Emotional Intelligence: Time to upgrade

Psychotherapist Eliezer Gross uses EI training at the center of the therapeutic process. He shares his views with ‘The Jerusalem Post.’

Rabbi Eliezer Gross 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rabbi Eliezer Gross 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
How would you define emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the outcome of the close cooperation between thoughts and emotions. Thoughts alone may tell us we wan t or don ’t want something, but our emotion s can have another story to tell. On the other hand, emotions by themselves can compel us to attack or withdraw, while thoughts can help reveal a second, less urgent and much wiser emotional impulse. Th e alignment of thought and emotion is emotional intelligence; a united voice an d accurate guide.
Can you give some examples of EI in action?
EI in action awakens an extended and comprehensive inner dialogue. An example would be the initial impulse to say “I don’t care”, but a second impulse objecting with “I do care, I am just worried about getting hurt again.”
In the same way, a first thought would say “What she/he said is simply not true!” but a second thought might add “ Yes it might be true, but the truth hurts and I would rather deny it. I need to explore if there is even a partial truth in what has been said.”
We might initially feel we should not trust, but a second emotion awakens and explains that it might feel safer, but in the long run we will never experience true intimacy. We must learn how to distinguish between emotionally healthy and unhealthy people and then be brave enough to move closer.
Other examples are: “I must always be on top of things. No, I don ’t. I need to learn to let go and accept that I cannot control life, then I can calmly get as much done as possible and even enjoy the doing”; “I am a workaholic. No, I am avoiding intimacy or still seeking approval”; “What these people said does not bother me. Yes it does, and I have to build esteem and confidence, so I can extract valuable constructive criticism from what they said, even if they just meant to attack me”; “I have to have the perfect body. No I don ’t, I need to know my true value as a person, and then I can lead a healthy life that nurtures and enhances my physical beauty”; “I have to make money. No I don ’t, I need to be productive and love most of what I do and then exchange the value I bring for money”; “I have to fight this injustice! No I don ’t, I need to learn to accept loss and embrace my own powerlessness, after which I can peacefully and firmly confront injustice. I will then be able to focus on areas ripe for change, and await those that are not ready for it”; I have to find the person that will love me unconditionally. No I don ’t, I have to learn to love myself unconditionally, after which I can look for a person that loves about me what already do”; “I must ensure my child is ready for life. Yes I do, but I first need to address my fears as a parent and dissolve the resulting unhelpful pressure.Then I can facilitate my child’s growth.”
So where does one begin?
The entry point to EI is the experiencing of emotional sensations in the body. Talking, or thinking about emotions without actually experiencing them in the body, is like talking about food without actually tasting it. Butterflies in the stomach are in the stomach, not in the head. An overemphasis on thinking, and a lack of body awareness, leads to thinking about emotions, but not actually experiencing them. “I think I am angry” rather than “I feel my anger in the stomach.”
An interesting reference to emotions located in the body is expressed in Proverbs 20:27. It suggests God searches the “chambers of the stomach” to understand man’s motivations.
My clinical and personal experience confirms that emotions felt in the body, particularly in the stomach, chest and solar plexus area, are the most reliable source, to identify a person’s current perceptions, beliefs and motivations. Your thoughts alone cannot reveal with reliability what you actually feel or what driving emotions stand behind your current decisions and actions.
Our emotions however, which can be deciphered correctly with EI training, will tell with high levels of accuracy, what you rightly or wrongly perceive and believe.
But can’t we just follow our logic?
Ignoring emotions could lead to an emotionally detached and self-estranged life, lacking passion, vibrancy, deep conviction, and a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Without emotional signals, we are also likely to miss risks and opportunities which our subconscious noticed, but the signals of which can only be felt as emotional sensations in our bodies.
Thoughts alone might trick us, and convince us of the “appropriateness” of our decisions and actions, whilst emotions tell another story. As Dr .Freud has kindly made us aware, it is a common occurrence to cheat ourselves and live in denial. In short, thoughts must be confirmed of their true intentions by exploring underlying supporting or contradicting emotions.
Can we trust our emotions?
Trusting only our emotions, following only our gut feelings -- without the scrutiny of thoughts, can be misleading.
Anger, fear, worry, stress and their associated fight-or-flight responses can result from inaccurate or immature perceptions and beliefs which require reconfiguration.
Following only our emotions means our initial, impulsive and often unhelpful fight-or-flight responses will regularly overshadow our second, much wiser, yet much more quiet and subtle impulses and thoughts. Our initial fight-or-flight impulse is our short-term rudimentary escape instinct. But often in life we must escape escapism. We must follow our second long-term intuitive growth instinct and turn “fight or flight” into “face and deal.”
Hence the common phrase, “on second thought.” Once detected, our second, more mature, ethical and moral voice and impulse offers wiser, creative, compassionate, tolerant and wholesome solutions.
In short, emotions cannot be trusted until thoughts have had a chance to question the appropriateness of our perceptions and beliefs, awakening and underpinning them.
Can EI be trained?
EI is not just a measuring tool; it is a skill that can and should be developed. The greatest challenge to EI training is the accessing of our emotions. Emotions can be painful physical experiences which we are instinctively urged to escape, but must face if we are to increase EI. With dedication, patience and good technique we can contain our painful emotions, enable the close cooperation of thoughts and emotions, and start a transformative process of emotional and cognitive growth.
Is there a connection between EI and physical health?
Yes. The treating of psychosomatic illnesses is increasingly common in our health systems. Many senior medical professionals now treat chronic pain and illnesses by working on EI.
How does our daily life change through heightened EI?
We make better and wiser decisions. We can adapt to our environment, rather than demanding of it to adapt to us. We have the ability to remain calm and sustain integrity even if the world around us is in turmoil, or is withdrawing, or is even attacking us. With this inner emotional stillness our influence on the environment grows.
Emotional Intelligence leads to a strong and stable emotional core, a strong emotional immune system, and vibrancy driving us forward. EI reduces unnecessary stress, masters our angers, frustrations, fears and worries, resolves emotional pains and losses, and strengthens our passion and courage to follow our realistic dreams and excitements.
EI encourages mindfulness, a calm physical state with heightened awareness.
Observing experiences, such as emotions felt in the body, without taking action.
With EI we experience far less uneasy “butterflies” in the stomach. They are replaced by inner peacefulness, mainly excited “butterflies” in the stomach pointing at new opportunities, and occasional short-lasting uneasiness warning us of relevant risks.
In short, the chemical reaction of mixing thought and emotion is human growth and transformation.
Rabbi Eliezer Gross, born in Vienna , graduated in Systematic Family Therapy from the University of London, with further training in hypnotherapy, organizational development and leadership as well as mediation and conflict resolution. He worked for the last 15 years in London and made aliya in 2011 with his wife, Audrey, and their three children. Besides his private practice he is currently developing Emotion Pilates, a method of training EI. www.emotionpilates.com.