Many people view intelligence as based on measurable intellectual and mental levels. The higher the IQ, the brighter the person; the more educated, the more intelligent the person must be. Although this does have some validity, intelligence is a multifaceted concept, and a person’s success and overall happiness is not purely based upon his or her education and IQ level.
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is a concept that has been discussed recently in literature and the news. Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to identify one’s own and others’ emotions, and to learn how to manage these emotions appropriately. There are three things that encompass emotional intelligence:
1.) Emotional awareness
2.) The ability to understand emotions and apply them to constructive tasks
3.) The ability to regulate and manage emotions appropriately
For example, if a man is angry due to a specific situation, having emotional intelligence will enable him to recognize that he is angry, evaluate why he is angry and decide on a plan to manage the anger.
It is much more difficult to practice emotional intelligence when managing negative emotions such as anger, sadness or negative stress than it is when managing positive emotions such as happiness. It may be easier to act on emotions right away, but practicing emotional intelligence helps people reflect and decide upon appropriate action before acting on the emotion.
A successful businessman who is a Harvard graduate may be looked at as brilliant because of his education and success. However, if he yells and lashes out in a work environment or with his family, his overall intelligence is not as strong as one may think. His emotional intelligence is lacking and this can potentially hurt him in the long run.
The history of emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence was introduced in 1990 by John Mayer and Peter Salovey, who wrote many journal articles that illustrate how people with high EI can use their emotions to enhance their thoughts, as well as perceive the emotions of others through facial expressions and body language. Interestingly, studies have found that sadness can promote analytical thought, anger can promote danger and happiness can promote socialization.
Emotional intelligence should not be confused with personality traits or the emotions themselves. Just because a person is innately happy does not mean that he or she has high emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is also not a sole predictor or the best predictor of success in life, which is often a misconception. There has been much debate on whether emotional intelligence can be measured. In fact, a 2008 review of emotional intelligence reveals that there are two tests that are valid in measuring EI: the specific ability test and the general integrative test. To provide an overall picture of an individual’s emotional intelligence, these tests measure either a key, specific ability related to EI or a number of specific EI skills. Emotional intelligence in recovery and addiction is not a novel topic.
Substance abuse, mental health disorders and emotional intelligence
A study from Barcelona found that students with a higher emotional intelligence were less likely to use marijuana or cigarettes than those with lower EI scores. Addiction and mental illness are very difficult hurdles to overcome, but developing emotional awareness, coping skills and maintaining a higher emotional intelligence can be helpful in overcoming an addiction or mental illness. Skills such as self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management are crucial to developing a higher emotional intelligence and simultaneously succeeding in recovery.
Millions of American struggle with depression and addiction, and it’s important that they know help is available. Sovereign Health Group offers inpatient and outpatient programs for patients who are struggling with mental health disorders, addictions and dually diagnosed conditions. If you know someone who is in need of mental health treatment, please do not hesitate to call and talk to one of our treatment specialists to find the right treatment option to suit your needs. Call 888-530-4614.
Written by Kristen Fuller, M.D., Sovereign Health Group writer