Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, is an insightful book on the emotional aspect of life. It is all the more relevant in today’s time when depression is a identified & acknowledged as a problem across the globe. It gives the ‘What’ & the ‘Why’ of our internal wiring leading to the way we, as human race, react. The detailing of the brain wiring is impressive. Impact of childhood & evolutionary memory helps in cognizance of the root cause & a conscious effort can help us grow for the better. This is an amazing account for managing our personal relations & must read for parenting! Below is my interpretation of the book –

Emotional intelligence
  • Our emotions guide us in facing predicaments and tasks too important to leave to intellect alone: danger, painful loss, persisting towards a goal despite frustration, bonding with a mate, building a family. If it were not for our evolutionary memory, many species would not have survived!
  • The 2 mindsRational (mode of comprehension we are typically conscious of) and Emotional (impulsive and powerful even though sometimes illogical). Ordinarily, the emotional mind feeds and informs the operations of the rational mind. The rational mind then refines and sometimes vetoes inputs. Honestly, I am surprised how many “2 minds” we have (every psychology book has its own pair J). But the most convincing ones for me have been from Emotional Intelligence & Thinking Fast and Slow!
  • The brain stem surrounding the top of the spinal cord is the most primitive part of the brain, available with all species that have more than a minimal nervous system. It is responsible for breathing and other vital processes required for survival. Then with evolution grew the Neocortex (the thinking brain) which evolved from the basic olfactory lobe leading to limbic system that sharpened learning and memory
  • The emotional explosions (sudden fit of rage, sudden outburst of laughter) are basically neural hijackings where the limbic brain calls for an emergency and puts all resources to work on its agenda in an instant before the neocortex has had a chance to get a glimpse of what is happening, let alone decide if it is a good idea. Eg. Blood runs cold in fear making us ‘immobile’ so as to not invite the danger further, Rage gives an adrenaline pump in danger to fight!
  • The amygdala is the specialist for emotional matters. All passion depends on it. The emergency route from eye to ear to thalamus (stores pictures) to amygdala (stores emotional content) is twice as fast as thalamus to neocortex to amygdala. This is what enables the neural hijackings
  • IQ contributes to 20% success*. Rest 80% is a combination of other factors ranging from social class to luck. A lot of this 80% is dependent on emotional brain
  • Personal intelligences in 5 emotional domains –
    1. Knowing ones emotions
    2. Managing emotions
    3. Motivating oneself
    4. Recognising emotions in others
    5. Handling relationships
  • Distinctive styles of knowing our emotions (Which one are you? I feel I am the Self-Aware kind):
    1. Self-aware – they are aware and don’t obsess about their emotions and hence are able to get out of them easily
    2. Engulfed – lost in emotions rather than having perspectives.
    3. Accepting – if good thoughts occur, they don’t want to change, if bad thoughts occur they are susceptible and accept it with laissez faire attitude
  • Self-awareness has a more powerful effect on strong, aversive feelings: the realization. This offers a greater degree of freedom – not just the option not to act on it, but the added option to try to let go of it! I heard in a podcast that Freedom has to move from “Freedom FROM …” to “Freedom TO …” and firmly believe that this is the necessary parameter to measure growth!
  • A sense of self mastery, being able to withstand emotional storms rather than being passion’s slave, has been praised as a virtue since the time of Plato. But the goal is balance, not emotional suppression. While strong feelings can create havoc in reasoning, the lack of awareness of feeling can also be ruinous
  • When the body is already in a state of edginess (emotional hijacking), the subsequent emotion, whether anger or anxiety, is of especially great intensity. Anger builds on anger. The balm for anger is challenging the thoughts/reasoning before anger has turned into rage. Distractions/active exercise/pleasant environment also helps the body cool down. But the cooling of period will not work if you engage in anger inducing thoughts. The ventilation fallacy – it is said that if you vent out, it’ll be better. But this works only if you vent out directly to the person involved, restores the control or rights a wrong. Or in some cases, causes appropriate harm to the opposite party. Easier said than done!
  • Worry is, in a sense, a rehearsal of what might go wrong and how to deal with it. It becomes a problem only when it is repetitive. Worry is almost always expressed in the mind’s ears (words) and not eyes (images). How to curb?
    1. Step 1: be aware. Catch the worry symptoms early
    2. Step 2: practice a relaxation method
    3. Step 3: challenge the assumption. Does it really help to run the same thoughts again and again?
  • Bereavement is useful; full blown depression is not. The idea that a good cry is misleading; crying that reinforces rumination only prolongs misery. Distractions are the way out : Workout, Binge watching, shopping, eating favourite food, alcohol. But these can backfire too. A small win/success such as a pending household chore lifts self-image. Helping others or even comparing yourself to others who are worse off
  • The mental resources expended on one cognitive task – the worrying – simply detract the resources available for processing other information. Similarly, hope and optimism help in formulating a plan of action despite setbacks
  • Just as the mode of rational mind is words, the mode of emotions is non-verbal. Cultures vary tremendously in this regard – Japanese minimise their expressions when a figure of authority is present. Indians don’t say a clear no as a mark of respect!
  • We transmit and catch moods from each other in what amounts to a subterranean economy of the psyche in which some encounters are toxic, some nourishing. This contagion in typically subtle. We tend to unconsciously mirror the emotions of people we interact with. A social artist can have this impact on an audience of thousands
  • 4 components of interpersonal intelligence-
    1. Organising groups
    2. Negotiating solutions
    3. Personal connection
    4. Social analysis
  • A complaint in a relationship (esp marriage) often becomes a character assassination. A critique of the person and not the deed. This will lead to a defensive response rather than steps to improve stuff. Just as men are far more likely to be stonewallers, so the women are more likely to criticise their husbands. All this is a crazy limbic tango! Our efforts should be targeted to improving our way of complaining for a better resolution
  • Leadership is not about domination, but the art of persuading people to work toward a common goal. 3 applications of EI in workplace –
    1. Being able to air grievances as helpful critiques
    2. Creating an environment where diversity is valued rather than a source of friction
    3. Networking effectively
  • The art of critique – it has to give the beginning of the plan to course correct rather than a personal attack. Be specific (incident, event). Offer a solution. Be present (face to face). Be sensitive (empathy)
  • In the land of the sick, emotions reign supreme, fear is a thought away. Even the immune system adapts basis experience
  • Babies who have gotten a goodly dose of approval and encouragement from the adults in their live; they expect to succeed in life’s little challenges. By contrast, babies who come from homes too bleak, chaotic, or neglectful go about the same small task in a way that signals they already expect to fail. Key characteristics that depend on initial interaction are –
    1. Confidence
    2. Curiosity
    3. Intentionality
    4. Self-Control
    5. Relatedness
    6. Capacity to communicate
    7. Cooperativeness
  • Violent acts are more pernicious than natural catastrophes such as hurricane because, unlike victims of natural disaster, victims of violence feel themselves to have been intentionally selected as the target of malevolence. That fact shatters the trustworthiness and safety of an interpersonal world. The imprint of a horror in memory – and the resulting hyper vigilance – can last a lifetime!
  • 4 temperamental types –
    1. Timid (more right brain activity)
    2. Bold
    3. Upbeat (more left brain activity)
    4. Melancholy.

But temperament is not destiny. It can be tamed

  • The massive sculpting and pruning of neural circuits in childhood may be an underlying reason why early emotional hardships and trauma have such enduring and pervasive effects in adulthood

Do share your views/feedback in the comments section

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