By enhancing your emotional and spiritual intelligence you can open up new doors to health, happiness, success and new thinking.
Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know, said Ernest Hemingway. Few writers of the 20th century were so widely admired as Hemingway whose economy of style and fierce intelligence created famous novels such as For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. Yet this same man married four times, drank heavily and commented: My life has a tendency to fall apart when I’m awake. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, then seven years later he shot himself.
One of the reasons this story fascinates us is because it doesn’t seem to make sense. Why couldn’t such a brilliant man find relationship success or happiness?
In the early 20th century, Lewis Terman, a US psychologist working at Stanford University, began a study where he followed hundreds of clever children throughout their lives. Terman found that while many went on to pursue higher education and bigger paychecks than the national average, the study participants continued to struggle with common difficult experiences – getting divorced, becoming alcoholics, getting arrested, committing suicide and failing at business – at the same rate as the average person. This suggests these highly intelligent people were no more emotionally stable than the general population.
Melita Oden, Terman’s associate, compared the 100 most successful and 100 least successful men in the group. She defined success as having jobs that required their intellect and found that the successes and non-successes barely differed in IQ. More predictive than IQ were qualities that didn’t rely on intelligence: perseverance, self-confidence and integration toward goals. More recent studies on what determines success in life have focused on non-cognitive abilities. An example would be a 2007 study on the importance of “grit” (defined as perseverance and passion toward long-term goals) in determining success. Malcolm Gladwell’s recent book Outliers (Penguin) makes this point well. He suggests that in addition to talent, people who are phenomenally successful in their fields typically put in 10,000 hours of work before making it, a point also made by Michael J. Howe in Genius Explained (Cambridge University Press) who states: Perseverance is at least as crucial as intelligence. The most crucial inherent differences may be ones of temperament rather than of intellect as such.
WHAT CAN IQ SCORES PREDICT ABOUT A PERSON’S FUTURE? IQ tests are good at identifying children who are likely to perform well in school, including high school and university performance. In other words they are good at predicting achievement. But does a high score on an exam or the fact that someone works as a lawyer mean that they are happy or feel satisfied with their lives? What other factors could be influential? Emotional intelligence was brought to the public consciousness with the international success of Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam).
Emotional intelligence (sometimes referred to as Emotional Quotient or EQ) is different to IQ (book smart) in that it measures the ability to accurately identify and work with your own emotional landscape, as well as those of others.
One well-researched model comes from Salovey and Mayer’s 2004 study that talks of four different emotional abilities within the emotional intelligence concept.
1) Identifying emotion in yourself and others, including the ability to express emotion (for example, I feel sad about those people who drowned on the Philippines ferry disaster).
2) Using emotions to help thinking processes, knowing that negative moods narrow your thinking and positive moods expand thinking possibilities (for example, I’m feeling low today, so it’s probably not the best day to make important life decisions).
3) Understanding emotional subtleties including emotional blends (for example, when your best friend begins a new intimate relationship, simultaneously feeling happy for them and sad for yourself because it means less contact between you).
4) Managing emotions in yourself and others including the ability to be open to both pleasant and unpleasant feelings and knowing what to do with them when they occur.
So EQ is concerned with the ability to understand oneself and others, relate to people and cope more successfully with the world.
HOW DO WE BECOME EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT?
In an ideal world we would all be taught how to manage our emotions from an early age by our parents or caregivers. For a variety of reasons, however, this does not always occur (for example, parents or caregivers may be stressed, depressed, or simply unable to recognise and respond to the different temperaments of their children). Recently, clinical psychologists, such as New Zealand’s Nigel Latta or Steve Biddulph in Australia, have written books stressing the importance of emotion-related competencies in child development.
Effective parents seem to become aware of their child’s emotions and recognise them as an opportunity for learning and intimacy. They listen empathetically to their child and help the child label the emotions he or she is experiencing while exploring solutions to their problems.
IF YOU MISSED OUT ON IT, CAN YOU BUILD IT?
A 2009 study examined whether it was possible to build EQ. The study authors divided people into two groups and gave one group EQ training while the other group received no intervention. A significant increase in emotion identification and emotion management abilities were found in the training group that persisted at six months, while no change was observed in the control group.
Goleman suggests that mind training methods, such as mindfulness meditation, could also enhance EQ. Best of all, in research by Gottman and colleagues (Gottman, 1982; Gottman and Levenson, 1986; Gottman and Porterfield, 1981), EQ appears to have the potential to develop satisfying family ties, and build romantic relationships – a more emotionally intelligent Hemingway may have needed less than four marriages.
HOW DO YOU GET EQ?
Tell me I don’t have to feel like this ever again, more than one client has begged me. While understandable, studies on patients whose emotional centres have been damaged by brain lesions consistently show that life becomes chaotic and meaningless without emotion to guide us. Emotional intelligence is not about only feeling positive emotion, it is about being able to work with whatever emotion shows up.
When a patient comes to me, rather than promising what I cannot deliver, I explain that rather than anaesthetising away the emotional pain, they should develop the ability to face and accept unpleasant feelings. You can learn not to be scared of these emotions by building awareness: ask yourself what am I feeling and what is it telling me?
Keep a ‘feelings’ journal (if necessary, get a list of feeling words). Train yourself to notice changes in your mood and try to pinpoint the triggers whether it be an external trigger or an internal thought or memory.
Try to ask yourself “what is this feeling about? How often do I feel like this? When have I felt like this before?”
So if that is EQ, what is SQ?
In my work in the public mental health system I would often meet highly intelligent people whose severe emotional problems and lack of life direction left them bewildered and suicidal. To help them understand the different types of intelligence I found it helpful to draw up two overlapping circles on a whiteboard. This was the framework of the three minds taken from Marsha Linehan’s Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). One circle was rational mind, one was emotional mind, and the intersecting circle was the wise (spiritual) mind.
Spiritual intelligence is concerned with questions of meaning and value, where we can place our actions and our lives in a wider richer context. We have a longing for something towards which we can aspire, for something that takes us beyond ourselves and the present moment. Spiritual intelligence addresses itself to those difficult questions that are so easy to ask yourself, but so hard to answer:
Why was I born? What is the meaning of my life? Why should I go on when I am tired or depressed? Why are we here? What is my purpose? What is my calling? What is my passion? What should I do next?
If you look outward into society for answers to these questions you learn that it matters which suburb you live in, which car you drive, how attractive you are, and who your friends are. It matters that your fourth partner is younger and more attractive than your third. But looking outward rather than inward to find happiness and meaning is analogous to turning your house upside down searching for your sunglasses when they are perched on top of your head.
Ask someone you know who has made some long-lasting life changes how they did it, and chances are you’ll hear about the time they spent alone with nature, meditating, reading books that resonate with them, writing, drawing, or listening to meaningful music.
In my own life, before I have made major decisions, I have driven out of town to spend a week somewhere quiet. This is a chance for me to sit with not knowing, being uncertain as to the next step.
HOW DO YOU BOOST YOUR SQ?
So how do you bring spirituality into your everyday life? Sonja Lyubomirsky in The How of Happiness (Penguin Press) suggests:
– Seek meaning and purpose – pursue goals that fit with each other and are within reach.
– Write down your own life story – who are you now and who were you before? What future do you imagine for yourself? What assumptions or rules do you hold about the world and why things are the way they are?
– Connect yourself with strong emotional experiences, such as awe when you consider the stars of the Milky Way, the beauty of a new born child or scenes of exquisite natural beauty.
Tony Buzan, author of Headfirst and famous for his work using mind maps suggests becoming aware of the enormous variety of spiritual paths and gathering from them the ideas that fit with you. He also believes in spending time among nature, pointing out that many insights have come to people when they have been at rest in the natural environment.
Other recommendations include developing a sense of humour and developing your childlikeness (for example, curiosity and open-mindedness of a child).
One of the most useful activities in developing your SQ is clarifying your values. Choose the values that most resonate with you and define what they mean to you.