Excerpts from Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy.

Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics

The Golden Mean
Aristotle’s advises developing the habit of finding the golden mean between the extremes of character traits (as opposed to an excess or deficiency).
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I have had to wait until now before the scientific harvest was full enough to write this book. These insights are so late in coming largely because the place of feeling in mental life has been surprisingly slighted by research over the years. Into this void has rushed a welter of self-help books, well-intentioned advice at best on clinical opinion but lacking much, if any, scientific basis. Now science is finally able to speak with authority to these urgent and perplexing questions of the psyche at its most irrational, to map with some precision the human heart. (page xi, Goleman)

These are times when the fabric of society seems to unravel at ever-greater speed, when selfishness, violence, and meanness of spirit seem to be rotting the goodness of our communal lives. Here the argument for the importance of emotional intelligence hinges on the link between sentiment, character, and moral instincts. there is growing evidence that fundamental ethical stances in life stem from underlying emotional capacities. For one, impulse is the medium of emotion: the seed of all impulse is a feeling bursting to express itself in action. Those who are at the mercy pf impulse – who lack self-control – suffer a moral deficiency: The ability to control impulse is the base of will and character. By the same token, the root of altruism lies in empathy, the ability to read emotion in others; lacking a sense of another’s need or despair, there is no caring. And if there are any two moral stances that our times call for, they are precisely these, self-restraint and compassion. (page xii, Goleman)

Our genetic heritage endows each of us with a series of emotional set-points that determines our temperament. But the brain circuitry involved is extraordinarily malleable; temperament is not destiny. …the emotional lessons we learn as children at home and in school shape the emotional circuits, making us more adept – or inept – at the basics of emotional intelligence. This mean that childhood and adolescence are critical for setting down the essential emotional habits that will govern our lives. (page xiii, Goleman)