The book starts off great, with a look at what happens in the brain at the molecular level under all sorts of emotional experiences. That's Part One (Goleman recommends skipping this if you're not into neurological details), which turned out to be the most interesting for me, as I had never before learned much about the emotional "architecture" of the brain.
In Parts Two through Five, the author expounds on feelings (e.g., anger, empathy, passion, depression), personality, upbringing, aptitude, and treatment, etc., citing study after study to show that today's children are most decidedly a product of how they were treated in their earliest years, but nevertheless are winding up far less able then their ancestors were to handle even the slightest emotional dilemma. In fact, the further on you read, the more you'll realize that "Emotional Intelligence" is a book about children. Why is their character deteriorating, and what can we do to mold them into more emotionally strong (intelligent) beings? That's okay: if you're a parent, educator, or child psychologist, definitely buy this book. It will help.
As for me, I appreciated Goleman's connection of personality with science in an unexpected, enlightening way. However, except for Part One, I got so bogged down in page after page of studies and stats, all concluding the same thing over and over again, that it became a chore to plow through to the end. Overall, this is a monumental work, but I can't recommended it to everyone.
All emotions are an impulse to act; the creation of instant plans for handling a life situation. Now we know in detail how emotions prepare the body for differing responses. A human being is made up of two minds according to Goleman. One thinks, and one feels; two fundamentally different ways of knowing.
The author defines emotion as "a feeling and range of propensities to act." The principal emotions are: Anger: Fury, outrage, resentment. Sadness. Grief, sorrow, cheerlessness. Fear. Anxiety, apprehension, terror. Enjoyment. Happiness, joy, delight, amusement. Love: Trust, kindness, devotion, infatuation. Surprise: Shock, amazement, astonishment. Disgust: Contempt, scorn, abhorrence. Shame: Guilt, embarrassment, remorse, humiliation.
Various emotions have various physical effects on the body. Anger, for example, causes blood to flow to the hands; strong energy for vigorous action. Fear causes blood to flow to the legs making it easier to run. Happiness is a positive emotion that provides readiness and enthusiasm. Surprise makes it easier to figure out what's going on and create a plan of action. Sadness helps adjust to a significant loss and brings a drop in energy and enthusiasm.
When emotions are out of control, the emotional mind takes over and swamps the rational mind. Emotions have a mind of their own and can hold views independent of the rational mind. Goleman names five main domains of emotional intelligence: (1) Knowing one's emotion (2) Managing emotions (3) Motivating oneself (4) Recognizing emotions in others (5) Handling relationships.
A most important emotional lesson, of course, is anger management. As a culture, we have not bothered to make sure children are taught the essentials of handling anger or resolving conflict. These and other fundamentals of emotional competence have been left to chance, says Goleman.
Surprisingly, the emotional mind is far quicker than the rational mind and springs into action without considering consequences that may prove to be mistaken or misguided. Scientific findings indicate we often cannot control emotions. What's more, the emotional mind takes its beliefs to be true, discounting evidence to the contrary. That's why it's difficult to reason with someone who is emotionally upset.
A familiar husband-wife emotional story: Wives, it seems, are the emotional managers and as such, are more likely to criticize husbands. Men are more likely to be stonewallers. Wives try to bring up and resolve disagreements. Husbands, on the other hand, are reluctant to be drawn into arguments. As a wife sees her husband withdraw from a discussion. she increases the volume and intensity of her complaint white he becomes defensive or stonewalls in return. She becomes contemptful, frustrated and angry; the husband feels more and more an innocent victim. As husbands stonewall, the wife feels completely stymied. The author calls this psychological impasse "flooding~~ and points out that flooding escalates, often going out of control.
There is ample evidence of growing emotional recklessness in the wortd, the author points out, and makes a strong case that it is critical to teach emotional competence to children as part of their education.