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Reading Minds
Reading Minds

Emotional Intelligence

Zak Mooney

Wouldn't you love to read minds, to know what other people really think? Of course, we'd all be tempted to be so all-knowing if it were on offer as a superpower.

Sorry, but that won't be taught here today, it's still in development, along with the levitation classes. But we may be able to get you just a little bit closer to true self-knowledge, the almost equally elusive state of honest objectivity.

You see, the one thing we all share is that we are limited by our own perceptions. It is likely that at one time or another we all have moments of doubt about whether our assessment of an important life event, often around a close relationship, is fully informed and accurate. Now, it is healthy that we have that little voice in the back of our head that whispers, "Am I overreacting?" or "Am I out of line and making too much of this?" or "Is there more that I need to consider?"

Too often though, in the heat of the moment, we react from within charged, raw emotion. Most of us are capable of this, as we all have those sensitive spots where perhaps some previous experience has left us less than impartial. A thorough and honest self-review might turn up some themes that play out over and over again.

The key to greater self-knowledge is developing the ability to watch ourselves with an objectivity that allows us to perceive and understand our emotions in what is called Emotional Intelligence. You might call it reading our own minds.

Emotional intelligence is an important, yet often missed, component that is fairly simple to learn, though maybe harder to practice. Once learned as a skill, it can be an essential tool in growing personally and breaking negative cycles. Emotional intelligence can be defined as one's ability to objectively note our own emotional experience from moment to moment in any given situation, describe it, and to later make sense of it.

"I felt angry when my spouse ignored me." "I felt scared when my boss raised his voice." These are feelings we want to notice, keep track of, and make sense of objectively from situation to situation. Most challenging can be the "objective" part in this; to simply perceive and describe the emotions as they are experienced. What happened, not why.

For example, someone skilled at this might find themselves in an emotionally charged talk with a partner and take note of their feelings as they occur. When their partner says something that feels like an attack, they recognize the thought "that's not fair, he/she just attacked me," they notice their chest tighten or their stomach turn. They might find themselves raising their voice and launching their own personal verbal attack, and later see that when they feel attacked, they attack back.

Another individual might be feeling depressed, but if they have learned to be emotionally intelligent they would note what precipitated it. They would have observed that in the conversation with their mother, for example, they felt something immediately after she criticized a career choice. And that they felt something else when she ignored their defense of the career choice. It is possible, even likely, that if these were strong emotions, the exchange resulted in some regrettable behavior along with feelings of despair.

By gaining enough control to...

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