Note There is an academic test called the "The Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale" which measures a person's ability to express their emotions and is unrelated to my ideas on the various levels of emotional awareness.
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This model deals mainly with levels of self-awareness. There are also levels of awareness of the feelings of other people.
I believe emotional awareness is a key to leading a happier and more fulfilling life. To really "know oneself," as the Greek philosophers urged us to do, requires that we know how we feel in all of life's many situations. When we know how we feel we know what we enjoy doing and who we enjoy doing it with. We know who we feel safe with, who we feel accepted by and understood by.
Though we might be able to lead a productive life, even a "successful" life -- if one defines success by the level of status, education, or material worth -- it is unlikely we will actually ever be happy unless we are very aware of our specific feelings. In fact, it is quite possible to be successful and miserable, as I have written about with respect to my own life. It is easy to accept without question other people's definition of success and happiness. But when we become more aware of our own true and unique feelings we are more likely to find our own individual happiness. This may be the essence of using our emotional intelligence.
If we are emotionally sensitive we will feel things sooner than others will. If we have no emotional sensitivity, or we have numbed ourselves from our feelings we won't have any emotional awareness at all. Sensitive people living in abusive environments and insensitive cultures learn ways to numb themselves from their feelings because so many of their feelings are painful.
In my adaptation of the academic model of emotional intelligence I place emotional awareness under the first branch of their framework. This first branch is emotional identification, perception and expression. Increasing your awareness of your own feelings is perhaps the first step towards furthering the development of your EI.
I believe the ability to forecast our feelings is probably a legitimate part of emotional intelligence, but Mayer et al have not addressed this as yet. I am not certain how you would test this with a paper and pencil test, but not all aspects of emotional intelligence are suitable for such tests. As Mayer et al acknowledge there is more to emotional intelligence than can be tested. Though they don't stress this in their writing, they do say effectively the same thing when they say that "aspects of" emotional intelligence can be tested. This clearly implies that they leave open the possibility that there are also aspects of it which can never be tested in a formal, controlled fashion.
Raising awareness of, and Identifying feelings - The example of "You won't hear from me again."
To raise awareness of feelings, it helps to ask two questions when someone says something:
1) How is that person feeling?
2) How did they want the other person to feel?
Here is an exercise for practice, based on a true story in my life:
You Won't Hear From Me Again
A few days ago I wrote something in one of my online journals. I was feeling very resentful towards one particular person. I felt judged by her, disapproved of, betrayed, commanded, lectured to, misunderstood, misrepresented, lied about, persecuted, labeled, categorized, unappreciated and probably a few more things. I didn't say that so specifically though. I didn't use many feeling words. I wasn't educated or trained well enough to do that as I was growing up. In fact, I was never taught or trained at all in how to express my feelings with feeling words. I have had to teach, and try to train myself. More than that, I have had to unlearn what I was taught and conditioned to do. So at the time I was writing, I just let whatever thoughts I had flow out thru my fingertips.
The words were pretty harsh, and sometimes deliberately hurtful. Actually, though, my feelings didn't have much to do with the person I was writing about. The feelings and the words came from years and years of the pain from similar feelings. Her words just lit a fuse, but the bomb was full of negative feelings from thousands of other experiences.
Then she read what I had written and left me a note. She said, "Whatever. You won't hear from me anymore."
So now I wonder: "How did this person want me to feel?" And, "How was this person feeling?"
I have some ideas, but I can't be sure. Even though I felt resentful towards her I still want to help her learn about expressing feelings and about self-awareness of feelings. I'd like to help this person learn some things which they don't teach in school. I would also like to help others learn. And of course, perhaps most importantly, I would like to learn myself.
Feed back to You Won't Hear From Me Again
From Beth, 16.
I imagine that the person saying that felt frustrated, hurt, angry, resentful, cruel, unloved, unwanted, insulted, violated, powerless, afraid, attacked, judged, abandoned, unsafe, misunderstood, betrayed, and alone.
I imagine that that person wanted the other person to feel hurt, inferior, alone, imprisoned, abandoned, insignificant, unloved, uncared for, replaceable, dispensable, unneeded, unimportant, confused, disliked, angry, inessential, minor and useless.
|Awareness, Consciousness, Power and
Today I had what I believe is an important insight. I realized that the person who is more aware of feelings is more in control. (Psychologically, at least.)
I came to this insight when I started thinking about a teacher at one of the schools I have been visiting fairly regularly. The last time I saw her she asked me: "Do you remember my name?"
I was not very aware of my feelings at that point, nor was I consciously aware of her feelings. I sensed that she felt hurt because I was not giving her much attention. I sensed she wanted me to feel guilty if I had forgotten her name, or even if it took me a while to remember it.
I could hear the hurt in her voice. She felt left out. I had been talking to others around her and neglecting her. She needed more attention. She is the head of a department at her school, which is probably an indication she has many unmet emotional needs. People with unmet emotional needs often seem to rise to positions of authority in an attempt to fill these needs. Actually, this person probably wanted me to feel guilty even if I had remembered her name quickly. She probably wanted me to feel guilty as soon as she asked the question, because it was her way of saying, "You are not spending enough time with me or showing me enough 'respect'."
As I reflected on the situation I regretted not saying "How would you feel if I said yes and how would you feel if I said no." Or perhaps I could have said, "How are you feeling right now?" Or, "Are you feeling a little forgotten and neglected?" I suspect she was also feeling a little envious that I was spending time talking to others in her department. Others were also inviting me to come speak to their classes and she might have felt something like jealousy. There were other signs of her feelings, such as once she said, "Sit down and talk to us." But I think she really meant, "Sit down and give me some attention and help me feel important." I suspect that having the title of head of department she expected people to show her more "respect." But I don't like to show false respect to someone just because of their position, clothes, wealth, etc.
I had a sense of how she was feeling and how she wanted me to feel when she asked the question. She wanted me to feel guilty because I had been neglecting her, in her eyes. And perhaps she felt used because she was the first person who invited me to speak to her class and I had not spent much time talking to her since then. Maybe she felt a little possessive of me in the sense that because she met me first she somehow "owned" me.
But even though I had a sense of all of this, I was not consciously aware of all of it. My feelings and my awareness of her feelings affected my response but not on a conscious level. I felt afraid of not knowing the correct answer. But I didn't say that. I simply answered her question after I thought about it for what was surely "too long." And I did not say it with confidence. It was a complicated Thai name, or at least complicated for me. As it turns out I pronounced it okay, and felt some relief when she said "Yes." But whether I answered correctly or not was not the main issue. The main issue were the feelings involved. The way she said yes, also told me she still wanted me to feel guilty and to be more careful to pay her more attention in the future. She didn't not say it with a tone of happiness that I remembered it. I felt intimidated by her, which I expect is also how she wanted me to feel, though chances are she would never admit this and probably would not even be able to understand it herself. To her it is simply a way that she has learned to try to get her needs met. But because it is so indirect, manipulative and power based, it is actually counter productive in the long run because people who have a choice will not spend time with her voluntarily.
Had I been more consciously aware of my own feelings, of her feelings and of her motives for asking me the question, I could have been much more in control of the situation. As it was, I was basically reduced to the level of one of her students, having to face a question with a "right" or "wrong" answer and then to be rewarded or punished accordingly. But even if I had the "right" answer, I was still being emotionally manipulated because the question itself was intended to do much more than gather factual information about my memory. The question was intended to remind me that she was an authority figure and that she needed more attention than I was giving her. And she wanted me to feel small in comparison to her.
By asking this question, she took a position of authority. The person who asks the questions is usually the one with the power in a relationship. It is like a lawyer or a judge. The "witness" is not allowed to ask questions. And they are forced to answer, unless they happen to live in a country where they have the "right" to remain silent. But in most authority based relationships, a person does not have the "right" to remain silent. The authority figure demands an answer or punishes the person if an answer is not provided. The person is also punished if the "correct" or desired answer is not provided.
The person who asked me this question is more emotionally needy than I am. Therefore, I could have helped fill her emotional needs by addressing them more directly. What took place was all very subtle and indirect. When things are subtle and indirect it is hard to take firm control of them because it is not very clear what is going on. I have noticed that insecure people often tend to be very indirect. They are afraid to express their feelings directly, so they say things like, "Do you remember my name?"
But had I been more consciously aware of my feelings and of her feelings and corresponding unmet emotional needs, I could have had much more control of the situation. I would not have had to leave the situation feeling small, guilty and manipulated. Because I am often more aware of feelings than other people I talk to, I can sometimes rise above the details of the situation and address the feelings. Depending on my own level of unmet emotional needs I can use this ability in different ways. If I am feeling emotionally needy I might need to feel superior to the other person by proving to them that I know more about feelings, even their feelings, than they do. This doesn't make me many friends, though!
But if I am feeling relatively emotionally satisfied, I am more likely to be able to help the other person with unmet emotional needs. To me, it is sad and discouraging that a department head would be so emotionally needy, but I am sure that you know many similar people in positions of authority.
It is very tricky to address feelings directly with these kinds of people. For example, the other day I was talking to a teenager whose mother was calling him and telling him to come home. I suggested he ask her if she was feeling afraid that something bad would happen to him if he stayed out past 8:30 at night. And I suggested he ask her how afraid she felt from 0-10. He laughed and said, "I don't think she would like that. She would probably think I was 'talking back' to her." And, sadly, he is probably right. She would feel threatened precisely because his questions would give him more control and she is afraid of losing control. So these things must be handled very carefully when you are around certain people. You can't come across as "cocky" because they will punish you in one way or another. I am fortunate that I have my freedom so I can just leave and not be around people like this, but if you don't have that freedom, or you have not yet given yourself that freedom, then I might just suggest you try to be aware of feelings but not necessarily address them so directly.
A person who is very aware and can process emotional information very quickly might say something like, "It sounds like you want me to feel guilty because you feel neglected and forgotten." But it might be better if they said this silently to themselves rather than out loud!
Saying this to yourself still has a definite benefit. By identifying the feelings and the motives of the other person, you feel more in control of the situation. You feel more in control because you have more information about it and you understand it better. So you are not as easily manipulated and you are not as likely to just respond in the way that you were conditioned to respond by teachers like this when you were young. By being aware of what is happening you give yourself more options. You might realize you don't have to answer the question at all.
Most of my life I have been very naive, trusting, and honest. And I have been fairly obedient until someone starts to abuse their power. If someone asks me a question, I usually just answer it without analyzing it. But I have learned that people like this teacher will abuse their power, so I must become more aware of what is happening. I must be more aware of how I am feeling so I can protect myself. I could also have said, "I am afraid to answer that question!" This would have been very emotionally honest. Most likely she would have said something invalidating like, "You shouldn't be afraid. There is nothing to be afraid of. I won't hurt you." Then if I were feeling very confident and secure I might say in response, "Well, I am still afraid!" It would probably be counter productive to tell a person like this "I feel invalidated." Even if she knew what that meant, it would probably just make her feel more defensive. It would be a self-protective mechanism on my part, but it would not be a relationship building response.
So those are a few of my thoughts on awareness, consciousness, power and control.