What Are Emotional and Spiritual Intelligence?

In this 6th installment of the “Walking The Unity Talk” series, we continue exploring Unity Principle #3, while linking it to the popular ideas of emotional and spiritual intelligence that are increasingly influencing Unity and New Thought teachings. This particular installment owes a debt of gratitude to Bonnie Gale, LUT and Spiritual Leader of Unity of Lake Travis, for her contributions in inspiring the idea on emotions and the role they play in our spiritual development.

Unity Principle #3 states that we are creating our experience through the thoughts and feelings we maintain in our consciousness. At the level of consciousness, the “activity” of our thoughts and feelings is an ongoing, virtually perpetual process. Yes, we may slow this activity down, perhaps even come close to a virtual suspension through the practice of silent meditation. But, as long as we are alive, we are constantly thinking and feeling our way through life. Our emotional life is the effect and consequence of the thoughts and feelings that predominate in our consciousness. The quality of our emotional life evidences our spiritual progress. However, it is our spiritual life that ultimately determines the quality of our emotional experience.

First, There Was Emotional Intelligence

Well, actually intellectual intelligence came first. For a long time, it was presumed it was the only form of intelligence. But, for over 20 years now, others have been advancing and championing the cases for both emotional and spiritual intelligence. Advocates see them as potential alternates to intellectual intelligence alone. In his book Emotional Intelligence, published in 1995, author, psychologist and scientific journalist, Daniel Goleman first popularized the idea of an EQ, or “emotional quotient”. Goleman believes EQ is a viable means of measuring one’s emotional intelligence. The combination of thoughts and the feelings we maintain about those thoughts are the primary influences over our “emotional experience.” For Goleman, the general quality of our emotional experience determines our emotional quotient, or EQ.

The generally held view is that emotional intelligence, or EI, is the capacity of individuals to not only be aware of emotions, their own and those of others, but also to evaluate and discern the differences between various states of feeling. Through careful discernment, an emotionally intelligent person will appropriately define and label those feelings accurately. Further, they will allow their conclusions to proactively guide their own future actions and behaviors. As they develop their capacity for emotional intelligence, they become more skilled at managing their own thinking and feeling experience. This allows them the flexibility to successfully adjust and adapt to the emotional experiences they encounter in their environments.

Can Emotional Intelligence Be Accurately Measured?

Science has pushed back against Goleman’s ideas, maintaining the “measurement” model relies too much on subjective input from the individual being measured. Additionally, critics maintain that other previously existing models of intelligence measurement account for Goleman’s conclusions. You know how scientists can be about their empirical data. Still, the idea of emotional intelligence is proving to be useful in explaining successful leadership traits. It has also set the stage for the exploration of ideas regarding spiritual intelligence.

Among others, Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, began referring to spiritual intelligence in the late 1990s, as a corollary to emotional and even intellectual intelligence. In fact, Covey believes that spiritual intelligence, which is heavily guided by emotional intelligence, may be more important than either emotional or intellectual intelligence. In his book, The 8th Habit, Covey states “Spiritual intelligence is the central and most fundamental of all the intelligences, because it becomes the source of guidance for the others.”

Spiritual Intelligence Guides Emotional Intelligence

Every day, we react to life’s circumstances, experience the emotional triggers of past traumas or simply encounter challenging people. Developing our potentials for both emotional and spiritual intelligence helps us stay in the flow of Spirit, especially when our days seem filled with one emotional experience and reaction after another. Spiritual intelligence helps to insure our emotional response to life’s circumstances is stable and reflects our own Christ Nature.

Even when we are committed to developing our own spiritual intelligence, we may still encounter experiences that trigger counterproductive emotional reactions on our part. When they do appear, the spiritually intelligent person can adapt even to that circumstance. Successfully answering the call of the present moment is a major part of our spiritual work. Successfully doing so requires that we be present with our own emotional state, even when we may be having a negative, counterproductive experience. We can be angry, anxious, afraid or even depressed. It’s okay. We are emotional beings and we do not have to do this perfectly.

Forgiveness Is Spiritual Intelligence In Action

The emotionally and spiritually intelligent person knows the value of forgiveness, particularly self-forgiveness. Learning to accept our own shortcomings even as we develop our potential is essential to our success. Being present to our own emotional experience in a non-judgmental way is vital to our success in becoming a spiritually intelligent being.

Developing a sense of appreciation and gratitude for our own emotional life, even through the challenges, serves our spiritual growth in kaleidoscopic ways. In addition to improving our own interior life, emotional and spiritual intelligence are invaluable in developing compassion for others. Remaining mindful that the emotional experience of others is separate and distinct from your own is the mark of a spiritually intelligent person.

Emotions Mark The Spot

Emotions, particularly those of the negative and destructive quality, mark the spot where we may need to dig a little deeper. A negative emotional experience does not have to be for naught, if we allow it to reveal that within us that requires healing. Even though it may not have seemed so in the past, we are in charge of our emotional experience. Why? Because we are ultimately in charge of the thoughts and feelings we allow to inhabit our consciousness. Once again, this is the essence of Unity Principle #3.

Since our emotions are guided by the activity of our thoughts and feelings, we have real power over our emotions. However, we may not always behave accordingly. Every emotional experience we have either empowers or disempowers us. We either react, based on embedded stories of past failures we redundantly and destructively tell ourselves, or, we respond in alignment with the truth of our own Divine Nature and Christ Potential.

Engaging The Creative Power Of Our Christ Nature

When we set up camp in an environment of negative emotions, we block the flow of power in our creative potential. If we linger and get stuck there, we can also block the flow of the abundant good that is ours, while interrupting our personal peace. Cultivating a negative and destructive emotional life carries a heavy toll on our life’s potential. At its most acute, it blocks us from expressing the truth of our own Christ Nature.

The good news is it is only a temporary block. We can block it, but we can never destroy it. We can ignore it, but we can never lose it. Developing our emotional and spiritual intelligence is a choice we make, an act of the power of our own will. The first step in doing so is to become willing to do so.

Following through on that intention is a matter of connecting with our own indwelling Christ Presence, and allowing that awareness to prevail in the activity of our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Unity Principle #4 speaks to how we go about making this connection. We will explore that in more detail in the next installment of the “Walking the Unity Talk” series, which will deal with the principles of silent meditation and affirmative prayer.