EQ: 27 years on

by Keith Beasley

Back in 1987 I wrote an article for the British Mensa magazine. Entitled ‘The Emotional Quotient’, it is now acknowledged as one of the first published uses of ‘EQ’. [See here for original text]. Much has happened to both EQ and to me in the intervening decades; not least the completion of my PhD on a very closely related topic: human consciousness beyond the purely rational.

Having lived a lot more and researched ‘what it is to be human’, I’d like to share how I see Emotional intelligence at this point in human’s history. And that’s the first feature:

Personal development & human evolution

There’s little doubt that Emotional Intelligence is best considered part of a journey of personal development. Each time we face some of our less EI behaviour and work through the underlying issues, we are probably becoming more whole and true to who we need to be.

According to the holographic principle (‘as above, so below’) what happens at one level of reality reflect and is reflected in all other levels. Thus, the fact that many individuals are pursuing some path (or other) of personal growth can be seen to mirror an evolutionary shift in how we, as thinking, feeling, human beings, relate to each other and to the universe as a whole.

It is thus no coincidence that the huge, current interest in EI coincides with the start of the 21st century, as commentators from all over the world and from many disciplines agree that something, in how we think and behave, has to change.

Knowing and Growing

EI can be described in many ways, but in researching consciousness beyond the rational, it has become clear to me where EI is taking us. To those who tune into a deeper, evolutionary imperative, what seems to be behind the interest is nothing short of a new paradigm. Unless and until we evolve past the perceived supremacy of rational thought . . and recognise that humans are thinking, feeling, beings, very little will really change.

This then begs the question: if what we know is more than the ‘facts’ and rational descriptions of things, what do we really know and how can we best know it? This, to me, is the heart and soul of EI: an ability to know what another is not just thinking but feeling; to be able to empathise with other creatures whilst, at the same time, aware of the physical, practical, realities of a situation. EI, it seems to be, is usefully seen in the context of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s ‘Being in the World’: not as a set of principles or practices, but a commitment to immerse oneself in life itself – with mind, body and soul. Seen in this light, training for EI takes on a rather different flavour:

Day-to-day awareness and presence

Whilst generally supportive of the wonderful work that is going in in EI, I am concerned that some does not grasp this inner, deeper essence: doesn’t EI comes from a level of engagement more akin to meditation? I thus find it useful to consider EI as a ‘soft-skill’, alongside, for example, reflective practise, mindfulness and relaxation. The whole aim, in all of these is to suspend the logical, thinking, mind and allow our inherent connection into life . . . so that we ‘just know’ what is. Sorry, but any EI training that ignores this issue has, I feel, missed the whole point.

You may be wondering where, if anywhere, EQ – that is, the measurement of EI, come into all this? Interestingly, the reason I didn’t pursue EI and EQ much after my 1987 article was because I realised that measuring it is probably not going to help much. Our perceived need to quantify, label and pigeon-hole everything is part of the problem! Thankfully, many of the EQ programmes these days do recognise that any attempt to assess EI is more about raising awareness of our strengths and weaknesses, than about giving it a comparative figure. However, personally, I prefer a more open-ended self-assessment.

My own journey

Hopefully, all of this is as much what I practice as what I preach: that is certainly my intent. These 27 years have been a constant process of identifying how I react, due to conditioned attitudes, rather than naturally responding to a situation. The more I’ve seen, in myself and in others, how the rational mind labels or attempt to justify a position, the more I have had to accept, in the spirit of deep EI, that our journey as an EI community is about giving ourselves and each other permission to feel again . . . and to really KNOW . ..


Keith runs courses with the BodyMind Institute on 'Ways of Knowing' that explore and develop our non-rational ways of knowing: an essential ingredient to any EI development.


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