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Share Guide: My
first question is regarding your term "emotional intelligence." You
make a distinction between intellectual smarts and emotional smarts.
Obviously this resonated with people quite a bit, because your book
became a bestseller.
Daniel Goleman: The idea resonated with
people because it makes immediate sense once you stop to think about
it. What I added was the scientific basis for making the distinction.
The term "EQ," which is the colloquial shorthand for emotional
intelligence, now exists as a word in Chinese and Brazilian and German.
It really became a phenomenon, and I think it's because the time was
right. We've had a century of overemphasis on academic abilities as the
key to success in life, but that is only part of the picture. If your
emotional abilities aren't in hand, if you don't have self-awareness,
if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can't
have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart
you are, you are not going to get very far.
Share Guide: Are you saying that a
person's emotional intelligence is a larger factor in success than
Daniel Goleman: That's not exactly true. It's
often said that way, but it's a misunderstanding from my point of view.
Share Guide: Okay, how would you say it?
Daniel Goleman: I would say that IQ is the
strongest predictor of which field you can get into and hold a job in,
whether you can be an accountant, lawyer or nurse, for example. IQ can
show whether you have the cognitive capacity to handle the information
and complexities you face in a particular field. But once you are in
that field, emotional intelligence emerges as a much stronger predictor
of who will be most successful, because it is how we handle ourselves
in our relationships that determines how well we do once we are in a
Share Guide: I think that is a good
distinction. So things like focus, determination, and drive can allow
people with average IQ to achieve more than a genius who is apathetic.
Wouldn't you say this is what the self-help and self-motivation
movement is based on-- making the best of what you've got?
Daniel Goleman: Well, any effort to maximize
your potential and ability is a good thing.
Share Guide: There is a certain amount of
intellect that people are born with, but emotional skills you can learn
even at an advanced age. I think this is inspiring. It is never too
late to improve yourself. Do you think that this knowledge can help us
remedy what you call our "collective emotional crises?"
Daniel Goleman: Yes--to the extent that we
have to begin one by one, with ourselves, with our children, with the
people in our lives. That's the collective activity that can have a
maximum effect on things like inter-group hatred and intolerance, where
people are so quick to fly off and react from rage and anger, rather
than calming down and trying to work things out. These are the skills
that the world needs now. In fact, there is now a global movement to
teach these skills to children, so they get it right in the first place
and will become better parents themselves, better spouses, better
Share Guide: Emotions rise quicker than
rational thoughts, right? So controlling quick impulsive reactions is
very important, don't you think?
Daniel Goleman: That's right. The emotional
brain responds to an event more quickly than the thinking brain. The
amygdala in the emotional center sees and hears everything that occurs
to us instantaneously and is the trigger point for the fight or flight
response. It is the most primitive survival response. If it perceives
an emotional emergency, it can take over the rest of the brain before
the neo-cortex (the thinking brain) has had time to analyze the signals
coming in and decide what to do. That takes a long time in brain time.
The amygdala in the meantime has decided, Oh no, I've got to do
something! It can hijack the rest of the brain if it thinks there is an
emergency, and it is designed to be a hair trigger. In other words,
better safe than sorry. This has helped immensely in evolution as a
survival mechanism, when you are answering the question: Does it eat me
or do I eat it? You can't sit around and think about it; you need to
have an instantaneous response. That's how our ancestors survived.
Share Guide: So if you see something out
of the corner of your eye, you jump almost before you know it.
Daniel Goleman: Yes, and it might be a
friend. We still have that brain mechanism from our ancestors, but now
it can get us in trouble, because we live in a complex symbolic world
and the amygdala is responding to perceived emergencies as though they
were biological flags and it can pitch us into paralyzing fear, or
rage, or high anxiety before we quite know what is going on. So the
ability to pause and to not act on that first impulse has become a
crucial emotional skill in modern lives.
Share Guide: Right. Still, people often
have a tendency to jump to conclusions.
Daniel Goleman: Yes, you see it in marriage;
you see it everywhere. This emotional skill is a universally useful
ability, but it has to be learned because we aren't wired that way. The
good news is that the brain is plastic throughout life--it is shaped
through repeated training and experience. That means we can acquire
emotional skills. Mindfulness is a good example--the ability to notice
what is going on as it arises and to pause before we respond is a
crucial emotional skill. Mindful meditation has been discovered to
foster the ability to inhibit those very quick emotional impulses.
Share Guide: I get that from practicing
Daniel Goleman: Right. You can only do Tai
Chi mindfully; it's like a walking meditation. In my new book,
Destructive Emotions, I describe some very important new research on
that subject by Richard Davidson, Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin,
who teamed up with Jon Kabat-Zinn, the mindfulness teacher. They taught
an eight-week mindfulness program at a very high pressure biotech
company. What they found was that 30 minutes a day of meditation for
eight weeks enhanced the capacity of the brain to catch those impulses
and pause, rather than react. It also shifted people's emotions into a
more positive range. It made them work better. The program was very
Share Guide: Would that be a seated
meditation as compared to a walking meditation?
Daniel Goleman: Mindfulness is a meditation
that can be done while seated, walking or during any activity.
Share Guide: So if you go for a tranquil
half hour walk in the morning, rather than a seated meditation, to get
mellowed out before your day hits you, that serves a similar purpose?
Dr. Goleman: Not necessarily, because
meditation is mind training. If during the walk you daydream, you plan,
you reminisce, you listen to some music on your Walkman, you are not
training your mind at all. If during that time, however, you are more
disciplined and pay close attention to what you are experiencing, like
the wind on your face, the smells and what you see, and you don't let
yourself get lost in thought, that is mindfulness training--bringing
your mind back to the moment whenever it starts to wander. Then you are
actually acquiring that mental skill. If you do that kind of a practice
regularly, with discipline, and you do it daily, you actually begin to
reshape the brain circuitry for emotions and for perception in quite a
powerful and beneficial way. In fact, Professor Davidson, whom I
mentioned earler, is now looking at Olympic-level meditators, like
Tibetan lamas. He's discovered that when people are in the grip of a
distressing emotion like anger or high anxiety, there is a lot of
activity in the right pre-frontal cortex which is right behind the
forehead. When people are feeling very upbeat, energized, happy,
optimistic, there is a lot of activity in the left pre-frontal cortex.
The ratio of left/right activity in a person's brain when they are at
rest predicts quite accurately their mood range, day to day. Just like
for IQ, there is a bell curve for this ratio. Most of us are in the
middle. We have good days and we have bad days. If you are extremely
far to the right side, you are probably clinically depressed or have an
anxiety disorder. If you are very far to the left, then when you have a
bad mood, it probably doesn't last long; you bounce right back. One day
an old Tibetan lama wandered into the lab and they hooked him up. He
got the highest reading to the left. By the way, when Jon Kabat-Zinn
introduced mindfulness to that bio-tech company, the people there were
tilted towards the right originally. By the end of eight weeks of
mindfulness training they had tilted to the left. What Davidson
suspects is that there was what's called the "dose response
relationship." The more you do the practice, the more the brain changes
in that direction.
Share Guide: So you are building up over
Dr. Goleman: Right. I think that is true
of any emotional skill. You asked before about self-improvement. This
is a very pragmatic demonstration of what self-improvement can mean.
Share Guide: What I was getting at is that
the self-help movement seems very much related to emotional
Dr. Goleman: In general, that's true.
However, I think there is something important to keep in mind for
people who are exploring self-help methods. There is a difference
between what is called a "State Effect" and a "Trait Effect" as it's
called in psychology. You experience a State Effect when you go to a
workshop--you feel great, that was so good! But there is a shelf life
to that. By the next week, life has set in again. You're stressed about
your job, your dog is sick, and you are arguing with your partner. That
is the State Effect--it's great while you are in the circumstance, but
alas, it doesn't last. The Trait Effect, on the other hand, means that
you have embarked on a program of training the mind and training the
heart in a systematic and prolonged way, which actually changes the
neurology of your brain. And the more you do it, the bigger the change,
and it will be there a year later, maybe even 10 years later.
Share Guide: So if you develop habits you
can maintain or re-capture that trait easier.
Dr. Goleman: Yes. If you do Tai Chi every
morning, or yoga, you are doing that with your skeleto-muscular system
and perhaps your attention, if you are doing it mindfully. If you are
doing mindfulness meditation, you are doing it with your ability to
attend to the moment. However, if you are reading a book like The
Power of Now but don't do anything about it, you may feel great
while you're reading, but it is not going to help you in the next
moment. If you do a practice and train your attention to hover in the
present, then you will build the internal capacity to do that as
needed--at will and voluntarily.
Share Guide: You've written that people
with chronic anxiety and high stress have double the risk of disease.
How big a risk factor do you think stress is for heart attack, stroke
or other serious illnesses?
Dr. Goleman: I think it's probably in the
same range as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Stress is one of
the multiple risk factors that can make things worse--or make them
better if you can get that under control. We need to orchestrate our
ability to manage our emotions. Especially the big three toxic
emotions: anger, anxiety and depression. Otherwise we will just be
victims of them.
Share Guide: Does this have as much of an
impact as smoking or a bad diet?
Dr. Goleman: More or less. I don't know
the exact figures, but stress can have effects in the same order of
Share Guide: So that means even if you
don't smoke, go to the gym regularly and eat good food, if you're still
uptight, that's not good enough, right?
Dr. Goleman: Correct.
Share Guide: Chronic anxiety has been
recognized as contributing to poor health. It seems to be pretty common
in this society. How do you feel about the proliferation of
prescription drugs like Prozac and Zoloft?
Dr. Goleman: I am not against people
taking psychiatric medications if they actually need them. The problems
is two fold: at the present state of psycho-pharmacology, we are using
a shot gun intervention. Nature economizes its use of molecules. It
uses the same molecules for many, many things. It may use a molecule to
grow hair, to raise your mood, to maintain your sexual function, and so
on. When you regulate that molecule with a medication, you get a broad
range of other things going on. That is the down side--the side
effects. The other thing is that if you rely solely on medication to
manage depression or anxiety, for example, you have done nothing to
train the mind, so that when you come off the medication, you are just
as vulnerable to a relapse as though you had never taken the
medication. There is new data coming out of Cambridge University from
John Teasdale, a researcher who has been treating people who have
chronic depression. This is people with depression so chronic that
medication doesn't help anymore, even elecro-convulsive therapy doesn't
help. They still have recurring episodes of depression. Teasdale taught
them mindfulness meditation, in conjunction with cognitive therapy.
This is a non-drug intervention. The mindfulness lets you catch the
thoughts that prime the depression. The cognitive therapy helps you to
challenge those thoughts so that your thinking is more realistic and
not distorted. What Teasdale found was these patients got 50% fewer
relapses. In fact, if this therapy were a drug, pharmaceutical
companies would be making billions of dollars! Luckily, this is
something we can all do for ourselves. I think the smartest thing for
people to do to manage very distressing emotions is to take a
medication if it helps, but don't do only that. You also need to train
Share Guide: If you believe the
commercials, anytime you are stressed you should just pop a pill. What
you described sounds like healing from within, rather than a
Dr. Goleman: When I say manage emotions, I
only mean the really distressing, incapacitating emotions. Feeling
emotions is what makes life rich. You need your passions.
Share Guide: You've written that anger
seems to be one emotion that does the most harm to the heart. Do you
think anger management and therapy should be added to the health
regiment prescribed for heart disease patients?
Dr. Goleman: Yes, and increasingly it is.
Share Guide: And shouldn't more people pay
attention to this before they have a heart attack?
Dr. Goleman: Of course.
Share Guide: So if you tend to be uptight,
that's a warning right there.
Dr. Goleman: Yes, particularly if you have
a short fuse, and get very aggravated and angry. It is a good time to
get some anger management help--because statistics show that people
with that pattern early in life are much more likely to die in their
40's and 50's. And it's interesting to note that it's not just from
heart disease, but death from all causes.
Share Guide: I do feel one of the goals in
life is to lengthen one's fuse as one grows in age, like mellowing out
as you get older.
Dr. Goleman: Right, and that tends to
happen. People tend to become more emotionally intelligent as they age
Share Guide: We've all heard about the
power of positive thinking. Do you think that people can heal
themselves with things like creative visualization, self-hypnosis,
Dr. Goleman: I'm not sure. I'm not
necessarily an advocate of those modalities. I think that there is a
real need in the self-help area in holistic medicine to do
well-controlled studies and document results, because people deserve to
know the truth about what works and what doesn't work. I think there
are real treasures out there, but it can be confusing. It's worth
saying that 30 years ago when I was a graduate student at Harvard, I
did a dissertation on meditation as a way to handle stress. People
thought I was completely nuts! There was no way that something as weird
as meditation was going to help anybody. Now the amount of data
supporting the uses of meditation in the health context (and well-being
in general) is irrefutable. So just because something doesn't have
validation and may be very new, doesn't mean it isn't quite good. But
you really have to be discriminating. Individually, we can't do a
study, but we can investigate, we can explore, we can be a little
skeptical as we inquire, and not be too gullible. I think one thing we
can do when we shop around is to see if there is anyone we can find who
has been helped, and also look to see if anyone has been hurt. And
don't just go on one glowing report, but probe more deeply and get a
more balanced view.
Share Guide: I have always been drawn to
more ancient traditions, because they are time-proven. And speaking of
this, your new book, Destructive Emotions, is a dialogue with
The Dalai Lama, correct?
Dr. Goleman: The book is a dialogue
between The Dalai Lama and a group of scientists about how we can
better handle our destructive emotions and how to overcome them. The
Dalai Lama seems to challenge the scientists by saying that Buddhism
and other ancient traditions have developed very powerful methods for
mastering destructive emotions that have been tried and tested over
centuries. If these can be of help to people, he wants to share them as
widely as possible. So The Dalai Lama asks the scientists to study them
very rigorously and if they validate them and show that they work, they
should be taken out of the religious context and shared as widely as
possible to help relieve suffering. So these scientists have taken that
challenge quite vigorously. The first round of research was amazing.
For example, they found a lama who could suppress a startle when
hearing a gunshot. I thought that was always an involuntary reflex that
could not be controlled. They also found that highly adept meditators
were extremely precise in being able to read emotional states in other
people, at a level ordinarily never seen. The first round of research
with meditation masters was so intriguing from a scientific point of
view that they set up a meeting of The Dalai Lama and an "A List" of
scientific researchers (people from Harvard, Princeton, and Berkeley)
who are going to discuss where research should go in the future. They
want to focus in three areas: attention, visual imagery, and emotion.
This is a change in terms of how these ancient spiritual practices have
been regarded from a scientific point of view. I think that it's an
extraordinary opportunity for science for the first time to learn about
the positive potential of these traditions.
For more information about Daniel Goleman,
visit www.danielgoleman.com or www.eiconsortium.org
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