey to
A simple way to do this is to stop and take a couple of deep
breaths, then ask, what am I feeling and what is it telling me?
How do we Recognise What our Feelings Are?
A proven method is to get into the habit of keeping a
Not only is this completely private, but it
helps you to be gentle and kind to your self while allowing you the
time to observe. Writing in it daily is a wonderful way of getting to know your feelings more clearly.
Here's a simple, proven method:
Close your eys and take several deep breaths and 'feel' what you are feeling.
Think about what the names for your feelings are.
Then begin your sentences with......
Today I feel
sad, mad, troubled, uncertain, happy, excited, frustrated, embarrassed, angry, etc.
Then write the word, WHY
- Why am I feeling this?
- What is it about?
- How often do I feel like this?
- Where did the feeling come from?
- When have I felt like this before?
- How can I change the feeling around?
- Who can help me?
Here is a Sample Journal Page:
First, some background:
This comes from the "feelings
of a 30 year old, single, female, office worker, Jill, who is a client
of mine. She has given me permission to publish this with her name changed for
Jill has had tremendous success with
journaling her feelings. She tells
me that she wasn't encouraged to express her feelings as a child.
"I always thought we were all quite happy, really, but I realise now
that it was part of our family's way just to pretend that everything
was fine. No-one wanted to know otherwise, or couldn't cope,
probably! Sulking and silence was how most negative emotions were
"We didn't even laugh all that much, or talk
much about having fun. Actually we didn't talk all that much at all really. Everything just went along quietly".
Jill's Feelings Journal:
Today I feel........
Tired, anxious, pissed off, fed up, embarrassed, hurt, betrayed, left
out, misunderstood, sad, bewildered, not noticed, not wanted.
Yes, in that order that's exactly it. It's taken me about 10
minutes to write that down, because I made myself stop and see where
each feeling was connected.
Why am I
Today at work I expected to be told I had been promoted in my
office. A co-worker got the job instead of me. The boss said
I'd have to wait another six months.
What is it
Everyone else seemed to know about it already, except me.
How often do
I feel like this?
Every time I feel left out and not noticed.
When have I
felt like this before?
When friends go places without me, when others appear to know things I
don't, when I think I'm not wanted, when no-one cares, when I was at
school, when I was a kid.
How can I
change the feeling around?
Let myself feel it first. Have a hot bath and a good cry. Try
to think of times when I have been wanted. Let myself agree with the
boss that maybe I'm not really ready for the promotion yet anyway - how
Who can help
I've got an appointment with Helen on Friday. I'll ring up
and talk to my best friend. I can let myself be comforted by my
who do care.
Building Emotional Intelligence through Journalling
Can you see how this journaling allowed Jill to work through her
Jill has a long history of feeling unheard,
so keeping a journal is a wonderful way for her to seek out and explore
her own feelings.
Yes, it takes time. However, by the time Jill came to see me, her
thinking was clear, she had allowed herself to feel embarrassed, sad,
unheard, not wanted, and had made the connection to her childhood way
After recognising and then experiencing her
feelings, Jill was able to appreciate that her boss was right, and
another six months would make her more equal to the promotion. She was
even able to laugh at herself when she recognised her habit of taking
Most importantly, Jill was able to follow her
emotions, to name them, to feel them and then to reflectively make good
decisions based on them.
From originally writing her journal each day, Jill tells me she now
only uses it
when she is feeling perplexed. The method helps her to see,
understand, and face her feelings. "It brings me the answers that are
already inside my own self ", is how Jill explains it.
Here is a list of emotions
with your journal writing toward building emotional intelligence.
One of the important points
raised here is that allowing yourself to
feel your feelings once you have recognised them can be a difficult and
However, it is also the means of building emotional
intelligence and maturity, as feelings that are recognised, allowed, named, and
experienced as felt, then tend to dissolve and release.
Resisting the feelings by using different techniques such as
projection, denial, and deflection, keeps us from knowing ourselves.
Do read this fascinating article from the American
Psychological Assoc.©PsycNET 2008
Consistent Parenting helps children regulate
children maintain a fearful or inhibited temperament seems related to
how parents respond to their youngster's negative emotions.
In general, the parents whose children's emotional style improved used
More articles in this series:
Emotional Intelligence - What is it?
Having emotional intelligence means not only recognising your emotions but acting on them reflectively and rationally.
It also involves your ability to feel and express a whole range of feelings and to understand your resistances, boundaries and projections while moving toward emotional wholeness.
with Emotional Intelligence
Here are some useful steps to take in working with emotional
intelligence. If this is new to you, be kind, gentle and patient with
yourself as you open to different and more vigorous ways of thinking
Competence - developing social intelligence
is learned by children through observation and participation. Children
learn social competence from how their parents treat them, and how their
parents treat others. Then
they put it into practice on each other.
Child - helping our children to express their feelings
There is a great deal we as
parents can do to help our children to
acknowledge and express their feelings, to become a happy child.
to express emotions through talking
Talking about how we feel is really one of the most adequate ways of
expressing feelings. It takes courage, timing, opportunity and a good
listener. This is important.
emotions through crying
Crying is a natural way of releasing emotions from our bodies. Those,
for whom crying comes easily, often remark about how much better they feel
after a good cry. But for many, there is much fear associated
with appearing vulnerable and letting go, shame about being seen to
cry, or a life time of suppressed tears that just will not come.