Emotional Intelligence and the Brain

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In the previous post, we saw how important it is to answer the question, "What are emotions?" before we could answer the question, "What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?" The next thing we need is a brief overview of how the brain works. Using the triune brain theory helps to simplify something that could get very complex! This perspective is just one of many since the brain involves much more complexity than we will be discussing here.

As you can see in the photo, three layers control different aspects of human functioning. The two regions we are most interested in when it comes to EQ are the limbic region (where our emotions live) and the neocortex region (where our high-order thinking operates). The goal in EQ is to have these two regions work in tandem with one another. The challenge is that the limbic region can easily hi-jack the neocortex region because it is processing data before if reaches the neocortex. In his book, Emotional Intelligence, Dan Goleman puts it this way:

These two minds, the emotional and the rational, operate in tight harmony for the most part, intertwining their very different ways of knowing to guide us through the world. Ordinarily there is a balance between emotional and rational minds, with emotion feeding into and informing the operations of the rational mind, and the rational mind refining and sometimes vetoing the inputs of the emotions. Still, the emotional and rational minds are semi-independent faculties, each reflecting the operation of distinct, but interconnected, circuitry in the brain (p.9)

The skills that are taught in EQ are precisely aimed at helping us to slow down, so that we don't experience an "emotional hijacking." I am reminded of James' simple exhortation in James 1:19:

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."

Notice how James has to get our attention by first saying, "take note of this." It is as if he knows that we need a lot of help slowing down, so he asks us to slow down before he tells us to slow down! Jesus does something similar when he utters one simple word: "Behold!" You see it over and over again in Jesus' teachings. It is another way of getting our attention before he gets our attention.

It appears that long before the advent of modern research and neuroscience, keen observers of human behavior saw this tendency. Unfortunately, some concluded that emotions were less than human and tended to view them as inferior to thought. God is the creator of our physical bodies, and he created us with emotions. They are intrinsically good. It is what we do with them that matters. They are to be managed, but emotions can play a significant role in wise decision-making.

Goleman addresses this:

While the world often confronts us with an unwieldy array of choices (How should you invest your retirement savings? Whom should you marry?), the emotional learning that life has given us (such as the memory of a disastrous investment or a painful breakup) sends signals that streamline the decision by eliminating some options and highlighting others at the outset. In this way, Dr. Damasio argues, the emotional brain is as involved in reasoning as is the thinking brain.....The emotions, then, matter for rationality.

In essence, what Goleman is stating is that IQ and EQ, when working together create the best decision. In light of this, it is important that we do not fall into the trap of minimizing emotions or even viewing them in a negative light. When we do that, we will not grow in wisdom.

When the Apostle Paul calls us to be "transformed by the renewing of our mind," he has in view the whole person. The word that is used for "mind" is not just speaking about one's cognition but one's affections. In order to be transformed, we need the Holy Spirit to aid us in linking the thinking and feeling brains together.

In our next post, we will begin to more clearly define EQ.

Copyright © 2018 Timothy S. Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Finding Grace in Loss and Transition

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Recently, I had the great opportunity to share time with Corey Pelton of FishFoodMedia to discuss grief and how God has helped me in seasons of transition and loss of loved ones. In 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks of the comfort he received from Christ as though it belonged not just to him but others. This is the economy of God in seasons of trial. His desire is for you to find deep comfort in the grace and mercy of Jesus. As that grace and mercy is experienced, it then becomes a gift that we can offer to others.

Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For he gives us comfort in our trials so that we in turn may be able to give the same sort of strong sympathy to others in theirs. Indeed, experience shows that the more we share Christ’s suffering the more we are able to give of his encouragement. This means that if we experience trouble we can pass on to you comfort and spiritual help; for if we ourselves have been comforted we know how to encourage you to endure patiently the same sort of troubles that we have ourselves endured. We are quite confident that if you have to suffer troubles as we have done, then, like us, you will find the comfort and encouragement of God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (J. B. Phillips)

Listen to the episode here:

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Fish Food on podbean

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

What Are Emotions?

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Recently, I was asked by several organizations and churches to do some work with their staff on the topic of EQ or Emotional Intelligence. Not only was I impressed that these organizations were requesting this kind of training, I was also excited about the opportunity to do some research and develop 4-5 sessions on the topic.

What started as a deep dive into EQ sent me to a much more basic question; "What are Emotions?" This is not an easy question to answer but it is essential if you are going to grow in EQ; which everyone can.

In his groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ (1995), Daniel Goleman defines emotions this way:

All emotions are, in essence, impulses to act, the instant plans for handling life that evolution has instilled in us. The very root of the word emotion is motere, the Latin verb “to move,” plus the prefix “e-” to connote “move away,” suggesting that a tendency to act is implicit in every emotion (p.6)
A word about what I refer to under the rubric emotion, a term whose precise meaning psychologists and philosophers have quibbled over for more than a century. In its most literal sense, The Oxford English Dictionary defines emotion as “any agitation or disturbance of mind, feeling, passion: any vehement or excited mental state.” I take emotion to refer to a feeling and its distinctive thoughts, psychological and biological states, and range of propensities to act. There are hundreds of emotions, along with their blends, variations, mutations, and nuances. Indeed, there are many more subtleties of emotion than we have words for (p.289).

In other words, emotions are what propel us into action. They are a vital part of what it means to be human. Without emotion, we would cease to act. While Goleman says that the nuances of emotions are endless, there are a variety of "families" of emotions that we are able to identify. Here are 10:

1. Anger: fury, outrage, resentment, wrath, exasperation, indignation, vexation, acrimony, animosity, annoyance, irritability, hostility, and, perhaps at the extreme, pathological hatred and violence.
2. Sadness: grief, sorrow, cheerlessness, gloom, melancholy, self-pity, loneliness, dejection, despair, and, when pathological, severe depression.
3. Fear: anxiety, apprehension, nervousness, concern, consternation, misgiving, wariness, qualm, edginess, dread, fright, terror (phobia and panic).
4. Enjoyment: happiness, joy, relief, contentment, bliss, delight, amusement, pride, sensual pleasure, thrill, rapture, gratification, satisfaction, euphoria, whimsy, ecstasy (mania).
5. Love: acceptance, friendliness, trust, kindness, affinity, devotion, adoration, infatuation, agape.
6. Surprise: shock, astonishment, amazement, wonder.
7. Disgust: contempt, disdain, scorn, abhorrence, aversion, distaste, revulsion.
8. Shame: guilt, embarrassment, chagrin, remorse, humiliation, regret, mortification, and contrition.
9. Inadequacy: helpless, inferior, powerless, incompetent, useless, inept, mediocre.
10. Confusion: distracted, rattled, baffled, bewildered, mystified, flustered, perplexed, jarred, puzzled, jolted.

According to research, in order to grow in EQ, you have to be able to identify and name emotions when you experience them. As you do this, you are more able to empathize with the emotions of others.

Scripture is a book that is very much at home with emotions. The Psalms are the most obvious place to look for them. You will see most if not all of the 10 listed above. All of them can be expressed in helpful and wise ways or unhelpful and unwise ways. They can be expressed in such a way that builds others up or tears someone down. The challenge is managing them wisely. That is a key aspect of EQ.

How are you doing with identifying emotions in your life? Perhaps you could be more mindful of them as you go throughout your day. As you do, take moments to record your emotions and identify them as carefully as possible. This is a very important aspect of growing in wisdom and grace.

Copyright © 2018 Timothy S. Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Does your marriage need a tune-up?

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I think we could all could use some help and encouragement. That is why I am considering hosting a marriage retreat in Peachtree City, Georgia. Over the past 4 years, as I have conducted marriage seminars, couples have asked if I would consider doing something near Atlanta, Georgia.

Peachtree City (visitpeachtreecity.com) is a beautiful suburb just south of the Atlanta airport. The setting would be in a comfortable hotel with a limited group of married couples. The weekend would be informal with some teaching and practical exercises, as well as some time to yourself to reflect and relax. Some topics to be covered are:

  • strengthening your friendship
  • managing your conflict, especially the issues that keep coming up
  • growing in intimacy

If this interests you, please fill out this form and we will keep you updated:

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

The New Normal: Resurrection Living

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What is the “new normal” for life in light of the resurrection of Jesus? What are the implications for the person who believes it to be true? In Revelation 21:5, the resurrected Christ says, I am making everything new! That everything is everything. Jesus has come to bring cosmic renewal to all that he has made.

In Colossians 3, the apostle Paul draws out some of the most central things that are a part of this amazing renewal that Jesus promises. He begins by saying this: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. He then says that the following two areas are at the center of Jesus’ renewal agenda.

Character Renewal

In verses 5-11, Paul calls on those who belong to Jesus to put to death the things of the old order and live in light of the new order. Here is a list of things that are passing away and should be put to death in the life of anyone who names Jesus as their King:

  • Sexual immorality        
  • Impurity
  • Lust
  • Evil desires
  • Greed, which is idolatry
  • Anger
  • Rage
  • Malice
  • Slander
  • Filthy language
  • Lying
  • Divisions among people groups and classes

There is something heartening in Paul needing to tell Christians to put away these types of behaviors and attitudes. Why? Because we are far from perfect. We continue to fight against the reality that all things have not been made new, yet! Including you and me. This should keep us very humble.

Relationship Renewal

Here are the things Paul says should be replacing the list above:

  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Gentleness
  • Patience
  • Forbearance
  • Forgiveness

What a contrast! Jesus has come to change you and me so that we live very different lives personally and with one another. This can feel overwhelming because the second list of virtues does not come naturally to any of us. In fact, you might feel like it’s not even worth trying. That is why we must see one more thing in this passage.

How?

Paul grounds all calls to change in the fundamental reality of the resurrection. Look at these promises and the resources that are yours as you continue to grow in grace:

  • Colossians 3:1 -- Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,
  • Colossians 3:12 -- Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved
  • Colossians 3:13 -- Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
  • Colossians 3:15 -- Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.
  • Colossians 3:16 -- Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.
  • Colossians 3:16 -- Gratitude for God’s grace.

Personal and Community renewal is the new normal in light of Jesus’ resurrection. Let’s pray together with one voice, “May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!” Make all things new!

Copyright © 2018 Timothy S. Lane
Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.