By Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S

How would you define emotional intelligence? 

When I define emotional intelligence, I define it as the capacity to BE with.

But be with what?…

The capacity to be with our sensations, our feelings, and our thoughts that arise in any given moment. What I’m describing is our capacity to regulate. Our ability to connect or to regulate in the midst of whatever experience we’re having. 

It’s not about being calm. It’s not about having a particular experience in our feelings, thoughts, or body.

It is about being able to be with any and all experiences that arise in any given moment. 

It’s our capacity to stay connected to ourselves in frustration, joy, sorrow, anxiety, confusion, overwhelm, anger….the list goes on. 

And it’s one of the most important and hardest things to develop in ourselves.

Take a moment and think about an emotion that is typically challenging for you to experience.  When this emotion arises in you- are you able to connect to yourself in the midst of it? Or do you want to run away from it, ignore it, push the feeling down, or pretend you aren’t having the feeling? What do you do?…

Whatever you do is not right or wrong; it’s simply information to help you get curious about your areas for growth as you’re developing your own capacity, expanding your windows of tolerance, and developing greater and greater levels for your own emotional intelligence. 

Because when we learn how to connect to ourselves rather than expecting ourselves to calm down (which is a hard thing in and of itself), we learn some key things… 

…We learn that we’re okay in the midst of our experiences. We don’t have to run away. Or that even when things feel challenging, we can still move toward that intensity. It allows us to expand our window of tolerance and engage in life at a deeper level because we get to experience a wider range of the fullness of emotional activity – to feel more alive, more connected with life itself, more connected with our own body, and our own being. 

It’s also one of the main goals of play therapy! We’re helping to develop within children larger and larger states of emotional intelligence. This is what we’re up to with kids – it’s not about calming them or ourselves. Instead we’re supporting children in learning how to be with any and all experiences that arise. And it’s this ability to connect to themselves that is the ultimate gift we give to the children we work with. 

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