Emotional Intelligence: Anatomy of an Emotional Hijacking

Posted by

Goldman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. New York, NY: Bantam. (Chapter 2, Anatomy of an Emotional Hijacking)

A Chapter Club Annotation

Chapter Club is a practice that allows one to read, learn, and review books by chapter–and feel good about not having to read (or finish) an entire book before embarking upon valuable reflection.

Goldman breaks this book into 5 parts. Chapter two and three are still within Part 1, entitled, The Emotional Brain.

In Chapter 2, Goldman does a great job mixing stories, examples and research with a basic explanation of how the brain evolved, and how its different anatomical parts have different duties. About three years ago, I took a 3 credit correspondence class through St. Thomas called, Teaching With The Brain in Mind, by Eric Jensen, so much of Goldman’s anatomy lesson was review. The added bonus in Goldman’s approach however, was that it was sprinkled with stories and anecdotes that helped to drive home the lesson—the thrust of which is that the amygdala (from the Greek almond), two almond shaped clusters of interconnected structures nestled just above the brain stem, is the “specialist for emotional matters.”

But more than that, in this chapter, Goldman discusses the complex balance (or often lack thereof) between rational and controlled thought and the actions (as well as the horomonal responses) precipitated by the amygdala—which controls “rage and compassion alike.” And sites studies that seem to indicate that without access and control of an “emotional memory,” people struggle to make even simple decisions and often even “make disastrous choices in business and their personal lives.”

As a middle school teacher I’ve always recognized that emotions are constantly playing a role in what is going on during learning—often to an extreme degree. For example, I can point to at least two different students that shed tears in my classroom today. Neither incident had anything to do with me or my class (one girl had gum in her hair). But in both cases their emotions were so strong that they were somewhat distracting to other students. Last week emotions ran hot between some boys. The end result was that three of them were suspended for fighting.

And these are only the extreme cases. How many other students are waging internal wars with their emotions such that they are unable to focus or engage in the learning in my classroom?

The next chapter begins Part 2 of the book, and is entitled, When Smart is Dumb. I’m very interested in this topic so I stole some time and read ahead a bit. Next, Goldman begins a discussion of the merits of being smart with your emotions. I’d like to learn more about what happens when “smart” people (as defined by traditional IQ scores, SAT tests, or grades), lack the ability to recognize and/or manage their emotional responses.