By Valencia Ray, MD
Emotional intelligence helps us to be smarter about our emotion. Emotion is a part of our mind-body connection. It is another expression of our intelligence. Feelings are the effect of our emotional perception. They add color to our lives. I say “perception” because how we look at a situation determines the meaning we assign. Let’s keep this simple; there are only two classes of emotion – love or fear.
If we ’emote love’, our feeling sensation that follows, for example, will be in the category of well-being and thus ‘feel good’, or what many refer to as positive. We tend to (though we at times make poor choices) move toward things that we think will make us feel good or better. Feelings in the ’emotion of love’ category include, joy, peace, and enthusiasm. Emotion moves us. It is energy in motion… E-motion.
The opposite, fear, especially when chronic, can harm our wellbeing. The emotion of fear tends to move us away from the situation. If it is a threat to our life, it’s useful. If it’s due to irrational fears — like worrying about things you can’t control — it can be harmful. It can hinder our leadership performance and weaken our people skills. Emotional quality is important to our decision-making ability.
In order to act more intelligently with our emotion, we will need to recognize that our mind has two aspects, the intellectual mind and the emotional mind. Our mind is not only logical, as represented by the left-brain. Our mind is also intuitive and deeply connected to our emotion and feeling states; the right-brain dominates in this realm.
The right-brain can be thought of as a metaphor for our heart: our connection to others, our spiritual and intuitive aspects, and our purpose/big picture context for our lives, as examples.
The qualities of our right-brain mirrors what we commonly think of as our ‘heart’. If we only think of our mind as hard, cold and calculating, we will act without heart, without wisdom. A heartless mind is no way to live. Our brain hemispheres contribute in different ways for important reasons. Two hemispheres really are better than one. One is not better than the other; both are required for optimal performance and effectiveness.
If you don’t embrace your whole brain, only acquiring EQ/EI skills will not lead to self-mastery. Why? One can use EQ skills to repress emotion and respond without over-reacting, which is important. Yet this is not the same as skill management of the feeling or heart side of our self. It is a start, and is good.
We will still need to attune to our feelings to feel real empathy and to understand others. Empathy is of the heart, the right-brain, not the intellect. Also, realize that our spirit, our purpose, and our values need to be consciously integrated into the equation of emotional intelligence.
Neuroscience is not just about intellect; it includes our heart – via learning more about our right-brain. When we learn how to optimally operate our whole brain, we can become not only more emotionally intelligent at work, we can live more fulfilling, productive, and happier lives. We can expand the vision for our lives. We can choose how we feel and live with much less stress and much more resiliency. We can live as whole human beings. We were given two brain hemispheres that play different roles for good reason.