About Emotional Intelligence

Emotions and feelings

“We are not only “rational” creatures, as Aristotle famously defined us. We also have emotions. We live our lives through our emotions, and it is our emotions that give our lives meaning. What interests or fascinates us, who we love, what angers us, what moves us, what bores us -all of this defines us, gives us character,  constitutes who we are.”

Robert C. Solomon in True to Our Feelings: What Our Emotions Are Really Telling Us, Oxford Universitiy Press, 2007.

“Working in harmony with emotions allows us to achieve our greatest potential.”

Dr. Brian RoetFeelings: Exploring your inner emotions, Judy Piatkus, 2003.


smiley-2979107_640.jpg  Pixabay license

Emotions are bodily reactions to a stimulus. Essentially emotions are physical and instinctive. They have been programmed into our genes over many, many years of evolution to be a survival mechanism. For example: You are on your own and on foot in the savanna wilderness, you see a lion, and you instantly get scared.

Emotions can be measured objectively by blood flow, brain activity, facial expressions and body stance.

Emotions are carried out by the limbic system, our emotional processing center. This means that they are illogical, irrational, and unreasonable because the limbic system is separate from the neocortex, the part of our brain that deals with conscious thoughts, reasoning and decision making.

Feelings on the other hand play out in our heads. They are mental associations and reactions to an emotion that are personal and acquired through experience. The emotion comes first and is universal. What kind of feeling(s) it will then become varies enormously from person to person and from situation to situation because feelings are shaped by individual temperament and experience. Two people can feel the same emotion but label it under different names. For example: You are in a zoo on your own and on foot, you see a lion behind bars, and your  feelings may range from curiosity to admiration or bitterness if you believe lions should never be caged.

(See the original text at http://www.laughteronlineuniversity.com/feelings-vs-emotions/)

Antonio Damasio, professor of neuroscience at The University of California and author of several books on the subject, explains it as:

Feelings are mental experiences of body states, which arise as the brain interprets emotions, themselves physical states arising from the body’s responses to external stimuli. (The order of such events is: I am threatened, experience fear, and feel horror.)”(Source: https://www.thebestbrainpossible.com/whats-the-difference-between-feelings-and-emotions/)

What is Emotional Intelligence?

The human being is the species on Earth with the biggest brain development along evolution. Our cognitive development has allowed us to build a highly changing and complex environment of  human relationships but, paradoxically, humans find it hard to adapt to it because every human action is affected by an emotional system which we have inherited from our distant ancestors. Historically, emotion has been neglected in favour of reason, because it was thought that emotions and passions belonged to the animal side of the human being.

Therefore, traditional school education focuses on building knowledge, forgetting about emotions and hoping that emotions don’t get in the way of learning.

Many experts have expressed their concern about the problems of the emotional dimension of human beings and claim that we should help our youngsters develop emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence can be defined as

the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.


But why is it important to develop emotional intelligence?

Emotions arise everywhere -in the school as well as in any other contexts of social interaction- and the latest research is showing that emotional intelligence plays an important role in learning processes and the student’s wellbeing. And yet, while teachers are engaged in improving our students’ competences in maths, science and language,  teenagers have extremely low emotional competence, as Daniel Goleman points out in his 1996 book, Emotional Intelligence. Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. This leads to several unadaptive behaviours such as drugs abuse, (cyber-)bullying and gender violence, suicidal attempts and eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia) -to name just a few.

From the psychopedagogical point of view, lacking emotional intelligence influences motivation, classroom behaviour and social interaction with peers in a negative way, in turn leading to learning difficulties, absenteeism and early school leaving. In the UNESCO report Learning: The Treasure Within, by Jacques Delors (1996), four basic pillars are established for 21st century education -learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be- and these last two pillars are what emotional education is about.

(Source: http://www.eskolabakegune.euskadi.eus/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=bab135eb-9cb7-4f32-aa8d-290d7ed8f5f7&groupId=2211625)