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