consistent parenting advice
consistent parenting advice

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

woman quiet 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 us.

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?

building emotional intelligence, journal A proven method is to get into the habit of keeping a feelings journal.

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.

    consistent parenting advice
    • 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:

    building emotional inteliigence, journal writing First, some background:

    This comes from the "feelings journal" 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 privacy.

    Jill has had tremendous success with journaling her feelings. She tells me that she wasn't encouraged to express her feelings as a child.

    Jill explains:
    "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 expressed."

    "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 feeling this?
    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 about?
    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 embarrassing.

    Who can help me?
    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 work mates who do care.

    Building Emotional Intelligence through Journalling

    Can you see how this journaling allowed Jill to work through her feelings herself?

    building emotional intelligence, journal 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 of thinking.

    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 things personally.

    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 to help 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 frightening task.

    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 their emotions
    Whether 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 two strategies.

    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.

    Working 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 and being.

    Social Competence - developing social intelligence
    Social competence 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.

    Happy 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.

    How 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.

    Releasing 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.

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