Four Dimensions of Emotional Intelligence
Over the past 25 years Emotional Intelligence has become a meme, recognized by many as an important dimension of what it means to be a human being. However, to date, there is no clear agreement about what Emotional Intelligence actually is.
Unlike IQ, which has been clearly defined as scores on specific tests, EQ or Emotional Intelligence has not been so clearly defined. To begin with, Emotional Intelligence itself has been categorized as either EI or EQ. EI refers to a potential or a general awareness or attunement to emotions which can, like IQ, be determined by scores with a paper and pencil-an Emotional Intelligence Test of some kind. “I prefer EQ which can be more clearly defined as particular abilities related to emotion itself.” says Dr. Steve Wolf, founder of The Wolf Institute.
Also unlike IQ, which remains fairly stable throughout life, EQ can be developed. One can become “emotionally smarter”. We, at the Wolf Training Institute provide a program to develop Emotional Intelligence.
As a Clinical Psychologist who assists clients to develop their EQ, I have identified four components of Emotional Intelligence: Self Awareness and the ability to communicate so you feel understood, Other Awareness and the capacity for sympathy and empathy, understanding Emotions, and Self Control.
I’m going to talk about the first for these four dimensions, Self Awareness and the ability to communicate so you feel understood.
The term “Self Awareness” might refer to body awareness, sensory awareness and/or spiritual awareness. Self Awareness with regard to Emotional Intelligence refers to awareness of Emotional experience.
To understand what emotion is it helps to understand that we have three brains. As discussed In “Building Blocks for Emotional Intelligence”. Your Reptilian brain is breathing you right now, beating your heart and maintaining your body temperature. Your Thinking Brain, the Neo-cortex, enables you to make sense of these letters on a page, and your Emotional Brain, also known as the Limbic System, also operating in this moment, is most likely calm. Your Emotional Brain produces Emotion like your Reptilian brain produces heartbeats. You can’t help it. To be able to communicate your emotional experience to feel understood you must first be aware of having an emotion, then you must be able to identify that emotion and then you must be able to describe that emotion in order to feel understood.
Easier said than done
Many people, especially men, are often unaware they are even having an emotion or a feeling, except when that emotion is extreme. Many of us men learned at a very early age to suppress or ignore our feelings, possibly because they hurt too badly and/or because no one else in the family (which I affectionately refer to as “the circus” or “the loony bin”) talked about feelings, cared about feelings or even acknowledged they existed. So, we learned to dismiss feelings from our awareness, to become unaware.
Just because you may be unaware of your heartbeats doesn’t mean you aren’t having any. Similarly, just because you may be unaware of having emotions doesn’t mean that you aren’t having any. Remember, emotions are produced by the limbic brain like heartbeats are produced by the reptilian brain. You can’t help it.
As a case in point, has anyone ever said that you looked angry, scared, happy or sad and you weren’t really aware of having that feeling? Or, have you ever perceived someone else as having one of those emotions but they denied it? While it’s possible they were projecting onto you or you onto them, what if the perception was in fact accurate and you were having an emotional response of which you were unaware? What does that suggest? How might that affect how you relate with those you care for the most? Would you want to do something about it? Would you want to develop that awareness, to develop your Emotional Intelligence? Or not?
Furthermore, others may know they are having an emotion but aren’t able to identify what the emotion is. They can’t find the words to describe it. Others may know what they are feeling but, for some reason or another, are unable to express it, so they feel unknown or misunderstood. This is particularly meaningful in our most intimate relationships.
We have now clarified how we, of the Wolf Training Institute, define the first Dimension of Emotional Intelligence:
Self-Awareness and the ability to communicate-so you feel understood. For further information go to: (Emotional Intelligence Page)