Confessions of an EQ FAILURE

September 25, 2013 Affective LeadershipEmotional Intelligence

panic alarm

I recently “pressured” my parents, who are well into their “golden years”, into leaving their beloved Pacific Northwest to live near us here in Boise.  My wife and I spent months creating as much space and comfort as possible so we could all live together comfortably for the five months it would take for their house to be built.  Our cohabitation lasted three weeks.  I failed not just miserably but spectacularly.  I intellectually knew what to do but in the heat of the moments it seemed like I was swept into a raging river of emotion over which I had no control. 

The scary part is that I am supposed to be good at this.  I have been studying and teaching EQ skills for many years but based on my recent behavior it seems I have learned nothing at all.  I can talk the talk but when it came time to walking in the new territory of close-proximity-parents I fell flat on my face.  Apparently the universe felt I needed a little humility so it kicked me right in my parental parts.  As usual, “when the student is ready, teachers will come”, and teachers showed up everywhere including a particularly poignant set of articles about practicing EQ from

The good news is that my parents now have their own apartment and  we are getting along great.  I still have moments where my feelings of failure are overwhelming but more importantly I have a renewed appreciation for the disruptive power of behaving unconsciously.  I hope my life-lessons will help you be better prepared to navigate the turbulent waters of our sometime unpredictable emotions.

Brain_limbicsystemMillions of years before we developed the big Neo-cortex that make us “thinking-beings” we were “feeling-beings” guided primarily by our limbic systems.  These systems are very fast and highly efficient but not particularly discerning.  Limbic responses are like the bodies fire alarm sending out system wide responses to every cell of our bodies.   Unfortunately those alarms can be pulled by threats real, imagined or even just the mounting pressures of lives on overload. 

When this Limbic alarm system is triggered we are hard-wired at our very core to divert energy from our Neo-cortex command centers to our more primitive Limbic systems which “are primarily responsible for our emotional lives[i]”.  The term for disruption of this process, coined by Edward Hallowell is called Attention Deficit Trait.  And its incidence according to Hallowell has “exploded over the last several decades”.

bean submarineIt is kind of like those submarine movies where the command bridge is flooded and all that’s left are the engine and torpedo rooms.  The only resources we have left are to fight or run.  The challenge to be aware of the state of your command center BEFORE it gets flooded.  Here are thirteen tools for staying on course toward a healthy EQ[ii]

1-Breathe deeply.  One deep breath can make all the difference.

2-Learn to become a nonjudgmental observer of your own thinking.  Do your thoughts bring you peace or pain?

3-Look for patterns.  Eckhart Tolle taught me to notice how often my own brain was not working for me but against me.

4-Treat each moment as an opportunity not to prove but to learn.  Everything happens to teach us something……about ourselves.

5-Take a wider view.  Step back from your narrow focus and look at the situation from a broader perspective in terms of time or space.  My friend Bill Ferrence used to have the “Three Day Rule”.  Before anyone shared a complaint or concern they would need to be able to communicate why this issue would be important three days from now.

6-Understand the emotion behind the emotion.  Where there is anger there is always fear.  Address the fear and seek to understand the anger.

7-Forgive everyone (especially yourself).  I think it was from Guy Finley where I first heard “There is never a need to suffer, even though you know you must.”

8-Read, re-read or watch the Last lecture and practice using the phrase “not helpful” to break the cycle of hurtful internal dialogue.

9-Be conscious of what you feed your mind as well as your body.  Stress imagined is real.  If you are not going to do something about it don’t let it in.  This includes media, people and most of all your own self talk.

10-Be aware of how you talk, especially to yourself.  You can’t be stressed without a stress-full story.

11-Exercise.  There is nothing I have found that helps my emotional well-being as taking care of physical well-being.    We are made to move.

12-Go outside.  Nature is awesome, energizing and rejuvenating.

13-Find reasons, resources, excuses, people that encourage you to laugh.  When you lose the ability to laugh.  You lose the ability to think.  Darrow

For more information on adding more EQ to your HQ contact us at 1-800-893-9002

[ii] For more resources visit or any of these great books.

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