Continuing on from last week’s blog I will start by examining the first branch in Mayer et al’s model of Emotional Intelligence.
This branch has four main aspects:
- The ability to identify emotions in oneself accurately.
- Recognising emotions in others and objects.
- The ability to express emotions effectively and appropriately.
- An ability to identify false or manipulative expressions of emotion.
There are many examples of this in everyday life, for example is the customer “really”
satisfied with the answer they have been given? Does the receptionist really want to “help”? Groups can also exhibit emotions for example a team may say they are behind a policy but are they really?
On first glance it may appear that identifying one’s own emotions would be relatively straight forward, surely we all know how we feel! There are certainly some people who
seem better at this than others so is our ability to perceive our own emotions innate?
So here is the rub, maybe experiencing emotions is innate however the labelling of emotions is learned. Some of this labelling may have to do with cultural norms and in other circumstances can be more connected to family patterns.
Take for example the number of people who tell their children they are either tired or hungry when they express anger or have a tantrum. Do the parents really know this is the
Sadly, it must be concluded that this is an example of mind reading. Sometimes they may be right but at other times the child is experiencing anger. This lack of acknowledgement invalidates the child’s experience.
It is therefore no surprise that there are many people who comfort eat, some may be motivated by a mislabelling of anger. Fewer people seem to talk about feeling sleepy in
appropriately but perhaps that is just because it is such an unconscious response.
My husband, Joe noticed an interesting pattern in himself with this regard. He noticed that there were times when he would become tired for no apparent reason. He was well
rested and hadn’t been doing anything likely to make him tired.
His family are a classic British, middle class family where anger is considered an inappropriate emotion. As a child Joe had been told he was tired whenever he exhibited
behaviours associated with anger. Eventually he internalised this experience and instead of feeling anger, he would become sleepy instead.
In Transactional Analysis this is known as a racket, where a substitute emotion is exhibited instead of the “real” emotion. This tends to be an unconscious process.
Joe developed a strategy for handling this issue. If he felt sleepy for no reason at all he
would ask himself the question “what am I angry about?” As a result he is now able to recognise and take appropriate action if he experiences anger
Another area where people often fail to recognise their own emotional state occurs when stressed. It is not uncommon for a person to only realise they are stressed when they
experience an extreme symptom or find themselves behaving in a particular way.
Examples of the first might be to develop a headache or some other physical manifestation of stress. For others there may be a behavioural signal such as lashing out or withdrawing.
Recognising early signs of emotions such as stress, hurt, anxiety or anger can allow us to
develop more effect ways of managing our emotions. In a later blog I will explore how we can manage our own emotions.
For now consider, how effective are you at recognising your own emotions? What can you do to improve your self-awareness?
How often do you stop, and ask yourself “how do I feel right now?” This kind of self
reflection can be the first step to improving you ability to accurately assess your own emotions. Many people meditate, use self-hypnosis or mindfulness to improve their understanding of their own emotions.
If you are unsure of your clarity in recognising your own emotions you might want to consider taking the MSCEIT. This provides separate scores for each of the branches. I am able to administer and give feedback of this model via the internet. If you would like to know more email me direct.
Next week we will continue with this branch, focusing on expressing emotions.