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The Power Behind Emotional Intelligence


The concept of emotional intelligence was introduced in 1965 By Daniel Goleman in his book “Emotional Intelligence”, or “EQ”. EQ has caught on and a wide variety of tools have been developed to assist people, especially in the business world in cultivating their emotional intelligence. I believe the concept has been so powerful because western business has been built on a logical, rational focus on facts. This means the organizational world has hired for and cultivated people who are good with facts and reason. When you hire for a person who is good with facts and reason, you most likely end up with a person who is not so strong with feelings and emotions. We all have blind spots, areas where we need to put in intentional work to become balanced, and fully functional.


Selecting for people whose blind spot is feelings means selecting for people who may be more at the mercy of their own feelings, acting, but not clear why they are acting, hijacked by intense feelings, and not seeing it coming, uncomfortable with the feelings of others and as such at a deficit in forming relationship and trust, lacking in an understanding of other’s feelings and therefore at a loss for how to motivate them.


Organizations run by people who have not addressed these blind spots tend to become dysfunctional, unhappy, conflicted places where people don’t feel understood, cared for or welcome. So, the emotional intelligence industry has thrived in modern American business. There are four key competencies associated with EQ that Goleman shares in “Primal Leadership”, which are:


1. Awareness of what I am feeling and how it impacts my behavior.

2. Awareness of how my feelings impact others.

3. Awareness of other’s feelings.

4. Learning to positively influence the feelings of others.


What I have learned in my work, however, is, even when people accept that these competencies are important, they tend not to really understand how powerful the feeling function is, and why it is so powerful.


An Overview of the Feeling Function


The first step of course is to pay attention to feelings and come to realize that feelings are a reality. We are capable of a wide range of feelings which can produce powerfully intense experiences in us. Feelings are at the root of motivation. We navigate our lives by avoiding things that produce negative emotions and seeking things that produce positive feelings.

It is said that one of the primary functions of feelings is to tell us if a situation is good for us. We may have a “bad feeling” about someone or something, or we may just know that something is right for us. This sense of rightness is a summative, holistic judgment.

Lisa Feldman Barrett studies emotions. She describes the origin of feelings as based on “interoception.”


Simple pleasant and unpleasant feelings come from an ongoing process inside you called interoception. Interoception is your brain’s representation of all sensations from your internal organs and tissues, the hormones in your blood, and your immune system. How Feelings Are Made p.51


Barrett describes how the brain’s interoceptive system makes predictions based on sensory input and past experience and allocates the body’s energy resources to meet what the interoceptive system identifies as significant. These interoceptive cues are experience as “affect” which has two polar characteristics. Affect has a valence, positive or negative, and an arousal level, high or low.

p. 73 How Emotions Are Made.


Barrett’s insights explain how feelings can provide motivating insight into what we perceive as good for us or not. She points out however that these affective experiences are not infallible, our state of health, hunger, and a variety of other circumstances can impact our affect and distort judgments made based on affect.


Barrett’s research has challenged the commonly held belief that emotions are somehow hard wired in the brain and shared across cultures. She has found instead that our emotional experience is constructed just as our beliefs, and behavior are learned and constructed. There is potentially great freedom in this insight that we are not held hostage to some part of the brain that inexorably produces emotional content that unavoidably determines our behavior.


Our emotions are learned, and we can learn to change how we feel and how we act based on our feelings. It is this understanding of the malleability of emotions that is at the root of the power of active listening. By active listening I mean putting our full attention on the speaker, resisting the automatic reactions we have when others speak, for instance to interrupt them, or even just think about what we are going to reply. When we listen actively to another person, if we let them express themselves fully, if we then, acknowledge the obvious feelings and facts that they have expressed, an amazing thing can happen.


Notice that I said, “Acknowledge obvious feelings and facts.” Feelings come first. If the speaker is caught up in powerful emotions, especially if they are negative emotions, it is unlikely that we will be able to communicate clearly. We need to clear away the negative emotions first. If we acknowledge obvious negative emotions that the speaker has expressed, we will often stimulate an intensification of that negative emotion. If I acknowledge that you sound angry., you are likely to say “You’re damn right I am angry! Or if I say you look sad, and ask if you are OK, you may well cry. I will have given you permission to have your emotion.


Often what happens, is that emotion gets expressed, and then, very often, the emotion changes. It becomes less overpowering, and the speaker often gets some perspective on the emotion, perhaps some insight, and the emotion changes toward the positive. This is the basis of talk therapy. We tend to get crazy when we are alone too long with our negative emotions. If we can express the feelings, we can get them out where we can see them and evaluate their validity.


If you have worked on active listening, you probably can understand the power of this shift from emotional negativity to something more positive, and deeper, transformative, and even healing. This is the domain of the fourth emotional intelligence competency – the ability to help others shift from negative emotions to more positive. The question is, how does this work?


Dr. Richard Moss has provided important insights into this question. He differentiates emotion from feeling. Usually we use these words interchangeably, but developing emotional intelligence requires that we become more precise in our terminology. Dr. Moss recommends that we become aware of the impact of our “egoic thinking” on the feeling function. We can easily concretize our understanding of what is meant by egoic thinking through a little self-observation. It is that voice that is constantly talking in your head. It is full of opinions, and preferences, judgments about self and others. It has to be right and in control, and it wants you to believe that you are your ego. And, by the way, it also wants to be God.


Here is where we have the opportunity to wise up, literally. The first step is to become aware of ego mind and stop believing everything it says. Don’t believe everything you think! A great deal of successful psychotherapy and life coaching is challenging the beliefs that our ego mind is constantly pitching at us that, under scrutiny often have no real basis.


Moss points out that the problem deepens when we build our identity around the ego mind.


The imagined self is the ego. The ego is not an entity, not something real like your body. It is a way of processing information that leads to a false assumption that you are a separate self. It never occurs to you that that you are also that which can be aware of these thoughts – aware of all the ways you, (as an ego) interpret your perceptions and feelings. In other words, as an ego, you believe yourself to be outside and separate from life, and everyone and everything else as part of a divine wholeness. Inside Out Healing p. 9.


The kind of healing that Dr. Moss describes can manifest on many levels: healing of physical conditions, relief from pain, resolution of relationship issues, and especially insight into existential challenges – issues of identity and being. In this usage, the word “healing” refers to wholeness as opposed to the word “therapy” which is about the resolution of symptoms. True healing goes much deeper, and, in Dr. Moss’s view, is a result of becoming fully present in the moment.


When you turn your attention away from your thoughts and into the present moment, you restore yourself to a state of open receptivity to a limitless source of intelligence, a limitless field of love. You give that love and intelligence a chance to join you and transform you. Returning to a state of wholeness in yourself is being healthy. It is also the most powerful way you have to change the future. Inside Out Healing p. 11


In this time of incessant change, we can use all the help we can get, but at the same time we live in a time of great cynicism and negativity. We are surrounded by outrage and polarization, and the very opposite of receptivity to a “limitless source of intelligence and love.” His statement presents us with two questions:


1. Can we relate to his claim that a “limitless source of intelligence and love” exists? Do we have experience of accessing this source? Has it made a significant difference in our lives?

2. Do we understand, experientially what it means to turn away from thoughts and to the present moment, and have we experienced this making the kind of significant difference that he claims?


If the answers to these questions are yes, then we can move on to learning the skills required to make the shift to the present moment. If the answers are no, then it may be worth to undergo some self-examination to see if we actually have experiences that confirm Moss’s view that we have, perhaps overlooked.


I would like to share one of my own experiences of this power of feeling. I was contacted by a client, a federal organization that ran a bird preserve high up on a mountain above the tree line. Ten men lived at this facility during the week. They had no radio, no TV, and they all lived in a very small building together. Their work was physically demanding and dangerous. They had fenced 30,000 acres of forest, planted 170,000 trees, and killed all the alien species animals that endangered the forest This group of men was very diverse, all different ages, ethnicities and socio-economic levels.


I had been contacted because, periodically these men got on each other’s nerves, and this tension had reached a point where the management was afraid, given the fact that there were many firearms in the facility, that they might just kill each other. When we arrived in a jeep driven by the manager, we were greeted by the men standing in a line with grim faces and arms crossed across their chests. Clearly they were not pleased with the idea that they were to spend two full days in a workshop with a psychologist.


There was no meeting room, so we met in the garage bay where they serviced the tractor. As it was a garage there was no wall on one side, and it was very cold. We sat on metal chairs in the grease spot on the concrete. Day one consisted of getting the men to loosen up and speak openly about their work together. They talked about their mission, the challenges they faced, and the frustrations they felt. At the end of the day I told them “Tomorrow we will begin with a simple exercise. I will ask each of you to address each of the other men, and complete a sentence that begins with the words ”What I really appreciate about you is…” They all looked quite stunned at this prospect.


So, the next day after an evening of steaks and beer, we reconvened on the grease spot. Seeing the consternation on their faces, I asked them if they wanted a half hour to prepare their comments. Immediately they said “No! let’s go now!”. So, I asked for a volunteer. The man at my left immediately volunteered. He proceeded to address each man present, and gave some of the most heartfelt, specific and positive feedback I had ever heard. It is important to remember that these men, although frustrated with each other at times, depended on each other for their lives.


This first man’s sharing set the tone for the group. I had never before or since heard such quality feedback given in this exercise with any other group. Some of the men present had not long before been in prison, and it became clear that they had probably never before been given positive feedback about how they were perceived. There were long silences, there were tears, and there was some difficulty speaking in the intensity of the feelings shared.


By the time all the men had shared, the feeling tone, the atmosphere in the garage had changed markedly. It was as if we were in a different world. The place looked different, the men looked and sounded different. They had transformed the place and time with the power of their expressed feelings. Clearly there had been a healing, and basically the work I had come to do was done.


I have experienced this transformation of a space many times resulting from the honest exploration of deep feeling. There is a profound power in it to overcome negativity and transform relationship, to other people, to our work, to our lives, to ourselves in a way that is deeply satisfying and healing. Unfortunately, this transformation tends to be somewhat rare in our families and in our work, because it is necessary to take a risk, the risk of experiencing powerful feelings. Often there is so little experience with this encounter with feeling that people are unwilling to take the risk and as such, stay trapped in the negative.


If we are to access this healing transformative power, we need to understand the source of our negativity and learn how to access the power that Moss describes. This understanding requires that we consider a more precise use of the words we use to describe the dynamics of feeling and emotion. Moss defines feelings and emotions as follows:


Moss uses the word “feeling” to pertain to the deep domain in which transformative, healing experience takes place. He uses the word “emotion” to refer to our experience when our thoughts disturb our feeling function. This interaction of thought and feeling is such a common feature of our experience that we tend not to consider it. Moss, however, points out that it is the stories that we tell ourselves, or more precisely that our ego mind tells us color, distort, and disturb our feeling function producing emotions that do not have the deeply fulfilling, transformative and healing effect that true feeling has.


Moss asserts that the stories the ego mind tells have a very particular purpose, and that is to establish and reinforce the specialness of the ego. The reinforcement of specialness is important because the ego desperately wants to believe that it exists and is in control of our lives. To accomplish this, the ego tells stories that pertain to either the past or future and are either about “me” or “you.” The best way to evaluate his assertion is to observe our own inner dialogue.


Do you find your stories are concerned with comparing yourself against others? Is your tendency to be telling yourself that you are better than others, or worse, or alternating between the two? Do you find yourself reminiscing about a past that was better than the present, hoping for a better future, or anxious about what will happen in the future?


If you can become aware of this inner dialogue, it is then possible to observe the emotional impact of the stories. This impact tends to be emotions of various kinds: inferiority, worthlessness, superiority, judgment, guilt, anger, envy, jealousy, resentment, anxious, hopeful, nostalgic, prideful, and so on. These emotions are so commonly a part of our everyday life that we tend to consider them normal and inevitable. We even become conditioned to and even addicted to these feelings. Some people become addicted even to extremely negative emotions such as guilt, anger, and self-deprecation. It seems that our ego self prefers even a negative identity to no identity at all.


If we observe the drama that takes place in people’s lives, we can see the powerful impact that these emotions have. The stories we tell ourselves generate these emotions, which then drive our actions. The stories tend to take our attention into the past or the future and revolve around the how this past and future will impact our “self” in relation to others. Moss instructs us that a much more healthy, powerful, and satisfying place to be is in the “Now.” This is the work of mindfulness which is gaining increasing interest and relevance to the world of psychological health and work effectiveness.


If one has engaged in this work of being present in the moment, it is likely you have experienced the inner cloud of intrusive thoughts, lower emotions, and uncomfortable sensations in the body. This experiential content is like a veil, a distracting cloud that masquerades as reality. If we persevere, and let go of the thoughts, allow the emotions and sensations to fade way, we can engage a deeper level of experience where real feeling as Moss defines them become accessible. Moss describes these feelings as a continuum.

It is in working though these more profound feelings that we can come to a deeper understanding of the forces at work in our inner life. We can explore the deeper urges that seek expression, our more real needs, and we can come to understand our negativity, the patterns of our egoism, often as defense mechanisms covering over old wounds.


There is actually far more to this deepening, however. The subject of transformative healing, through which our physical health, our feeling life, our insight can be fundamentally changed brings up an ancient disagreement about the nature of reality. There are those who view this world as purely physical, and consider all psychological content, all thought, all emotions, all creativity as epiphenomena of the brain. This view can be summarized in the following diagram which is a component of an ancient description of the pattern of what it is to be human. This component is called the “lower face of the psyche.”

There is the physical body which generates sensation and is capable of action, the concrete mind, which produces concepts and words, and there are the cyclic impulses of energy, experienced as vitality, and the passion which activate our lives, and there is the screen of awareness, which we perceive as our awareness and which takes on a life of its own, in the form of the ego. The content of our awareness then is a result of the inflow of sensations from the body, impulses and desires from the passions and thought, usually in the form of words and images from the mind.


In this materialistic view, there is little sense of intuition or direct knowing, we are all fundamentally separate from each other, and the ego is the king of the domain. There is a fundamentally different view of human beings and our relationship to reality in the mystical traditions of the world, found in the inner or hidden aspect of the world’s religions. This view has been called the “Perennial Philosophy” by Aldous Huxley, and there are a wide range of descriptions of this view in the mystical literature of the world. An example of this view is depicted in the Kabalistic “Tree of Life.”


Notice that, in this view, the physical world is only a small part, one part in ten. This world view includes not just one world, the physical, but other worlds which are believed to contain and interpenetrate this world. In this view, the physical world is a reflection, or an expression of the energy and patterns contained in the other worlds. These other worlds can be thought of as the worlds of intelligent energy which underlie, direct, and energize this physical world. These additional elements are called the “upper face of the psyche.”


This is the place where some people stop reading. This is the world view often characterized as “woo-woo.” For those of you who wish to get off at this point we wish you a fond farewell. These ideas are certainly not for everyone. But others of you have had what are called “inner experiences.” You know that intuition is a real experience. Sometimes you just know things and you don’t know how you know them. Perhaps you have had “peak experiences” in which your experience of the world and of your self-shifted fundamentally.


This deeper experience was significantly more real for you than your usual experience. You may have had deeper experiences with other people through which you have seen that, although we have separate physical bodies, at a deeper level we are not separate. At that deeper level, we really are one. You may have had times when the pattern of your life was clearer to you and you knew that you are here for a reason, and there is something in you, a certain kind of feeling, which guides you toward the right decisions, makes it possible for you to find your way in life.


My purpose in writing this material is to explore another approach to the world of work. How do we discover our life’s work, how do we engage others in work? How do we create organizations that bring out the best in people? There are lots of little things we can do to design and cultivate healthy organizations. But if we want to do something really meaningful, we need to understand this deeper view of reality, come to understand the purpose of this creation and our life in it. And along with this, we need to come to grips with what the ego really is. It is an important function, but it is not our identify and if we make it the king in our lives and our workplaces, we are in for a life of unproductive suffering.

John Bennet describes some of the consequences of living in a way that is out of touch with this inner life.


At the bottom of it all there is something that knows that you are out of contact with your own self. This produces a feeling of helplessness, sometimes even of despair. Just where there ought to be something in us that is confident and self-reliant, able to bear things, something is missing because of the separation between the personality and the “I,” or fundamentally, between the “I” and the centers which are working without their Master. For everyone, this produces a latent feeling of insecurity. Everyone is insecure until they know that the “I” and their centers are connected with one another. We want to know that there is someone in us who can take decisions, is not afraid of taking them and facing their consequences. When there is that this kind of suffering gives way. The Way to Be Free p.17


Mr. Bennet makes several important comments here. The “centers “he is referring to are the thinking, feeling and moving/instinctual centers. These functions are depicted in the Tree of Life Diagram as follows:

Notice that the feeling function is not directly connected to the physical world. The feeling function is informed by input from the concrete mind and the passions, but it is also directly connected to the upper face of the psyche, which is sometimes called the higher self, or the “I.” But for many of is this connection is obscured by the noise in our awareness, cluttering up the screen of awareness with our attractions to sensory stimulation, our endless mental chatter, and negative emotions.


Bennet points out that “something is missing because of the separation between the personality and the “I,” or fundamentally, between the “I” and the centers which are working without their Master.” What does he mean by “Master”? For those who have a sense of a higher intelligence operating in their lives, or a spiritual dimension to their being, some experience of a “higher self,” this idea of the possibility of a Master working in us is not such a foreign idea. George Gurdjief, who was one of Mr. Bennett’s teachers provided a beautiful story to describe how our inner functions can be brought into balance in order to make a place for this “Master” to become the center of our lives- instead of the ego.


“Try to conceive , he says, a great estate with many servants, indoor servants, gardeners, farm workers and the like, but no Master, l, no Steward or overseer. Suppose that each of these servants imagines himself to be the master and owner of the estate. Each will disregard his fellow servants and, if he gets the opportunity of giving orders will do so as if he alone were concerned in all the welfare of the house.”


"There being no overseer, each servant will do whatever work his caprice may dictate. The groom will go into the house and do the cooking; the cook will go into the stables and wash the horses. In time the whole house will be in disorder and yet each servant will continue to think that he and his activities are the sole and only interest of the whole place.”


"This state of chaos may continue indefinitely, or it may happen that one of the servants, wiser than the others or perhaps taught by some bitter experience, will realize that something is wrong and discover that things can be otherwise; that there are possibilities of quite a different existence for the house and for its inhabitants if only order and discipline could be introduced. Others among the servants may come to similar conclusions. One may have heard, for example, that there should be a Master of the house and that the real aim and purpose of their existence is to serve a Master, and that the Master might come to the house if it were made ready to receive him.”


"If these wiser servants really understand the position, they will know that none of them is fit or able to receive the Master and that before his advent the house must be brought under the control of a Steward who knows the Master and his wishes. They will, therefore, set themselves, in the first instance, the task of preparing for the Steward. They will begin by agreeing to recognize one amongst themselves as Deputy Steward and entrust to him the task of getting the cook back into the kitchen and the groom to the stables; they will try to support his authority with the others and will expect him to answer for them all in dealing with people outside the house.”


"At this stage, the estate still presents a picture of multiplicity and there is no person in it who can claim any rights either as against the other servants or in respect of the house as a whole. “


"If the Deputy Steward so succeeds in his work, that he imbues the majority of the servants with desire to know and serve the Master and deals with the remainder either by bringing them under strict discipline or, if they are utterly recalcitrant, by expelling them; then comes the moment at which the Steward comes to the house.”


"The Steward knows the Master and he acts in the master's name. From him the servants learn - not those simple duties which the deputy-steward taught them - but the Will of the Master and their true and highest welfare. They forget their separate interests as they come to understand what the Master can bring them. Finally, the Master himself comes to the house.”


"At first perhaps for a few moments only for they cannot support the glory of his presence, but ultimately, when all are purged forever from the illusions of self-hood and separateness, he will make his permanent dwelling with them, and they will find infinite happiness and eternal security." From “Discovering Gurdjieff” by Dorothy Philpotts


This brings us to the point of this chapter which is entitled “The Power Behind Emotional Intelligence.” The point is it is through the feeling function that we connect with the deeper levels of our psyche. This explains why true feelings can provide us with information about what is right for us or wrong for us. Feeling can connect us with our true identity and inner wisdom and understanding making it possible for us to overcome the anxiety described by Bennett. If we accept that the physical world is an expression of the intelligence held in the higher aspects of our being, then we can gain a sense of how a deep engagement with real feeling can also bring about the healing of the physical body.


What is the relevance of emotional intelligence and true feeling to the world of work? In virtually every interview I have conducted, asking the question, “what is the biggest challenge in this workplace?”, the answer is almost always “communication”. Over the 40 years I have worked with people in organizations, the fundamental challenge tends to be unresolved conflict between people. It interferes with communication, decision making, teamwork, collaboration, erodes trust, stimulates defense mechanisms which use up our energy, creates cliques in the workplace and destroys morale.


In cases where I have been asked to resolve a conflict between two key people in an organization, I very commonly hear some form of this comment “If you put these two people together, they would make the perfect human being.” This points to a consistent dynamic – we get into conflict with people who are potentially our complement. When we work through the conflict, which arises because two people see the world so differently, we discover that other people actually see the world a different way, and that difference of perspective is not only valid, but also useful. We discover that our world view is incomplete, and we need others to help us clarify our understanding. Quite often the person we have the most difficulty working with may turn out to be the person we need most to be successful. They see aspects of the world that we do not, they are good at things we are not, and they are willing to do things that we are not.


What does this have to do with emotional intelligence? It is through engaging our deep feelings that we gain access to our inner world. We penetrate through the illusion that our ego has made of who we are and how the world works, and we gain insight into our real situation. We can come to see our real strengths and value, and we often get a clear view of our weaknesses. We get insight into how we are part of the solution and how we are part of the problem. Often people don’t proceed very far into this work because what they see is very disturbing. We discover our imperfection, and that can be very painful. This discovery, however, can deepen out tolerance and empathy, however. We can become far more accepting of the faults of others when we see our own clearly.


Consider the work described by Gurdjieff in putting our inner house in order. Have you encountered this inner cast of characters? Have you discovered that some of your characters are constructive and refined and others are real troublemakers? This work is a kind of inner team building of the inner cast of characters that inhabit our psyche. This work is about cultivating the functions that are weak and dialing down the centers that are dominant and making too much noise in the house. The goal of this work is to create enough harmony and balance in our inner world that the more subtle voice of the higher parts of us can be heard.


One important aspect of this work is coming to the realization that the usual compulsions and obsessions and dramas of our everyday life are not really satisfying, and usually the dysfunctional patterns that repeat themselves in our individual, family, and organizational lives come from a disconnect between what we perceive and believe to be true and what is actually real. We live out of a deeply held set of assumptions and habits that define our world which often go unchallenged.


The Transpersonal psychologist Steve Taylor explains that a life lived out of the ego mind, that inner tyrant that constantly compares us with others and has to be right and is constantly obsessed with the past and the future is not only out of touch with reality, but also very unfulfilled and lonely. This loneliness and lack of fulfillment drives us to all sorts of addictions and compulsions and forms the driving force of our consumer economy. Taylor points out that the ego mind apparatus that is constantly running in modern people takes a lot of psychic energy. It does not take physical activity to exhaust us. Just spending a day with the ego mind yapping in our heads, overreacting emotionally to the thoughts, and the tension that is created in the body can leave us totally exhausted.


And what we really lose out on is connection with the present moment, with other people, with our sensory environment, and with our inner life. It seems that this ego mind psychological function that allows for a certain kind of linear thinking and language has created the benefits of the modern world, but at the same time created a lifestyle that is both fundamentally unfulfilling and, apparently unsustainable over the long term.


The solution to this dilemma, from the point of view of transpersonal psychology and millennia of wisdom traditions is, we need to make contact with Reality with a capital “R”. In this view, our everyday experience is not real, therefore our actions tend to be misguided and experience unfulfilling. There is a common statement in the wisdom traditions that what we experience in our “normal’ level of consciousness is illusion. This does not mean that the world is an illusion. All we have to do is stub our toe on a rock to remember that. But if one engages in some self-observation, one is likely to realize that what we experience most of the time is a simulation. We live in a kind of virtual reality concocted by the sensory motor, feeling and thinking centers. Most of the day we are not present. We are daydreaming our way through life. We can even drive a car at high speeds and not be there consciously.


The solution is to wake up. Every once in a while, we have what Abraham Maslow called “peak experiences,” when for one reason or another a higher quality of attentional energy becomes available, and we make contract with something more real and profound. Often this occurs as a result of some kind of shock. We tend to wake up in the face of crisis, which is why organizations often function much better in crisis, but when the crisis is over, the old patterns off dysfunctionality take over again. Why? Because when we are awake and present, we have access to a much higher level of perceiving, feeling, and acting.


Ask yourself if there have not been times in your life when you actually saw the world or yourself in a far more profound and real way? Were there times when you surprised yourself at your performance. Were there times when you just somehow knew what you needed to know, with great certainty?


To return to the initial subject of this chapter, the power behind emotional intelligence could be called the higher self. It has been called the soul, or the individuality. When Maslow speaks of self-actualization, this is the Self he is speaking of. This idea comes from a quite different world view than our traditional materialistic view: the view that the physical world is the only reality and that our human experience is an epiphenomenon of the brain.


The alternative view, the transpersonal view is that this physical world is only one of many (some say 4) worlds, and that this world is an expression of the higher worlds from which this physical world was created, from which we originally came as a consciousness, and to which we will return when we die. The difference between these two views is not just a theological philosophical debate. Understanding the difference between these views is essential to an alternate understanding of how human beings can evolve and create a more viable way of life. Here is the rest of the Tree of Life Diagram, which completes the picture of the complete human being.

The point is not to begin a lengthy discussion about the tree of life, but rather to simply point out that there is an alternative view of human beings which is quite ancient, and present at the core of every world religion. The relevant point here is the yellow triad labeled “Awakening” through which our awareness rises and deepens to contact these more profound levels of human being is directly above the “Feeling Triad.” The Tree of Life indicates that it is through feeling that we are awakened to contact with our essence, our inner life, and the spirit that enlivens our body, feelings, and mind.

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