emotional intelligence vs. emotional literacy

we’re always delighted when we find like-minded people, aren’t we? how do we find them? how do we know we’ve found them? well, for me, one way it can happen is when i come across someone who has a neat idea, or who happens to know something i was looking for – and then the more i find out about that person, the more connections i notice.

this is what happened to me when i came across claude steiner. i was playing in my head with the idea of games – the life games that i play, the games other people play. this was prompted by dealing with my tendency to “play small” at times. i wondered whether eric berne, the man who invented transactional analysis and wrote the bestseller “games people play” had anything to say about it. leafing through the old book (i have a dog-eared old copy of the original 1967 paperback edition) i could not immediately find anything, so i went on the web and encountered claude steiner. i loved how he talked about strokes – “units of recognition”, was pleased that he is connected to radical psychology (something that interests me, to no great surprise of anyone who knows me), thought like he looks like a really nice guy – but what i liked the most, and where i truly felt a connection, was how he talked about emotional literacy versus emotional intelligence. here are a few excerpts:

The fact that the emotions matter and that emotional competence is as important as intelligence to help people do well is an idea whose time has come. It has initiated a culture-wide “paradigm shift” readying people to confront the long neglected emotional realm.

It is important to realize, however, that emotional acumen can be organized around a variety of purposes, some not neccesarily humane.

One extraordinarily successful version of emotional intelligence is the skill that is displayed by animators of feature films like The Little Mermaid [where] we see conveyed the most subtle, moving nuances in a wide gamut of emotions with a few lines on a two dimensional surface. The effectiveness of these emotional triggers is far more reliable and cheaper than any flesh and blood actor can provide.

If what we want is to be able to influence people to buy or vote, we can again use information already available to sophisticated ad agencies which are quite successful in using people’s emotions to accomplish their client’s goals.

Finally, if what we want is to intimidate and terrorize people into compliance there is intelligence that has been used from time immemorial and constantly updated by torturers around the world (the Inquisition, the Nazis, the CIA, the School the Americas, etc) who achieve their purpose by emotional means.

On the personal level we can use our emotional skills to develop self control or to soothe and isolate ourselves emotionally or we can control others by creating guilt, fear or depression. These skills can be seen as a form of emotional “intelligence” as well. I see signs that many who agree that emotional intelligence is an important capacity have lost sight of what we really want; those emotional skills that improve people’s lives; not just one person’s or group but all people’s. The only emotional abilities that improve people’s lives in that long term, humane manner are the love centered skills.

The idea that love holds a central place in people’s emotional lives is not a foregone conclusion. The classic book The Emotional Brain; The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life by Joseph LeDoux fails to mention love even once in its index while fear is mentioned more than seventy five times. Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence has twenty index entries related to anger, and only three index entries on love in Chapter One, and none in the rest of the book. Even as everyone, deep in their heart, realizes the importance of love, it is an emotion seldom discussed in detail by experts in the field.

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isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

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