September 26, 2022
SF Gate

Raising Your Emotional Intelligence.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

By Deepak Chopra, MD

Emotions are natural, but problems arise when they are in control. This happens in extreme cases when someone has significant issues over anger, fear, or depression. But in everyday life emotions take control in a subtler way, by lowering your emotional intelligence. The term “emotional intelligence” or EQ, has been around for decades, yet most people haven’t looked at their own emotional intelligence.

EQ comes down to how you relate to emotions, first your own, then other people’s. This relationship worsens whenever any of the following are present.

  • You are afraid of certain emotions.
  • You repress or deny your emotions.
  • You feel ashamed to show emotion in public.
  • You consider emotions a sign of weakness.
  • You use emotion to manipulate other people.
  • You let your feelings get the better of you.
  • You judge your emotions by the reactions (usually negative) of others.

These are all signs of low EQ, and we all recognize them. Yet unlike IQ, which is largely determined at birth, EQ is learned. A child who starts to cry might hear a parental response like, “Don’t be such a baby” or “Boys don’t cry.” Those are blatant cues, but everyone grows up learning a wide range of cues. The major force that teaches you about emotions are your parents, along with other children, teachers, and various authority figures. 

If you are fortunate, you have been taught how to have a high EQ. Realistically, however, everyone becomes involved in a complicated relationship with their emotions, feeling confused and conflicted about what emotions are all about. Therefore, at a certain point a critical decision must be made. Are you going to improve the relationship or go along with the default responses (i.e., feelings) you have been programmed to show automatically?

Raising your own EQ is a conscious choice, which anyone can make at any time. In the system of Yoga developed many centuries ago, one aspect, known as Niyama, instructs the aspirant in raising emotional intelligence. In yogic terms, this is the same as bringing your emotions into the light of awareness, which is the overall purpose of Yoga. Let me give a summary of Niyama (the subject is covered in detail in my upcoming book, Living in the Light). The principal ways to have a better relationship with your emotions aren’t esoteric. In fact, they fit into everyday life very well. 

How to Raise Your Emotional Intelligence

  • Favor your positive emotions. 
  • Reject the memory of old hurts.
  • Face your feelings honestly without denying or repressing them.
  • Realize that the past is gone, except as an illusion of memory.
  • Pursue friendships that accentuate positive emotions.
  • Be easy with yourself, not putting pressure on yourself to change.
  • Look at your emotions with a measure of detachment.
  •  Don’t overly indulge or exaggerate your emotions.
  • Untrain your old habitual emotional responses.
  • Return to simple awareness as often as you can. 

In each of these steps you apply conscious choice in place of automatic responses. Consciousness isn’t the same as thinking. The thinking part of the higher brain kicks in after emotions, which come first. The homespun adage about counting to ten is based on the intuitive knowledge that if you postpone your immediate emotional response, your rational mind will have time to enter and offer its advice.

Just knowing this one fact starts you on the way to untraining your habitual emotions, which is one of the most important things on the list. Your EQ is the product of unconscious training; you had no choice as a child to train your emotions, but now you have. Untraining a habitual emotion doesn’t happen overnight, because after years of having the same responses, they have become stored as part of your mental makeup. 

In yogic terms, all responses begin as undistorted impulses of pure awareness, but as these pass into a person’s individual mental makeup, Vrittis arise—this is the Sanskrit word for impurities or blockages in the flow of awareness. You can feel the Vrittis at work when you feel confused, lose control, blurt out something you didn’t mean to, or sink into a mood of anxiety or depression. 

If you had to think your way past such obstacles, you wouldn’t succeed, because a thought is also a Vritti. But there is a purified state that you can teach yourself to favor, which we can call simple awareness. This is a state that is calm, centered, and free of thoughts. Simple awareness is an openness to whatever comes next. 

To untrain your automatic emotional response, don’t suppress a burst of feeling. Let it be what it is, while at the same time doing your best not to inflict your emotions on the people around you. At the first moment you can, find a quiet place, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Put your attention on the region of the heart and sit quietly, following your breath if you like. Wait until you feel your attention settle calmly in the area of your heart. Then take your time opening your eyes, breathing deeply a few times, and going on with your day.

In this gentle way, if you keep up the practice, your nervous system will begin to favor simple awareness as the place where your awareness wants to be. From this place it becomes much easier to follow the other steps for raising your emotional intelligence. 

Just as important is to make the whole project personal. If you look at the symptoms of low EQ that began this article, each will relate to you in its own way. You might be afraid of feeling anxious while someone else is afraid of losing their temper and flying into a rage. The degree of each symptom also varies from person to person. Some people totally lock down their emotions while most of us are selective in the emotions we consider safe to feel. 

Always keep in mind the purpose of Yoga is to bring every aspect of life into the light. Emotions belong there, too. Emotional healing, which is what we have been talking about, is beneficial and necessary. But beyond even the knowledge of healing is the knowledge that emotions naturally arise from their source in bliss consciousness. As a piece of self-knowledge, nothing is more useful in everyday life. 

DEEPAK CHOPRA™ MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation.  Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his latest book,  Abundance: The Inner Path to Wealth (Harmony Books) offers the keys to a life of success, fulfillment, wholeness and plenty. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” 

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