EQ for Life
Dharma Aftermath by Rasika Quek
Why is Right Emotion apparently not part of the spiritual practice in the Noble Eightfold Path? Does this mean that emotional maturity is less important compared to the development of the intellect or insight? The omission of emotions in the practice is only on the surface. If we look at Right Mindfulness which is about the development of awareness, we find that contemplation of feelings is part of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. If we are to believe what has been written about EQ and IQ according to contemporary research, EQ is just as important if not more important than IQ.
Successful leaders have both high EQ and IQ levels. On the other hand, our education system, including Dhamma classes, tends to tip the emphasis towards the acquisition of knowledge rather than preparing the individual to be life-ready which should include EQ skills.
However, too much or too little of anything can be counter-productive. Men and women are different in terms of emotional make-up. Women have no problems speaking to each other about how they really feel inside. But men tend to keep their feelings to themselves and often suffer silently. Women tend to have long memories about people whom they dislike whilst men tend to be ambivalent about social relationships, preferring not to discuss things too intimately. They tend to reserve their emotions for the political and corporate arenas. So how should both genders achieve some semblance of emotional balance?
Women tend to have more emotional depth and are more at home with being “inclusive” with those they relate to. However, this emotional depth can be a problem as well. Women can be quite unforgiving if you cross them. Remember “hell hath known no fury as a woman’s scorn?” Men tend to lack emotional depth and draw boundaries so that the span of their emotional attentions is neatly compartmentalized. They do not like displaying their emotions freely to those outside their zone of comfort. Men do not rank emotional intensity as that important compared to women. However, both men and women do use emotional blackmail to achieve what they want, in their careers, family life and so on. So does achieving emotional balance mean men becoming more like women and women being more detached like men? That would be too simplistic but the argument has some merits. Consider the ying and yang dichotomy and how balance is achieved.
So what then is emotional maturity? Feelings like most other things cannot be bottled up. Like the song says, “let your love shine.” But does it apply to showing your indignation instantly and saying exactly how you feel even if it hurts someone? This is where the advice to Sigala by the Great Sage comes in – when the actions that are to be performed are censured by the wise and cause harm to ourselves as well as others, these things should be avoided. So emotional maturity means knowing when to express our appreciation and indignation at the right time so as not to cause a misunderstanding or breakdown in the relationship. It also means choosing loving-kindness over fear. When we choose “love”, our
thoughts, speech and actions will be conditioned by it. When we choose fear or limiting thoughts, we will be conditioned or constrained by the self-limiting beliefs that we set. Everything we see would be good or bad, black or white, wrong or right. We then become 2 dimensional rather than multi-dimensional beings we were meant to be. From the religious angle, we may even see things as either from the Buddhist or non-Buddhist perspective, an obvious artifice.
The Great Sage came to this world not with the intention of dividing it conveniently into an us-versus-them or Buddhist versus non-Buddhist dichotomy. As he was free of the illusions of “being” and a permanent unchanging self-entity, he could not be caught in views which are clearly dichotomous and obviously promoting “separation.” Not only did his enlightenment culminate in insight and wisdom, it brought with it the emotional maturity cultivated through the practice of the ten perfections over the ages.
Perfection does not come with wisdom alone. It has to come with emotional maturity, often times called compassion – allowing others to work out their choices, good or bad but caring enough to listen and extend a helping hand when the going gets rough and help is required. Looking at the religious strife in the central region of a neighboring Buddhist nation, one wonders why emotional empathy and wisdom has taken leave of the senses of so-called “religious” people. Not by labels alone, is one a religious person. Without the development of insight and emotional maturity, one is simply not “religious”, regardless of whether he comes from Malaysia or otherwise, wearing layman’s clothes or a monk’s robes. We should not be deceived by superficial labels and what is merely symbolic in the world.
May all beings be free from strife and have the emotional maturity to actualize an even better life for themselves and all! EH
30 March 2013