Emotional Intelligence:
The Core of Our Humanity

Right in the center of your brain sits your amygdala. This small, almond-shaped set of neurons is one of the most important pieces of your brain.

Emotional Intelligence is the core of our humanity.


On first thought, we might wonder how something so small could be so important. The amygdala is part of your limbic system, which is responsible for what essentially amounts to our humanity—our emotions. This part of our brain controls our emotions, our long-term memories, our motivation and our behavior. This is literally the center or core of who we are.

Within this little almond structure is our sense of fear—our apprehensions, our foreboding and our concern. In fact, in studies, rats who had their amygdala removed or damaged no longer displayed any fear in laboratory settings, even among predators. Their fear instinct was gone. This didn’t work out very well for the rats, as you can imagine.

Fear, just like sadness, anger, joy and hurt is a vital emotion. Our fear protects us. The amygdala is responsible for much of our emotional response, but most importantly, it’s responsible for fear. It keeps us safe.

It also helps us read, connect, and engage with others.

In humans, this center of our brain controls our emotion intelligence or E.Q. We’ve all heard of I.Q.—we’ve all met the jerk who brags about his high I.Q. and how he’s a “borderline genius.” In truth, if his E.Q. were as high as his alleged I.Q. he wouldn’t be bragging because he would be sensitive to how off-putting bragging about your intelligence is to others.

Those with high E.Q.’s on the other hand are natural leaders. They are motivators and they’re sensitive to those around them. They understand what drives people and what speaks to them (and also what offends them). They’re “street smart” or “people smart.” They get it.

We’ve all met the classic “nerd” who was super brilliant, but socially awkward, right? These intellectual-types might be able to explain astrophysics, but they bore their audience or dinner companions to tears because they can’t pick up on the cues that others are putting out. They are often rigid—dispassionate, unemotional, even void. This is the typical sign of someone who is intellectually gifted, but emotionally stunted.

On the flip side, we’ve all known a boss, politician, coach or salesperson who was a great motivator but wasn’t getting into Mensa anytime soon. These guys are good because they know how to read people. In fact, many people with a high E.Q. are so good at reading people that they can gloss over and hide any of their intellectual shortcomings. In many ways, a high E.Q. will serve you better than a high I.Q. will.

The Power of Emotional Intelligence

So much of our focus in school, work and training is on building skill and intellect. We graduate students with 4.0 GPAs who don’t know how to engage with others, lead a team or be successful.

When Shell Oil wanted to increase their safety and productivity on their Ursa oil platform, they took an unconventional approach to training the roughnecks. Rather than the typical safety protocol training they went through, they instead brought in a leadership coach and consultant, Claire Nuer.

This consultant assessed that it wasn’t training that the men were lacking in—it was emotional connectedness. They weren’t safe, because they weren’t emotionally connected and invested in each other’s protection. They weren’t listening to each other and they weren’t engaging.

So instead of training these big tough guys on more safety, she got them to talk about their feelings. She got them to dredge up their personal pains and discuss their vulnerabilities. This intensive sharing and coaching went on for months. Now, some would look at this investment and wonder what on earth Shell was thinking, right?

After one year, they had experienced an 84% decline in accidents—across the board. This kind of reduction was unheard of! It was because the men increased their E.Q. and learned how to connect.


“And just what is emotional intelligence? We define it as emotional awareness and emotional facility—knowing what you are feeling and having the skills to read, utilize, manage and express your emotions. Emotional intelligence isn’t just relevant for new-agers or sensitive types. Daniel Goleman’s article on emotional intelligence has been the most requested article from the Harvard Business Review in the last ten years, leading HBR to conclude: ‘Emotional intelligence isn’t a luxury you can dispense with…It’s a basic tool that, deployed with finesse, is the key to professional success.’”
Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living


We might be afraid of putting our emotions out there. We might be scared to engage. Emotions make us vulnerable and open. Emotions can be painful and tough to deal with. When wielded correctly and openly though, emotions unleash our own personal superpower.

Back to the Amygdala

So knowing what happens to rats when they have a damaged emotional center, does the same thing happen to humans?

In short, yes. In studies where humans have had tumors or damage to their amygdala they end up becoming so incapacitated by the lack of emotion that they cannot make even the most basic decisions.

For example, one man who had damage to his amygdala could spend literally 8-10 hours getting dressed. Why? Because when you lack an emotional response to things it’s impossible to choose. It’s impossible to make any decision or choice at all, in fact—what to wear, what to eat, whether to move, to get up, to function. Our emotions truly control everything we do, even if we feel they don’t.

The next time someone says, “You’re so emotional,” or “Stop getting upset about it,” tell them thank you. Being emotional is a great trait—it’s important because it means we’re engaged. We’re invested. We care and we listen to others.

As you strengthen and fortify your E.Q. you will learn how to be more aware of the emotions others are displaying. Emotionally intelligent people are great listeners and are sensitive to the reactions and feelings of those around them.

Emotionally intelligent people also know how to regulate their own emotional response and understand the effect of their emotions on others. They have the capacity to “up” or “down” regulate to meet the cues of those they interact with.

We’ve all been around the person who was way up or had a flat effect, even though others around them were the opposite. We might describe them as socially awkward or uncomfortable. Why? Because mirroring emotions is an important part of interaction. We don’t laugh when a friend says her dog died or she’s losing her job, right? But there are some people who do—people who have a difficult time with emotional regulation.

Emotional intelligence takes work to build, but it is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. Emotionally intelligent leaders make for safer workplaces, more motivated employees, and a happier work environment. Emotionally intelligent people have wider social circles, but are more deeply connected to their good friends. They don’t need to be everybody’s best buddy, but they’re empathetic and caring.

For more on building your emotional intelligence, visit us at the Wright Foundation. Go forth and ignite your world, engage, and connect with those around you!

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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

Prepare for Summer Adventures… In Intimacy!

Summer is here, and as your thoughts turn to summer adventures, vacations and explorations, it’s time to consider taking your relationship on an adventure as well.

Get ready for a summer of adventures... in intimacy! Break down the barriers of communication and truly engage with your partner.


I’m not talking about hiking Machu Picchu or exploring the Australian Outback with your significant other (although it could be a wonderful experience).

No, I’m talking about adventures in intimacy!

Now, when we hear the word “intimacy” we often immediately think of the bedroom, of course, but there are plenty of ways to connect with our partner in an intimate way that’s not just S-E-X.

There’s holding hands, backrubs, spending time together—all wonderful ways to reinforce intimacy, but what about emotional intimacy? What about the closeness that comes from spending time together, letting your guard down, and really letting out your authentic self.

I’m guessing for many of us, a safari or a jungle adventure sounds preferable, and maybe even easier, right?

We get scared to let our guard down and be truly vulnerable. Rightly so—when we’re emotionally naked with another person they can see all of us. They can see the lumps and bumps and cellulite. It can be scary. We may want to turn those lights off and hide!

But if you really want to connect with a partner, you have to be willing to let your authentic self out.

The Ugly Truth

We spend years carefully honing and creating our persona. Think of all the things people said to you that you believed growing up. Maybe they said you were “too much” or “too emotional.” Maybe people told you that you weren’t smart enough or that you weren’t someone they wanted to be friends with.

What do those comments do? They build up in our minds. We repeat them to ourselves in our heads and replay them ad nauseam.

I’m guessing if twenty people paid you a compliment and one person said, “You’re ugly,” you would remember that one comment over the twenty.

We all focus on the hurtful comments and the things that bore a hole into our psyche. These comments and jabs reinforce our beliefs about ourselves—the beliefs that hold us back. We call those limiting beliefs.”

As we grow up, those limiting beliefs, likely reinforced by our parents, become instilled in us. We believe we aren’t enough. We believe we can’t do things as well as other people, that we don’t deserve love and success in our lives. We try to counteract those limiting beliefs by compensating.

We may have strong yearnings that drive us to counteract those beliefs, like a seesaw. We go back and forth. We yearn to be accepted and loved; we yearn to be respected. We yearn to have someone know us fully. These yearnings counteract those voices in our mind that say, “You’re not enough,” or “You don’t really know what you’re doing,” or “Someone else would do a better job.”

All of this stuff…this baggage, is what we carry with us into each relationship. We bring it along with our ideas of what the perfect relationship should look like, and we wonder why our romance doesn’t measure up to the fairytales. Is it because we don’t measure up?

Instead of standing up in our relationship and demanding what we really want and giving what we are capable of giving, we hold back. We might avoid conflict because we were raised in a house where conflict was “bad.” We might believe we always have to put on a happy front or pretend everything is fine while we seethe inside.

Or maybe that frustration is pushed so far down that you even believe you’re “pretty happy” but you’re wondering why the fire and passion aren’t there. You might be feeling like this is just “how it is” so you “may as well settle.”

Don’t Settle for Less

This summer, instead of settling for good enough, go for great! Jump in! Embrace the mess.

If you want a great relationship, you’re going to have to fight for it! It doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t come quickly. It’s something that is built over time.


True love means you both dig in the dirt of the relationship and pull the weeds to create an ever-growing intimacy. It means kissing and yelling, playing and fighting, comforting and challenging each other. It means being real, not careful. If you want true love, you will need to feel everything: the fear, hurt, anger and sadness as well as joy and bliss.

So love is messy. Why are we telling you this? Because only when you wrap your head around the messiness that is at the heart of intimate relationships can you appreciate why conflict is necessary…having fights doesn’t guarantee a great marriage or partnership. You need to learn why, and how and when to fight and what to fight about. You need to figure out how to use everything from petty squabbles to big blow-out arguments to:

Be understood;
Understand your partner;
Get what you want;
Enjoy the adventure;
Learn and grow together;
Get closer and more intimate.

–excerpt from The Heart of the Fight



It may seem counterintuitive that fighting can bring you closer, but look at it this way—fighting arises from truth. We have to believe in something or the truth of something enough to rally ourselves and fight about it. It’s hard to fight for something you don’t believe in. But if you believe in something, you’ll fight to the bitter end.

The a-ha moment comes in when you realize that you need to fight FOR the relationship. Are you fighting just to fight? Are you arguing because you simply enjoy a debate or are you fighting because you want to understand your partner and be understood? Are you fighting for your truth?

This summer, embrace the opportunity to engage with your partner. Embrace the opportunity to explore our most exciting territory—our deeper selves. Discover what you want from yourself and your relationship and start fighting to get there.

Unlock the hard truths about yourself and what you yearn for. Ask what you need to be fulfilled within your relationship, and then GO FOR IT! Share that truth with your partner and be ready to reciprocate. Discover ways you can explore and learn together to move toward your best self—your most authentic, happiest and joyful self.

Have an adventure this summer—the adventure of intimate conflict!

For more on conflict and how it can stimulate and help (not hurt) your relationship, please visit The Heart of the Fight. Join us at the Wright Foundation for this and other ways you can discover your best, happiest self!


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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

How to Understand Your Emotions: What Am I Feeling & Why?

Fear. Hurt. Anger. Sadness. Joy. These core emotions are at the heart of our behavior. They drive us and they form the base of what we feel almost all the time.

Learning how to understand your emotions takes time, skill, and dedication to bringing out your best, most engaged self.


Even secondary emotions (like jealousy or guilt) are often based on some combination of those five core emotions.

So if we all feel them and we’ve all experienced them, why are so many of us so uncomfortable with fear, hurt, anger, sadness and joy? It can be hard to know how to understand your emotions, let alone deal with them and regulate them.

Emotions don’t have to be positive (and many aren’t) but they can be used to strengthen our positive outlook and our actions.

During our group classes and weekend retreats, we make it a policy that participants can shout out their emotions whenever they feel them. Yes, it feels awkward at first. (Believe me, I’m often speaking on stage and interrupting myself with “Fear!” or “Joy!”)

At first, participants usually wonder, Why on earth are they making us say our feelings out loud?? Is it just to make everyone else laugh or to make people think I have some sort of verbal tick?

No, of course not.

We do this exercise because the act of identifying our core emotions is at the core of transformational behavior. We cannot shift our beliefs and address our limiting mindsets if we don’t understand and fully allow ourselves to experience the emotions behind them.


Where Do Emotions Come From?

As babies and young children, we’re totally in touch with our emotional core. We know what we’re feeling…and it’s very transparent.

Think of a young child—their emotions are often raw, visceral, and obvious. Give a toddler candy and they experience joy! Take the candy away and they experience anger, hurt, or even fear.

Mothers of young infants know—babies can pick up on facial expressions and verbal tone right away. They are very intuitive when it comes to emotions because they’re just starting to grasp and understand them. They haven’t yet learned to “act” like adults.

In fact, in one Harvard study, mothers were given instructions to show no emotions or blankly stare at their baby for one minute. At first, the babies displayed confusion. They tried to mimic their mother’s face. They even smiled, laughed and cooed, trying to elicit a warm response from their mom. But quickly the babies sensed something was wrong and Mom’s lack of response caused them to experience fear. Unable to pick up on what Mom was communicating and feeling left them feeling very insecure and upset. Within just one minute or less, the babies in the study were all in full meltdown mode.

Then the researchers did the opposite. Mom was able to comfort the baby and the baby was quickly calmed and happy. As soon as mom could express emotion, the babies felt the connection and were sated.

Unfortunately, as we grow up, we learn to hold back our emotions. We learn that it’s not okay to be too emotional. How many of us have been told, “Don’t be so emotional” or “Don’t get so upset about it”?

This leads to the limiting belief that our emotions aren’t okay. That they’re too much. That we’re too much. That our emotions have made us hysterical or annoying. That we “need to calm down.”

You know what? Let it out!

It’s okay to feel! It’s okay to have emotions! Emotions are healthy and propel us forward. In fact, the Latin root of emotion is the same as motion and motivation—all meaning to move forward. Emotions spur us to action.

Researchers discovered that people who had tumors or damage to the emotional centers of their brain had trouble making even the simplest choices. What to eat? What to wear? Whether to turn left or right? They were paralyzed by the lack of a “gut instinct.” These choices—all choices—are fueled by our emotions.

At our very core, our emotions and emotional connections help us communicate and understand each other. Many of us have spent a lifetime trying to tamp down our emotions and limit our expression, while inside there’s this screaming baby who just wants to connect and understand.

Our emotions are at the heart of our truth. For others to see us for who we really are, we have to express our emotions and embrace them. We have to be real. That means it’s okay to say what we’re feeling. In fact, identifying and labeling our emotions can help us reach our authentic core. It gets us back to those feelings—hurt, anger, sadness, fear and joy.

Rational Thought and Emotion

Many of us think of emotion as the opposite of rationalism. Emotional people seem “flighty” or “flaky,” right? We think rational means stoic and deliberate. Really, the opposite is true.


Rather than being a mistake or leading us off-track, emotions are designed to keep us on track. Each emotion is evolutionarily dedicated to give the resources we need to contend with the very situation that evoked the emotion to begin with. How cool is that?
Neuroscience research shows that our emotions anticipate our needs and prepare us to act. As the arbiters of our pleasure-pain mechanism, emotions are designed to move us toward pleasure and away from unnecessary pain. For instance, fear warns us against the danger of an approaching saber-toothed tiger and triggers the body to respond appropriately—by running away. Anger lets us know that a given situation is violating our values or is wrong in some other way—a painful experience—and causes us to take action that leads to a more pleasurable outcome. And when these emotion-specific resources are unlocked, they are accompanied by a sense of energy and vitality, broader awareness, openness and a sense of well-being.
Emotions don’t “get in the way of” rational thinking—they are essential to rationality.”
–from Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living


So the next time someone says “You’re too emotional” or “Why are you getting so upset?” Look them straight in the eye and thank them! They’re actually implying you are rational and in touch with your core emotions!

Drilling down to the core of what we’re feeling can help us learn to “up-regulate” or “down-regulate.” This is another way of saying that this process helps us “adjust our attitude.”

Order your copy of Transformed! today to learn other ways to use your emotional intelligence to achieve success. 

If we know we’re feeling fear, we can look at why we’re feeling it. What is causing the fear and is it propelling us forward or holding us back?

If we’re feeling sadness, we can discover where that sadness is coming from and how it might play into other secondary emotions like guilt, depression or frustration. By identifying the core emotions behind our feelings, we learn how to use them as a force for positive action.

Our emotions help us recognize what matters most to us. What ticks us off? What blisses us out? We can use that to drive us further toward our purpose and our happiness.

So go ahead—embrace your emotions! The next time you’re feeling fear or hurt or joy, blurt it out! Say, “I’m feeling joy!” or “I’m feeling fear!” and pat yourself on the back. Emotions are at the core of being a rational, developed human being!

For more on how you can learn to live your life fully and embrace all of your emotions, please visit the Wright Foundation. Join us on the path to living your best life.

Discover more of yourself and your emotions at the next More Life Training!

The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.