Sunday, March 21, 2010

Emotional Intelligence and Trauma

I have just returned from the National Council annual conference. It was an excellent conference, very large. I enjoyed the keynote speakers especially: Howard Dean, Malcolm Gladwell, Geoffrey Canada, Lee Cokerell from Disney and others.

I attended a workshop given by Dr. Hendrie Weisinger about emotional intelligence at work. He quoted research that shows that emotional intelligence correlates much more highly with having a good life than any other measure, including IQ. He described the problems that bring people to therapy as failures in emotional intelligence. Therefore, we should be more deliberate in teaching EI skills to our clients. So, I wondered how the ideas of emotional intelligence interacted with our ideas about trauma.

Dr. Weisinger listed five key skills in emotional intelligence. They are:
1. Self awareness- processing information about yourself
2. Mood management- how quickly can you change your moods?
3. Self motivation- how can you get yourself to do things you don’t want to do
4. Interpersonal expertise-Build consensus, handle conflict, accept feed back, etc. Effectiveness in interpersonal emotional situations
5. Emotional mentoring

Self awareness is the key skill that is the foundation for all others- how can you be emotionally aware of others unless you are aware of yourself? This of course correlates with the skills of feelings management. I remember at the Bessel van der Kolk conference seeing evidence that the part of the brain that provides self awareness and self reflection is under developed in survivors of trauma.

In Risking Connection® training we read a letter written by a woman who grew up in the child welfare system. She describes eloquently how her repeated moves and continual re-defining by various families resulted in her not developing a sense of who she was and what her characteristics were. In short, she had no continuous self narrative.

So if self awareness is a key skill of a happy life and our clients are impaired in this area, what should we do? We should be consciously creating a narrative with the client. We should teach them self observation, including how to notice emotions in their bodies, patterns about themselves, awareness of their own strengths and weakness, a sense of their own skills and interests.

Mood management is also a key area of difficulty for our clients. Too much of their behavior is mood dependent- the child wants to be a lawyer, but because she discovered a stain on her shirt she is dropping out of school. At first we may have to support, cajole and help the kids in learning how to change their moods and to get through them without derailing. Hopefully they will improve in doing this on their own once they experience that it is possible.

Self motivation is another hard one. How do you get yourself to do things you don’t like to do? I usually promise myself a reward when it’s finished. Also, I picture other people who will be pleased. So I guess inner connection comes in here- being able to hold the awareness of someone who cares what you do, even when they are not physically present to help you complete the task. If we say to a child, let me know how that turns out, I will be waiting to hear from you, we are developing this skill.

Interpersonal expertise- how to defuse situations, handle conflict, work through differences, build consensus, accept feed back- of course this is a focus of much of our efforts. The Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills manual by Marcia Linehan offers one excellent curriculum for teaching these skills.

Emotional mentoring means teaching others- and actually, we do see these among our clients when one gives another good advice. We can encourage this.

Strategies that Dr. Weisinger gave included:

1. Learn to listen to how you talk to yourself. Five minutes 3X/day listen to what you are saying to yourself- change your self talk
2. Write down three statements on a card that put you in a good mood, keep it handy
3. Use emotional self instruction. Create a learning aid. What would you want “Little You” to be whispering in your ear to help you manage the situation. Remind yourself that you have options.
4. Praise- write down behaviors you want more of in others, then praise when you see them (Imagine if we taught kids to do this with staff?)
5. Physical arousal- learn how to physically relax. Learn to notice when you are tense. Tension and relaxation exercise. Four components of relaxation exercise: Quiet environment; physically comfortable position; key image or phrase; passive attitude. (the quiet environment is hard to come by in some of our programs.)
6. Humor 10-14 good laughs a day- Get staff and kids together and have joke sessions
7. Can change our responses to difficult situations- the real problem is my own response. Then you can do something about it

It would be interesting to incorporate some of these strategies into our work.

1 comment:

David Shawn Smith said...

I'm an Anger Management Specialist this information is very helpful as I use the E.I as part of my work.