Adapting vs. Reacting

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Our Unconscious Worlds

Emotional intelligence is hard. It’s one thing to recognize and manage our own emotions. It’s another thing to understand the cause of those emotions. Where emotions come from, why they take the shape they do, who inspires what reaction, and determining when emotions cloud rational thinking––it all makes emotional intelligence quite the challenge.

We typically focus on the situations in front of us. We align events to how they affect us—and then we consider how we might respond. We think in these tangible terms and mostly heed only the impact of the world on us and our impact on it.

However, we know that emotions play a part in shaping our world. They may be less tangible and a bit metaphysical, but emotions are essentially our mind’s response to the events around us. Emotions can coincide and align with external events, or they can seemingly manifest on their own.

Neurobiologist Dale Purves, along with other neuroscientists such as George Augustine and David Fitzpatrick, assert in their textbook on neuroscience that individual experiences shape our unique responses to events around us. Situations that inspire strong emotions like anger or sorrow in some may have no impact on others.

This is what makes a conscious practice of emotional intelligence so difficult. A loud and impassioned exchange of ideas can have a positive effect on those with previous favorable outcomes from such interactions. Yet those who recall unfavorable feelings from such exchanges can have a negative and even crippling reaction.

In this TED Talk, leadership coach Scott Schwefel discusses the importance of becoming more adaptive than reactive. By giving greater attention to how we respond to the events and people around us, we may find ourselves ever closer to grasping emotional intelligence.

This week, try to become adaptive to the things and people close to us. Try to make the unconscious conscious.

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”
― Bruce Lee

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