Earlier this year I had a memorable encounter where I was met with resistance to the importance of emotional wellness. The experience led to a meaningful dialogue, which has fueled my passion to support emotional wellbeing at all stages of life and communicate its importance. For a long time society has not valued emotional health. But the truth is, the health of our mind, our brain and our bodies is precious and it’s time to shift thinking back to this truth.
I was having the usual meet and greet with a new person at a party, the classic icebreakers were exchanged: What do you do? -What do you do? I explained that I am a neuroscientist and a doula who educates and supports emotional wellbeing and brain health at many stages of life: in pregnancy, birth, infancy and adulthood. The person’s initial response was, “Well…. aren’t we sooooo precious these days?”, insinuating that my career is superfluous while mocking the people who seek out these types of services. I thought for a minute and confidently replied that the answer is simply, yes. Yes we are precious. And it’s not just these days. We have always been precious. Humans have always had emotional needs, complex emotions and brains that are wired to feel good with support from and attunement with other people. We have always been built to benefit from emotional intelligence and support.
For a long time the intelligence quotient or IQ has been celebrated and emotional intelligence or EQ has been buried, diminished and mocked. We’ve been told “don’t be so sensitive” “suck it up” “take it like a man” “don’t be a silly girl” “don’t get emotional” “its business not personal” and other permutations of these ideas. The idea of IQ over EQ, that we’ve been bombarded with, comes from a very early understanding of the mind and brain, before modern scientific discovery. For a long time society has believed that we should only value IQ to be successful. This put us on a road to ignoring EQ and suppressing our emotions in all vital parts of life: school, work and even relationships.
Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio in his work and famous book “Descartes Error” was one of many scientists to change our ideas about EQ. His work, and the work of many others, provides strong evidence that IQ and EQ are both tremendously important for success. Moreover modern neuroscience has uncovered that brain areas for IQ and EQ are intimately connected and cannot function independently of one another. We have also learned that while IQ is generally difficult to influence, EQ can be highly flexible. We can meaningfully enrich our personal lives and work lives by nurturing and expanding our EQ. Psychologist Daniel Goleman brought many of these ideas to us in his book Emotional Intelligence. Finally EQ is intimately linked with our physical health. When we enhance EQ we get healthier.
Now that we know that EQ is vital to our success and wellbeing and that we have been ignoring it for most of our lives, we have a genuine need for emotional education. In times where our emotional internal worlds have been silenced we have become sicker than ever, both mentally and physically and we have not been thriving in our relationships and work. We need to teach EQ to babies, children, adolescents and adults because yes, EQ is precious.
I discussed all of this with the person at the party and in the end we agreed that providing or receiving education about EQ and health is not a joke. As we got into our conversation the person disclosed that they had their own struggles and perhaps their initial comment was a type of defense mechanism; perhaps we all have to examine this knee-jerk reaction. In the end our conversation inspired this person to begin their own journey into emotional health and EQ. We must be confident that our mental health is precious, our physical health is precious, our hearts, emotions, needs and experiences are precious.
For more information:
Antonio Damasio: http://bigthink.com/videos/how-our-brains-feel-emotion
Daniel Goleman: http://bigthink.com/videos/daniel-goleman-introduces-emotional-intelligence