• 01/05/2009

`Emotions are the only universal language that we all have in common´

Talking of sensations, what is your first impression of the Centre?
I am very pleasantly surprised. In photos it seems like a slightly cold place, but I have discovered that the building is actually modern and warm, so my initial impression of it has changed. It is well designed, comfortable and spacious and the auditorium has fantastic acoustics and plenty of natural light.

How can emotional intelligence be explained?
Dr. Seaguel, a North American psychiatrist, talked about a 91 year old patient of his who helped him to explain it by saying, `if we do not understand, we cannot develop and we need to continue to develop until the day we die´. `Emotions are the only universal language that we all have in common´ The person who best describes emotional intelligence is Daniel Goleman who says that a large part of a person´s success is attributable to how they manage their emotions, how they understand the emotions of others by putting themselves in their shoes, and how they are able to make responsible decisions and resolve conflicts constructively. And that is when a person can live life to the full. That´s what emotional intelligence is.

How have we changed and how has this contributed to our emotions?
We live a lot longer these days and the social structures that used to be valid have collapsed. In the past we didn´t investigate the brain´s black box and emotional processes could not be studied or measured. We relied on very strong social structures to tell us how to behave when faced with our emotions. Now these structures have collapsed and we have discovered that the body´s `feeling´ organ is the brain. We used to rely more on common sense but we have now found that common sense can be wrong. Scientific studies over the last ten years have provided us with the keys to understanding how we work and how we can manage our emotions rather than letting them manage us. We now have the means to face our emotions in an intelligent way. What we need to do now is spread the word.

Are you concerned about the current mental state of society?
Very much so. I am very concerned about the current mental state of society. According to the experts, figures for mental disorders are on the increase and this means that people are suffering a great deal. Our society is becoming more and more unstable psychologically speaking. The World Health Organisation predicts that one in five people will suffer from an emotional disorder by 2020 and we are not providing our children with the skills they need to avoid this.

How can we educate our children about their emotions?
The first step in teaching children about emotional intelligence is to show them how to recognise the different emotions. It´s like teaching them their colours. Eskimos apparently have dozens of names for the colour white, whereas we have very few. Emotions too can be given very few names, or we can begin to recognise degrees of emotion. We need to show our children that a certain level of anxiety or fear of the unknown is normal. This is a natural, instinctive mechanism and is a good thing. But if the fear paralyses them, then it is a bad thing. Emotions are not good things or bad things though; they are either useful or harmful. We need to teach our children how to manage their emotions, to categorise their emotions. Emotions are the only universal language we all have in common.

Finally, how much of an influence has your father been in your book Brújula para navegantes emocionales (Compass for Emotional Navigators)?
A great deal. My father has taught me how to learn, how to work. He has been a source of inspiration in general. He is an extraordinary man. He moves in higher echelons, whereas I am currently at a stage of my life where I am bringing up children. It is a more emotional time for me when what I really want to do is to be able to give practical answers to people.