Sometimes people say stuff like “They journal/meditate/do yoga/go to therapy, so they should be more emotionally intelligent” to explain their confusion, anger and hurt over a relationship. In this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, I break down this common misconception and the issues it poses, not just for our relationship with that person but how we feel about ourselves in the process.

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Some nuggets from the episode

  • Emotional intelligence involves being able to recognise our feelings as well as those of others. In doing so, we influence our own and theirs in a positive (read: healthy, boundaried, intelligent) way. It’s not about using people pleasing or perfectionism to try to influence and control people’s feelings and behaviour so that we feel good about ourselves. It most definitely isn’t the same as being ‘savvy’ enough to manipulate someone’s feelings to use to gain an advantage over them.
  • Journaling, meditation, yoga and therapy can all be beneficial to our well-being, but it’s about what we do with these. Venting, for example, but not learning from the insights we gain, limits the benefits. Sometimes we treat self-care practices like ticking-box exercises that make us feel like we’re doing something without going too deep.

Understanding what we feel and why, as well as why we do what we do is emotional intelligence in action. We’re being emotionally available.

  • When we hold people to our bold assumptions and generalisations, we are not practising empathy.
When we deduce that someone is emotionally intelligent (or more so than us), we make assumptions. These include…
  • Deciding that an emotionally intelligent person knows (and means) what they think, feel and do. If they deviate from it, we determine that it’s a mistake that they need to rectify, pronto. Or, we decide that it’s our fault.
  • Believing that they must, will, or should be a competent or even excellent relationship partner or able for commitment because they journal, do yoga, etc.
  • Thinking someone shouldn’t behave in undesirable ways because they’re supposed to be emotionally intelligent. Or, that something shouldn’t have happened because they’re supposed to be emotionally intelligent.
  • Deciding that they’re an authority and more knowledgable. Taking it to another level and thinking that they can parent or fix us. Letting them tell us what we think and feel even when it leads to self-doubt and us gaslighting ourselves.
  • Presuming that they will not be impacted by stressors because of their self-care activities. Or, deciding that even though they are clearly going through something and struggling, that it’s okay to ignore that and plough ahead with what we want from them. Or, knowing that they’re struggling and thinking that the journaling, etc., means that they should be on top of things.

Sometimes our people pleasing and perfectionism extends itself to trying to win the approval of our therapist. We tell them what we think they want to hear. We don’t want to disappoint them with what we think is our lack of progress.

  • Journaling, meditation, yoga, therapy and the like — they are all beneficial to our well-being. But it’s not one thing. They’re not magic bullets. They’re things that we can do as part of the day-to-day living of taking care of us.
  • We need to base our interactions and relationships in truth and intimacy. When we latch on to one or a few things and use them to ‘decide’ who someone is or should be, we set ourselves up for pain.

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