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The Intersection of Emotional Intelligence and Narrative Coaching

September 13, 2021

What’s the relationship between emotional intelligence and narrative coaching? 

At Learning In Action, we see a distinct way that these two concepts come together. Merging emotional intelligence and narrative coaching supports us in seeing how the stories we created in our past keep us separate from our inner selves and from others, and have the power to ultimately hold us back from reaching our true potential. 

Emotional and Relational Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is commonly defined as a cluster of inner capacities that include empathy, self-reflection, and self-regulation. At Learning In Action, we agree with this definition, and when we look deeper, we see that what truly matters is examining what drives our ability to be empathetic, to be self-aware, and to self-regulate — and that is our recognition that we are all one. When we’re not able to be with each other and respond to each other in an emotionally and relationally intelligent way, for many of us it’s because we’ve built up barriers in our own hearts. We have created a separation between our own divinity and that in others.  

Narrative Coaching

Narrative coaching relates to the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, other people, and the world around us. A large part of our lives is driven by the stories we tell ourselves and the way we relate to our lives. How we feel, what we think, and what we do all have a tremendous impact on the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves and others, and the world in which we live. 

What’s challenging is that we’re not aware of all the stories we tell ourselves — they’re largely hidden in our subconscious. And even if we are aware of the stories we tell, we often have a way of confusing them with reality. Instead of seeing them simply as stories we tell ourselves, we take them as truth. In narrative coaching, we uncover our hidden stories and investigate their veracity. We look deeper at these narratives we hold and create some permeability in them so that they’re not so merged with our reality. Shining the light on these inner narratives is a transformative experience helping us see that we have a choice in what we believe and that we can create new stories that positively support our lives.

Bringing Emotional intelligence and Narrative Coaching Together

When we look at where emotional intelligence and narrative coaching meet, we can understand our internal experience at a profoundly deeper level. Click To Tweet

When we boil it down, we think of emotional intelligence as our ability to be in relationship when it’s hard to be in relationship. It’s those very places where it’s especially difficult to be in relationship that points to the ways we are divided from the divine and cut off from our deepest selves. 

How did we become so divided? As babies, we each incarnated into a physical form that had needs in order to survive. We were born with primitive brains that were created to adapt to our environment, including the culture and the families we were born into. We learned to survive emotionally, psychologically, and physically, by shaping ourselves to fit the environment we were born into. We learned to shape ourselves metaphorically to fit in and we shaped ourselves neurologically in real ways too.

As infants, we all have physical needs and we have needs for attention, affection, care, and attunement. The reality is that all of our many needs as young people are never perfectly met by even the best of parents. Over time, our unmet needs turn into wounds. At all stages of life — as babies, toddlers, young children, and even as adults, when we’re wounded we learn to protect ourselves by building barriers to our hearts. Our ability to protect ourselves is a useful coping mechanism that helps us handle the world around us — made up of our family, cultural, economic, and environmental systems. The challenge is that we take those protective and defensive coping strategies into our adulthood, in ways we can’t see. When we operate as adults using these protection mechanisms, our adult relationships with ourselves and others suffer.

Underneath all the ways we are wounded is a story we have made up. We created that story out of the meaning we have made of how we were wounded — what happened, how we coped with it, what we did or didn’t do, and what others did or didn’t do. We come up with a story of who we are and who others are, and how this world is, and what we need to do to protect ourselves. We make these stories up at an implicit and subconscious level, meaning we don’t often explicitly have access to them. They’re in our embedded in our implicit memory that exists beyond our awareness. And in our adulthood, we show up in our relationships with our unconscious and outdated stories operating in the background.

Clearly seeing the narratives we created in the past that hold us back, gives us the chance to consciously create new and more empowering stories. Click To Tweet

When we look at the intersection of emotional intelligence and narrative coaching, we can understand our internal experience at a profoundly deeper level. We can develop a higher level of awareness of the stories we hold about ourselves and our world, and how they may be cutting us off from our inner selves and others. Clearly seeing the narratives we created in the past that hold us back, gives us the chance to consciously create new and more empowering stories. With this shift in perspective and understanding of ourselves and others, our need to protect ourselves dissolves and we have new freedom to bridge the divide and connect with others.

Posted in: Learning in Action

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