The word emotion stems from E for energy and M motion – energy in motion! Emotions are the brains' way of communicating with us and every emotion whether deemed positive or negative has important information to impart.
At its most fundamental level emotional intelligence (EI) means being able to recognize what we are feeling, why we are feeling it, and use this knowledge in practical positive ways to manage and make use of our emotions.
Simple as this may seem we all know it can be very different in the real world when our more negative emotions can derail us and appear to have a life of their own, leaving us feeling like a boat being tossed around on a stormy sea. However, if we have even a ‘good enough’ understanding of our emotions and an ability to ‘regulate’ them then we can have the ability to bring our boats back into our harbour safe until the stormy seas subside. EI also give us the ability to tolerate and withstand others more negative emotions too which as we all know can be contagious. We are mammals after all, with social interactions vital to how we thrive.Why is EI important?
From a neuroscience perspective when we experience more negative emotions such as when we are very stressed or challenged our older subconscious survival brain areas to run the show as it interrupts this as a threat to your survival. Our marvelous survival brains & nervous systems are superfast at what they do and will then take us out of danger and running before we consciously know it – what you want if you are being chased by a predator while running through the jungle but not the best when you have an important client pitch to make. This brain speed comes at a price energy-wise as all available energy is directed away from our slower but evolutionary newer logical/rational pre-frontal cortex (which you need for that client pitch) with its higher cognitive functions and with this our ability to be emotionally intelligent.
No matter what we do we can never stop our emotions completely and for that matter should never try as they contain vital information about our state. What we can do is recognize that we have an emotion and bring it to the light of our newer conscious logical brains. This means essentially we are less likely to simply react to situations and people which challenge us but instead gives us the ability to be rational and to choose the most appropriate response – in other words it makes us more resilient!How to boost EI?
Great as this is, in theory, it’s not so easy in real life to simply think ourselves out of a distressing emotion. But there is a way we can help give ourselves a boost in our ability to regulate our emotions. At the most fundamental level, returning the nervous system to introduce an increased sense of safety and the ability to socially engage is critical here. Our nervous system craves feeling safe. Once it’ ‘feels’ safe the survival brain turns down naturally allowing your full brain to come on-line. After this foundational work, higher-order brain function techniques can be used to increase EI such as Mindfulness, etc.
For us as human mammals this feeling of safety comes primarily from our ability to socially engage. Using the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) a unique research-based tool to help train the nervous system to feel calm thereby putting us into a safe state. The SSP does this by helping to turn off the nervous system’s defense mode which in turn percolates up to the brain signaling all areas to come back online. Using the auditory portal to the nervous system in humans the SSP allows us to better interpret not only human speech but also the emotional meaning of language thereby strengthening our emotional intelligence. Giving a whole new level to really ‘hearing’ what your team or client are saying!