Cultivating Emotional Intelligence

New Projects Blog PostMaking Up Stories

By George Marino CPC, CMMT July 1, 2022

The mind automatically creates a story about what happens to us, almost immediately after events occur. Certain feelings, emotions, and body sensations may automatically arise based on the nature of the story. Let’s take Joe for example. He felt “something was missing” in his life after making partner and started to ponder how he ended up in this position. When unobserved and not faced in the moment, this negative self-talk led him to feelings of acute anxiety. For instance, the thought could be “How boring is this job” or “How obnoxious is my partner” or “She must be upset at me” or “He makes too much money.” These and other similar reactions may automatically trigger feelings of anger. This is commonly referred to as “reactivity.”

These emotions can be unsettling. When Jesus taught “turn the other cheek,” he was not only referring to one’s outer circumstances when confronted with unconscious individuals, but also to the internal negative reactive patterns in us. To turn your cheek means to step out of the stream of unconscious thinking and emotions and enter the Now fully, facing what is in front of you with conscious awareness. This mindfulness approach to emotional balance involves contacting and living our emotions fully and simultaneously, developing the habits of the heart, mind, and body that cultivate peace and joy within and around us.

From a mindfulness standpoint, Joe could direct attention by turning to his thoughts and feelings in the moment they arise and “catch them” before they spiral into something else. It is not easy at first, but with trust and patience this skill can be cultivated. Even if you don’t “catch them” right away, the minute you start to pay attention to what is going on inside you, this creates a pause in the stream of mental and emotional reaction, however slight. That pause is like a “field” where something else can emerge that is more helpful. Jesus taught to “look at the lilies in the field how they grow, they toil not.” He was pointing toward an open field of awareness, where you look and are aligned with the present moment in which love is born. Anything else that is needed will be an add-on. When doing this, Joe disrupts his cycle of negative thinking and emotions and takes a step back from his circumstances.

This awareness offers the sole possibility to observe the interplay between thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. You are not attempting to change the emotion, feelings, or sensations that are present, but only trying to observe them. Your acknowledgment and/or acceptance of the experience fosters an opening in you. This opening is the basis for choice. Mindfulness doesn’t dictate to you what to choose; rather, it allows the possibility of conscious choice. Without it, your actions will be based upon your conditioning.

In turning attention back to the present moment, to the feeling itself, we allow ourselves to connect to the reality of the present moment rather than our mind’s version of it. The Now offers the opportunity to step out of the continuous stream of thinking and the emotions that follow your thoughts. Mindfulness can help you become aware of how thoughts, emotions, and body sensations automatically influence you and vice versa. This was a huge revelation for me. When I started to observe my thoughts, I realized that in most instances thoughts are related to some aspect of the past or future. Thoughts are typically not about the present, unless you come up with an original thought! When that happens, you’ll notice an energy inside you that encompasses many positive feelings. This is intuition and a sense of empowerment.

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