Before reading this text, I’d like you for a moment to think about the word that best describes (in your mother language) how you’re feeling right now. Just one word. Take 5 seconds, and find that word. Most people have trouble finding the best word to describe how they’re feeling - any hypotheses about why that might be the case?
We’ve never been formally taught to go deep into our emotional lives. Since we are very young, we have learned what a headache or an earache is. Even when we fall off the bike, our parents put on medicine and bandages, showing us that this is the way to relieve the pain and heal the injury. During biology classes at school, we studied how the human body works. We studied how the heart serves to pump blood, how the brain controls everything else in the body, how we do digestion, we study even deeper systems like the cells in our body.
But when your pet died, or when you were called by a name at school, or even when you felt sad because your parents didn't buy the toy you liked... What did they teach you? Probably the same as most people: “You can be happy with another toy, just play with what you have” or “These nicknames that your colleagues put on you, you will forget one day in your life (did you forget?)”. Or in some cases, they even taught you to fight back with punches or other words and nicknames for your schoolmates.
Throughout our lives, we are taught to hold back crying, to wipe away tears and we are told as if it is forbidden to be sad. We have to do somersaults with the pain. When we should be taught that it is normal to feel sad at certain times. Crying can be part of the way you can and should express your feelings. We were not educated to identify our emotions, to understand feelings, and from that, to deal with everything we are feeling.And that is why you would find it illogical if, when you feel pain in your stomach, someone simply tells you to stop feeling that pain. But at the same time, when someone has symptoms of depression, we tell them to be happy or that they are not having the “willpower”.
That's why you know what to do when you have a fever. When you feel a toothache, you go to the dentist. But when you are sad and do not feel well, you do not even know how to define what you are feeling, much less what to do with it.And that is what emotional intelligence seeks. Contrary to what many people understand, being emotionally intelligent does not mean someone who is always happy, but someone who feels all emotions, like a normal person, but knows how to use them for each purpose.
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