Steps To Emotional Intelligence – Emotions are Concepts

This is a follow-up from the post on What is Emotion. For the Tahiti People if you lived on a gorgeous island, the paradise of everyone else in the world, in the Pacific you’d probably feel sadness a lot less often but the Tahitian people literally don’t possess that emotion.

Utka Eskimos have no concept of “Anger.” The Tahitians have no concept of “Sadness.” This last item is very difficult for Westerners to accept… life without sadness? Really? When Tahitians are in a situation that a Westerner would describe as sad, they feel ill, troubled, fatigued, or unenthusiastic, all of which are covered by their broader term pe’ape’a.

Emotions aren’t hardwired or universal. They’re concepts that we learn. And so they can differ from culture to culture.

If you think that pe’ape’a and sadness are the same thing, let me ask you a question: would you mistake “regret” for “heartache”? Would you confuse “disappointment” with “mourning”?

I didn’t think so. Could you call them all “sad”? I guess… But would that feel remotely accurate to you? Again, I doubt it.

Ultimately, you realise our emotions can be products of the words we give it.

When you say in a statement, I’m Angry, you are meant to feel a certain way. Or say, I’m Happy, you are also expected to feel in a different way, right? And so on – it happens to us all.

But if you only have concepts or words for “anger”, “happiness”, and “sadness” then that’s all you’re ever going to see, and feel?

Often we pick these concepts up just from living in a culture, others were taught explicitly as children. And they’re transmitted from one person to the next, from one generation to the next.

I know you will be looking for ways to stop the bad ones and let the good ones flourish – your search is not over, we are not at that point- but understanding how our emotions works is the first step to conquering it.

It’s a big understatement to say that if the only emotion concepts you recognize are “me feel good” and “me feel bad” you’re not going to be very emotionally intelligent, more like an emotional imbecile.

We don’t want this to be too long, you can read the final part here. Nonetheless, we like to read from you. Drop your comment below.


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