Temper! Temper! The Key to Emotional Intelligence

December 18, 2019



“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 -The Nicomachean Ethics


Our society tends to rate our emotions as either good or bad.  Happiness good, sadness bad.  Most of us would prefer to feel good most of the time in most situations.  Anger and stress typically result in unproductive behaviors, which can contribute to obstacles when you are working on self-improvement.  We have grown to regret these emotions for what they do to us.  Stress affects the mind by creating brain fog: a mental haze which makes it hard to think, hard to rest, and hard to act quickly and efficiently.  Anger's effect on the brain is a lack of proper focus: we find ourselves so caught up in our rage that we fail to think ahead and may act in a way that results in negative consequences.
Neither of these states are designed for someone who wants to improve themselves and it can be deeply frustrating when they take hold. But how do we fight stress and anger? How do we stop them from happening?  Regardless of the most herculean efforts we cannot escape our emotions.
Stress and anger are natural defense mechanisms. Those emotions are hardwired into every one of us to help us overcome difficult circumstances.  Stress elicits problem solving mechanisms and anger is designed to motivate us to change our circumstances. So, don't eliminate them, put them to work!  Harness your stress by using your adrenalin to resolve difficult problems.  Harness your anger by focusing your obsession to overcome challenging situations.  Overcome the enemy.  When I use the term “enemy”,  I am not referring to a human being.  It can be your specific weaknesses, a hard problem to solve, your current poor financial situation or maybe a harmful habit.  Research reveals that people who are emotionally adept, manage their own feelings well, and deal with other people's feelings effectively possess a distinct advantage.  People with well-developed emotional skills are also more likely to be content and effective in their lives.


In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle’s philosophical enquiry into virtue, character, and the good life, challenges us to manage our emotional life with intelligence.  Our passions, when managed properly, have wisdom; they guide our thinking, values, and survival.  But they can easily go awry and do so all too often.  As Aristotle observed, the problem is not with emotionality, but with the appropriateness of emotion and its expression. 


A virtuous person mediates their anger by controlling their temper. The excesses of anger are irascibility or bitterness. If one is irascible, he gets angry quickly and retaliates but then forgets about it. Someone who is bitter holds anger for a long time. A good-tempered man is one who becomes angry on the right occasions, with the right people, at the right time and for the right length of time.


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