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From my blog in 2008: Shifting, happening, becoming

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Emotional Intelligence

Last week I was involved in two different workshops – one as a participant and one as a facilitator – both dealing in some way with concepts of emotional intelligence, and how this helps us to live more fully as human beings.

The first was a workshop, hosted by UNICEF and the Department of Social Development where they brought together people who have been involved in working with Orphans and Vulnerable Children (or their caregivers), particularly children who had been affected by HIV/AIDS and with an interest in the provision of psycho-social support for children.

The purpose of the meeting was to share what various groups were learning about the process of providing psychosocial support and to also begin to think about the principles that need to guide the process. Four projects presented their work: Firemaker, run by drama therapists, and using drama and other creative modalities to provide caregivers with tools to work with children; Storywell, which I am part of, which uses story and other creative activities as a medium; REPSSI, which works with hero books, digital storytelling and other modalities and produces a whole range of materials for use – they also showcased the work of MAD about ART, which uses art to work with young people, and has had some powerful impact; and ROBS which has a very long name (can’t remember it) and works with grief counselling, and has teamed up with a project in Australia that makes dolls… (I will find their websites so that any one who is interested can actually log on and see what they do).

The second was a two-day workshop which I facilitated, in a corporate setting, working with managers around the concepts of emotional intelligence – drawing on life, on theory, on the movies – to learn together, to reaffirm what was often known, but not practiced, and to meet oneself again.

What struck me about the two workshops?

·The importance of expressing (some you might want to read dealing with) our emotions be they grief, anger or joy – and understanding what has triggered them. In both workshops there was an acknowledgement of how our emotions trip us up when we do not express them. (working with children is, of course, different from working with adults, and one has to understand how children of different ages understand things and express things)

·Working with emotions is both a rational and an intuitive process – the head and the heart need to work in concert with each other – neither is superior, they just provide different insight, and support. The problem is we often elevate the intellect or rational over the heart or emotional or vice versa, instead of seeing them as important aspects of being human.

·The recognition that emotion is an important human response to the world, and in most cases, with the support of people who care, we are able to deal with intense emotions. However there are moments when it becomes pathological – and then we need the support of health professionals.

·The power of listening and being listened to!!!! For most people this is the most important thing – because when you are heard, you are seen, and you reality is acknowledged. It is one of the simplest, and most powerful gifts we can give each other – at home, at school and at work. And it is often one of the hardest things to do! Nancy Kline, in her book, ‘Time to Think’ says, we are often afraid that we won’t get a chance to be listened to, and so we do not listen to other people. When we know that we too will get a chance, then we listen to others.

·The sense that we are all in this together – whether it is working with the orphans, or working in an office, or teaching in a school, or parenting, or being a sibling – we all contribute to the well-being of the people around us AND we can, or should all be able to draw on them for help and support.

·There are many simple and powerful things that we can do to support ourselves and each other – and many of them have to do with being ‘present’, creating structure and support, being creative, listening, giving voice to those things that need to be given voice and listening.

Working with emotions means we should all be ready to be a little vulnerable with each other – and often when we do take that risk we reap incredible results! It is hard work and yet rewarding work.

About Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa

I am a facilitator, coach and storyteller/storyfacilitator, and use story, song, art and dialogue to facilitate change and development in individuals and organisations. Over the years I have become aware of how I have used stories to make sense of my life - and of the ways in which we all use story, consciously and unconsciously. Stories - myths, folktales and personal stories - are used to teach, to bind, to questions, to hold ambiguities, to explore, to hold up a different picture, to bring together and also to hold back, to suppress, divide and destroy. With this understanding I have built story into my work. I use it to make conscious the stories people and organisations tell themselves that either support or hinder their growth. I use them as an opening, an invitation to begin to speak about the difficult things - to name 'the elephant' in the room. I use them as an invitation to people to dream of possibilities - and I also teach people to tell and to listen to stories because without a listener there is no story. I was born in Uganda and lived there until I was in my early teens. Since then have lived in various parts of East and Southern Africa - and have been involved in development work in Namibia, South Africa, Uganda and the UK. I have also coached clients in South Africa, Namibia, the UK, Belgium, Israel and USA.

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