In 1959, Professor Juan Rof Carballo wrote books such as Cerebro Interno y Mundo Emocional; Urdimbre Afectiva y Enfermedad and Cerebro Interno y Sociedad. What can you tell me now about Goleman and the rest of the group and the enthusiasm of the uninformed in the face of emotional intelligence as an imported product and “last generation”? Many people think they are modern, because they talk about emotional intelligence, experts in it, and even masters of the subject, all very current and modern, perhaps they do not know how old those of us who have been studying this subject in Spain are. In fact, I had the privilege of being a disciple of Professor Rof for many years and I bear witness to this.
After 36 years, in 1995, Daniel Goleman achieved worldwide fame when he published Emotional Intelligence, where he said nothing about everything that had been published since 1910 on this subject, despite the fact that these had been years in which the emotional interior had not been the subject of research. We had a censorship, a disqualification for mentioning the unconscious, the influence of emotions, they even questioned the relationship between emotions, health and disease. This ignorance has made possible the American colonization and now, besides the Black Friday and absolutely unnecessary words and phrases in English, we have the emotional intelligence and coaching, which in my next book I will explain as something we already had within the different forms of therapies.
The emotional system is proactive and genetically programmed for survival, which takes over because it is much faster and more organized and is usually out of consciousness. We are built so that ancient brain structures subsist alongside modern ones. The body decides, you know, recognizes before the consciousness, because the emotions have archaic functions of prevention and anticipation that prepare the bodies for possible events of danger or reward.
Emotions and feelings are the adhesive of the mind, its roots, its infrastructure, the foundation of brain functioning. Something close to what could be emotional intelligence would be the capacities of individuals to value, feel and express emotions, to perceive with nuances their fellow men, nature and its fragility, what each one contributes so as not to damage it, culture, beauty, moral values, empathy, the value that people have in themselves; what we owe to our ancestors like Mozart, Goya, Cajal and the thousands who have built civilization, to our parents, to our grandparents. The global evaluation of the personal and collective environment.
It is intelligence and mental health to take care of all that is due to you, your mind and good living according to natural laws. But, this needs a finished brain in its development. The prefrontal cortex, the structure of cognition and anticipation proper to humans, can be slowed down by the pressure of emotions, anxiety, fear, anger, violence, envy, resentment, by the defense of territory and by short-term inducers, by manifest or latent group pressures. Also, by excessive optimism or depressive feelings, by intense emotions.
Vulnerable and Provisional Mental Health
We have emotions that produce a regression in the adult, human brain functioning, disconnecting some cortical structures and activating the archaic subcortical ones, of primitive animals that we have been and that we are in that moment of disconnection. All emotions will be the foundation of the conscious or unconscious, of decisions and their execution. This is proof of our vulnerability and of our provisional mental health.
Emotions need the inhibitory, prospective, anticipatory functions of the pre-frontal cortexes. Extremists are often referred to by the public as being brainless. Which means they have an immature brain. This lack of control of mood, lack of perception of goals and of the long term is a characteristic of young children. The asocial people, psychopaths, narcissists, manipulators, extremists and swindlers are united by their lack of development as beings with an adult emotional system, they are children who only care about their own. Take this advice seriously.
“Overloading our beliefs and behaviors with emotions leaves us deactivated what we have that is a little different from animals, the prefrontal, returning to being animals managed by the subcortical structures common to all animals”. (Pankseepp, 2011. Damasio, 2000). “If we stick to cognition, we can still see very little in images about what it consists of. It is thought, reasoning, memory, decisions and all this at a high speed and at an unconscious level”. “And in images with which we cannot know what is conscious or unconscious” (The Future of the Brain. Gary Marcus and Jeremy Freeman)
Unconscious and emotional activities are produced and controlled by the lower regions of the brain, spinal cord, medulla, midbrain, hypothalamus, thalamus, cerebellum, basal ganglia and amygdala, structures common to all animals. The cerebral cortexes are also within the emotional system as minority shareholders.
The emotional system is at the service of the preservation of life. The oldest portions of the brain are the engine of decisions, of the basic motivations through which, mostly, half-finished beings move emotionally… maybe, with doctorates, important positions or illiterates, it doesn’t matter. The amygdala transmits value to cortical “knowledge”, affective value, positive or negative. It has many other functions that are described below.
We have the enormous pressure of the environment and the difficulty of being free because of the strong burden of emotional or ideological manipulation in which we are immersed every day and from all sides. The threat and emotional censure are so present that the true hero today is the one who remains focused, concentrated. And, as if that were not enough, we tend to discard dissenting information in order to maintain our opinions, militancy and fanaticism at all costs.
The end does not justify the means
The hierarchy of moral and behavioral values is built up in the so-called ancient limbic structures in connection with the medial frontal lobes, which means that these were already in the beginning of animal life. We can make them conscious and perfect them, but, for many reasons, many humans have these altered functions.
Ethics and justice are highly biological values. They are in all species, and in the animal kingdom there are punishments for those who cheat. A human who has altered these values of ethics is very sick in the head. One can see examples in the neurological clinic of people who have ceased to be ethical because of an injury, a tumor, a brain disease. Therefore, pay attention to the fact that the end justifies the dishonest or criminal means: people with brain injuries act that way. Let’s see if we are closing our eyes to the evidence that there are immature, psychopathic, childish people who occupy large social and leadership spaces, giving them a place in the media and… even votes, people for whom the end justifies their means.
The alterations of common sense, of social behavior for coexistence, the inability to anticipate or plan for personal or collective dangers, to postpone gratifications and a long correlation of symptoms, occurs when these brain structures are injured or have not matured: failures of emotional intelligence. When we discuss any idea about religion, sports, economics or politics, most of the time we are defending or attacking a set of emotions little known to the discussants. Look at Parliament these days. This shows the fragility of the controls we possess and of our mental constructs.
Someone without moral values, ethics, responsibility over collective life and nature can be a brain patient. Nor are we clear about what needs to be done to preserve and develop a good brain; it is not on the social menu. This development is achieved slowly at home; there is no other method for the mammals that we are. Thirty-five years ago, we already knew that the family womb will determine the degree of emotional development. Don’t throw any ideology into these biological concepts because it is not going to have any scientific evidence.
“The individual has developed the brain through education, and the good example of others… some top-level cortical concepts that contain ethical principles based on what humanity has considered useful and indispensable for social harmony: charity, honor or respect for others and values, rules embedded in phylogeny (…), the value of goods projected into the future or that their descendants will enjoy. Ensuring the future of the progeny common to all insects and animals: this is genetics” (Fuster 2018). It is written by one of the great neuroscientists of the moment, although he does not have microphones on his desk, because he is not a footballer or a trainer, nor does he protest in the street about anything.
When the pre-frontal cortex has not been able to finish its development, the subject searches for himself, with devaluation -manifest or not- of what surrounds him or that does not coincide with his egocentrism; they are egomaniacal, impulsive, or cold calculating, cunning of the short term. There are some who are willing to take risks, to go outside the norm, with very little ethical criteria, given that this cortex is the center of ethical criteria and of personal criteria based on empathy and generosity. In general, their disregard for the talents of others leads them to take us for fools.
Now try to understand the system, body, brain, environment as the origin of emotional intelligence with some of the many simplifications in the market. And, apply a workshop to it. Half an hour of TV interview from Castilla-La Mancha to a young “expert in emotional management” to promote her book. Her curriculum: having overcome abuse as a child and finishing high school.
José Antonio Rodríguez Piedrabuena
Specialist in Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis. Specialist in management training, group and couple therapies.