Is ego-driven aggression holding back the social cohesion needed to overcome the long-standing division?
By: Heather Hines
What is one thing that connects all humans? I’ll give you a hint, it’s in our lesson plan. Emotions. They are one of the few baseline connections that all humans share. We have become more diverse and logistically connected than ever before. Emotional intelligence is a tool. It provides structure between communication and intent and intent with influence. And as our world quickly bridges the global gaps, a new need for understanding in unity reveals itself.
Because as the ways of communication evolve, our need for connection has remained the same. I like to think of emotional intelligence as a web. Its knowledge and application build roots of self that branch out to the community. Self-awareness and empathy play a pivotal role in our relationship skills. They are the foundation of the connections we share with others and within our society.
Now I want to start off with this little disclaimer. The concept of emotional intelligence is still fairly new. Scientists, psychologists in particular are just starting to realize what women have known all along. A lot can be said with one look. 'Hard science' needed scans and charts to read what some intuitively knew.
But a significant detriment to our emotional aptitude and social empathy is ego-driven aggression. This multifaceted trait has shaped or influenced nearly every aspect of our lives, past and present. However, despite what Steven Goldberg may claim, it need not be inevitable. (Goldberg, 1993)
There are a few terms I would like to clarify before continuing.
Emotional intelligence is defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
Aggression shall be defined as hostile or violent behavior in the pursuit of one’s aims and interests.
Note the similarities between power and aggression and power and emotional intelligence. I will not be speaking much of power though I would add that it is the search for power or control that I consider the primary motivator of the general population of ‘leaders’. Behavior is driven by motivation from an assumed outward thirst for power at either an individual or societal level.
There are cultures worldwide that prioritize aggressive action over active understanding. These leaders thrive where there is chaos and instability. Typically, when our needs are left unfulfilled, and the means to necessary resources are scarce, aggression reigns supreme (Goldberg, 1993) (Sanday, 1981).
This is the survivor’s instinct at its best, human instinct. When the threat of danger is high, people live in fear or suspended dread and they become easier to manipulate. One of the most significant issues against emotional intelligence is the status quo acceptance for aggressive dominance (Ellyson, 1985).
For centuries we have welcomed the pro-aggression stance, which constantly favors ‘in-group’ mentalities. We consistently choose pro-aggressive leadership in political, religious, and economic sectors worldwide and throughout history.
So, why do we tend to see leaders exhibit these volatile traits?
To answer that, we will take a look at our history books. Ultimately, historical figures like Alexander the Great, Qin Shi Huang, and Genghis Khan have shaped not just arbitrary territorial boundaries but also influenced a substantial cultural impact on their occupied land.
Often, aggressiveness, power, dominance, and control are attributed to the high achieving men. With ideas best expressed by Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power,’ Crush your enemy totally’ and ‘Keep others in suspended terror: cultivate an air of unpredictability' help highlight the acceptance of pro-aggressive tactics and indicate an approval of toxic behaviors.
In other words, pro-aggressive types aren’t afraid to break laws because they expect their wins to negate any punishments or consequences. As we reward these behaviors by looking the other way, we continue the vicious cycle.
What can emotional intelligence do to help balance the natural inclination towards aggression?
Emotional intelligence is a significant tool for anyone. It bridges a gap of communication and intent. And the priority to build upon a framework of emotional control drops when female values and strengths like communication and empathy are regarded as soft or secondary skills.
It is the mistaken idea that because one can see and express their feelings and allow others to do the same, that somehow creates an unprofessional or 'weak' atmosphere. It is a convenient side-step of one’s inter/intrapersonal responsibilities.
Honest conversations about our emotions and the Human Experience need to be taught early and taught often. Levels of understanding need to evolve in a way similar to how we teach math: building blocks of progress. Starting with the individual getting to know their own emotions and triggers.
And no, there may never be a traditional approach to teaching emotional intelligence. And we may never be able to standardize emotional intelligence into an objective test. However, that does not mean it is not a challenge worth pursuing.
By reprioritizing our healthcare and educational system from primary education up to and including higher education, the next generation of adults will have a centralized basis to start their work.
Emotional understanding is a skill that can be taught, and it can be taught anywhere at any time. The most basic principle of emotional intelligence is self-awareness and emotional regulation. One does not need books or guides, and equipment is not necessary.
Having emotions or feeling a way about something is not bad. It is healthy to have these feelings. What is not healthy is ignoring the genuine upsets of our lives and invalidating the setbacks of others. With a simple bah, we can shut down someone before they get a chance to express themselves and move on.
Through learning and owning our emotions, we can realize we are more alike than we are different, and it is up to us to see that. And accepting and appreciating the role of emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and empathy can help pave the way for progress in mental health, relationships, politics and beyond.
Ellyson, S. L. (1985). Power, Dominance, and nonverbal behavior. New York: Springer-Verlag New York Inc.
Friedel, F. a. (2006). The Presidents of the United States of America. Retrieved from TheWhiteHouse.gov: https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/james-k-polk/
Goldberg, S. (1993). Why Men Rule A Theory of Male Dominance. Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company.
Greene, R. (1998). The 48 Laws of Power. New York: Penguin Group.
Kakka, H. S. (2017, August 11). Why We Prefer Dominant Leaders in Uncertain times. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2017/08/why-we-prefer-dominant-leaders-in-uncertain-times
Maner, J. (2017). Dominance and prestige: A tale of two hierarchies (26 ed.). Current Directions in Psychological Science.
Morad, N. (2017, Sept. 28). Part 1: How To Be An Adult— Kegan’s Theory of Adult Development. Retrieved from Medium.com: https://medium.com/@NataliMorad/how-to-be-an-adult-kegans-theory-of-adult-development-d63f4311b553
Sanday, P. R. (1981). Female Power and Male Dominance On the origins of sexual inequality. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Sidanius, J. a. (1999). Social Dominance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wulf, A. (2015). The Invention of Nature. In A. Wulf, Alexander Von Humboldt's New World (pp. 66-68,102-103,120-121). New York: Vintage Books Trade.