Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is something I have been studying for the past several years. I was introduced to it when someone gave me a book written by Danial Goldman called “Emotional Intelligence” and almost immediately became immersed in learning all about it. Daniel Goldman is a psychologist who helped bring emotional intelligence to the forefront and according to him, the 5 key elements are:
- Self- Awareness
- Social Skills
I wondered why I had never heard of it before and quickly realized how important understanding emotions was to our overall well-being. EQ, after all, is the backbone of what we think, how we think, how we feel, and most importantly, how we act and react. Our thoughts, emotions, and behavior are all connected, and having a better understanding of our emotions is – in my opinion – critical to a healthy perception of who we are as individuals and what areas we need to grow in. It creates self-awareness which allows you to navigate through life’s trials and tribulations – because there will always be difficult times we need to face – with more confidence and control over how we act and react.
For me, anger has been an emotion I have struggled with for the better part of my adult life. My father had a temper and so, I was often told, ‘you are like your dad’. Although I did not like it, I accepted it as part of who I was because well…..everyone close to me told me so. Since learning more about EQ, I have come to understand that anger is not an inherited trait – neither is any other emotion for that matter – and that anger is almost always a mask or disguise for some other, more deep-rooted issue. In my case, it was grief.
At the age of 19, I lost my cousin and best friend in a car accident. The devastation I felt and continue to feel is difficult to put in words and although there is no doubt an event like this would completely change the dynamic of any family, in our family it went even deeper. I was raised by Greek immigrant parents and culturally, we did not talk about emotions, feelings, or grief. Because of this, in the years that followed, I watched every person close to me crumble both emotionally and physically in different ways yet nobody spoke or recognized the cause. I too covered up my feelings in different ways. I sought validation from others while constantly fearing the worst. I feared losing people, I feared not being liked and worst of all, I feared not being good enough. The problem was, I did not understand where these feelings were coming from because I was never encouraged to process or even acknowledge them. What I have been able to realize is that I had lost complete sense of who I was, what I valued, and what my boundaries were and all of this manifested into anger.
Most recently I have recognized my anger for what it really is. GRIEF. I – like many others – have suffered complex trauma and as a result lost a sense of where I was going in life, who I was and what my needs were. As a result, I became angry when I was actually petrified. I was petrified of not having control because for me, not having control translated to losing the people I love most. Not having control meant feeling alone and scared and because I didn’t know how to deal with these emotions I sought validation from others in an unhealthy way so that I would not feel alone and scared and, when I didn’t get it, I became angry again. A vicious cycle that continued to repeat itself and pushed the people I loved further away until I recognized and understood that my anger was actually my unhealed grief. It was the immense pain that had changed my essence and because I was never encouraged to understand my emotions, I convinced myself that they were wrong or bad and fought to become the person I was before all along burring who I actually was. It wasn’t until I accepted that I was forever changed and understood my new found needs that I was able to begin to heal and grow. It wasn’t until I allowed myself to be the person my trauma had transformed me into that I was capable of moving forward. That’s not to say that these emotions do not still creep up. It will forever be a challenge but having recognized it has allowed me to be at peace with it and having bad days is part of the process.
Recognizing my anger for what it actually was has allowed me to become more self-aware and has provided me with the motivation to move into the new me. It has given me the courage to share my story when I was once ashamed of it and guided me down this new road that I truly love. It has freed me from the shackles I had put on myself as I desperately tried to deny and suppress what was really going on. Recognizing my anger has gifted me with empathy for others that struggle and allowed me to be okay with the people that do not align with my views and beliefs. What once would offend me no longer holds power because having emotional intelligence requires a type of self-awareness that does not require validation from anyone other than yourself.