• terry lige emotional intelligence

    Emotional Intelligence

    I do what I do because of how it makes me feel.

    A couple of weekends ago I ran a program for leaders called Emotional Intelligence. I ran this program because I believe that emotional intelligence is at the centre of what we want to achieve in personal development. So what is emotional intelligence?

    To exercise emotional intelligence I must have an ability to identify my emotions as they are happening, understand why they are happening and then either support the positive, healthy emotions or manage the painful, unhealthy emotions. A second level of emotional intelligence means that I can also identify the emotions of others, understand why they experiencing those emotions and then support their positive, healthy emotions or help manage the painful, unhealthy ones. Emotional intelligence is what sets a person apart as a leader in communication and relationship.

    As I focus on my emotions it is crucial to understand that all of my choices and behaviors originate from an emotional place. A saying that I have been using for years goes like this; ‘all motivation is attached to how something makes me feel.’

    All motivation is connected to a feeling; either positive feelings or negative feelings. It is all about how it makes me feel. Either I will do something because I like the way I feel or I will want to avoid the feeling.

    I have discovered that I love to participate in activities that have a positive emotional payoff. Actually, I love to participate in activities that include a mental, emotional, physical and even spiritual payoff for me. Activities like golf, cross country skiing, hiking, running and dancing really motivate me because in those activities I experience a powerful benefit to every part of me. Cross country skiing is a good example of this kind of activity for me. I will be out on a trail all by myself experiencing the serenity of nature, connecting spiritually to everything around me that transcends my solitary self. I will hear nothing but the sound of my skis skimming along the surface of the snow and my deep breathing. I can almost feel every cell in my body engaged in the effort of propelling me forward powerfully and effectively. My mind is engaged in the self talk necessary to attack that next hill and the end result emotionally is that I feel completely exhilarated and free. I am highly motivated in this activity because of how it makes me feel.

    Conversely, especially in the past, I have avoided activities that generate negative or painful emotional outcomes. I used to really struggle with an anxiety disorder, which meant there were lots of difference places or activities that would trigger fear and anxiety in me, even to the point of panic attacks. Panic attacks can be a very painful experience mentally, physically and emotionally.

    The first time I experienced a panic attack my hands went cold and clammy, I was sweating profusely, my chest hurt, I felt some numbness in my hands and I was convinced that I was having a heart attack. After that first attack my world began to shrink significantly. I felt deeply uncomfortable with any situations where I felt I didn’t have an easy way to exit the place or situation. Airplanes, elevators, stalled traffic, crowded theaters and arenas all posed an emotional problem for me. Actually; I began to discover that any situation where I felt confined, unsafe, exposed and not in complete control caused me to feel anxious and fearful. So, what I did in response to that was to create a life of avoidance to any situation that I felt would be uncomfortable for me. In the process, my world got smaller and smaller until the only place I felt some relief from my emotional discomfort was at home in front of my television. I became an expert on creating excuses for not going places and doing things that would create fear and anxiety.

    For ten years I really thought I was losing my mind and that no one else struggled with such an acute problem with anxiety and panic. Then one day I read an article in a magazine that revealed what I was struggling with and it began my road to healing. The clinical name for my struggle is agoraphobia. To my relief I discovered that it is a thinking disorder that could be addressed and overcome with work.

    When I consider the struggle I had with anxiety, all I really wanted in those years of struggle was to experience deep inner peace and the freedom to realize my potential as a person without constantly needing to avoid what made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t want anything to stand in my way of doing whatever it was that I really felt I was meant to do.

    Step number one in developing emotional intelligence is to take an honest personal inventory. What are the emotions that you experience and do they motivate you to experience fulfillment and personal freedom or do you live in fear and avoidance?

    Next week we will look at managing painful, unhealthy emotions.