Emotional Intelligence is the quality that
enables us to confront with patience, insight and imagination the many problems that we
face in our affective relationship with ourselves and with others.
The term may sound odd. We are used to referring to intelligence as a general quality, without
unpicking a particular variety a person might possess – and therefore we do not tend to
highlight the value of a distinctive sort of intelligence which currently does not enjoy
the prestige it should. Every sort of intelligence signals an ability
to navigate well around a particular set of challenges: mathematical, linguistic, technical,
commercial… When we say that someone is clever but add that they have made a mess
of their personal lives; or that they have acquired a fortune but are restless and sad
or that they are powerful but intolerant and unimaginative, we are pointing to a deficit
in what deserves to be called Emotional Intelligence. In social life, we can feel the presence of
Emotional Intelligence in a sensitivity to the moods of others and in a readiness to
grasp the surprising things that may be going on for them beneath the surface. Emotional
Intelligence recognises a role for interpretation and knows that a fiery outburst might be a
disguised plea for help, that a political rant may be provoked by hunger and that concealed
within a forceful jolliness may be a sorrow that has been sentimentally disavowed.
In relation to ourselves, Emotional Intelligence shows up in a scepticism around our emotions,
especially those of love, desire, anger, envy, anxiety and professional ambition. The Emotionally
Intelligent refuse to trust their first impulses or the wisdom of their feelings. They know
that hatred may mask love, that anger may be a cover for sadness and that we are prone
to huge and costly inaccuracies in whom we desire and what we seek.
Emotional Intelligence is also what distinguishes those who are crushed by failure from those
who know how to greet the troubles of existence with a melancholy and at points darkly humorous
resilience. The Emotionally Intelligent appreciate the role of well-handled pessimism within
the overall economy of a good life. Emotional Intelligence isn’t an inborn talent.
It’s the result of education, specifically in how to interpret ourselves, where our emotions
arise from, how our childhoods influence us and how we might best navigate our fears and
wishes. In the utopia, it would be routine to be taught Emotional Intelligence from the
youngest age, before we had had the opportunity to make too many mistakes.
It is because we have – until now – not taken Emotional Education seriously enough that
our species has grown ever more technically adept while retaining the level of wisdom
of our earliest days; with catastrophic results. We are evolved monkeys with nuclear weapons.
It appears that the fate of civilisation now depends on our capacity to master the mechanisms
of Emotional Education before it is too late. Emotional Education extends far beyond formal
education as we have conceived of it to date. Though it should ideally include specialised
courses in every year of school or college, Emotional Education is more than something
that should take place in classrooms at the hands of teachers and come to a halt around
the age of twenty-one. The central vehicle for the transfer of Emotional
Intelligence is culture, from its highest to its most popular level. Culture is the
field that can ritualise and consistently promote the absorption of wisdom. The ‘lessons’
of culture might be embedded in a tragedy or a TV series, a pop song or a novel, a work
of architecture or a YouTube film. We can envisage the entire apparatus of culture as
a subtle mechanism designed to point us towards greater emotional intelligence.
We will never progress as a species, and will indeed grow into ever greater technologically-armed
menaces to ourselves, until we have accepted the challenges and opportunities of properly educating our selves in Emotional Intelligence. Our Technical Intelligence is great of course. It’s led us to tame
nature and conquer this planet. But a wiser, saner future for the race must depend on a capacity
to master and then seductively teach the rudiments of Emotional Intelligence – while there
is still time. Thank you for watching, liking and subscribing. If you want more why not visit us in person and attend a class? Or take a look at our shop at the link on your screen now?